Although caribou and reindeer throughout the world are all considered to be the same species there are actually seven recognized subspecies and four of those live in Canada.
Most caribou are considered at risk or threatened but the Deep Snow Mountain Caribou are now classified as critically endangered and the reason is large-scale habitat loss.
At up to 2500 kilometres, caribou migrate farther than any other land mammal which makes protecting their habitat very difficult. However, Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou have a much smaller range. They migrate between the high alpine meadows of central British Columbia in the summer, to the valleys below in the winter, where snow can often be two metres deep.
With that much snow, the mountain caribou cannot easily reach food plants so they survive the harshest part of the winter on the lichen that grows on mature trees in BC’s Inland Temperate Rainforest. But that rare ecosystem also is in danger of being wiped out — by logging. Scientists estimate that the Inland Temperate Rainforest will be lost within 15 years along with caribou and more than 200 other endangered species unless habitat is urgently protected.
One of the challenges with protecting Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou and their habitat is the many overlapping jurisdictions, special interest groups, commercial claims and First Nations territories making consensus elusive. Millions have been spent on programs with good intentions but disappointing results while the rainforest is harvested and the caribou struggle to survive.
Michael Bloomfield and the Harmony Foundation he leads, is making a strong case for another approach: He has been working for caribou for decades and has witnessed a hundred good plans for their protection get mired in the mix of competing ambitions and short-term goals.
Typically, battles for protection have been fought locally, on a valley-by-valley basis involving industry and their employees who easily outnumber the local opposition. Meanwhile Canada is losing both an iconic species and a unique ecosystem.
With a growing team of allies and supporters, Bloomfield developed a plan which combines three Provincial Parks in the interior of BC along with the land between and surrounding them to protect 1,629,238 hectares and create The Great Caribou Rainforest Conservation Area . It respects the knowledge, traditions and management skills of Indigenous peoples, while addressing the economic needs of local industry and residents. More than that, First Nations, upon whose territory it lies are taking leadership by forming the Great Caribou Rainforest Alliance with Harmony.
The Great Caribou Rainforest Conservation Area is a concept large enough to demand national and international attention and Harmony’s comprehensive proposal proposes to bring together the many jurisdictions and special interests in a cooperative effort. .
When complete, it will protect not only caribou, but the hundreds of other fauna and flora that depend on the interior temperate rainforest that is unique in North America and one of only three in the world. The proposal is on a scale that will help Canada meet its commitments to save 30 percent of the earth’s land and water by 2030. (30 by 30 Initiative). It will also address the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s concerns about Canada’s conservation and biodiversity rankings.
At every level thus far, including Federal and Provincial agencies, along with First Nations, the Harmony proposal has received support, encouragement and optimism.
WildLife Canada Society has been funding the Harmony Foundation since the beginning of this proposal. In fact, Michael says that our early support gave him the confidence to turn his dream into an action plan.
For more details please view the proposal in full and other materials at: