Tourism sector prepared for caribou plan impact
A government announcement regarding mountain caribou recovery came as no surprise to tourism outfits in the Revelstoke area.
“We already knew this was coming,” said Barbara Rose, chair of the environmental committee with HeliCat Canada. “The last couple of years we’ve been very much involved in negotiations with the government Species at Risk office working to come up with proper wording and language.”
The Mountain Caribou Recovery program was announced last Tuesday by the provincial government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Lands Integrated Management Bureau. The plan is looking to restore the mountain caribou population to a pre-1995 level of 2,500 animals in B.C. The province will provide $1 million per year for three years to support adaptive management plans.
One of the actions being taken via the plan is to “manage human recreational activities in mountain caribou habitat in a manner that ensures critical habitat areas are effectively protected.”
“We’re trying to be proactive in assisting the government with recovering,” said Buck Corrigan, manager for Revelstoke operations with Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). “We’ve been following what we consider to be environmentally sound practices for years.”
Corrigan said in his area there are caribou on Frisbee Ridge who are a concern, as well as a small group in the Blanket Pass that have been monitored for the 30 years he has been here. But he doesn’t think the announcement will have an effect on the area.
“We’ve been very proactive in the last 10 years,” he said.
Both CMH and HeliCat Canada say they close off trails if caribou or other animals have been spotted on them. And Rose said it doesn’t necessarily have to be the animal that has been seen.
“Even a track is enough to keep us out of the area,” she said.
In HeliCat’s case, they’ll stay out of the area for 48 hours or until they’re sure the animal has left; CMH stay out of the area for 24 hours or until they’re sure the animal has left.
When it comes to the impact the program will have on tourists, Corrigan says most are environmentally aware.
“They understand mountain caribou are an endangered species,” he said.
“Guests come and they like to understand we are doing everything we can to minimize our footprint,” she said. In some cases the only places to ski have been blocked off due to caribou sightings, and Rose says guests are OK with this.
While the Revelstoke Snowmobile Society declined comment, the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation spoke about years of helping to manage mountain caribou.
“Today we continue to support efforts to recover mountain caribou in British Columbia while still ensuring our snowmobiling opportunities,” said Les Austin, general manager of the BC Snowmobile Federation in a prepared release.
While much of the tourism industry has taken a proactive stance, Rose said they need to now focus on moving forward.
“No longer can we rest on our laurels for what we’ve done in the past,” she said.
What is encouraging, she said are the gaps in research which are being identified.
“It’s not going to absolutely determine the impact helicat skiing has on caribou, but that we are looking at those gaps is promising,” said Rose.
Another outfit who could potentially be impacted by the mountain caribou recovery plan, Selkirk Tangiers, declined to comment.