CSSMA: New adaptive management strategy for mountain caribou habitat in Trout Lake and Nakusp, B.C.

by Donegal Wilson, Executive Director, BCSF

Caribou graze around snowy trees.
This initiative will include a permit that has been issued only to the Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders and the Trout Lake Recreational Club. Photo courtesy Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area

In a joint effort between the BC Snowmobile Federation (BCSF), the Ministry of Forest Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNROD), the Arrow Lake Ridge Riders (ALRR) and the Trout Lake Recreation Club (TLRC) a new adaptive land management strategy being referred to as the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area (CSSMA) has been implemented. The CSSMA has been implemented to preserve and protect the remaining Selkirk Mountain Caribou and habitat in the Trout Lake and Nakusp areas.

With only 24 animals remaining in the Selkirk herd, the herd has been listed as being under imminent threat of extirpation. It is apparent that decisive action is going to be required if the herd is going to continue to exist. There are many factors contributing to the decline of the herd and Government is working to address each of them including predators, habitat, calf recruitment and recreational disturbance from snowmobile or the heli-ski sector.

To minimize disturbance from snowmobiles, MFLNROD recommended a full winter motorized recreational closure in the herd area. Which sounds scary, but this closure is unique in that a new adaptive management strategy was created and is being tested in this area. Rather than a full winter backcountry closure for motorized recreation, this initiative will see zones open and closed on a rotating basis based on telemetry locations provided by collared Mountain Caribou. This allows winter recreation to continue in areas where caribou are not present and protect the habitat they are using.

This initiative will include a permit that has been issued only to the Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders and the Trout Lake Recreational Club. The terms of the permit for access to ride this area will be that you must be a member in good standing of either the Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders or the Trout Lake Recreational Club and you must check the maps daily to obtain the zones that are open to snowmobiling/snowbiking for that day. The closed zones will be monitored by the Conservation Service and local riders will be providing education or outreach. Anyone who is found to be in a closed zone or not meeting the terms of the permit including membership will face fines.

To learn more about this initiative or to join one the local snowmobile clubs please go to www.snowmobileselkirks.ca. To see the Provincial Government’s press release please go to https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019FLNR0283-002345

The British Columbia Snowmobile Federation commends the Arrow Lake Ridge Riders, Trout Lake Recreational Club, the Arrow Lakes Caribou Society and the MFLNROD for their efforts with this adaptive management strategy. The BCSF has been advocating for this type of adaptive management strategy for many years and this rotating closure project has the potential to create positive outcomes both for Mountain Caribou and the continued economic benefit of snowmobiling. It is imperative that all riders comply with this rotating closure and educate other users on the importance of compliance. Working together to build trust, will facilitate future collaboration for adaptive land management initiatives in Mountain Caribou Habitat.

The Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders and the Trout Lake Recreational Club are local snowmobile clubs based in Nakusp and Trout Lake, BC respectively. Both clubs are members in good standing of the BCSF and were established to promote safety, stewardship and responsible backcountry snowmobile recreation in their communities.

The BC Snowmobile Federation is a non-profit society created in 1965 to establish, maintain and protect quality opportunities for organized snowmobiling in BC. The BCSF collectively represents 59 snowmobile clubs and 44,000 riders in the Province of BC. On the ground, our member clubs are non-profit societies maintained by caring volunteers who promote safety, stewardship, and responsible backcountry snowmobile recreation.

How the new system works

  • Under the Wildlife Act (Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation), all caribou habitat within the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area is closed to snowmobiling year-round. This is the same sort of legal mechanism used to implement most snowmobile closures in the province. However, there is an important difference in the case of the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area.
  • In 2017, some caribou belonging to the Central Selkirk caribou herd were fitted with GPS collars, which continually transmit data about the animals’ movements to provincial biologists. The caribou in this particular herd tend to stay together as they roam the landscape, so it’s possible to determine the location of most of the herd by tracking just a few collared animals within it.
  • The key to the new system is the ability of provincial biologists to monitor GPS tracking data on a daily basis and share that information online: https://snowmobileselkirks.ca
  • As a result, limited access to the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area may be granted through exemption permits to members of two local recreational clubs (the Trout Lake Recreational Club and the Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders). The portions of the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area that remain closed to snowmobilers is determined in part by the herd’s last reported position.
  • A snowmobile operator who wants to ride in the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area but is not a member of the Trout Lake Recreational Club or the Arrow Lakes Ridge Riders can apply to join one of these clubs on the website for an annual fee: https://snowmobileselkirks.ca
  • Under the clubs’ exemption permit, members can enter currently open areas of the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area. A condition of the exemption permit is that club members must log onto the website before entering the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area and confirm that they have viewed a map showing which portion(s) of the management area are closed to snowmobiling. This map, available to club members, is updated daily at 3:30 a.m. (Pacific time). See the map here: https://snowmobileselkirks.ca
  • Club members need to carry their club membership card (showing their name and membership number) and photo identification to enter areas of the Central Selkirk Snowmobile Management Area that are open for snowmobile use that day.

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