West Moberly First Nations

June 19, 2010 16:12 ET

Cabinet's Plan to Recover Caribou Would Destroy Critical Habitat and Require Prolonged Wolf Culls

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 19, 2010) - On June 18, 2010, the BC provincial Cabinet responded to the BC Supreme Court's order to put in place a recovery plan that would protect and increase the population of an endangered caribou herd at risk of extinction from coal mining activities south-west of Chetwynd.

The court order was the result of a case brought by West Moberly First Nations in February 2010 to prevent adverse impacts to the Burnt Pine caribou herd's critical habitat, which will be destroyed by the Vancouver-based First Coal Corporation's (FCC) plans to develop a large coal mine. On March 19, 2010, the court suspended FCC's permits for 90 days and ordered the government to prepare a caribou recovery plan. This is the first time a court has ordered the government to conduct recovery planning for species at risk to accommodate the rights of a First Nation.

Cabinet, however, refused to approve a recovery plan developed jointly by BC's top caribou experts and West Moberly. "Our plan would have protected critical habitat and decreased the need for predator management. Instead, Cabinet approved a plan that flies in the face of scientific and traditional knowledge, proposing little else but 30 years of aggressive wolf culling", said Chief Roland Willson.

"It is clear that the plan approved by Cabinet doesn't even come close to satisfying the court's order", Chief Willson said. "BC's own caribou experts agree that this option won't recovery, protect, or increase caribou. Quite simply, this approach is caustic to our culture, politically unpalatable, and technically impossible".

The government's decision arrives amidst heightened international scrutiny, with the release of a report from Harvard University that detailed the unfair burdens that mining practices in BC place on First Nations. The report recommended "the government should recognize aboriginal rights as a guiding principle of any development decision that affects First Nations" and "initiate [meaningful consultation] from the beginning of the mining process because once the momentum of a project gets started it is hard for First Nations to stop it". Amnesty International in its 2010 annual report also stated that Canada has failed "to ensure respect for indigenous rights" when issuing mining licenses.

In short, says Chief Willson, "Cabinet's plan ignores the true impacts of mining and hides the fact that it will ultimately fail the caribou".

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