Nationwide, we’re losing our caribou. Woodlands, mountains, all of them. A recent story in the Rocky Mountain Outlook was about Jasper National Park losing another herd. Extirpated, the word used. Locally extinct.
How’d we get here? Twenty-five years ago, close to a thousand caribou roamed our mountain national parks. Today: fewer than two-hundred. I feel compelled to go look for some before they’re gone. Compelled to avoid them, let them roam in ultimate privacy. You’d think around these parts there would be a few to at least view them from afar. Nope. Mountain caribou have been gone from this valley for a while now. Driven away, wiped out, sayonara.
I tried talking to government wildlife biologists about the caribou’s sad state of local affairs. I couldn’t get through because of a certain election. Give me a break. But I did speak to Invermere Conservation Officer Greg Kruger. “The biggest reason they’re gone is the tire or sled tracks we leave in the winter backcountry.” Those tracks are welcome mats to caribou habitat for predators. Wolves, mainly.
Our Basic Human Right to recreate in the Great Outdoors is taking precedent. Every year, more people visit the Columbia Valley, B.C. for its four seasons of outdoor recreation. Don’t forget, Destination BC, with its multi-million dollar budget, has a mandate to support and promote the business of tourism throughout the province.
Something, anything needs to be done. My suggestion? How about we figure out where it’s best to recreate in the backwoods. For the sake of all parties involved, including those antlered. We need to organize where and how to recreate in our backcountry. We need more structure. We need a backcountry access management plan. I know there’s lots going on right now. Still, this needs to be a priority. What’s true: Sledders wanna sled, skiers wanna ski, hunters wanna hunt. Sometimes all in the same place.
Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Yes, I am aware there have been attempts to regulate the backcountry. And I am fully aware this notion also runs counter to the idea of the wilderness remaining… wilderness. But there comes a time when change needs to happen. That time is now. An adequate plan requires provincial funding. Will whoever wins the forthcoming election secure those funds? I hope so. Otherwise, what hope do our caribou or any of Canada’s endangered wildlife have? The Columbia Valley can be a nationwide leader on this issue. All it will take is checked egos, sacrifice, listening skills and leadership.