It is time for the province to strengthen its approach to fisher habitat management said the chair of B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, after a recently published investigation found the fur-bearing mammal is at risk of decline southwest of Prince George.
An investigation by the Forest Practices Board was launched in May 2019 after a trapper near Bobtail Mountain Provincial Park denounced three cutblocks proposed by Canfor within the traditional territories of the Nazko, Lheidlli T’enneh and Saik’uz First Nations.
“Our investigation found that government has relied on voluntary efforts by forestry licensees to conserve fisher habitat,” Kevin Kriese said in a May 7 news release.
“While Canfor did make efforts to protect habitat when designing the individual cutblocks in question, these efforts will not conserve adequate habitat for this species.”
Through their investigation, the Forest Practices Board found that government approached fisher habitat management by investing in non-legal guidance and planning tools for forest professionals and licensees to consider.
This is not the first investigation confirming government did not take adequate steps to ensure the protection of fisher habitat.
In an October 2018 report, the Forest Practices Board said while licensees did make some efforts to protect fisher habitat when designing individual cutblocks in the Nazko region, west of Quesnel, the efforts were insufficient given “the unprecedented scale of salvage logging across the landscape.”
Fisher populations remain low across the province.
The forest-dependent carnivore belonging to the weasel family is vulnerable to habitat loss through logging, hydroelectric development or other land-use changes and to trapping where habitats are compromised, noted the provincial government in its BC Conservation Data Centre: Conservation Status Report.
Populations in northeastern B.C. have declined between 10 to 30 per cent likely due to forest cover loss. In the central interior where declines may be accelerating, fisher populations have dropped by 30 to 50 per cent due to loss of forest habitat.
Black Press Media has reached out to B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for further comment.
Canfor’s senior director of communications and government relations, Michelle Ward said Canfor appreciates the report by the Forest Practices Board and is reviewing their recommendations on conserving fisher habitat.
“Canfor looks forward to reviewing any new expectations established by Government for licensees as they are available,” Ward added, noting the company had deferred two of the cutblocks from its harvesting plan and undertook several voluntary measures to protect fisher habitat in the harvested areas.
A landscape-level habitat corridor to protect an area connecting Bobtail Mountain Provincial Park and Dahl Lakes Provincial Park was also designed.