Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
FIA Project S084001

    Establishing a Science Basis for SFM and Recovery Planning for Woodland Caribou in North-central British Columbia
Project lead: McNay, Scott (Resources North Association)
Author: McNay, R. Scott
Subject: Forest Investment Account (FIA), British Columbia
Series: Forest Investment Account (FIA) - Forest Science Program
This proposal is focused on the synthesis and technical extension of existing information to provide partial fulfillment of a science-basis for Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in north-central British Columbia (BC). The proposal also continues similar work begun in a previously funded synthesis (see projects Y061136 and Y072136). Generally, we focus on synthesis of ecological relationships that are fundamental to a decision-support tool used to monitor (see project Y071064) and forecast (McNay et al. in press) supply of critical habitat for threatened woodland caribou. Two publications are planned leading to outcomes which are expected to augment existing support for the use of the monitoring tool in SFM and recovery planning. Collection and tabular reporting of the existing data and information were activities conducted from 1999-2004 as part of the Omineca Northern Caribou Project (ONCP) and subsequent work by the Northern Caribou Recovery Implementation Group for North-central BC (henceforth the RIG). The ONCP was initiated in response to the pending release of the Mackenzie Land and Resource Management Plan (MLRMP). Although the ONCP initially only addressed MLRMP strategic objectives for perpetuating caribou, data collection was coincidental with the origin of, and was therefore realigned to meet needs of, other province-wide planning initiatives (e.g., Sustainable Forest Management Plans, forest certification, recovery strategies associated with the Species At Risk Act, and strategies to meet “objectives set by government for wildlife” in the Forest and Range Practices Act). The ONCP also led to creation of the Caribou Habitat Assessment and Supply Estimator (CHASE), a model used to characterize and project seasonal range values for caribou (McNay et al. in press, McNay et al. 2003). A key strategy of the ONCP was to hold field data independent of the modeling to provide a basis for validating ecological relationships in the model once sufficient samples were collected. Together, the data and the modeling have provided a way in which the forest sector can partially fulfill SFM by monitoring supply of habitat for this threatened species as an indicator and measure of biological diversity. The data and monitoring have also provided a strong foundation for deliberations of the RIG. Until 2 years ago this information had yet to be formally synthesized and reported in peer-reviewed technical publications, but due to a past project (Y072136), that process has begun. To date we have 1 technical report in press, 1 submitted for publication, and 3 others under construction for submission by March 2007.

The data we have available for synthesis is quite possibly unprecedented elsewhere:
- 900 days of aerial observations involving 523 different, marked animals, conducted over 6 years in 4 herd areas extending over more than 3 million hectares;
- 62,992 relocations of radio collared animals were by VHF (13,851 caribou, 4,576 moose, and 1,678 wolf) and GPS (36,887 caribou, 5,490 moose, and 440 wolf) techniques;
- Mortality investigations were conducted on 361 animals (n = 186 caribou)
- Census within the herd areas were conducted on both caribou (n = 5) and moose (n = 2);
- Calving surveys over 4 years resulted in weekly observations of calving success with approximately 200 observations per year.

Delivery of this project includes, but may not be limited to, 2 publications that extend the results of forest science research to the public and to natural resource professionals at an average cost to the FSP of <$20,000 per publication. Specific benefits will accrue in north-central BC through direction to the RIG who are charged with creating a recovery action plan for the Scott, Wolverine, Chase, and Takla caribou herds. As the RIG members deliberate over identification of critical habitat and implementation of recovery actions, the publications proposed here will function to support RIG results in a more formal and technical approach than would be possible in the final recovery action plan.

To date, RIG’s throughout BC have been slow to provide Government with potential recovery scenarios because much of the science about recovery of caribou is lacking. The need for this science basis is well recognized by individual RIG’s throughout BC, the Mountain Caribou Technical Advisory Committee, the Northern Caribou Technical Advisory Committee, and individual stakeholders that participate in recovery planning (e.g., Guide Outfitters Association of BC, First Nations bands, backcountry recreation enthusiasts, the BC Snowmobile Federation, the forest industry). The RIG for caribou in north-central BC identified an action item to establish this science basis using data collected on the ONCP, hence the extension activities proposed herein.

The planned synthesis and extension will also feed back to, and support, use of CHASE as the fundamental tool used for monitoring in support of SFM and recovery planning. At an operational level, Canfor, Abitibi, and BC Timber Sales will be in a position to determine harvest patterns that minimize impacts to caribou habitat and contribute to recovery and monitoring of at least 4 herds of threatened caribou


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Updated August 16, 2010 

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