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B.C. expands park to better protect sacred sites and caribou habitat

B.C. expands park to better protect sacred sites and caribou habitat

VICTORIA – The Province of British Columbia is implementing a major expansion of Klinse-za Park in northeastern B.C. to better protect sacred sites and wildlife habitats.

The expanded Klinse-za/Twin Sisters Park will protect nearly 200,000 hectares of land, including two mountains, known locally as the Twin Sisters, which are in an area of cultural and spiritual significance for Treaty 8 First Nations, a release said.

“Protecting and recovering threatened species and their habitat is a shared responsibility and priority for B.C., Canada and First Nations that requires everyone to work together. The decline of caribou is a complex problem, and we continue our work to stabilize populations. Providing a large area that protects caribou and their habitat from development is a critically important step forward that is consistent with the agreements we first announced in 2020,” said B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman in the release.

The number of caribou has declined by 55 per cent in the last century, the release said, and there are fewer than 4,000 southern mountain caribou, a threatened at-risk species, left in B.C.

The park expansion is the result of a 2020 partnership agreement between the governments of B.C, Canada, Saulteau First Nations, and West Moberly First Nations, the release said. The agreement commits all partners to take action to help stabilize andincrease southern mountain caribou populations to self-sustaining levels in northeastern B.C.

Two existing maternal penning sites for caribou, operated by the Nîkanêse Wah tzee Stewardship Society, a collaborative non-profit organization between West Moberly First Nations and Saulteau First Nations, will now be within the park’s boundaries.

“Our sacred Klinse-za/Twin Sisters area will now be protected for our people forever. This is another step in the process by which we are proving that we can recover endangered species and protect the sacred lands of First Nations people, while also providing for healthy ecosystems and diverse economies,” Salteau First Nations Chief Rudy Paquette said.

The federal government has provided $46 million to support compensation for industries and tenure holders affected by the implementation of the partnership agreement and $10 million to support a regional economic diversification trust for the region, the release said.

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