On the mountain peaks of northeast British Columbia (BC) live the threatened Northern Caribou. Despite the resource development around them, the caribou roam this remote habitat feeding on the lichen native to the area. We’re working with our client, AngloAmerican, and the BC Government to establish mining practices that balance the caribou’s needs with project opportunities while supporting their recovery.
The woodland caribou is the middle child of North America’s ungulates. Smaller than moose or elk, and less agile than mule or whitetail deer, caribou are prime prey for predators like wolves and grizzly bears.
But, unlike their relatives, caribou can feed on lichen growing on high, windswept alpine peaks, navigating these mountainous habitats away from predators. Though this gives them an advantage, they’re still at risk. Resource access roads to mountain peaks expose the caribou’s sanctuary to predators, and developments cut into prime winter habitat.
Governments are collaborating with the energy and resource community to minimize the impact of progress and help boost the caribou population, which has been declining across Canada. This is where our team of wildlife biologists and reclamation specialists comes in.
This habitat securement is no simple mountaintop swap. To be a meaningful conservation effort, it has to make sense for the caribou. Our biologists created a multilayered approach, setting the gold standard in habitat compensation. After determining the area AngloAmerican’s new Roman Mine would disturb, we used Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping to define areas within their leasehold that met the basic requirements. The mapping system combines traditional maps with high-resolution satellite imagery to determine elevation, vegetation, water sources, and the terrain’s steepness.
Now we get our boots dirty. With mapping data narrowing the search, our biologists hit the ground to ensure the identified areas actually make sense for caribou. Is it high enough? Is there ample lichen for food? Is it too steep? Can they find water? Are there signs of predators? This hands-on approach further narrows the options.
With the final choices in hand, the caribou themselves verify which are best. Caribou wearing government-issued radio collars provide data showing where they feel at home. Those spots go to the top of the list.
With all this data, AngloAmerican made the most informed decision for their habitat compensation submission to the government. This habitat securement kept their mining operation moving forward, while setting aside more than 4,500 acres (four times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park and five times the size of Central Park in Manhattan) for the caribou to call their own.
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