Logging road put caribou at risk

VICTORIA – A Forest Practices Board special investigation has found that the approval of a logging road by the Ministry of Forests did not adequately consider risks to a vulnerable caribou herd.

In November 1998, the Prince George forest district manager approved a forest development plan amendment that allowed an alternative route into a cutblock near Tsus Creek, about 75 kilometres east of Prince George. The route cut through important caribou habitat.

Environment Ministry staff with expertise in caribou management told the Forests Ministry the amendment would pose an unacceptable risk to the long-term viability of the herd. They were concerned that the road would give wolves greater access to the herd and would also increase snowmobile traffic, which can disturb caribou. The amendment proposed the road in important caribou habitat, an area where the draft Prince George land and resource management plan stated there would be almost no harvesting. The district manager knew of these concerns when he approved the route.

In February 1999, the board decided it was in the public interest to investigate the circumstances associated with the approval of the amendment.

“The board recognizes how difficult this decision was for the district manager,” said board chairman Bill Cafferata. “A complex set of risks to soil, fish, recreation and wildlife had to be balanced. However, we felt too little weight was given to the concerns expressed about caribou by the agency with the most expertise in caribou management.”

In its recommendations, the board asked that the Prince George land and resource management plan be made into law so forest operators in the region would have to follow its advice for managing caribou. The board has also asked for changes to the Forest Practices Code to allow district managers to revisit cutblock and road approvals if information was missing or incorrect at the time of the initial decision.

The investigation involved interviews with the licensee and government staff. Two board members and board staff also examined the area by helicopter to gain a better understanding of the issues.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that publishes reports about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent.
The board’s main roles under the Forest Practices Code are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of the code.
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.

Bill Cafferata
Forest Practices Board
Phone: (250) 387-7964

Jacqueline Waldorf

Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 387-7964
1 800 994-5899