British Columbia Snowmobilers Support Recovery of Caribou

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Snowmobile clubs in the Thompson, Kootenay and Cariboo regions of British Columbia have signed stewardship management agreements with the Province that will support the recovery of the mountain caribou population, announced Environment Minister Barry Penner.

"The new agreements give snowmobiling enthusiasts access to some beautiful mountain terrain for winter recreation yet provide protection to mountain caribou and their habitat," said Penner. "We have worked in partnership with snowmobile associations to strike a balance to ensure mountain caribou have the space they need."

The B.C. government completed 12 stewardship management agreements with snowmobile clubs in communities including Blue River, Clearwater, Valemount, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Cranbrook. The goal of the agreements is to minimize the risk of disturbance and displacement to mountain caribou from snowmobile activities.

British Columbia's mountain caribou are the world's southernmost caribou population and the only remaining population that lives in rugged, mountainous terrain. All other similar populations that existed throughout the world are now extirpated. Mountain caribou in B.C. have declined from approximately 2,500 individuals in 1995 to about 1,900 individuals in 12 herds today. The recovery objective is to return caribou numbers to 1995 levels within 20 years.

The agreements commit sledders to a code of conduct while riding in specially designated areas. Clubs are responsible for providing snowmobile users with information and education on the mountain caribou, and riders will monitor the areas for compliance. The clubs will also provide an annual report detailing caribou, goat and wolf sightings, as well as the number of snowmobilers using the areas.

The agreements were developed in collaboration with biologists and conservationists, the B.C. Snowmobile Federation and the Association of B.C. Snowmobile Clubs.

"Our clubs have worked with government towards solutions that will help provincial recovery efforts and yet maintain snowmobiling riding areas in B.C.," said Les Auston, executive director of the B.C. Snowmobile Federation. "We're privileged to have access to these spectacular backcountry areas where we can enjoy our sport, and we're committed to doing everything we can to ensure snowmobilers riding in these areas honour their stewardship responsibilities and support the recovery of the mountain caribou."

"Responsible snowmobilers care about our environment," added Terry Watt, secretary of the Association of B.C. Snowmobile Clubs. "We have been actively involved in the process to protect mountain caribou habitat and historic snowmobile recreation areas and we've worked co-operatively with government to reach stewardship agreements that satisfy the needs of all stakeholders."

The stewardship management agreements are part of British Columbia's Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, announced in October 2007.

Under the plan, the government has acted to limit disturbances to the animals in a large portion of the province's mountainous backcountry. The plan protects more than two million hectares of mountain caribou habitat from logging and road-building, and prohibits snowmobile use on one million hectares in the B.C. Interior. The snowmobile restriction went into effect in February 2009.

The province's Species at Risk Coordination Office identified the areas that would be closed to snowmobiles after extensive consultation with snowmobile clubs. As part of that process, other areas at high elevation and in mountain caribou habitat were identified as riding areas where clubs would abide by stewardship management agreements to minimize risk to the caribou.

For more information on the Province's Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan, visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/sarco/mc/index.html.

For more information on snowmobiling and caribou in B.C. visit: http://www.snowmobile.gov.bc.ca/.

To view a map of areas closed to snowmobiles visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlife/snowmobile-closures/.