UPDATE: Legal case exposes B.C. government’s wilful negligence of duty to protect wildlife, ecosystems

May 16, 2016
Pacific Wild

As our colleague Craig Pettitt of Valhalla Wilderness Society points out, the B.C. government never tells the public that up to 60% of mountain caribou mortalities are due to other predators and unknown causes.

In January 2015, the B.C. government launched an experimental, multi-year wolf kill program in the South Peace and South Selkirk regions. At the time, Minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thompson stated that the wolf cull would be suspended if it does not achieve the “performance measure of a 10 percent increase in caribou annually.”

Since then, over 250 wolves have been killed. No indication of when the program will be evaluated has ever been given.

In an affidavit submitted to the B.C. Supreme Court, the government of British Columbia admits it allowed industrial development to destroy and fragment so much mountain caribou habitat in the South Peace region that caribou can no longer survive as they did for thousands of years.

The affidavit is part of the Province’s response to our and Valhalla Wilderness Society’s petition for a Judicial Review of their experimental wolf cull in the South Peace. The response, which included several other official documents as evidence, reveals the responsible Ministers were fully aware of the impact of habitat destruction on caribou herds for decades, yet continued to permit industrial development.

“The B.C. government’s response exposes a wilful negligence of its duty to protect and conserve wildlife and ecosystems,” said Ian McAllister of Pacific Wild, “The government has known for decades that habitat destruction and fragmentation by forestry, energy projects, coal and other human use led to drastic caribou declines. So much more could have been done, and could still be done, to protect and restore the habitat that caribou need to survive. Instead, they are killing hundreds of wolves to appease industry and other vested interests.”

As our press release reveals, the government’s claims of protecting “90% (approximately 400,000 hectares) of identified high-elevation winter caribou habitat across the South Peace” clearly mean very little when its own staff says these areas are too fragmented and disturbed for caribou to survive, and that the government continues to permit industrialization, including in critical winter habitat.

Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society have serious concerns about the way wildlife management decisions are made in B.C. Populations, species and entire ecosystems that existed for millennia are being wiped out in a very short time under an entrenched policy framework heavily influenced by industry and special interests.

“We think the public is being misled to believe that slaughtering predators will save the mountain caribou over the long term,” stated Craig Pettitt of the Valhalla Wilderness Society. “The government never tells the public that up to 60% of mountain caribou mortalities are due to other predators and unknown causes, or that the massive 7-year wolf cull in Alberta failed to bring back the Little Smokey caribou herd.”

If there is any hope of caribou recovery, the province must immediately prioritize the protection and restoration of all critical caribou habitat, including prohibiting motorized recreation in these areas.

“If left unchecked, the experimental wolf cull program will likely expand to other areas where the government has allowed the decimation of mountain caribou habitat with the result of population declines, whether or not the caribou recovery target is met,” said Alan Hanna of Woodward & Co., lead counsel to Pacific Wild and Valhalla Wilderness Society. "The wolf cull gives the false impression of government action, but it utterly fails to address the many land use management decisions that authorize industrial expansion in and around mountain caribou habitat."

Now that the 2016 wolf cull has ended, we have withdrawn our petition for the judicial review and are working with counsel to determine next steps. 

Tell the government what you think about the wolf cull. The provincial election in B.C. is a year away - it's time to make sure B.C.'s leaders know scientifically sound, humane wildlife management matters to you. Click here to send a quick email.

Help ensure this important work continues. This legal action and research was funded by a grant from West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, Humane Society International / Canada, and by donations from people like you. To make your own contribution, click here.

Join the team. We're looking for campaign assistants to help scale up our work on this campaign. If you have a passion for B.C. wolves (or any of Pacific Wild's focu areas) and professional experience in communications, marketing, fundraising, or a related field, we want to hear from you. To learn more about this opportunity, click here.

Learn More