An agreement between the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club and the provincial government will go a long way to help preserve caribou habitat in the Lumberton tenure area southwest of the city.
The stewardship agreement is one of the key elements of the province's Mountain Caribou Recover Implementation Plan.
"This agreement proves what I've always believed," said Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett. "That the vast majority of motorized recreationalists care as much for the environment as anyone does. Congratulations to the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club for your leadership."
Under the agreement, the snowmobile club and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations will be jointly responsible for marking boundaries of closure areas,and compliance monitoring duties and results. The Conservation Officer Service will be responsible for enforcing the legal closures.
Additionally, both parties will monitor the effectiveness of voluntary closures and will work together to resolve any issues. Snowmobilers will need to avoid areas within two kilometres of a known or suspected location of caribou until the animals have left the area.
Doug Hogg, the past president of the Cranbrook Snowmobile Club, said the club is pleased to sign the agreement—which has been years in the making—and do it's part to help with caribou recovery.
"It acknowledges that snowmobilers are part of the solution to helping caribou recover in this area, so we've agreed to restrict our activities in certain areas to allow the caribou to recover," Hogg said.
Hogg outlined some of the activities and restrictions that the club, roughly 250 members strong, will conduct and adhere to moving forward.
"We will be monitoring caribou sightings and recording that data and sending it into the Ministry," Hogg said. "We will be encouraging folks to stay out of caribou-restricted areas. We will be signing—putting signs up where you can and can't snowmobile.
"We have snow patrol that will go out and do that every year and newcomers that come in, we will be educating them on the impact that snowmobiles have on caribou habitat in the winter and making sure they don't go into areas they shouldn't be."
John Krebs, Director, Resource Management with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said the agreement will help preserve caribou habitat, which is key to recovery efforts.
"It's really important because we've got a small herd of caribou here in the South Purcells, they've been around the 20-animal mark for quite a few years now and they're really dependent on some certain areas within the South Purcells that are also potentially accessible for snowmobilers," Krebs said.
"This agreement kind of lays out where snowmobiling is of low consequence to caribou and some areas where we really don't want to see snowmobiling, so those would be the legal closure parts."
Access management plans such as the newly-signed agreement is one piece of the puzzle to helping the caribou population, Krebs added. He noted that the population is currently stable, but the government is also working on issues such as predation and mortalities from highway traffic that affect the recovery efforts.