Why the ENGOs are in the room

The Peace region is an area I love dearly, a landscape I have lived and worked in for many years. I know many people share my passion for this land. However, recently I’ve noticed this passion getting out of step with reality when it comes to recovering endangered mountain caribou.

The successive inaction of B.C. governments has led us to a caribou crisis, and limited information from Victoria about recovery actions has led to rumours and misinformation. Some of the frustration has been targeted at the organization I work for, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). So let’s set the record straight.

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Y2Y is both a Canadian and U.S. non-profit with staff in Alberta, British Columbia, and the United States. We work in both countries because wildlife don’t care about borders.

With a mission to “connect and protect habitat so people and nature can thrive”, Y2Y’s work does not involve locking all humans out of the mountains or creating one big park restricting all access and resource development. We are not anti-development, but rather seek to ensure that human activities leave wildlife room to roam by retaining critical habitats and corridors between them.

Y2Y supports sustainable hunting, fishing, and trapping as important activities throughout the Rockies. With staff and board members who hunt, hike, fish, ski and more in the wilds of Yellowstone to Yukon, we understand that it is important to plan for well-managed recreation of all different types from non-motorized to motorized.

We are very concerned about the failure of successive governments to stop the decline of caribou populations. Required by Canadian law, a successful caribou recovery plan must include multiple approaches such as habitat protection, restoration, and management measures like maternal penning. An approach that ignores habitat is doomed to fail.

Governments must include stakeholder engagement for caribou recovery. Y2Y staff receive the same information as any stakeholder group, and have no more influence or access to government.

Lack of communication and a long-term vision from the government has encouraged fearmongering and hysteria. This is concerning and serves only to distract from the real issue. These accusations divide communities and British Columbians against each other. North vs. South. Urban vs. Rural. Indigenous vs. non-Indigenous. Those who care about wildlife and the land, vs. those whose livelihood depends on resource development. The truth is we all have a common interest in an environment that thrives.

We can all do better. We all need to be a part of the solution in ensuring future generations have jobs, wild spaces, forests and wildlife to enjoy — including caribou.

— Tim Burkhart, Peace Region Coordinator, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative

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