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Snowmobilers concerned about proposed new caribou closures

A herd of mountain caribou scamper through an alpine meadow during a helicopter flyover last month. - Courtesy RCMP
A herd of mountain caribou scamper through an alpine meadow during a helicopter flyover last month.
— image credit: Courtesy RCMP

Local snowmobile groups are worried that if proposed new snowmobile closures go ahead, it will become increasingly difficult enforce the closures designed to protect caribou habitat.

“We are afraid that if these closures go ahead, that we will not have buy-in from the snowmobiling public and we fear that civil disobedience will become an issue,” said Angela Threatful, executive director of the Snowmobile Revelstoke Society. “People will no longer respect the boundaries based on the fact that we’ve already given so much up, we’ve worked hard, we’ve invested thousands upon thousand of dollars in environmental stewardship and, if it comes down to additional closures above and beyond that, I feel it will have a negative impact.”

The new closures being proposed by the B.C. government include a complete closure of Caribou Basin and a greatly extended closure of Keystone Standard Basin.

“There’s a lot of sound reasoning on why we’re doing what we’re doing to protect mountain caribou,” said Dave Currie, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations. “It’s an animal we’re trying to protect.”

He was unable to respond to questions on the new closures due to the staff members in charge being out on field work but he did say closures were justified to protect caribou habitat.

Attempts to reach ministry officials and members of the province’s mountain caribou science team for more details were unsuccessful but a letter to Revelstoke city council by Bruce McLellan, the senior wildlife research ecologist with the Ministry, says the proposed closures are “traditionally low snowmobile use areas.”

Threatful said Keystone Standard Basin was used frequently by both club members and tourists while Caribou Basin was used by club members.

The snowmobile society is proposing an alternate closure in Keystone Standard Basin. Representatives of the society, the Revelstoke Snowmobile Club and BC Snowmobile Federation met last month in Victoria with MLA Donna Bartlett, and the Ministers of Forests (Pat Bell), Environment (Murray Coell), Transportation (Shirley Bond) and Natural Resource Operations (Steve Thomson).

Threatful said the meeting went well. “I think we’re happy with the outcome to this point.”

In the interview with the Times Review, she pointed to the stewardship activities the club does such as the snow patrol program it runs and the $143,000 the club has spent on programs over the past ten years.

“Our proven environmental stewardship history says a lot,” said Threatful. “We’re committed to this. We’re committed to the programs we have in place.”

It may not be enough; McLellan’s letter indicates that further closures might be in the cards.

“Unfortunately, the caribou population is not yet responding positively so more, not less restrictions may be needed if the decision to recover caribou is to be maintained,” wrote McLellan.

 

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