We believe that by working cooperatively with provincial governments and other interested parties we can stabilize or recover caribou populations. West Fraser's primary goal is to operate in a way that supports the continued health of herds that are stable or growing and to halt or reverse the declines other herds are experiencing.
What are we doing?
West Fraser’s habitat experts and wildlife biologists are studying caribou populations, assessing impacts and investigating ways to conserve caribou habitat. This work and the recommendations developed from it are an important part of West Fraser’s forest management planning, and our commitment to sustainable forest management.
We invest in new harvesting techniques and technologies designed to minimize impacts to caribou populations. In other caribou habitat areas, we have deferred harvesting or limited activity to the control or salvage of insect-damaged timber and small harvest trials for scientific research purposes.
West Fraser funds and actively supports innovative research to continually improve our forestry practices, including conservation of wildlife habitat. Our sponsorship of and participation in the Foothills Research Institute also helps to develop new approaches to caribou conservation. The purpose of the Foothills Research Institute is to test and develop the most innovative and sustainable forestry practices available.
For a number of years, West Fraser has been working with the B.C. and Alberta governments, as well as through the groundbreaking Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement to improve the management of caribou herds. We will continue to invest in research and innovation to determine the best ways forward for conserving caribou herds and habitat.
Here are a few examples of what we are doing now to protect caribou herds in our operating areas in British Columbia and Alberta.
In 1994, West Fraser established a voluntary deferral of harvesting on caribou range on the Hinton FMA. In 2007, we voluntarily doubled the size of the deferral area which now totals 31,017 hectares. West Fraser is voluntarily not harvesting in the caribou range on its Hinton Forest Management Area while government-led caribou recovery plans continue to be developed.
Portions of the ranges of the Slave Lake and Red Earth woodland caribou herds overlap with the operating areas of West Fraser’s Slave Lake Pulp division and Alberta Plywood division. The Slave Lake caribou herd is at significant risk. Much of the caribou habitat within the Slave Lake forest management area burned in a forest fire several years ago and the herd is considered to be in “immediate risk of extirpation”. West Fraser is not operating in this caribou area. We have provided funding for a government-led research and monitoring program to learn more about the Slave Lake caribou herd as part of the recovery planning process.
A portion of the Red Earth caribou herd overlaps with areas where we have harvest tenures but are not the primary forest manager. The Red Earth caribou herd is ranked as “declining”. West Fraser is not currently harvesting in the range of the Red Earth caribou herd.
Research and long-term caribou conservation planning is currently underway in these areas. For example, West Fraser purchased GPS collars for the A la Peche and Slave Lake caribou herds as part of a larger research program. Information obtained from these devices will assist the Alberta Caribou Recovery Plan process and help West Fraser and others access important data to develop approaches for caribou conservation.
West Fraser has deferred all harvesting in areas that have been designated as critical caribou habitat under the BC government’s land-use plan. In October 2007, West Fraser deferred a 100,000 hectare (247,000 acre) area in the Quesnel and Williams Lake areas in support of a proposed Mountain Caribou Recovery Strategy initiated by the BC government.
Two caribou herds – the Barkerville herd and the Wells Grey North herd – are located in areas where we operate. According to the latest census data from the BC government, both herds are considered healthy and stable.
In non-critical caribou habitat areas, we have limited activity to the control or salvage of insect-damaged timber and small harvest trials for scientific research purposes.
Read about how West Fraser is working to help caribou populations near Chetwynd, B.C.