Environmental groups want Supreme Court to stop wolf cull

Two non-profit environmental groups filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia last week challenging the provincial government’s legal authority to shoot wolves in the South Peace and Selkirk regions.

The petition, filed by the Pacific Wild Alliance and Valhalla Wilderness Society Jan. 18, would have the court halt the wolf cull until the province meets its legal obligations under the federal Species at Risk Act to protect “critical habitat” for caribou.

The groups allege the province opted for a wolf cull instead of protecting or improving critical habitat to please the province’s logging industry who they say were unwilling to hinder logging operations in or near these areas.

The cull, which began in January 2015 and is expected to last five years, is a move the province says it made to protect dwindling caribou herds impacted by increasing wolf populations.

Pacific Wild and Valhalla allege the decision to begin the cull was made “without evidence to reasonably conclude that culling wolves would save the identified mountain caribou herds or assist in their recovery.”

Last year, the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said it killed 73 wolves in the South Peace, while another 11 were culled from the South Selkirk mountains.

The environmental groups’ petition centres on the decision by the South Peace regional manager to issue the permit allowing for the wolf cull.

According to a Canadian Press report, the petition was filed in anticipation of the province issuing new permits in the South Selkirk region. This decision is reviewable under the Judicial Review Procedure Act.

“The regional manager simply gave the effect to the (Minister of Environment’s) decision to cull wolves without justification or further consideration,” the petition reads.

The groups also argue that the Ministry of Environment issued the cull instead of taking measures to protect areas deemed critical habitat for southern and central mountain caribou in the federal government’s 2014 Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou.

The groups allege the province “ordered the wolf cull… to respond to the forest industry, which was reluctant to forgo logging operations in or near critical habitat…” and as a result the decision “to kill wolves—in the name of mountain caribou protection or stabilization” without ensuring the protection of critical habitat “should be set aside as unreasonable.”

“Without critical habitat protection, mountain caribou populations will not be saved whether wolves are culled or not,” the petition reads.

The organizations did not return calls for comment.

The Peace Northern Caribou Plan, developed in 2012, commits the government to protecting 90 per cent (about 400,000 hectares) of identified winter caribou habitat across the South Peace, as well as other measures such as implementing “caribou management activities” to support population recovery and opportunities for First Nations harvest.

“Despite these efforts, the caribou herds are currently in decline,” the government said in a press release announcing the wolf cull in 2015.

“Immediate action must be taken to prevent their local extinction.”

Seven herds populate the South Peace near Chetwynd: the Quintette, Moberly, Scott, Kennedy Siding, Burnt Pine, Narraway and Graham.

Saulteau First Nations Chief Nathan Parenteau said a wolf cull might be a part of returning the balance to the habitat.

Singer Miley Cyrus and actress Pamela Anderson have been two of the most recognizable opponents to the wolf cull.

In response, Premier Christy Clark mocked the two stars' choice of wardrobe and joked at a September news conference that she would like to “sit down and ‘twerk’ it out,” with Cyrus.

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