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.