Planting trees doesn’t always help with climate change

Reforestation is seen as a way to help cool the climate, sucking excess warming carbon out of the atmosphere. But it’s not always that simple.

Suddenly we are all being told to plant trees. The hope is that they will save us from the worst effects of climate change.

The idea is everywhere. The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has made a film arguing for extra protections for the world’s forests, and for the replanting of those that have been cut down. George Monbiot, a columnist in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, has founded a campaign called Natural Climate Solutions, which advocates restoring forests and other ecosystems.

This is not just talk. The UK government has planted millions of trees over the last decade, and has pledged another million between 2020 and 2024. Others have attempted far more dramatic feats: in 2016 one Indian state planted 50 million trees in one day, while in July last year Ethiopia claimed to have planted 350 million in a day. Even the UK’s Daily Mail, a right-wing newspaper not known for its climate activism, has just launched a campaign encouraging all its readers to plant a tree.

You might also like:

Protecting existing forests and planting new ones are surely good things to do. However, scientists say we must not place too much faith in trees to save us. In particular, last year one research group claimed we can plant a trillion extra trees and remove a quarter of the carbon dioxide currently in the air. These figures have been widely criticised as overhyped and unreliable. Trees will definitely help us slow climate change, but they won’t reverse it on their own.

The underlying problem is that our society is releasing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), that are warming the Earth’s climate to levels we have never experienced before. As a result the great ice sheets are melting, contributing to rising seas, and extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts are becoming more severe.

Trees have emerged as one of the most effective methods for drawing existing carbon out of the atmosphere (Credit: Getty Images)

Trees have emerged as one of the most effective methods for drawing existing carbon out of the atmosphere (Credit: Getty Images)

The solution is to stop emitting all greenhouse gases, for instance by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources like solar power. Deforestation is actually one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide, because when trees are cut down much of the carbon stored within them escapes into the air – especially if the wood is burned. For instance, in 2017 land use changes – mostly deforestation – contributed four billion tonnes of CO2 emissions to the global total of 41 billion tonnes of CO2. In other words, if we stopped cutting down trees we would cut our annual emissions by about 10%.

However, simply stopping all our emissions is no longer enough. At this point we have emitted so much CO2, and left emissions cuts so late, that we are almost certain to miss our targets of limiting warming to 1.5C or 2C. That means we must also find ways to actively remove CO2 from the air.

So long as a tree lives, that carbon stays within it – and trees can live for decades or centuries

All sorts of technological approaches have been proposed, but trees are an obvious contributor. New trees can either be planted in regions that have been deforested (reforestation) or in places that have never had them before (afforestation). As the trees grow they pull in CO2 through their leaves and convert it into carbohydrates, which they use to grow. So long as a tree lives, that carbon stays within it – and trees can live for decades or centuries. Trees are a natural “carbon sink”. It follows that we should both stop chopping down forests – especially tropical ones like the Amazon, which store huge amounts of carbon – and start planting more.

By some estimates, trees can be an enormous carbon sink. A study published in July 2019, led by Thomas Crowther of ETH-Zurich in Switzerland, estimated the world has room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of forestOnce those trees had matured, they could store 752 billion tonnes of CO2. Planting trees, the team wrote, is “one of the most effective carbon drawdown solutions to date”.

This finding has had immediate, fierce pushback from other climate scientists. In October 2019, the journal Science published four highly critical comments. These argued that the researchers had overestimated the carbon trees could store – by a factor of five. They also highlighted multiple mistakes. For instance, much of the land Crowther described as “available” for tree planting already has plants growing on it, all of them storing carbon, many of which would have to be removed, according to Sonia Seneviratne of ETH-Zurich and her colleagues.

Replanting trees nearer the poles is not as effective at drawing back carbon as trees planted in the tropics (Credit: Getty Images)

Replanting trees nearer the poles is not as effective at drawing back carbon as trees planted in the tropics (Credit: Getty Images)

There are also deeper problems, because trees have more than one way to affect the climate.

The first issue is that trees are dark, at least compared to other things that might blanket the land, such as grass or snow. As a result, planting more trees typically makes the land darker. Since dark surfaces absorb more heat, a dark tree-covered surface will trap more of the Sun’s heat – and warm the local climate.

As a result, there is a delicate balance between trees’ ability to take in CO2, reducing warming, and their tendency to trap additional heat and thus create warming. This means planting trees only helps stop climate change in certain places.

Specifically, according to a 2007 study that has been repeatedly confirmed, the best place to plant new trees is the tropics, where trees grow fastest and thus trap the most CO2. In contrast, planting trees in snowy regions near the poles is likely to cause a net warming, while planting them in temperate climates – like that of the UK, much of Europe and parts of the US – may have no net effect on climate.

Trees’ emissions can also lead to warming if they react to form the greenhouse gas methane, or ozone

“You have to be careful where you do reforestation,” says David Beerling of the University of Sheffield in the UK.

Others say this problem is overblown. “They’re assuming that snow cover’s going to stay there with warming,” says Beverly Law of Oregon State University in Corvallis. She points out that the polar regions are warming faster than the rest of the planet, so much of the snow may melt in the coming decades – in which case planting trees will not make the ground that much darker. “That’s been kind of a red herring that’s held out there a lot,” says Law.

The other thing trees do is emit volatile chemicals into the air. “That’s the pine-y smell you get when you walk through a forest,” says Dominick Spracklen of the University of Leeds in the UK. These chemicals stick together to form tiny floating particles called aerosols, which have complicated effects.

For example, the aerosols create a faint haze. This scatters sunlight back into space, cooling the planet. “Probably the more important effect is those particles act as seeds for cloud droplets,” says Spracklen. This creates more low cloud, or thicker low cloud, which also bounces sunlight back to space.

Planting trees can play a part in reducing carbon in the atmosphere – but it cannot reverse global warming on its own (Credit: Getty Images)

Planting trees can play a part in reducing carbon in the atmosphere – but it cannot reverse global warming on its own (Credit: Getty Images)

However, the trees’ emissions can also lead to warming if they react to form the greenhouse gas methane, or ozone, which is a greenhouse gas at low altitudes. For Nadine Unger of the University of Exeter in the UK, this is a major problem. “The mutual relationships between forests and climate are actually really rather more complex and not fully understood,” Unger told the James Lovelock Centenary conference at the University of Exeter in July 2019.

In 2014 Unger calculated that, by chopping down forests from 1850 to the 2000s and thus preventing them emitting volatiles, we have created a cooling effect that slightly offset the warming from greenhouse gas emissions. Shortly afterwards she wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times headlined “To save the planet, don’t plant trees”.

However, other reforestation experts are critical of Unger’s findings. “The overall effect is quite small,” says Spracklen, who has studied the effects of aerosols. “Then the carbon storage blows all the rest out of the water.” Law agrees, saying the effects of aerosols are also “a red herring”.

Natural climate solutions could lock up the equivalent of 23.8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year

So how much can trees really help us solve our climate problem?

In a 2017 study, researchers led by Bronsom Griscomnow at Conservation International, estimated the full potential of “natural climate solutions”. This includes restoring wetlands and other ecosystems, and minimising emissions from farmland, but the biggest contributors by far were preserving existing forests and reforesting degraded areas.

The team estimated that the natural climate solutions could lock up the equivalent of 23.8 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. That is a little over half our annual emissions, but they emphasise that many of the strategies they studied would not be cost-effective: a more plausible figure would be 11-15 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. This implies natural climate solutions could mop up about 30% of the CO2 we need to deal with every year.

For Law, it is one of the best estimates published to date. The researchers “really did a pretty good job”, she says.

When trees are cut down, it is important that the carbon they contain is not released again into the atmosphere (Credit: Getty Images)

When trees are cut down, it is important that the carbon they contain is not released again into the atmosphere (Credit: Getty Images)

The UK’s Royal Society came to similar conclusions in a 2018 report on greenhouse gas removal technologies. They estimated that reforestation could remove three billion to 18 billion tonnes of CO2 per year. These are significant numbers.

Uncertainties do remain, however. For instance, the climate will keep changing for many decades, and this will affect trees’ behaviour and growth – but we don’t really know how yet. “There’s still a question mark,” says Beerling. “Will they be limited by nutrient availability or increased fire or increased drought?” Similarly, planting trees in dry areas can cause water scarcity because they suck up so much – as China has discovered.

However, there are also surprise benefits of planting trees. For instance, a 2018 study suggested that large-scale tree planting in dry tropical regions would cause a shift in weather patterns, leading to more rainfall on land – enabling more plant growth and therefore more carbon storage.

The real uncertainties are not scientific, but socio-political

Also, planting trees is not just about stopping climate change. “As well as the climate emergency, we’re facing a biodiversity crisis,” says Spracklen. Planting trees can help with both, he says, “but only if we do it right”.

At the moment a lot of the trees being planted are monocultures of fast-growing commercial species like acacia or eucalyptus. These have “virtually no biodiversity benefits and may even replace something that was better”. It would be better to restore species-rich forests, he says. In line with this, Law has highlighted that planting rich new forests can boost local biodiversity, as well as improving water availability.

Areas that are now used for farming – such as rearing sheep on hill country – can be difficult to reforest  (Credit: Getty Images)

Areas that are now used for farming – such as rearing sheep on hill country – can be difficult to reforest (Credit: Getty Images)

The real uncertainties are not scientific, but socio-political. Put simply, where will people and nations allow the large-scale planting of trees? “As soon as you get down onto the land, there’s people living there and they have aspirations for how they want to live their lives that maybe don’t involve tree-planting,” says Spracklen. “There’s virtually nowhere where land’s just lying idle and you can just come along and do that.”

He points to the Welsh hills, which are severely deforested and consequently lacking in wildlife – but which are politically difficult to reforest because they are dominated by the sheep-farming industry. Similar conflicts over land use exist in all countries.

The message, then, is that trees can play a significant role in stopping dangerous climate change – provided we plant them in the right places. The challenge will be finding ways to fit huge new forests into our societies in such a way that people accept them.

Environmental Destruction Brought Us COVID-19. What It Brings Next Could Be Far Worse.

A virus that originated in animals has upended life across the globe. But the next deadly pandemic could make this look like “a warmup.”

Dr. Richard Kock was on duty at London’s Royal Veterinary College in January 2017 when he received an urgent message from international health officials. He was needed for an emergency response mission in the Mongolian countryside, where a deadly viral outbreak was underway.

He packed his things, caught a flight to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and drove for two days into the arid steppe. He found a disturbing scene: frozen corpses scattered on hillsides, burn pits stacked with bodies and residents addled with anxiety.

But this pandemic was not targeting humans. It was goat plague, a lethal and highly infectious virus that has killed goats, sheep and other small ruminants in huge numbers since it was first detected last century. There is a vaccine, but its application in Mongolia had been botched. The virus had spilled from domestic livestock into local populations of critically endangered saiga antelope, and it wiped out about 85% of the infected, Kock said.

“Nearly everything died across a huge landscape,” said Kock, who has worked for decades to stem infectious diseases around the world. There are only a few thousand saiga antelope left in Mongolia today, largely due to the goat plague.

The only comforting element of this tale is that the disease is not transmissible to humans. At least, not yet.

But Kock worries. Goat plague is a paramyxovirus, a virus in the same family as measles. Its case fatality rate can be as high as 90%, and some animals that contract it can infect eight to 12 others.

“They are nasty viruses,” Kock said, adding that they’re formidable in their spread and aggressiveness. It wouldn’t take a big tweak in the goat plague’s genome ―  “just two amino acids, essentially” ― for it to become infectious to humans, he said. “In theory, it is very possible.”

Residents pay for groceries by standing on chairs to peer over barriers set up by a wet market on a street in Wuhan, the epic

Residents pay for groceries by standing on chairs to peer over barriers set up by a wet market on a street in Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s coronavirus outbreak, on April 1.

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, killing thousands and crushing the global economy, the potential threat of zoonotic spillover — when novel viruses and bacteria jump from animals to people — is becoming increasingly clear. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 almost certainly originated in bats and is believed to have spilled into humans at a live animal market in Wuhan, China. Readily transmissible and far deadlier than the seasonal flu, COVID-19 is now one of the worst pandemics of animal origin that humans have faced in a century. But it won’t be the last.

There are millions of viruses and bacteria out there that reside in wild animals and can potentially infect humans, and these emerging diseases are on the rise everywhere as humans disrupt ecosystems and exploit animal habitat across the globe. We are living in an age of pandemics, and the next one — let’s call it “Disease X,” as scientists often do — could be even more devastating than COVID-19.

“On a scale of 1 to 100, we could place [the current outbreak] probably somewhere a little below midway,” said Dennis Carroll, the chair of the Global Virome Project and former director of the emerging threats division at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Some known viruses circulating today have much higher mortality rates than the novel coronavirus but don’t spread easily among humans. If one of them mutated and became highly infectious in humans, Carroll said, Disease X could make this pandemic “look like a warmup.”

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, which is in the Bronx borough of New Yo

Workers wearing personal protective equipment bury bodies in a trench on Hart Island, which is in the Bronx borough of New York City, earlier this month.

A Plague Rooted In Environmental Destruction 

Political leaders are taking unprecedented measures to contain a virus that has infected at least 2.31 million people, killed at least 157,000 and forced national economies to their knees. Yet those unprecedented measures address only the symptoms of this crisis, an entirely reactionary response that has so far avoided addressing the root causes of novel disease emergence.

“COVID-19 is just the latest zoonotic disease to emerge that has its roots in the rampant habitat loss occurring around the world and the burgeoning wildlife trade,” a group of more than 100 conservation organizations wrote in a letter to the U.S. Congress last month, urging it to include in its stimulus bill new funding to combat the conditions that give rise to outbreaks like COVID-19. “Global pandemics will likely continue and even escalate if action isn’t taken.”

The virus that causes COVID-19 is just the latest infectious agent to jump from animals into people. HIV, Ebola, Marburg virus, SARS, MERS, Zika ― those, too, originated in animals and are part of the same perilous trend of novel diseases that have surfaced with increasing frequency as population growth, industrial agriculture, deforestation, wildlife exploitation, urban sprawl and other human activities bring our species into continuous contact with animal-borne pathogens.

“Emerging infectious diseases, the majority of which are zoonotic and have their origin in wildlife, have been increasing significantly — both numbers of outbreaks and diversity of diseases — over the past 50 years,” said Dr. Christian Walzer, chief global veterinarian at the New York City-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

The majority of emerging infectious diseases originate in animals, a 2017 study in the journal Nature Communications concluded, and “their emergence often involves dynamic interactions among populations of wildlife, livestock, and people within rapidly changing environments.” A 2015 study found that land use changes, such as urban expansion and deforestation, is the single most significant driver of many of the zoonotic outbreaks that have occurred since 1940.

“In the broadest sense, humans are the main drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks,” said Catherine Machalaba, a policy adviser and research scientist at the EcoHealth Alliance.

A small island of trees in a clear-cut pine forest. Dramatic changes in land use have contributed to the rise of zoonotic dis

A small island of trees in a clear-cut pine forest. Dramatic changes in land use have contributed to the rise of zoonotic diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought global attention to live wild animal markets, which are common throughout Southeast Asia and Africa and which scientists say provide ideal conditions for new pandemics to spawn. The markets, which are often located in dense, urban areas, bring a wide variety of domestic and wild species, living and dead, into contact with humans. They are potential petri dishes for novel pathogens to evolve and spread.

It is at one such “wet market” in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, that the novel coronavirus, labeled SARS-CoV-2, is believed to have first spilled from its original host (thought to be a bat) into an intermediary host species or directly into humans. The crowded market featured dozens of live and dead animals for sale that rarely, if ever, come in contact in the wild, from fish and rats to monkeys and foxes. These markets are poorly regulated, and endangered species are known to end up in them.

This coronavirus crossed over to humans in China, but the spillover of such diseases is occurring all over the world, including in the United States. Walzer points, for instance, to the rise of Lyme disease in North America, where our suburban developments and shopping malls wiped out wild forests, killed native predators, amplified rodent and deer populations, and fueled outbreaks of the tick-borne illness.

“It’s the classic example of how biodiversity loss has increased the risk for spillover,” Walzer said.

Consider also Nipah, a paramyxovirus, like the goat plague, that first appeared in Malaysia in 1998. That virus — an inspiration for the 2011 film “Contagion” — has its origins in fruit bats, but it spilled over to pigs on a farm where livestock pens abutted mango trees that bats used as a food source.

“Bats were coming in in large numbers, feeding on mangos and, in the process of chewing on the mango, they would drop mangos laden with mucus and other body fluids into the pig pens,” said Jonathan Epstein, vice president for science and outreach at the EcoHealth Alliance, which works to study and prevent zoonotic disease spillover. “That is how it started.”

Nipah does not harm bats. But it sickened pigs and soon infected humans, too. First, it spread to workers on the farm. Then, as pigs were traded around the country, it infected other humans. By the end of the outbreak in 1999, 265 people had contracted the virus and more than 100 had died. Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, had slaughtered millions of pigs to stanch the infection’s spread.

But the story doesn’t end there. Nipah, scientists soon discovered, was also in Bangladesh. Since the early 2000s, the country has suffered from a series of recurrent outbreaks that have claimed scores of lives. In these cases, however, there were no pigs involved. The virus spread here happened via sap from date palm plants, which some in Bangladesh harvest and drink raw in the winter months. Fruit bats have learned to exploit this food source, too, and their saliva, urine and droppings sometimes fall into the pots that people use to collect the palm sap. In this way, scientists say, Nipah has spread from bats to Bangladeshis.

“Nipah is a scary virus because it is super deadly,” said Epstein, who has studied the virus’s spread and notes that it has a case fatality rate in Bangladesh of about 75%.

But there’s another reason Nipah keeps disease experts up at night: Humans can spread the virus directly to each other, with no animal intermediary necessary.

“Nipah has shown human-to-human transmission consistently in Bangladesh, and that is why it is among the top listed infectious disease threats,” Epstein said. “It is only a matter of time before a version of Nipah virus gets into people, one that is both deadly and highly transmissible.”

In other words, there’s no need to speculate about the spillover of a scary disease like goat plague when Nipah is already on the scene.

Live animal markets and COVID-19. Degraded forests and Lyme disease. Agricultural production, disrupted bat habitat and a petrifying new paramyxovirus. These examples all tell the same story: Humanity’s effect on the natural world, and on wildlife especially, is causing novel pathogens to infect, harm and kill us. When we mine, drill, bulldoze and overdevelop, when we traffic in wild animals and invade intact habitat, when we make intimate contact with birds, bats, primates, rodents and more, we run an intensifying risk of contracting one of the estimated 1.6 million unknown viruses that reside in the bodies of other species.

A monkey is kept in a cage for sale at an animal market in Jakarta, Indonesia, in May 2007.

A monkey is kept in a cage for sale at an animal market in Jakarta, Indonesia, in May 2007.
This New World
The current capitalist system is broken. Get updates on our progress toward building a fairer world.

Far From An ‘Unforeseen Problem’

Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently undermined science as part of his pro-development, anti-environment agenda. And the administration’s response to COVID-19 has, unsurprisingly, been defined by similar denial.

Trump spent weeks downplaying the threat, only to suddenly change his tune and insist that no one could have possibly predicted or prepared for such a devastating pandemic. He described the outbreak as an “unforeseen problem,” “something that nobody expected.”

But a crisis of this magnitude was not only possible, it was all but inevitable. Many people, from business leaders to intelligence officials to infectious diseases experts, have been saying so for years.

“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates said in a 2015 Ted Talk, stressing that the U.S. and the world at large are wildly unprepared to respond.

Even Trump’s own appointees in the intelligence community had issued warnings.

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” says the 42-page Worldwide Threat Assessment that then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee in January 2019.

The report highlights stalled progress in combating infectious diseases such as malaria and the measles, as well as the link between emerging pathogens and human encroachment.

“The growing proximity of humans and animals has increased the risk of disease transmission,” it says. “The number of outbreaks has increased in part because pathogens originally found in animals have spread to human populations.”

And yet the Trump administration was caught unprepared, confused and unable to craft a coherent strategy to tackle the threat. Indeed, even in mid-March, the president was still comparing COVID-19 to the seasonal flu.

Beyond their hapless response, Trump and his Cabinet have also promoted a slew of policies that actively exacerbate the potential for zoonotic spillover.

Since taking power in 2017, the Trump administration has been on an anti-environment bonanza, rolling back wildlife and land protections while also working to cut funding for key international conservation programs that help prevent the sort of activities that give rise to infectious disease emergence. In its proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, for instance, the administration seeks to cut more than $300 million from critical USAID and State Department programs that combat wildlife trafficking, conserve large landscapes and otherwise promote biodiversity and wildlife protection abroad.

“USAID is one of the largest global donors for biodiversity conservation,” said Kelly Keenan Aylward, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Washington, D.C., office.

She pointed, for instance, to the agency’s Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, a landscape-scale effort that focuses on combating wildlife trafficking and deforestation, two key drivers of biodiversity loss. USAID, Aylward said, also funds essential biodiversity programs in the Amazon and Southeast Asia, among other places.

A poisonous, critically endangered golden mantella frog in the rainforest of Madagascar. Habitat loss from logging and agricu

A poisonous, critically endangered golden mantella frog in the rainforest of Madagascar. Habitat loss from logging and agriculture has driven the species toward extinction. Trump administration policies have exacerbated the loss of biodiversity.

Trump and his small army of industry-linked political appointees are also going after the country’s key domestic wildlife agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act and fighting the illegal wildlife trade. In fiscal year 2021, they aim to slash the agency’s budget by roughly $80 million, including significant cuts to its law enforcement programs. They also want to whittle away at the agency’s Multinational Species Conservation Fund, which finances conservation programs for imperiled species abroad.

The administration also finalized regulations that significantly weaken both the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, two bedrock conservation laws. It engineered the largest rollback of public lands protection in U.S. history and has presided over a steep decline in the number of new species listed under the ESA. It has withdrawn U.S. membership in UNESCO, a United Nations program that protects hundreds of natural sites around the world, and earlier this month Trump threatened to halt U.S. funding for the World Health Organization over its pandemic response, a clear effort to shift blame away from his administration. All this while advocating drastic cuts to U.S.-sponsored global health programs that fight infectious diseases.

Wildlife and land protection programs, advocates say, should be getting more support, not less — especially in light of a raging pandemic that has its origins in environmental destruction and disruption.

“Conservation and wildlife protection efforts must be prioritized in order to protect not only our precious resources,” said Kate Wall, the senior legislative manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “but the stability of our global economy and, indeed, our very existence.”

‘It Should Be A Defining Movement’

Carroll, the former USAID official, said fighting emerging disease requires social engineering that invests not only in the capability to disrupt future spillover but also measures to manage outbreaks when they occur.

Carroll designed and directed Predict, a USAID disease surveillance program that identified more than 1,000 previously unknown wildlife viruses, including strains of Ebola and dozens of coronaviruses, over the last decade. The project proved that our existing technologies could pinpoint future viral threats. But operating on that scale, it would take centuries to catalog the estimated 1.6 million viruses out there ― what Carroll calls “unknown viral dark matter.”

In September, after $200 million and a decade of virus hunting, Trump’s USAID announced it would not renew the Predict program for another five-year cycle. Carroll left USAID around that time. And on March 31, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the U.S., the administration officially shuttered the program. USAID subsequently granted the program a six-month extension on April 1 to “provide emergency support” to other countries in their response to COVID-19, but the effective cancellation of Predict had already caused real damage — its field work came to a halt months earlier, and some of the organizations that worked on the program were forced to lay off staffers, according to an April report in the Los Angeles Times.

USAID is now in the process of developing a new project, called STOP Spillover, which is expected to be launched this fall and cost $50 million to $100 million over five years. An agency spokesperson told CNN the program will “build on the lessons learned and data gathered” during Predict and “focus on strengthening national capacity to develop, test and implement interventions to reduce the risk of the spillover.”

Carroll now leads the Global Virome Project, a nonprofit that is working to create what he describes as a “global atlas” of animal viruses that would help prepare for, and ideally prevent, pandemics. Mapping viruses by species and location would allow governments to target hot spots for increased surveillance and ecosystem protections.

Carroll also hopes it will make it possible for scientists to develop vaccines that protect humans from not just one virus but perhaps even whole viral families.

“The demise of Predict,” Carroll said, “will only be a tragedy if we don’t continue to invest in viral discovery.”

Workers prepare to spray disinfectant at the Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan, China on March 24, 2020. The city in central Chi

Workers prepare to spray disinfectant at the Wuhan Railway Station in Wuhan, China on March 24, 2020. The city in central China is where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

Disease research and preparing for pandemics isn’t cheap. The Global Virome Project estimates it would cost $1.5 billion over a decade to identify 75% of the unknown viruses in mammals and birds. On the heels of the Ebola crisis in 2016, a commission of global health experts called for an annual global investment of $4.5 billion to help prevent and fight future pandemics, including $3.4 billion to upgrade public health systems across the globe and $1 million for the development of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

But those figures pale in comparison to the costs of a global pandemic, as highlighted by the untold trillions of dollars that COVID-19 is now costing the world economy.

Perhaps the frequency of deadly disease outbreaks ― SARS in 2003, swine flu in 2009, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014 and now COVID-19 ― will convince the world it is time for a different approach, Carroll hopes. But he fears that, as with previous outbreaks, resources will dry up once the coronavirus threat dissipates and “collective amnesia” sets in.

“We should not accept the idea that spillover from wildlife into people is inevitable,” he said. “It’s not. Viruses don’t move from animals to people. We facilitate that.”

But we can change our ways.

More than 240 environmental and animal advocacy groups signed an April 6 letter urging the World Health Organization to recommend that governments institute permanent bans on wildlife markets and the use of wildlife in traditional medicines.

To truly solve the underlying conditions that fuel zoonotic pandemics, experts and wildlife conservationists are also calling for a new paradigm that recognizes the interconnection of people, animals and ecosystems, which they call the “One Health” approach.

“It should be a defining movement,” Dr. Christine Kreuder Johnson, project director of the USAID’s Predict program and associate director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, Davis, said of One Health, which seeks to prevent infectious disease outbreaks by safeguarding wild animals and their habitat.

Humans have driven up to 1 million species around the globe to the brink of extinction, a United Nations report last year found. A U.N. draft biodiversity plan released earlier this year calls for protecting 30% of all lands and oceans by 2030 to combat the biodiversity crisis, which experts say would help keep new infectious diseases at bay.

Other experts told HuffPost that the U.S. should establish a high-level One Health task force that brings together agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Fish and Wildlife Service, USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to chart a course forward for protecting wildlife habitat, strengthening disease surveillance and preventing pandemics.

Still others, like Dr. Richard Kock, say humans must drastically scale back livestock production, which brought the goat plague to Mongolia and fueled the Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia.

“Pathogens can move incredibly quickly despite attempts to stop them and despite our technology and our medicines,” Kock said. “It is a wake-up call for humanity.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

Brazil: Amazon land defender Zezico Guajajara shot dead

Zezico GuajajaraImage copyrightZEZICO GUAJAJARA
Image captionZezico Guajajara is the fifth Amazon forest protector to be killed in six months

A member of a protected tribe in the Amazon has been killed by gunmen, authorities in the Brazilian state of Maranhao say.

The body of Zezico Guajajara, of the Guajajara tribe, was found near his village on Tuesday. He had been shot.

The former teacher was a supporter of Guardians of the Forest, a group formed to combat logging gangs in the area.

The killing – the fifth in six months – increases concerns about violence against Amazon forest protectors.

Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro has drawn intense domestic and international criticism for failing to protect the Guardians’ territory in the eastern Amazon region.

He has often stated support for farmers and loggers working in the area, while criticising environmental campaigners and slashing the budget of Brazil’s environmental agency.

Paulo Paulino Guajajara holds a gun during the search for illegal loggers in SeptemberImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPaulo Paulino Guajajara – another activist seen here during a search for illegal loggers – was killed last November

The Guajajaras are one of Brazil’s largest indigenous groups with some 20,000 people. In 2012, they started the Guardians of the Forest to protect the Arariboia Indigenous Territory.

It is not clear who killed Zezico Guajajara on Tuesday. Authorities say they are investigating.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, indigenous leader Olimpio Guajajara described him as “another fellow warrior – a man who defended life”.

“We are mourning his death. We’re protecting the forest for all humanity, but powerful forces are out to kill us.”

Media caption“The people that are part of the brigade are together for this, to protect mother nature above all”

The Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association (APIB) urged a thorough investigation.

The latest murder “is evidence of the worsening violence and vulnerability of the indigenous people, especially the leaders that fight to defend their territories against invaders,” the group said in a statement.

Sarah Shenker, who works for Survival International, a non-governmental organisation advocating for indigenous communities, accused loggers of targeting activists “one by one”.

The group renewed its criticism of President Bolsonaro.

“The Guardians have been mercilessly targeted by powerful logging mafias illegally exploiting the valuable hardwoods in the Arariboia indigenous territory, home to both the Guajajara indigenous people and uncontacted members of the Awa tribe,” it said in a statement.

Hundreds of koalas brutally massacred during routine logging in Victoria, says Animals Australia

Heartbreaking images of a brutal koala “massacre” have surfaced – and their deaths have nothing to do with the fires. WARNING: Graphic

Adrianna Zappavigna 2, 20208:18PM


Loaded: 38.36%

Current Time 0:28
Duration 3:52


Warning: Graphic.

Hundreds of koalas have reportedly been killed in Victoria this week, with heartbreaking images surfacing online, after logging 12km west of Portland.

Animals Australia has shared heartbreaking images of injured and dead koalas – now a threatened species after one of Australia’s most damaging bushfire seasons on record – from a razed bluegum plantation.

“Koalas are having their homes mowed down,” said Animals Australia.

“On becoming aware of this situation on Friday, we flew in a veterinary team,” Animals Australia confirmed on Sunday morning.

“With the support of local authorities and wildlife carers, vets are seeking to save as many of these precious animals as possible.”

RELATED: ‘The koala desperately needs our help’

RELATED: Have bushfires rendered koalas ‘functionally extinct’?

The details of this case are still unknown, Animals Australia confirmed on Sunday.

“We are still gathering the details as to what has occurred in this case but it would appear that there are various breaches of legislation, including the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which we will be supporting authorities to pursue,” they said on social media.

“By law, the companies that own these plantations must provide koala ‘spotters’ to identify koalas in trees before logging commences, so that animals can be safely removed and relocated.

“There is also a legal responsibility to ensure the welfare of koalas after logging has ceased.”

It’s assumed that in the wake of recent habitat destruction due to bushfires, many koalas sought refuge on commercial property. “The logging of these forests then destroys precious habitat,” shared Animals Australia.

Wildlife Victoria CEO Dr Megan Davidson said it was impossible to understand how the logging could happen if koalas were in them.

“In these tragic cases, we are so sad not only for the animals, but also for the wildlife carers and vets who are on the ground dealing with the horrors of dead, broken, sick and orphaned animals,” Davidson said.

Dead koalas were spotted after the logging took place. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAus

Dead koalas were spotted after the logging took place. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAusSource:Twitter

The logging took place on a plantation in Victoria, 12-14km west of Portland. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAus

The logging took place on a plantation in Victoria, 12-14km west of Portland. Picture: Twitter – @AnimalsAusSource:Twitter

It's unclear how many koalas were killed during the logging. Picture: Friends of the Earth Australia.

It’s unclear how many koalas were killed during the logging. Picture: Friends of the Earth Australia.Source:Twitter

Devastated social media users were quick to share posts, tagging local and national MPs while trying to raise awareness.

“This is murder,” wrote one user on social media, sharing pictures of koalas crushed under the weight of felled trees.

“I thought burned koalas was bad enough,” wrote another.

One user added, “This is too much. Please ensure those responsible are held accountable for this unconscionable act. The cruelty of human beings apparently has no limits.”

“Here’s a thought,” shared Animals Australia. “How about instead of planting plantations then mowing them down, we should be planting blue gum and leaving them for koalas to live in.”

Facebook post by registered nurse Helen Oakley has already garnered 1100 reactions in the last 24 hours, as she films herself walking through the razed plantation.

“They’ve bulldozed 140 acres down and just killed all of our koalas,” she struggles to say through tears.

“There’s koalas lying there dead. Mothers killed and only little babies … Australia should be ashamed of this.”

Helen Oakley's emotional video has been shared over 4000 times. Picture: Facebook.

Helen Oakley’s emotional video has been shared over 4000 times. Picture: Facebook.Source:Facebook

The gruesome images have ignited calls for change at a national level, with a petition already up and running.

“This barbaric practice needs to stop across the state and immediately,” the petition – directed to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews – reads.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) there are less than 100,000 koalas left in the wild and the population could be in fact as low as 43,000.

If Australia’s koala population falls below 50,000 it would be “functionally extinct”, the AKF said.

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California.
 A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and manipulated the data.

A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging.
 A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging. Photograph: Rafe Hanson

The emails add to concerns that the Trump administration is doing industry’s bidding rather than pursuing the public interest. Across agencies, top positions are filled by former lobbyists, and dozens of investigative reports have revealed agencies working closely with major industries to ease pollution, public health and safety regulations.

A USGS spokesperson said Reilly’s emails were “intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences.” The agency added that it “stands by the integrity of its sience”

When forests burn, they do emit greenhouse gases. But one expert said the numbers the interior department put forth are significant overestimates. They say logging wouldn’t necessarily help prevent or lessen wildfires. On the contrary, logging could negate the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting at record rates.

Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and a lawyer who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.

Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.

He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.

Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.

Not long after the interior department came up with its carbon emission estimates from the 2018 California wildfires, Trump issued an executive order instructing federal land managers to significantly increase the amount of timber they harvest. This fall, he also proposed allowing logging in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.

Trump has also tweeted multiple times about wildfires, saying they are caused by bad land management or environmental laws that make water unavailable.

Monica Turner, a fire ecology scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it is climate that is responsible for the size and severity of these fires”.

An Interior department spokesperson said the department’s role is to follow the laws and use the best science and that it continues “to work to best understand and address the impacts of an ever-changing climate.”

Agency officials started emphasizing wildfire emissions data as a talking point as early as August 2018.

In an email chain that month, Reilly was asked by interior’s former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes to sign off on a statement that fires in 2018 had emitted 95.6m tons of CO2.

“Interesting statistics,” Reilly responded, noting that emissions would vary based on the types of trees on the land. “…We assumed woodlands mix since we don’t currently have details on the overall land cover types involved. Any variance to the fuel type will still leave it in the range to make the comparison, however. I’ll use this one if you don’t object. Makes a good story.”

Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California.
 Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Reilly, who was confirmed to his position in April 2018, later asked career scientists at the agency for updated numbers, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I need to get a number for total CO2 releases for the recent CA fires and a comparison against emissions for all energy in US … Tasker from the boss; back to me ASAP,” he said on 10 October 2018. His boss at the time was the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.

The job fell to Doug Beard, the director of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Bradley Reed, an associate program coordinator in the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program, who responded with numbers from his team that afternoon.

In November 2018, Reilly once again asked for the same estimates of carbon dioxide generated by two devastating fires that fall in California – the Camp and Woolsey fires.

“The Secretary likes to have this kind of information when he speaks with the media,” Reilly said in a 16 November email to David Applegate, the associate director for natural hazards.

Applegate directed Beard to get the numbers, and Reilly chimed in, asking Beard: “Can you have [the scientists] gin up an estimate on the total CO2 equivalent releases are so far for the current 2 fires in CA?” He said he wanted to compare the figures to the carbon pollution caused by transportation in California.

“That would make a decent sound bite the Sec could use to put some perspective on it,” said Reilly.

Just a week earlier, the ferocious Camp fire had destroyed Paradise, California, killing dozens and becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The scenes detailed were horrific.

Conservatives have insisted that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. Trump has battled with California – the face of the American progressive movement he opposes – over a multitude of other issues, including the state’s longstanding climate policy of requiring new cars to go farther on less fuel.

The new emails show communications staffers and political appointees using government scientists as foot soldiers in those battles.

‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said.
 ‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Now, under the leadership of the former lobbyist David Bernhardt, the agency has sought to remove consideration of climate change from many of its decisions, while expanding oil and gas drilling on federal land. Multiple whistleblowers have accused the department of stifling climate science.

Bernhardt in a May 2019 hearing told lawmakers there are no laws obligating him to combat climate change.

After Reilly asked his staff to calculate the wildfire emissions numbers in November, an interior spokeswoman emailed him asking for the same information so she could put out a statement from Zinke. A few days later, the agency published a press release on Zinke’s behalf, with the title “New Analysis Shows 2018 California Wildfires Emitted as Much Carbon Dioxide as an Entire Year’s Worth of Electricity.”

“There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said. “Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions.”

Hanson, the forest and fire ecologist, said that in addition to using the government data for political purposes, the department numbers overstated the carbon emissions from forest fires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels.

He said that the carbon emissions numbers generated by USGS and released to the public were an “overestimate” that “can’t be squared with empirical data” from field studies of post-wildfire burn sites in California. Other scientists the Guardian spoke with did not dispute the government’s data, but did find fault with the way it was presented to the public.

“The comparison of fire to electrical emissions [in California] was not explained or justified”, said Harmon, the Oregon State University scientist. “Picking other sectors would have left an entirely different image in the reader’s mind…If the comparison had been made nationally it would have been found that fire related emissions of carbon dioxide were equivalent to 1.7% of fossil fuel related emissions. So it is hard to escape the conclusion that some cherry picking was going on.”

Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.

“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”

New Maps Highlight Ongoing Habitat Destruction in Threatened Caribou Ranges: Backgrounder

Boreal woodland caribou (‘caribou’1) live across northern Canada and need large, intact forests to survive. The ultimate cause of caribou decline across the country is habitat loss and fragmentation from extensive industrial resource extraction activities. Extensive habitat disturbance in turn increases predation rates for caribou beyond what they can tolerate. To date, these caribou have lost more than half of their historic range in the continent.2 In 2012, the federal Recovery Strategy identified that 37 of 51 populations are not self-sustaining.3Caribou are a cornerstone of many Indigenous Peoples’ culture and history; for thousands of years Indigenous Peoples from across Canada have relied and continue to rely on caribou for sustenance and as a central part of their culture.

Under the federal Species At Risk Act (SARA), the federal government is mandated to identify caribou critical habitat – the habitat that caribou need to survive and recover – in a Recovery Strategy. It did so in 2012. A team of North America’s leading caribou experts established a strong relationship between the extent of habitat disturbance and whether a local population increases, declines or remains stable. From this, the federal government assessed how levels of habitat disturbance affect risk to caribou populations. It directed provinces to manage forests such that there is at least 65% undisturbed habitat in each caribou range, to give caribou at least a 60% chance to be self-sustaining.

Across Canada, provinces have failed to apply this science in effective caribou management strategies. As a result, disturbance levels continue to increase, and caribou in many ranges continue to decline. Below are three examples of ranges where increasing industrial activity since the Recovery Strategy’s release continues to undermine caribou survival and recovery.

Hot Spot Maps – Chinchaga AB, Pipmuacan QC, Brightsand ON

By using the slider on the interactive maps below to slide back and forth, you will see forest fragmentation in 2012 when the Recovery Strategy came out, and how it looked in 2016, four years later. We have selected “hot spots” in each range, where you can see how forestry and other developments continue to expand in caribou ranges. Use the overview maps on the right to select different hotspots to look at. You can also use the check boxes on the bottom left to highlight specific types of additional development.

Habitat disturbance in Chinchaga Caribou Range: 2012–2016 (Hotspot 1)

Chinchaga in 2012

Chinchaga in 2016



Highlight Types of New Disturbance:

 Range Boundary

 500m Buffer

Projection: Canada Albers Equal Area Conic. Mapping prepared 2017-10-27, cartographer: S. Nichols. For technical details and information on the methodology used to produce these maps, please contact Carolyn Campbell at

Brightsand (ON)
Hotspot: [1] [2]
Chinchaga (AB)
Hotspot: [1] [2]
Pipmuacan (QC)
Hotspot: [1] [2]

Alberta Profile

Alberta is one of Canada’s few provinces without a specific law to protect its species at risk. Alberta’s archaic Wildlife Act focuses on managing hunting rather than the importance of securing wildlife habitat. Recent caribou management decisions include both positive and negative elements, but overall, new forestry and energy sector surface disturbance continues to destroy caribou critical habitat within many of the province’s already excessively disturbed ranges. A long-term commitment to habitat maintenance and recovery must replace reliance on band-aid wildlife management measures, such as predator culls.

Alberta has monitored female mortality and calf survival in all its caribou populations. In 2013, the peer-reviewed scientific conclusions from this population research showed caribou were declining rapidly across Alberta, with a decline of approximately 50% every 8 years.

On the positive side, Alberta has paused new energy lease auctions within caribou ranges since summer 2015. It has also allowed existing lease holders to voluntarily delay drilling in ranges until early 2019. A government-appointed mediator conducted inclusive consultations on west central ranges in early 2016. In June 2016, Alberta made a high profile commitment to establish significant new protected areas in three northwest caribou ranges; these would be in portions of the range that have no existing industrial forestry tenure.

However, there are no timelines to stop new disturbance or achieve the minimum intact habitat levels to recover caribou. Alberta’s only draft caribou range plan is for the Little Smoky and A La Peche ranges in west central Alberta: it proposes more short-term logging (albeit less than ‘business as usual’), unspecified new oil and gas-related surface disturbance, and is silent on long-term logging. This ongoing habitat loss will lengthen reliance on the regrettable 10 year old massive wolf kill in that region. The draft plan also proposes to confine wild caribou females within a large fenced compound, and then release their yearlings into worsening habitat. A positive element of the draft range plan is an extensive seismic line restoration program, funded largely by the energy industry.

Chinchaga Range Profile – Situated on Alberta’s northwest border adjacent to BC, the Chinchaga caribou range was assessed as having 76% habitat disturbance in 2011. It has one of the lowest estimated calf survival rates in Alberta. Since the 2012 federal caribou Recovery Strategy, the Alberta government auctioned 1000 km2 of new energy leases in this range before halting lease sales in August 2015. One Wildland Park covers 5% of this caribou range; otherwise there are no limits to industrial disturbance. In June 2016, the Alberta government promised to extend the existing Wildland Park by 3500 km2 into an adjacent area that has no industrial forestry, to increase protected areas to 24% of this range; however, there have been few follow-up actions to date.

↸ Back to Hot Spot Maps

Participation of Alberta’s indigenous communities and stakeholders is needed to find optimal solutions for range plans. Sustainable economies for communities can be consistent with caribou recovery, including:

  • Significant energy extraction from greatly reduced surface footprint, with longer distance directional drilling, pooled leases and shared infrastructure.
  • Substantial jobs from extensive forest habitat restoration programs across and adjacent to ranges.
  • Reformed regional timber supply allocation and management, to support sustainable forestry that is compatible with recovery of caribou and other sentinel wildlife species.

Quebec Profile

Quebec’s woodland caribou recovery team was formed in 2003 and is comprised of scientific experts, government and industry representatives, outfitters, First Nations and environmental NGOs. In May 2013, the team produced its second 10-year woodland caribou recovery plan (2013-2023). Despite acknowledging receipt of the plan, the government indicated it would not adopt it due to potential socio-economic impacts. In April 2016, Quebec announced it had a “credible, acceptable and reasonable” action plan for woodland caribou habitat conservation. That plan is currently in development and expected to be released in 2018.

Quebec has come under fire in recent months due to a highly controversial announcement that the isolated Val d’Or population (~18 individuals) would be translocated to a zoo in St-Félicien. Furthermore, it was revealed that construction of a new road had been approved through one of the population’s last refuge areas against the recommendation of government scientists. Opposition to the government’s announcement was so fervent that the St-Félicien zoo finally retracted. However, construction of the road in question is still underway. Overall, Quebec’s announcement sets a dangerous precedent suggesting it is an acceptable solution to relocate threatened caribou and thereby ignore the underlying sustainability issue.

Industrial forest management is the primary driver of caribou critical habitat deterioration in Quebec. Additional disturbances include mining, hydroelectric development and recreational tourism. The majority of Quebec’s commercial forest is excessively disturbed and considered unlikely to support self-sustaining caribou populations. Current modeling projections indicate that in many cases, sufficient habitat recovery is unlikely to occur over the next 100 years. The areas most likely to support self-sustaining caribou populations at present include the Broadback river valley, the White Mountains, and the remote North and Lower North Shore regions.

Although cumulative disturbances continue to further erode caribou critical habitat in Quebec, certain places have benefited from interim protection. Negotiations continue towards designating at least one new protected area in the White Mountains. A relatively small portion of the Broadback river valley was granted permanent protection in 2015, although roughly half of it is situated outside the commercial forest. The Quebec government is currently designing a network of ‘suitable vast areas’ for caribou, within which mitigation measures yet to be disclosed will be implemented. These are likely to involve special management of intact residual forests presently slated for future logging.

In terms of other concrete measures, Quebec is investing $7 million over the next 3 years toward population delineation and monitoring, although this also includes migratory and mountain caribou of Quebec. Work has also begun on a pilot study area in the North Shore region where road restoration practices will be tested. Lastly, four technical committees have been formed to develop the governmental action plan as it pertains to habitat management, socioeconomic impacts, population monitoring and population protection. Quebec’s action plan for woodland caribou is eagerly awaited, and a significant step forward is needed if it is to meet the requirements of the federal recovery strategy.

Pipmuacan Range Profile – The Pipmuacan caribou range overlaps the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean (western portion) and North Shore (eastern portion) regions of Quebec4 near the Pipmuacan hydroelectric reservoir. It is one of the southernmost ranges found within the semi-continuous caribou distribution zone and therefore among the most disturbed. Several hundred kilometres of new roads have been built on the Pipmuacan range since the federal Recovery Strategy was released, and several hundred square kilometres of caribou critical habitat have been logged. In 2013, range disturbance within the two forest management units encompassing the Pipmuacan range was estimated to be roughly 74%,5 most of which is attributed to the permanent road network. Less than 1% of this area is protected, and even the most optimistic scenario indicates that cumulative disturbance rates will remain over 45% in the long term (100 years).6

Landscape mapping combined with aerial surveys conducted by government biologists in 2007 and then in 2012 suggest that caribou may have gradually concentrated near the Pipmuacan reservoir as a result of extensive logging in the surrounding areas. Recent data indicates that calf recruitment is insufficient to compensate for adult mortality, and supports the conclusion that caribou of the Pipmuacan range are declining.7 What is more, this decline is expected to continue well into the future without a substantial commitment by government to increase habitat protection.

↸ Back to Hot Spot Maps

Recently, the Montreal Economic Institute reported that the conservation of woodland caribou in Quebec would cost the forest industry $740 million and 5700 jobs.8 This sensationalist claim is based on superficial rules of thumb, not a rigorous and scientifically defensible economic study. In reality, changes in fibre sourcing and consumer demand have played a key role in the downsizing and increased automation of the forest industry in recent years, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs in the forest sector. Under the circumstances, caribou have become a vulnerable scapegoat for forestry industry lobbyists. While conservation of caribou critical habitat may result in reduced wood supply, practical solutions exist and these must be embraced while there is still time. For example, government subsidies normally directed toward road construction and maintenance could instead be used to train and hire skilled workers for habitat restoration purposes. Furthermore, practicing intensive forestry close to mills could lessen logging pressure in more remote intact areas where boreal caribou are more likely to be concentrated due to existing habitat disturbance. Conducting forest management planning at the population range scale would facilitate this approach by increasing the area within which wood volumes could be sourced.

Ontario Profile

For two decades, Ontario has had management policies in place that apply to boreal woodland caribou. As a listed threatened species9 under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA), they require a provincial Recovery Strategy and government ‘response statement.’ In 2008, the Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou in Ontario was finalized, and the government’s response statement, known as Ontario’s Woodland Caribou Conservation Plan (‘CCP’), was released in October 2009.10 Its goals are “to maintain self-sustaining, genetically-connected local populations of Woodland Caribou (forest-dwelling boreal population) where they currently exist, improve security and connections among isolated mainland local populations, and facilitate the return of caribou to strategic areas near their current extent of occurrence.” The key innovation of the CCP was that it prescribed the adoption of a range management approach: caribou ranges would provide the geographic basis for evaluating habitat conditions, identifying caribou habitat, assessing population trends, and quantifying and addressing cumulative effects. Five years later (December 2014), Ontario published the “Range Management Policy in Support of Woodland Caribou and Recovery.” The first Principle of the Range Management Policy is that ranges will be managed such that “the amount of cumulative disturbance remains at or moves towards a level that supports a self-sustaining caribou population.”11Despite the breadth of policy and management guidance developed in Ontario, cumulative disturbance, specifically anthropogenic disturbance, has continued to increase since the federal Recovery Strategy was published in 2012. In the seven caribou ranges that overlap with industrial logging, the estimated anthropogenic disturbance12 was 6,975,000 ha in 2012, and rose to 7,178,400 ha in 201513, an increase of 200,000 ha. During the same period, natural disturbance increased by 13,000 ha.14 Five of the seven caribou ranges that overlap with industrial logging are below the minimum 65% undisturbed threshold identified in the federal Recovery Strategy. Four populations are now considered at moderate-high risk, and unlikely to persist if conditions do not change. In addition, recent population surveys have indicated that most caribou are in decline in Ontario: some moderately, some significantly.15Caribou recovery is further hampered by the fact that forestry activities associated with industrial logging have received a regulatory exemption from Ontario’s ESA. As a result, they are not subject to the recovery requirements defined under this law (i.e., “overall benefit”). This is despite the fact that disturbance associated with industrial logging and associated roads areis one of the key contributors to cumulative disturbance in Ontario’s managed forest. Instead, forest management direction is provided through the 1994 Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA) which is designed to mitigate impacts of logging on wildlife habitat, not support the recovery of species at risk.

Brightsand Range Profile Located just north of Thunder Bay, the Brightsand caribou range is considered “unlikely” to persist, based on cumulative disturbance which has now exceeded 45%.16 In the 3 years that Ontario undertook calf recruitment surveys (2011-2013), recruitment ranged from 18.2 to 25.5 calves per 100 cows. Environment Canada (2008) suggests that a level of 29.8 calves per 100 cows is needed to support a stable or increasing population. The most recent range report also stated that long-term trends suggest that range recession has occurred within the Brightsand range, as some previously occupied areas in the southern portion of the range are no longer occupied by caribou. As an average across the Brightsand range, young forests are within the amount expected under natural conditions, however, there is a significant variation in spatial distribution – the bulk of mature and old growth forests are located in the northern parts of the range, and the bulk of the younger forests are located in the southern parts of the range.

Increasing disturbance trend in the Brightsand caribou range. Disturbance has continued to increase while the forest industry has had a regulatory exemption from Ontario’s Endangered Species Act; disturbance now exceeds 45%.

In 2015, anthropogenic disturbance on the Brightsand range = 808,082 ha, and natural disturbance = 195,274 ha.

↸ Back to Hot Spot Maps

Myth Busters

Myth: There is inadequate science to plan for caribou recovery

Fact: Scientific research has yielded clear and consistent results across the country. The continuum of risk established by Environment Canada in 2008 has been refined by recent science, but no new science has served to refute it.

Myth: The science is too rigid

Fact: The Recovery Strategy allows for regional variation in managing habitat, as long as it is supported by

Myth: Caribou plans will deprive indigenous and other local communities of jobs and development opportunities

Fact: Indigenous communities, other local communities and all citizens deserve meaningful consultation and information about managing the important lands that support caribou. Indigenous and local communities should participate in choosing the best socio-economic actions that guarantee caribou range requirements to protect caribou critical habitat. Planning range access with indigenous communities, industry, hunters and trappers that is compatible with caribou recovery is urgently needed. Recent studies have shown that the primary driver of job losses in Canada’s forestry sector is mechanization and the downturn in newsprint, not habitat conservation.

Myth: The real problem facing caribou is climate change

Fact: Caribou habitat loss driven by excessive clearcut logging and energy surface disturbance has been documented for decades. Climate change adds to pressures on northern forest ecosystems, and only increases the reasons why we need better management. Caribou habitat recovery can help forests be more resilient to climate change, by reducing fragmentation and slowing down loss of older forests and wetlands.

Myth: It’s not habitat, the problem is too many wolves and other predators

Fact: The root cause of increased caribou predation by wolves and other predators is fragmented and degraded habitat in caribou ranges. Cutblocks, roads, and poorly reclaimed seismic lines and well pads support increases in deer, moose and wolf populations, create more predator access to caribou and diminish caribou’s ability to avoid overlap with predators they’ve co-existed with for thousands of years.

Myth: It’s good enough for companies to follow ‘best practice’ or mitigation measure guidelines

Fact: Caribou populations are declining almost everywhere that project-level operating guidelines are the main habitat management tool.

B.C. bans logging in sensitive Silverdaisy area in Skagit River Valley

Minister says no more timber licences will be awarded for the area, also known as the ‘doughnut hole’

The B.C. government has banned logging in an ecologically sensitive area along the U.S. border after Seattle’s mayor and environmental groups called for protection of the watershed.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson announced Wednesday that B.C. will no longer award timber licences in a 5,800-hectare plot called the Silverdaisy or “doughnut hole” in the Skagit River Valley.

He said the province’s previous Liberal government awarded a timber sale licence for the area in 2015 but that approval has now ended and no future licences will be granted.

“Individuals and groups on both sides of the border have expressed concerns that logging should stop in the Silverdaisy and we’re responding to those concerns,” the minister said on a conference call with reporters. “This is a significant step in addressing a lingering issue.”

B.C.’s forestry industry is in a slump due to timber shortages but Donaldson said his government is working to ensure access to new harvest areas that will replace the portion of the Silverdaisy that had been available for logging.

The doughnut hole is surrounded by the Skagit Valley and Manning provincial parks just east of Hope.

There was one timber sale planned in the area for 67,000 cubic metres, a relatively small volume, and Donaldson said he doesn’t anticipate any immediate impact on jobs.

Imperial Metals Corp., owner of the Mount Polley mine where a tailings dam collapse caused an ecological disaster in 2014, owns copper mineral claims in the Silverdaisy.

Tom Curley of the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission said it’s working to acquire those rights to ensure preservation of the area.

The commission, which aims to protect wildlife and acquire mineral and timber rights consistent with conservation purposes in the Skagit Valley, was created through the High Ross Treaty, a 1984 agreement between Canada and the U.S.

Imperial Metals did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote to the B.C. government last year urging it to halt logging in the area. She also said the Silverdaisy provides more than 30 per cent of the fresh water flowing into Puget Sound.

Environment Minister George Heyman said when the treaty was signed three decades ago, the B.C. and Washington governments signalled clear intent that, once the issue of mineral tenures was resolved, the doughnut hole would be returned to park status.

“Somewhere along the line … there was a lapse in corporate memory,” he said. “We’re restoring that today.”

The B.C. Liberals did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Heyman said the area is a critical wildlife corridor and foraging habitat for grizzly bear, wolverine and other species, and 33 per cent of the area is currently protected to provide a home for spotted owls and other species at risk.

“But today’s action will conserve the entire package,” he said.

Laura Kane, The Canadian

B.C. First Nation feeds hungry grizzlies 500 salmon carcasses

‘I’m hoping it’s not too little too late,’ says Mamalilikulla First Nation chief councillor

The Mamalilikulla First Nation delivered salmon to grizzly bears in their traditional territories where they are known to feed. (File pictures/Canadian Press)

When Richard Sumner saw how emaciated the grizzly bears were in his neck of the woods, he knew something had to be done.

Sumner, chief councillor of the Mamalilikulla First Nation, says the creeks and streams on the nation’s territory, which  encompass the islands off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island between Alert Bay and Knight Inlet, are no longer rich with salmon, and resident bears are starving and travelling outside traditional hunting grounds in a desperate effort to find food.

So the Mamalilikulla people fed them.

The nation’s Guardian Watchmen Manager, Jake Smith, had a local hatchery donate approximately 500 salmon carcasses and members of the nation took the fish to estuary areas where grizzlies are known to feed.

“I’m hoping it’s not too little too late,” said Sumner in a phone interview on CBC’s On The Island, adding there are many other areas of British Columbia where bears that depend on salmon are hungry.

Migrating for meals

He said grizzlies are starting to travel between all the small islands in the area and are even making their way over to Vancouver Island in search of fish, something that rarely happened in the past.

“The lack of salmon is not a natural thing,” said Sumner, who blamed human activity such as deforestation and over-fishing for reducing salmon stocks to perilous levels.

Climate change resulting in warmer ocean temperatures has also been cited by marine scientists as a major factor in dwindling salmon stocks.

Sumner said while he understands humans should not interfere with wild animals, the Mamalilikulla people are the stewards of their territory and according to Sumner, the alternative was to watch the bears die.

“We just hope we can get enough bulk on them to last the winter,” said Sumner.

Some of the 400 members of the Mamalilikulla nation are suffering too.

“Nobody has any fish in their freezer or any canned fish for the winter,” he said. “It’s been a real disastrous year.”

Sumner does not know if more fish will be available for future deliveries.

Sumner said he is meeting Thursday with a bear biologist and provincial authorities to discuss the issue further.

To hear the complete interview with Richard Sumner, see the audio link below:

Old-growth logging leaves black bears without dens: biologist

B.C. protects beaver lodges and occupied migratory bird nests, but there are no regulations protecting black bear dens in most parts of the province. On Vancouver Island, dens are vanishing along with old-growth forests. Meet biologist Helen Davis, who is on a mission to make sure female bears and their cubs have homes

Wildlife biologist Helen Davis has been fond of bears for as long as she can remember. She’s radio-collared black bears and tracked them on foot, squeezed into empty dens riddled with fleas and laughed at remote camera footage of bears sliding down plastic tubes in the forest, like children in a playground.

These days she hammers plywood roofs onto hollow stumps and builds plastic dens for black bears on Vancouver Island, where extensive clear-cutting of old-growth forests and the absence of rules to protect dens has left females with a severe housing shortage when it comes time to birth and nurture their cubs.

Eagle and osprey nests are protected in B.C. It’s illegal to cut down forests where songbirds are nesting before their young fledge. It’s also against the law to trash a beaver lodge or muskrat house.

But there are no such protections for black bears — denning trees can be logged even when cubs inside are tiny. It’s up to individual forestry companies and landowners to decide whether or not to leave a bear den standing.

In April, Davis filed a complaint with B.C.’s Forest Practices Board, hoping the board would launch a special investigation that would lead to the protection of bear denning trees — mainly large-diameter yellow and red cedar trees in vanishing old-growth forests — and save some old-growth stands for future dens.

A ‘dwindling supply’ of black bear dens

“Bears are still denning in stumps of trees that were cut down 80 plus years ago,” Davis told The Narwhal. “Those stumps are still sound, but they are rotting and they won’t be there forever. We aren’t allowing new forests to become large enough to become new dens. So there’s this dwindling supply.”

Female bears can fold into a cavity whose entrance is no bigger than 30 centimetres across and their dens are “like nests,” Davis said. The females carry moss, ferns, fireweed, tree boughs and shrubbery into their den, which can be used by different bears for decades, sometimes skipping years to avoid pestering fleas that wait inside.

One female bear caught on remote camera piles up fireweed outside her ground level den, squeezes in and “keeps reaching out the entrance and pulling the bedding inside” to make what Davis describes as a “very, very delicate” home for her cubs.

“Some of the nests are just incredible. It looks like a bird’s nest. They curl up into a little tiny ball. They’re so well insulated with their fat and hair.”

Biologist Helen Davis measures a bear den. Bear den cavities often contain a lot of bedding such as tree boughs, shrubs, ferns and mosses. They look like a big bird’s nest. Photo: Artemis Wildlife Consultants

Stumps now cut too low to the ground for bear dens

Sitka spruce and balsam fir stumps are also sometimes used for denning, along with the “root bowls” — the place where the roots and stem of the tree meet — of trees blown over in storms.

“When they cut old-growth now they generally cut trees very close to the ground,” Davis said.

“And in the old days a lot of the stumps were over my head — six foot to the ground from the top of the stump. They don’t waste that kind of wood any more so any old-growth that is being cut right now doesn’t generally leave stumps that can be used as dens.”

B.C. is home to one-quarter of Canada’s black bears and has more sub-species of black bear than anywhere else in the country. Black bears, still found throughout Canada, have been extirpated from much of their historic range in the U.S. and Mexico, largely due to persecution and habitat destruction.

Ten-thousand-year-old black bear skeletons have been found in caves on Vancouver Island, suggesting the black bears that arrived soon after glaciation were larger than modern-day black bears. According to the B.C. environment ministry, “scientists believe that bears on Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlottes have retained more of their ice-age characteristics than mainland bears because of a long period of isolation from continental populations.”

The sub-species of black bear on Vancouver Island is known as Ursus americanus vancouveri. Restricted to Vancouver Island and larger adjacent islands, this sub-species is similar to the subspecies found in Haida Gwaii — primarily black in colour and with a large skull — but the Vancouver Island black bears have smaller teeth.

B.C. currently protects black bear dens only on Haida Gwaii and in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“Dens are no less important to bears in the rest of coastal B.C.,” Davis wrote to the board in her notice of complaint, “but they continued to be removed and destroyed on Vancouver Island and other parts of the mainland coast where the supply is even lower due to extensive old-growth harvesting.”

About 80 per cent of Vancouver Island’s productive old-growth forests have been logged. Only eight per cent of the island’s original old-growth trees have some sort of protection, either in parks or because they are within a designated old-growth management area.

B.C. Forest Practices Board investigating complaint

The board rejected Davis’ request for a special investigation but agreed to look into her complaint.

Forest Practices Board spokesperson Darlene Oman told The Narwhal the board’s investigation is still on-going and it has not yet issued a report.

“I wanted to have the issue looked at as a whole and have the provincial government held accountable for more regulation to protect dens, as well as increased landscape level planning to allow some trees to grow large enough to become new dens,” Davis says of her complaint, which points out that black bears need secure and warm den sites for up to six months in order to survive winter on the coast.

She also started a petition asking the B.C. government to protect black bear dens and ensure that forest planners protect trees large enough for new dens.

Biologists examine a bear den in a balsam fir stump. When this stump rots, there are no trees large enough to replace it in this second-growth forest. Photo: Artemis Wildlife Consultants

Since 2014, Davis has had support from two forestry companies that operate in the Jordan River watershed — TimberWest and Queesto, a partnership between the Pacheedaht First Nation and Canadian Overseas Log and Lumber Ltd. — to put roofs on open old-growth stumps and build experimental black bear dens on logged land.

With funding from BC Hydro’s fish and wildlife compensation program, the wildlife biologist created artificial dens made of plastic culverts. Then, with help from an industrial designer, she built den pods, a molded form secured to the ground that mimics a natural den. “It’s kind of like an upside down plastic boat, with an entrance and a chamber.”

Molly Hudson, manager of stewardship and outreach for Mosaic Forest Management, which manages land for TimberWest, said the company was intrigued by the idea of taking a second-growth landscape and adding den structures to see if bears would use them.

The company gave Davis permission to access its private land holdings in the upper Jordan River watershed, donating about $25,000 during the past five years to help with the project.

“There are no regulatory requirements that we have to manage bear dens in any certain way,” Hudson said in an interview. “Neither the Crown land requirements nor the private land requirements specify that.”

“But we have had a long-standing internal commitment to identify those dens and retain them wherever we possibly can.”

Hudson said the company – the largest private forest landowner on Vancouver Island  – has maintained a bear den inventory for decades, taking measurements and photos of every bear den it finds. Hundreds of bear dens have been catalogued, she said.

“Certainly we realize the importance of these features long-term on our land-base…. How that would look in regulation is an interesting question. We believe as a company that these structures are worthy of protecting.”

‘I had no idea how goofy they are’: bears play on artificial dens

The dens are designed for female bears, who are most vulnerable when they are with their cubs, sometimes preyed upon by wolves, cougars and other bears. “They’re kind of sitting ducks in the dens. So we wanted it to be a small defensible entrance,” Davis said.

There are now about 20 den pods in the Jordan River watershed, including open hollow stumps with plywood roofs. Davis has also installed four den pods and covered a hollow stump in the Campbell River area on B.C. Timber Sales land where much of the forest was destroyed by wildfire in the 1960s.

“It was completely experimental,” Davis said. “You put the thing out in the middle of the forest. How do you know a bear’s going to find it, let alone consider using it as a den?”

Subsequent monitoring showed that bears look for dens year-round and will find “anything you put in the forest,” Davis said. She’s amassed hundreds of 15-second video clips from different den pods, including footage of bears who play on top of the pods and slide down the plastic tubing.

“It’s absolutely hysterical. They seem to find them quite entertaining … I thought I really knew black bears. And I had no idea how goofy they were.”

To make sure the bears spotted the artificial dens, Davis placed “horrifically stinky” weasel lure — a mix of skunk essence, anise oil and glycerine — on branches and roots near the dens to create an interesting smell.

She also tried putting bear hair — taken from a dead bear she found in the forest — inside the dens. Only two weeks later, she returned to the pod to find that a bear had crawled in. From then on, bear hair went into all the artificial structures.

Helen Davis standing near a black bear den. Photo: Artemis Wildlife Consultants

Black bear populations reported as declining, hunting licences up 45 per cent

Davis said no one knows how swiftly black bear populations are declining because the B.C. government doesn’t do any population census work on black bears.

“Loggers and First Nations tell me that they think there’s fewer black bears but there’s no data to base that on, at least on Vancouver Island.”

‘Namgis First Nation chief Don Svanvik told The Narwhal he and other nation members have seen a marked decline of black bears in their traditional territory on northern Vancouver Island.

Svanvik, who spent 15 years working on the nation’s culturally modified trees survey crew before he was elected as chief in 2017, said black bears were a “common sight” up to about seven years ago, easily spotted because there aren’t very many things in the forest that dark in colour.

“It started to get rarer to see a bear,” he said. “It became really noticeable. It just came to mind: ‘you know, we haven’t seen a bear.’ ”

Hudson said it would help Mosaic Forest Management, which also manages land for Island Timberlands, to know the status of black bear populations.

“Some work on the population status and trends would be really helpful for us as habitat managers.”

A recent 10-year period saw a 45 per cent increase in the sale of black bear hunting licences province-wide. In 2007, about 20,000 licences were issued, rising to 29,000 black bear hunting licences in 2017, according to Davis.

“It’s not on people’s radar,” Davis said.  “People don’t care about black bears. They think they’re all over the place and they’re fine.”

B.C. approves 314 cutblocks in caribou critical habitat while negotiating conservation plans

Thursday, March 14, 2019


Charlotte Dawe

VANCOUVER – B.C. has greenlighted the logging of 314 new cutblocks in the critical habitat of southern mountain caribou across the province in the past four months alone.

The shocking discovery made by the Wilderness Committee is prompting the organization, along with Greenpeace Canada, to call on Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, to issue an emergency order to halt logging of southern mountain caribou critical habitat while negotiations for conservation plans are underway.

“If the province logs what little is left of caribou critical habitat then all this planning will be for nothing,” said Charlotte Dawe, conservation and policy campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. “We need the federal government to step in and protect habitat before it’s all gone.”

Four months ago, negotiations were well underway between the federal and provincial governments and First Nations to create an effective caribou conservation plan. But while in negotiations the B.C. government continued approving cutblocks in critical habitat.

“It’s as if B.C. is holding a clear out sale for logging companies to ‘get it while you can!’ It’s the great caribou con from our very own B.C. government,” said Dawe.

“On the one hand B.C. says it’s protecting caribou while on the other, they’re handing out permits to log habitat as fast as they can. How much more evidence does the federal government need to prove that B.C. is failing to protect caribou?”

McKenna, announced last summer that southern mountain caribou are facing imminent threats to their recovery noting, “immediate intervention is required to allow for eventual recovery.” The announcement came after the functional extinction of two caribou herds in B.C.

The evidence is piling up against the B.C. government’s claim that they are effectively protecting caribou throughout the province.

“If the B.C. government was serious about protecting and recovering caribou throughout the province then they should have rejected these cutblocks,” said Eduardo Sousa, Senior Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada. “Instead, by approving these blocks, they are negotiating conservation agreements in some of these very same areas in bad faith. It’s appalling and we can’t trust them now.”

Almost a year ago the Wilderness Committee revealed 83 cutblocks were approved in the critical habitat of B.C.’s eight most at-risk herds. Logging rates have increased since the finding; in the past four months, 134 new cutblocks have been approved in the same critical habitats.

There are two southern mountain caribou local populations where logging approvals are the highest in core critical habitat — the Telkwa and Chilcotin populations. Both have 13 cutblocks each set to be logged.


Attached are two maps of approved cutblocks in southern mountain caribou habitat from Oct. 19, 2018, to Feb. 28, 2019:
Map of 314 approved cutblocks in critical habitat across B.C.
Zoomed-in map of Telkwas and Chilcotin local populations with approved cutblocks in critical habitat.