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Mayor’s Column – May 23, 2018

May 23, 2018


I’ve written about Caribou Recovery several times in the last few weeks and you might be excused for thinking that caribou are my favorite fuzzy. Caribou are magnificent creatures and few of us have ever seen them in the wild or in captivity. I’ve been that blessed – having seen a small herd, a dozen or so, cross Highway 29 in front of me (much to my pleasure) and scramble up a hill to be lost to view in the forest on the mountain – much to their satisfaction.

As you have noticed by now, I am again pursuing the caribou. Six of your South Peace Mayors and Regional District Directors have just returned from a delegation to Victoria to face three of your Provincial Government ministers in their offices on the issue of Caribou Recovery.

In case you have missed it to this point, let me give you the highlights of the issue, the emerging crisis, as interpreted by me, from two perspectives, that of the caribou and that of the rest of us. From the point of view of the caribou, their numbers are declining and some herds are near extinction. This sad circumstance can be seen as their crisis, their bad news, and ours as well, and I sympathize with them, important and beautiful expressions of the Creator’s imagination, as they are.

From the point of view of the rest of us, important and beautiful expressions of the Creator’s imagination, as we humans are, attempts to recover and stabilize the herds can be viewed as a serious challenge, if not yet a crisis, sharing as we do the habitat with the caribou.

We are anticipating an order from the Federal Government, to come down sometime in the next months, for the Provincial Government to take immediate and effective steps to reverse the decline. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the primary focus of this intervention will be on habitat protection. Your interpretation of the nature of “habitat protection” is probably as good as mine at this point but from the information that I have been able to glean, habitat protection will not bode well for industry and recreation in the back country. Hence, it will not bode well for the communities whose primary economies are based in caribou habitat.

A major problem handicapping recovery efforts is the lack of understanding of the causes or cause of the decline. The science is flawed and lacking in certainty. For t his reason, it makes little sense to focus on habitat protection when the real cause of the decline may have nothing to do with habitat. Or it may have everything. We just don’t know.

In the meantime, the human species may suffer under protective measure for the caribou without any measurable benefit to the caribou.

Hence, we six made our weary way to Victoria at your expense. Yes, truly weary. Three of the delegation experienced out-bound connection problems with their chosen airline. Only quick thinking and positive decision making enabled them to catch the last night ferry over the brine. Returning was no more fun. Two of the three who had trouble on the way out boarded their wings in Victoria in clear sight of the rest of us only to be hustled off because of a mechanical failure before they had a chance to buckle their seatbelts (better there than half way across the deep, I say). When I left Vancouver four hours later they were still in the holding pen.

I will be quick to acknowledge that our trip was not fruitless though no ready-made answers were forthcoming. We didn’t expect any. But we did get a sympathetic and intelligent hearing and we did note with satisfaction that the Ministers are aware of the issues and the challenges they face in responding to the Federal Government while caring for the needs of the human species who for generations have established homes and careers, have sent down deep roots, and who share the habitat with the caribou.

For the present, we will consider our options. We six have discussed a potential delegation to Ottawa and one Minister advised such. We will want to discuss this option with our colleagues in other areas who have similar issues over caribou. In the end, if we do nothing we have no grounds to complain when we are disadvantaged by Government measures to recover the caribou. One thing we do know, time is not on our side.

Oh, by the way, “much dreaming and many words are meaningless” says the ancient wisdom. So I guess we should follow our words with action even though action usually costs. In the case of the caribou, inaction is likely more costly by far.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor