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B.C. rancher fined $960,000 for fish habitat destruction

B.C.'s Tsilhqot'in First Nation wants Altherr & Schellenberg Cattle Co. Ltd. off its land after the company was found to have destroyed riparian and instream habitat.
B.C.'s Tsilhqot'in First Nation wants a B.C. rancher off its traditional territory.

B.C.’s Tsilhqot'in First Nation wants a ranch’s licences and permits cancelled in the wake of the Cariboo region’s cattle operation being fined $960,000 for fish habitat destruction on the Kleena Kleene and Little Chilcotin rivers.

Altherr & Schellenberg Cattle Co. Ltd. (A&S) was also ordered in Williams Lake provincial court to post a $1.25-million bond and in trust for salmon stream remediation.

That company includes Pasture to Plate and Rafter 25 Ranch subsidiaries.

“The actions of Pasture to Plate and Rafter 25 Ranch show blatant disregard for the environment and the life it supports,” said Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse, Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) tribal chair.

“All of Mr. Schellenberg’s federal and provincial licences and permits need to be reviewed and revoked. A person that could rip out kilometres of chinook habitat in order to expand their hay field does not deserve to live and own property in such pristine area,” Alphonse said.

The company is based in Alexis Creek, west of Williams Lake.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation said the company entered guilty pleas Feb. 28 in providing information it said was confirmed by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). DFO is expected to release information soon, Prince George detachment commander Phillip Taylor told Glacier Media.

Specifically, Tsilhqot'in Nation spokesperson Scott Thompson told Glacier Media A&S entered pleas to four amended “rolled-up” counts under the federal Fisheries Act and the provincial Forest and Range Practices Act and the Water Sustainability Act, for various unauthorized works on both private and Crown land at or near the Kleena Kleene river, between 2019 and 2021.

Those charges are:

  • riparian and instream habitat destruction, including riparian clearing and infilling of side channels and tributary habitat;
  • placement of rock structures (riprap wall and rock groynes) at or within the Klinaklini River mainstem;
  • unauthorized works and habitat destruction and clearing on Crown land; and,
  • unauthorized diversion structure and sprinkler system on Crown land.

Thompson said the guilty pleas were part of a joint submission negotiated between Crown counsel and counsel for A&S and its principal, Felix Schellenberg. The plea agreement was presented to Judge Scott Mulder.

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Otis Guichon, TNG vice-chair, said Schellenberg is no longer welcome on TNG territory.

“Both of these sites of environmental damage were directly in our backyard and in places that our people have harvested fish for centuries,” Guichon said. “Mr. Schellenberg restricted our people from fishing in their traditional fishing site and proceeded to fill it in so that he had more pasture area.

“It is clear to me that he has absolutely no respect for the environment or families he has impacted. Mr. Schellenberg also owns property on Puntzi Lake that is right next door to a fishing reserve that our people used for centuries. His actions directly impact the land and water,” he added.

Barbara Schellenberg said Felix Schellenberg has retired, has no active company role and cannot be reached.

"As for the company, we are paying the fines, and we are actively remediating as requested by the court," she said.

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