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The BC Oil and Gas Commission supports a provincial commitment to a new long-term, comprehensive, science-based approach to protect and preserve caribou populations – the Caribou Recovery Program.

What is happening to the caribou population in our province?

Caribou have roamed British Columbia for thousands of years. Over the last 30 years, many caribou herds have become threatened. The main threat is high predation from bears, wolves and cougars that is out of balance from the natural cycle. Factors that contribute to this include natural events such as forest fires, and human activity such as mining, logging and oil and gas activities.

Provincial wildlife managers and biologists have monitored and developed recovery programs for caribou for many years. Despite these efforts, herd numbers continue to dwindle.

How does the Commission reduce impacts to caribou?

As the Crown corporation responsible for applying British Columbia’s laws and regulations related to oil and gas activity, the Commission plays an important role in helping safeguard caribou. The Commission provides oversight at every stage of the oil and gas activity life cycle.

Commission staff review applications within caribou habitat to ensure they are consistent with government’s caribou recovery plans. For permits issued within caribou habitat areas, the Commission includes conditions to help reduce impacts to caribou and their habitat (see over), and Commission inspectors take action to achieve compliance.

The Commission works to protect caribou habitat using evidence-based practices that support wildlife protection while meeting the province’s energy plan goals.

In June 2019, a two year interim moratorium announced by the provincial government came into effect for areas considered critical to southern mountain caribou recovery. This measure limits new resource development in parts of northeastern British Columbia, while providing more time to protect jobs and support workers as it engages with affected communities and industries on long-term caribou protection strategies.

What should industry know about operating near caribou habitat?

There are rules oil and gas operators must follow in identified boreal caribou habitat in British Columbia. Mitigation guidance specific to reducing impacts on caribou populations and their habitat is developed by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Interim Operating Practices are transmitted to the Commission by the ministry as operational policy that must be followed by all oil and gas operators within identified boreal caribou habitat.

The management intent of these practices is to limit activities which:

  • Significantly reduce terrestrial and arboreal lichen forage.
  • Enhance predator mobility (primarily wolves). Increase caribou visibility to predators (primarily wolves).
  • Enhance forage for other ungulate (prey) species.
  • Cause significant fragmentation of large tracts of annual range where caribou can exist at low densities as an antipredator strategy and avoid linear corridors

Management practices to reduce impacts on boreal caribou apply to many oil and gas activities include:

  • Seismic and geophysical operations
  • Line-sight for linear features
  • Pipeline construction Well sites and pads
  • Reclamation and restoration
  • Surface disturbance
  • Stewardship Roads, including right-of-way, ploughed roads, shared roads and speed limits

What else is being done to protect caribou?

  • The Commission has taken a leadership role in the Oil and Gas Research and Innovation Society and the BC Boreal Caribou Research and Effectiveness Board, which have invested nearly $7.9 million in more than 40 boreal caribou projects in the last four years.
  • By working in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources, the Commission is working to accelerate caribou habitat restoration. The Comprehensive Liability Management Plan will speed up land restoration work at inactive oil and gas sites.
  • The Commission is working with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development on the provincial Boreal Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan.
  • 550,000 hectares of resource review areas and enabling habitat restoration and mitigation actions have been established within boreal caribou range.
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