British Columbia is home to a population of Woodland Caribou, referred to as the Southern Mountain Caribou. Local populations extend from northern BC through east-central BC and down to into the Kootenays. A number of the local populations, particularly in central and southern BC, have been decreasing over many years to the point where their survival is threatened. In May 2018, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada declared an imminent risk to the recovery of populations in central and southern BC as a result of an analysis done under the federal Species at Risk Act.

On March 21, 2019, British Columbia released a draft of a conservation agreement between Canada and British Columbia under section 11 of the Species at Risk Act that outline measures that will be taken to recover mountain caribou populations. At the same time, a draft partnership agreement was released between Canada, British Columbia, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations for the recovery of the Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou.

Below is AME’s summary of these two draft documents. AME will engage with governments over the coming weeks to prepare a response to these agreements and AME will work with governments to ensure the value of mineral exploration to BC is part of the recovery solutions.

Background and Purpose

  • The agreement is between Canada and BC to address the imminent threat to the survival of the Southern Mountain Caribou as determined by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada in May, 2018.
  •  It is aimed to avoid an ‘Emergency Order’ by Canada under the Species at Risk Act, where Canada could intervene in land management in BC. Canada has received 17 public requests for ‘Emergency Orders’ under the Species at Risk Act related to caribou in BC.
  • The agreement is for three groups of Southern Mountain Caribou: northern, central and southern groups.
  • The purpose and goal of the S11 agreement is to establish the framework for cooperation between Canada and British Columbia, and to articulate the immediate measures, and the plans to develop future conservation and recovery measures that together support the recovery of Southern Mountain Caribou in the Province of BC to self-sustaining populations.

British Columbia Commitments in the Agreement

  • To incrementally increase Southern Mountain Caribou Habitat over the course of this Agreement.
  • Finalize the Provincial Caribou Recovery Plan by the summer of 2019 with the aim to:
    • Reverse the decline and achieve stable, increasing populations of Southern Mountain Caribou Herds;
    • Advance collaboration and reconciliation with Indigenous communities;
    •  Provide certainty to affected natural resource users;
    •  Actively collaborate with partners in caribou recovery; and
    •  Increase public confidence via accountable, effective program delivery and management.
  •  Continue to develop herd plans over the next two years and use these plans for engagement with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development will lead the administration of the agreement for BC

Southern Mountain Caribou Populations in BC and Scope of draft S11 and Partnership Agreements

(Enlarge map*)

Current and Planned Conservation and Recovery Measures

There are two annexes to the agreement: Annex 1 provides details of the Caribou Local Population Units that apply to the agreement; and Annex 2 provides details of the current and planned conservation and recovery measures. These measures are set out in six areas:

  • Landscape Level Planning
  • Southern Mountain Caribou Habitat Management
  • Population Management
  • Population and Southern Mountain Caribou Habitat Monitoring
  • Knowledge, Science and Research
  • Complementary Measures

There are a number of measures under landscape level planning and Southern Mountain Caribou Habitat Management that may have implications to the mineral exploration sector. This includes amendments to the Local Population Unit boundaries, promoting a net increase in caribou habitat, reducing habitat disturbance, constraining activities and implementing reserves under the Mineral Tenure Act. Additional detail is provided in the table below.

Overview of Key Recovery Measures in S11 Agreement

(Enlarge table*)

Intergovernmental partnership agreement for conservation of the central group of the Southern Mountain Caribou between Canada, British Columbia, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations

Background and Purpose

  •  The overall aim of the partnership agreement is to change resource practices in the area of the Central Group to ensure caribou recovery, minimize legal risk of a federal order, meet Indigenous and Treaty rights, and manage and minimize impacts to stakeholders and communities.
  • The agreement recognizes the significant contributions and leadership of the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations towards the recovery of the Central Group. This includes the Pine, Narraway and Quintette populations.
  • Recognize that the role of Indigenous peoples is essential for the conservation of wildlife in BC.
  • Commitment to minimize the social and economic impacts of the caribou recovery efforts.
  • The partnership agreement will work in parallel and in conjunction with the S11 conservation agreement between Canada and BC.
  • The purpose of the agreement is to set out and confirm the actions that the governments will take ‘in order to achieve their shared objective of immediately stabilizing and expeditiously growing the population of the Central Group to levels that are self-sustaining and support traditional Aboriginal harvesting activities, consistent with existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights.’
  • The agreement has a term of 30 years.
  • The agreement includes commitments to the establishment of new conservation measures and new protected areas.

New Conservations Measures and Protected Areas

  • The agreement sets out new land use restrictions and management zones covering the habitat of the central group (see attached map). These are interim restrictions until permanent protection measures are put in place. It includes a large area of high elevation winter and summer range where mineral tenures will not be allowed and where no resource development activities will be permitted. Other areas include the proposed expansion of a class A park and several zones where resources activities will be allowed with enhanced caribou impact assessment and mitigation plans.
  • Some existing mineral tenures are now included in zones where mineral tenures and mineral exploration will not be allowed. Mineral tenures owners will be notified and the Province will engage in discussion about the implications. The Province is exploring options to address annual rents or work requirements for these tenures.
  • Impacts to forestry are expected to be significant with lesser or minimal impacts to other resource sectors and commercial recreation operators.
  • A new Caribou Recovery Committee consisting of equal membership from the four governments will review development applications in the zones were sustainable resources activities will continue to be allowed. This committee will endeavor to provide consensus recommendations to provincial statutory decision makers related to resource applications.
  • Caribou recovery related land use objectives are still to be established by a technical working group that is a government-to-government committee of technical professionals.

New Land Management Zones

A number of new land management zones for the Central group have been defined (refer to the Caribou Central Group Land Zones Overview map). These are interim measures until permanent measures can be agreed upon and implemented.

Areas of protection, restoration and conservation

A2 – High Elevation Interim moratorium

High Elevation Caribou Summer and Winter Range. Interim protection from new development applications. Extendable until permanent protection measures can be put in place. The Province has indicated that this zone has been jointly developed with the mining industry (coal sector) with a view to engaging on a long-term plan.

B2 – Klinze-sa park expansion

Commitment for a park expansion in both the Saulteau First Nation New Relationship and Reconciliation agreement as well as West Moberly First Nation MOU. Interim protection from new development applications. Extendable until permanent protection measures can be put in place.

B3 – Incremental Expansion of Klinze-sa park (Twin Sisters)

Matrix habitat protection. Interim protection from new development applications. Extendable until permanent protection measures can be put in place.

Sustainable Resource Activity Areas

Resource activities will continue to be allowed, but new development activities must prepare detailed caribou impact assessment and mitigation plans that will be reviewed by the Caribou Recovery Committee who will seek to have a consensus recommendation for statutory decision makers.

A1 – Sustainable Resource Activity Areas – High Elevation

Small areas within High Elevation habitat where existing tenures exist (coal operations).

B1 – Sustainable Resource Activity Areas

Matrix area within the Pine Local Population Unit.

B4 – Walk like Caribou

An activity area with a focus on restoration and conservation.

B5 – West Moberly First Nation Woodland Licence Area of Intent

Sustainable resource activity area that has been identified by the West Moberly First Nation as a potential location for their woodlot.

Next Steps

  • The Province will be holding a number of public open houses and engagement sessions through April.
  • There are several engagement phases anticipated as part of the S11 and partnership agreement.
  • AME will arrange to meet with FLNROD (lead ministry) to discuss the agreements and work plans in more detail.
  • AME will continue to be engaged as the various conservation and recovery activities are developed to support the mineral exploration sector and ensure land remains open for mineral exploration.
  • Comments on the draft agreements will be accepted until April 26. AME will consult with its Board and members and plans to submit a response to these draft agreements.

*Map and Table taken from