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Major park expansion will better protect sacred sites, caribou habitat

June 14, 2024 at 9:21 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

A major expansion of Klinse-za Park, located west of Chetwynd and Hudson’s Hope in northeastern B.C., will better protect sacred sites and wildlife habitat, and contribute to the goal of protecting 30% of lands in B.C. by 2030.

The expanded Klinse-za/Twin Sisters Park (pronounced Klin-see’-za) will protect nearly 200,000 hectares of land, including two mountains known locally as the Twin Sisters, which are an area of cultural and spiritual significance for Treaty 8 First Nations.

“Protecting and recovering threatened species and their habitat is a shared responsibility and priority for B.C., Canada and First Nations that requires everyone to work together,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “The decline of caribou is a complex problem, and we continue our work to stabilize populations. Providing a large area that protects caribou and their habitat from development is a critically important step forward that is consistent with the agreements we first announced in 2020.”

During the last century, the number of caribou in B.C. declined by more than 55%. Increased predation linked to human-caused habitat disturbance has led to these declines. There are fewer than 4,000 southern mountain caribou, a threatened at-risk species, left in B.C.

The park expansion is the result of a historic 2020 partnership agreement between the governments of B.C, Canada, Saulteau First Nations, and West Moberly First Nations. The agreement commits all partners to take action to help stabilize and increase southern mountain caribou populations to self-sustaining levels in northeastern B.C., while considering the effects of this work on surrounding communities.

The expanded park, which is also home to at-risk species, such as fishers, bull trout, grizzly bears and wolverines, creates the largest provincial park established in B.C. in a decade. The park will help restore healthy ecosystems and watersheds, including vital caribou habitats, a key measure to recover caribou in the region.   

“Since time immemorial our ancestors have lived in harmony with these lands, and we strive to continue to walk in these footsteps laid before us. The teachings were to leave no trace nor impact as you pass through the lands,” said Chief Roland Willson, West Moberly First Nations. “Times have changed and others have come seeking natural resources for economic development: forestry, oil and gas, large-scale hydroelectric, mining, and so on. They leave a much different footprint. Treaty No. 8 promises us the ability to carry on a way of life, free from forced interference, now and in future, as if we had never entered into Treaty. We will continue to pursue a better path towards recovering caribou and finding balance.”

Two existing maternal penning sites for caribou, operated by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society – a collaborative, non-profit organization between West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations – will now be within the park’s boundaries. Direct recovery actions, including the maternal penning projects, have successfully grown the local Klinse-za herd from 36 caribou in 2013 to 138 today.

“Our sacred Klinse-za/Twin Sisters area will now be protected for our people forever,” said Chief Rudy Paquette, Saulteau First Nations. “This is another step in the process by which we are proving that we can recover endangered species and protect the sacred lands of First Nations people, while also providing for healthy ecosystems and diverse economies.”

The Government of Canada has provided $46 million to support compensation for industries and tenure holders affected by the implementation of the Partnership Agreement, and $10 million to support a regional economic diversification trust for the region.

“The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and recovery of southern mountain caribou and other species at risk in British Columbia,” said Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada. “By working with the Province of British Columbia, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations, the Klinse-za/Twin Sisters Provincial Park has been expanded, which will protect critical habitat for this iconic species. We will continue to work together with our partners to recover species at risk and reverse biodiversity loss in Canada.”

The Province will work collaboratively with First Nations and other partners to develop a Klinse-za/Twin Sisters Park management plan that will also involve public engagement.

Learn More:

For more information about BC Parks, visit: https://bcparks.ca/

For more information about the provincial Caribou Recovery Program, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/wildlife/wildlife-conservation/caribou/recovery-program

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