To the Editor:
The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) played a leading role in the establishment of Valhalla and Goat Range Provincial Parks, and it goes without saying that VWS welcomes the recent expansion to West Arm Park.
Contrary to government claims, however, the addition will not significantly benefit the endangered South Selkirk mountain caribou herd.
Years of scientific studies have proven that mountain caribou require large areas of intact wilderness habitat, which must include old growth forest at least 140 years old.
It is true that the 1,219-hectare expansion contains some old-growth forest, but it is too small to be significant to the survival of the South Selkirk herd. Maps also indicate that much of the expansion is too steep for caribou and some of it has also been burned.
A lot of caribou habitat in West Arm Park burned in the Kutetl fire. But even before the fire, the South Selkirk herd was mostly concentrated around Stagleap Provincial Park.
The mountain caribou recovery plan added another 4,000 hectares of partial protection between and around the two parks, but a large part of it is heavily clearcut. The fact that the herd only numbers 18 animals is the devastating result of many years of government unwillingness to adequately protect the herd’s habitat.
If we want to keep mountain caribou in the Selkirk Mountains, we must also consider the Central Selkirk herd, which ranges from Nakusp across the mountains into the Westfall and Lardeau drainages.
Over the years, successive BC governments have taken some laudable steps to protect this herd; but much more needs to be done, as the herd recently plunged from about 90 animals to a mere 53.
Attention must also be given to other threatened and endangered species in the Selkirks. Expanding our park system is certainly the right approach, since parks offer full, permanent protection (relatively speaking), unlike the Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) created under the mountain caribou recovery plan.
If the caribou fail to thrive, the UWRs can be axed. This would fast-track the demise of other species. Without a dramatic increase in our park system, the public could possibly lose the mountain caribou, the UWR forest protection, numerous other species at risk, as well as all the wolves killed from helicopters allegedly to “save” the caribou.
The public would be left with exactly nothing to pass on to our kids for the many years of effort and tax dollars spent trying to protect caribou.
VWS calls on the province to implement the 156,461-hectare Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal that it submitted to government in June 2011.
This park would include more old-growth forest for caribou, as well as critical habitat for many other species.
This proposal offers a rare opportunity for the government to create a lasting legacy and gives the Central Selkirk herd its best chance for survival.
Anne Sherrod, New Denver