First Nations Takes BC to Court to Protect Caribou from Coal Mining

West Moberly First Nations, which is 34 kms north of Chetwynd in northeast BC, has filed a petition with the BC Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR) to approve mining permits to First Coal Corporation (FCC) which will destroy critical habitat that an endangered caribou herd desperately needs for its survival.

“Since 2008, we have been struggling to protect the last 11 remaining caribou of the Burnt Pine caribou herd from extinction. So it was a sad day when MEMPR issued mining permits to FCC in September,” said Chief Roland Willson. “We are not alone in believing that these permits are a death sentence to the caribou. Both our Elders and the government scientists are on the same page. They all agree that coal mining in the caribou’s critical habitat will result in significant adverse effects.”

Dr. Dale Seip, a Wildlife Ecologist from the Ministry of Forests and Range and the government’s top caribou expert, has stated that the caribou herd is “critically endangered” and any further activities by FCC would be “incompatible with the recovery of the Herd”. In addition, scientists from the Ministry of Environment have recommended that “no” activities occur in the critical habitat as there are already signs of the caribou being “extirpated”.

caribou.jpg

Image: Staff of West Moberly First Nations collaring Wah stzee (caribou)

in an effort to protect them, as much as is possible, through research.

These caribou are listed as a “threatened species” and are supposed to be legally protected from harmful activities. However, the government to date has refused to develop and implement a recovery strategy, notwithstanding the requirement to do so under the federal Species at Risk Act.

MEMPR has downplayed West Moberly’s concerns, as well as the expert opinions of the provincial scientists and federal legislation. MEMPR’s action implies that the loss of one caribou herd is not a big deal.

“These caribou and their habitat are integral to the overall biodiversity of the area, and to who we are as Mountain Dunne-za people,” said Chief Willson. “As stewards of the land, we cannot in good conscience stand by and watch MEMPR and FCC flagrantly ignore the law and place the very existence of this caribou herd in serious jeopardy. We have no other choice but to take this matter before the courts.”

###

Contact:

Chief Roland Willson

West Moberly First Nations

tel: (250) 783-0733

High resolution images can be attained from:

Bruce Muir – P: 250.788.3676 F: 250.788.2948 C: 250.788.5990

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