Wed, 12 Jan 2022
Tags: Caribou

Grants Approved for 14 Caribou Habitat Restoration Projects

Supported by funding from the B.C. government and the federal government, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation approved 14 grants for new and ongoing projects to help restore caribou habitat in British Columbia.

The 2021 grants were allocated through the foundation’s Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund and total more than $1.65 million (see details in attached backgrounder).

In 2018, the B.C. government committed $8.5 million to support the foundation’s work. In 2021, the Government of Canada contributed a total of $5 million over five years for projects that will benefit the Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou. Five of the approved projects from 2021 will be co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Activities, such as urbanization, forestry, mining, oil and gas, and roadbuilding work, have altered caribou habitat. Activities that help restore caribou habitat include:

  • planting trees to restore areas to a pre-disturbed state; and
  • blocking former roads and other linear features such as seismic lines (such as corridors cleared of vegetation to assist oil and gas exploration) to reduce predator access.

One of the 14 funded projects is being conducted within a newly protected area under the Intergovernmental Partnership Agreement for the Conservation of the Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou. The Mount Rochfort project is led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society in co-operation with Wildlife Infometrics and Canadian Forest Products Ltd.

With the support of a $192,617 grant provided by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, habitat is being restored along a 156-kilometre stretch of road in the Klinse-za caribou-herd area, adding about 7,865 hectares of habitat and contributing to a total of 26,322 hectares of connected caribou range.

Since 2018, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has provided 32 grants worth approximately $3.9 million for 23 projects led by First Nations, government, industry and not-for-profit societies.

The Province’s support of this grant program is part of an ongoing and multi-faceted approach to caribou recovery in British Columbia. Its recovery program aims to restore this iconic Canadian species to a sustainable population.

 

Boreal Caribou from the air

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation provided the following 14 grants worth $1,655,124 through the Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund:

Adams Groundhog Road Rehabilitation and Reforestation Project (Project 3-422)

  • grant of $199,500 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  • Thompson-Okanagan region (about 100 kilometres northeast of Kamloops)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Groundhog caribou herd by restoring habitat on an estimated 50-100 kilometres of road over multiple years to reduce predator movement and access to caribou habitat.

Upper Bigmouth Creek (Project 4-621)

  • grant of $28,431 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by Yucwmenlúcwu (Caretakers of the Land) LLP
  • Kootenay region (about 140 kilometres north of Revelstoke)
  • This project has restored habitat on about five kilometres of linear features in the Columbia North herd area. This year’s grant is primarily for monitoring the completed restoration work.

Mica Creek (Project 4-622)

  • grant of $288,681 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • led by Yucwmenlúcwu (Caretakers of the Land) LLP
  • Kootenay region (about 140 kilometres north of Revelstoke)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Columbia North caribou herd through the restoration of habitat on two resource road networks.

Tweedsmuir Caribou Winter Range – Chelaslie Road Restoration (Project 6-283)

  • grant of $70,671 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  • Skeena region (about 60 kilometres south of Burns Lake)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou herd by restoring habitat on up to 78 kilometres of road.

Whitesail (Project 6-306)

  • grant of $87,174 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • led by Canadian Forest Products Ltd.
  • Skeena region (about 122 kilometres south of Smithers)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Tweedsmuir-Entiako caribou herd by restoring about 73 kilometres of road.

Amoco Road (Project 7-528)

  • grant of $23,315 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Northeast region (56 kilometres west of Chetwynd)
  • This project has restored habitat on 15 kilometres of road in the Klinse-Za caribou herd area. This year’s grant is primarily for monitoring the completed restoration work.

Kotcho Lake Restoration Area (Project 7-529)

  • grant of $175,780 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by the Fort Nelson First Nation Lands Office
  • Northeast region (about 80 kilometres northeast of Fort Nelson)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Snake-Sahtahneh boreal caribou herd by restoring habitat on 45 kilometres of seismic lines.

Otter (Project 7-530)

  • grant of $6,120 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by Canadian Forest Products Ltd.
  • Northeast Region (about 86 kilometres northeast of Prince George)
  • This project restored habitat on a 7.5-kilometre road that was fragmenting high-value habitat for the Hart Ranges caribou herd. This year’s grant is primarily for monitoring the completed restoration work.

Tumuch (Project 7-534)

  • grant of $8,720 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • led by Canadian Forest Products Ltd.
  • Northeast Region (about 95 kilometres southeast of Prince George)
  • This project restored habitat on 12.4 kilometres of road to create a connected area of almost 70,000 hectares of high-value habitat for the North Cariboo herd. This year’s grant is primarily for monitoring the completed restoration work.

Peck Creek-Upper Carbon (Project 7-543)

  • grant of $53,452 approved for 2021-22 (continuing project)
  • co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Northeast Region (about 54 kilometres west of Chetwynd)
  • This project has restored 1,287 hectares of habitat in the Klinse-Za caribou-herd area. This year’s grant is primarily for monitoring the completed restoration work.

Callazon-Clearwater Valley: 4000 and 3800 Roads (Project 7-554)

  • grant of $122,984 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Northeast Region (about 45 kilometres northeast of Mackenzie)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Klinse-Za caribou herd by restoring habitat on about 16 kilometres of road.

Goldway Road (Project 7-555)

  • grant of $72,959 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • led by Chu Cho Environmental
  • Northeast Region (about 170 kilometres northwest of Mackenzie)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Chase caribou herd by restoring habitat on up to 16 kilometres of road.

Mount Rochfort (Project 7-557)

  • grant of $192,617 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society
  • Northeast Region (about 65 kilometres west of Moberly Lake)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Klinse-Za and Scott East caribou herds by restoring habitat on about 150 kilometres of road.

East Babcock Restoration Area (Project 7-558)

  • grant of $324,720 approved for 2021-22 (new project)
  • co-funded by the B.C. government and Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
  • Northeast Region (about 20 kilometres southeast of Tumbler Ridge)
  • This project is designed to benefit the Quintette and Narraway caribou herds by restoring habitat on approximately 87 kilometres of roads and seismic lines.

For more information see the Province of British Columbia’s official Information Bulletin here.

Wed, 7 Jul 2021

Project Profile: Amoco Road Restoration Project

The Amoco Road restoration site is a legacy oil and gas road that stretches from valley bottom to the alpine in the Klinse-Za caribou herd in northeastern BC. Twenty-two years after the road was installed, the site is still dominated by non-native grass species, which has prevented naturally re-seeded seedlings from establishing and growing. As a result, the road remains a large scar on the landscape and fragments the mature forest ecosystem. The road also creates an easy travel route for predators to access critical caribou habitat in the alpine, and large stretches of open road also enable predators to spot caribou further away, improving their hunting efficiency. Use of the road by snowmobiles during the winter allows wolves easy travel along the packed trails into the alpine, increasing risk of predation on caribou. To speed up forest recovery and reduce the use of the road by predators, the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society has undertaken steps to restore the road to a forested ecosystem, thereby restoring critical caribou habitat. Restoration activities such as the planting of seedlings and juvenile trees along the road and the falling of dead trees across the road surface were completed in Summer 2020. These restoration activities will speed up natural forest regeneration and limit the ability of predators to use the corridor to access critical caribou habitat. Moving forward, activities, such as tree regeneration surveys and wildlife use monitoring, will be continued to determine the success of the restoration activities.

This Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund project was undertaken with the financial support of the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change.

 

 

 

 

 

Amoco Road restoration helicopter

Juvenile hybrid spruce and lodgepole pine trees being transported onto Amoco Road restoration site, Summer 2020.

 

Crews planting juvenile hybrid spruce and lodgepole pine trees on Amoco Road.

Crews planting juvenile hybrid spruce and lodgepole pine trees on Amoco Road restoration site, Summer 2020.

Juvenile hybrid spruce and lodgepole pine trees planted on Amoco Road.

Juvenile hybrid spruce and lodgepole pine trees planted in theatre-style spacing on one of the seven planting sites on Amoco Road restoration site, Summer 2020.

Caribou detected on a camera trap on Amoco Road restoration site, Summer 2020.

Caribou detected on a camera trap on Amoco Road restoration site, Summer 2020.

 

Grizzly bear

Grizzly bear detected on a camera trap on Amoco Road restoration site, Fall 2020.

 

 

Thu, 1 Jul 2021

Project Profile: Kotcho Lake Restoration Project

Aerial photo of caribou in Kotch Lake restoration area.

The Kotcho Lake Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund project is focused on restoring legacy seismic lines in core boreal caribou habitat located in the Snake Sahtenah range. Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) identified this area as a high priority for restoration due to the cultural importance of the area, the value of the area for caribou and other species, and the very high density of old seismic lines, which were not recovering on their own. Restoration work is conducted in the late summer, using light machinery to access intersections of old seismic lines and transplant “donor” mounds from areas beside the seismic lines. Donor mounds are then transplanted with black spruce seedlings, and trees are felled around the transplanted sites to block the lines until the mounds can establish. By treating in the summer, FNFN believe that restored sites will more closely resemble natural sites than areas treated in the winter. Summer treatments may also prove less expensive than winter work, which is currently the industry standard for restoring these sites. FNFN’s hypothesis is that the donor mounds will quickly establish on seismic lines and accelerate ecological recovery. By treating line intersections, they anticipate seeing reduced use of the untreated areas between the intersections by wolves and other predators. Overall, FNFN hope this approach (treating in the summer; hummock transplants and tree falling; focusing on intersections; and selecting key access routes) can result in effective restoration over a large area of the landscape. Monitoring of the vegetation response, the wildlife use of treated and untreated areas, and the overall cost of the treatments in comparison to winter work is ongoing to determine treatment effectiveness. You can read the full Year 2 technical report about this project here.

Katherine and Susan monitoring restoration works

Katherine and Susan monitoring restoration works

Tree growing like a boss in a transplanted hummock.

Tree growing in a transplanted hummock.

 

Woody vascular species also appear to be growing well on the hummocks.

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for making this project possible.

Fri, 11 Jun 2021

Project Profile: Adams Groundhog Road Rehabilitation and Reforestation Project

Goat Creek Road following treatment

This Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund project is designed to benefit the Groundhog caribou herd in the Upper Adams River Valley and is led by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. The project targets forest roads within, adjacent or leading to critical high elevation caribou habitat.

Forest professionals assessed and prescribed treatments on suitable roads that were no longer needed. In 2019-20, a total of 41 km of road was assessed and this led to 14.1 km of treatments being prescribed and completed in 2020. The primary treatment was road rehabilitation using an excavator to decompact the road surface, redistribute woody debris & organic material, and restore natural drainage patterns. Rehabilitation treatments prepared the sites for reforestation (tree planting) in 2021. Support and participation of First Nations was integral to the success of this project. Local First Nations supported restoration at this site and the Adams Lake Indian Band had the capacity and resources to complete all road works and provide professional oversight.

Before:

Goat Creek Road prior to restoration

Goat Creek Road prior to restoration.

 

After:

Goat Creek Road after restoration

Goat Creek Road after restoration

We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for making the Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund possible.

Sun, 21 Feb 2021
Tags: Caribou

Video: Chase Caribou Habitat Restoration Project

Caribou were once plentiful in BC, but now the majority of herds are at risk of extinction. Roads and corridors built for industrial development allow predators such as wolves easy access to the areas where caribou live. To help reduce caribou mortality, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Province of BC are funding projects that make it more difficult for predators to use human-made corridors by piling woody debris and creating soil mounds at key junctions leading to caribou habitat. Trees are also planted to help return these areas to a more natural state. Many of these caribou habitat restoration projects are led by First Nations, including the Caribou Flats restoration project.

Caribou Flats roadway lies within the population boundary of the Chase caribou herd, part of the Southern Mountain population of Woodland caribou. This herd is listed as threatened on Schedule 1 of the Species At Risk Act (SARA). In 2018, Chu Cho Environmental identified several forest roads within chase caribou herd range boundary which had potential for habitat restoration. These roads were identified with input from forest licensees, caribou biologists familiar with this herd, and Tsay Keh Dene Nation. In 2019, Chu Cho Environmental and Tsay Keh Dene Nation undertook habitat restoration activities to restore the roadway at Caribou Flats. A combination of functional and ecological restoration techniques were used. Functional restoration involved access control, slash rollback, and tree felling and hinging across the roadway, to make the road less-suitable for predator travel and human use. The intent of the functional restoration was to reduce predator-prey interactions on the roadway. Ecological restoration involved soil ripping and decompaction of the road surface, and tree planting. The goal of tree planting was to accelerate the return of the area to a mature forest environment.

The project was completed in summer 2020 and the team at Chu Cho Environmental put together the following video to tell the story of the restoration process and how this work is contributing to conserving caribou in BC.


You can access the report for this project here.

Tue, 11 Aug 2020
Tags: Caribou

Habitat restoration across the Klinse-Za caribou herd range

HCTF’s Caribou Habitat Restoration Fund (CHRF) provides funding for restoration of critical habitat for BC’s caribou herds. This includes multiple projects designed to benefit the Klinse-za herd led by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society, a joint initiative of the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations. The Society is working in partnership with a team from Wildlife Infometrics to restore disturbed habitat. Wildlife Infometrics recently shared the following update focused on the monitoring component of this work.

Why restore?

The Klinse-Za herd area, located between Mackenzie, Chetwynd and the Peace Arm of Williston reservoir, used to support a herd of almost 200 caribou as recently as 1995 and was said to be so numerous in historic times as be “like bugs on the land”. However, the herd has declined to under 40 individuals by 2013. Across BC, many caribou herds have experienced the same steep declines, and most of the struggling herds are inhabiting areas with generally more human disturbance and activity on the landscape. Specifically, industrial development has contributed to caribou declines as their habitat has been altered, displacing the caribou and making them more susceptible to predation. Since 2013, costly and intensive management efforts including maternity penning and predator removal have helped halt or reduce the rate of decline in some herds. However, these activities are not going to keep caribou on the land base over the long term. To improve caribou habitat, support the ecosystem and balance the predator-prey dynamics, we are implementing a large-scale habitat restoration project in the Klinse-za caribou herd area.

A road from low to high elevation provides an easy travel corridor for predators to access alpine refugia for caribou.

Restoration of habitat can involve a variety of activities. In the Klinse-za habitat restoration program, we focus our efforts on reforesting and restructuring linear features (e.g., old roads, seismic lines). This will limit the ability of predators to easily access caribou habitat and minimize caribou- predator interactions. Over time, reforesting the features will return the ecosystem to a more natural state.

Why monitor?

Crew member installing trail camera over an old road.

Our restoration project has two components, both equally important to the long-term success and usefulness of this endeavor. The ‘implementation’ piece is where features on the landscape actually change the way they look, appear to wildlife, or function within the ecosystem. These are the actions that include road structure modifications, tree planting, access alterations and other physical changes. To evaluate how much of a difference these changes made and how caribou and other wildlife are responding to them, we have a detailed monitoring program of data collection and analysis. It’s the monitoring that allows us to understand whether we’re meeting our objectives and make improvements to our plans if necessary.

Currently, our monitoring program has two main components: measuring changes in vegetation in response to restoration of linear features, and tracking wildlife and human road users through a network of trail cameras.

Trail camera discoveries

Motion activated trail cameras allow us to ‘have eyes’ across very large spatial extents, at all hours of the day and night. Since we currently have 200 cameras deployed across 7 different sites, we are monitoring a total of about 50 km of linear features. This large scale has allowed us to capture some interesting, valuable and sometimes surprising footage of the four-legged residents of our project area. One of the most vivid observations to date has been the large number of grizzly bears across the area – we have observed many sows with 2 to 3 cubs in tow, large males and several bears having a good scratch on trees, though our favourite picture remains a beautiful sunset image of a sow walking down the road with her three cubs!

Above: a grizzly sow walking down the road with her three cubs. Below: a tense face-off between wolf and moose – we don’t know what the outcome was.

We have also observed a wide suite of other predators, including black bears, wolves, cougars, lynx, coyotes, wolverines, and more. While we are hoping to reduce predator access into alpine areas, it is nonetheless interesting to see such a diversity of predators in one area. We also see ungulates making extensive use of the linear feature, with moose being most abundant. Caribou and elk are both seen periodically.

Vegetation sampling: getting into the weeds

Tracking vegetation is important for two reasons. First, plants are essential as they form the basis of the food chain: vegetation provides energy to herbivores (large and small), who in turn support a variety of predators. Second, plants are highly responsive to environmental conditions such as moisture, shade, and soil type, and can thus be effectively used as indicators of habitat change. Since our goal with restoration is to alter existing linear disturbances so that they more closely resemble the surrounding habitat, we use a ‘before-and-after’ vegetation sampling approach. Specifically, we are collecting data about the plants on and near the linear features now (the ‘before’), and will collect the same data at intervals from one to ten years after we carry out the restoration activities, so that we can evaluate whether the restoration has been effective.

Crew members Warren Desjarlais and Mariah Mueller identifying
plant species.

While spending long field days identifying and counting plants can be a little hard on the back and somewhat repetitive, there are many delights in this work for the ‘plant nerds’ on the project. Identifying rare species or unusual color variants keeps us on our toes and sometimes requires impromptu group debates right on the mountain. Because the sampling sites are spaced hundreds of meters apart, we get to hike through a variety of elevations and ecotypes and see beautiful country. Finally, this kind of intensive field sampling provides valuable real- world training opportunities in plant identification, and so we include First Nations community members and/or summer students on our crews to help them develop their expertise and confidence.

Thanks again to Wildlife Infometrics on behalf of the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society for providing this update on their work!