Let’s blame Snowmobilers. A Caribou Recovery story.

Kokanee Country Snowmobile Club AGM November 5th 2016

Tuesday morning was upon me.  Sipping my coffee I braced for it.  The influx of questions from those who didn’t attend our Snowmobile Club AGM.  Word was spreading like wild fire.  More Caribou Closures.

The South Selkirk herd of Caribou have been threatened for decades now.  Millions of dollars and failed efforts to grow the numbers has resulted in additional snowmobile closures.  I get it.. we are an insignificant user group by many standards and much easier to push around than other economic stimulators such as Logging and Mining.

My mind wanders.   I envision a round table of suited individuals discussing the caribou situation.. “Ya that herd is pretty much toast.  If we lose any more caribou, it will look like we are a failure at our jobs.. so lets pretend we have a solution to the decline and blame the snowmobilers.. all the bleeding hearts in Surrey Edmonton and Toronto hate those guys!  This will be easy.  When the caribou die, we won’t let on that we had no idea what we were doing and totally avoided implementing all recovery strategies simultaneously as was recommended. We’ll just blame snowmobilers!  They can’t fight us. They are their own worst enemy…. quick someone get Miley on the phone stat.. we may need her again for this one”..

It’s always fun to participate in meetings when you know your voice will never be heard.  When you ask valid questions yet are told to stop being argumentative.  Wait What?  I can’t ask a valid question that pertains to conservation efforts, the purchasing of land to exclude public access, and caribou recovery efforts that may result in the closing of land?

Questions like:

Are you planning on doing a maternity pen for the South Selkirk herd? I have questions regarding the age of the cows and genetic diversity but I am not a biologist as I have been often reminded.  Like the time I said um… aren’t the caribou you transplanted up the pass a different ecotype than the caribou already there?  If they are used to pawing the ground for food, do you really think they’ll get the hang of the whole eating lichen off a tree thing?  I was shushed, patronized and told there there dear… you can’t possibly understand as you are not a biologist.  Surprise.. it didn’t work.. those poor caribou were basically sent to their death.. not so happily ever after like..

How many caribou died during the maternity pen efforts? Doing the math it appears that you may have forgotten to share with us the fact that your maternity pen may have resulted in mortality INSIDE the pen.  The number of released animals doesn’t quite match the amount of animals that you enclosed initially?  Now we know I’m no biologist.. and my mathematics grades in school were less than stellar.. but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t add up.  How did they die? Do you have pictures?

Are moose populations being threatened in an effort to bring back caribou numbers?

Are any other species of animals being put at risk in an effort to bring back caribou numbers?

(I am starting to see a pattern.  There seems to be an unusually high amount of mortality in this caribou recovery effort)

If my snowmobile club is considered a stake holder in the Selkirk Purcell Caribou recovery implementation plan why are we not invited to stake holder meetings?  Why is our provincial BCSF not invited to stake holder meetings on our behalf?

Is your telemetry data up to date or are you trying to wow us with caribou use in areas based upon telemetry from data 10 or 15 years ago?

Are you continuing to reduce the number of wolves in areas with Caribou?

If you are purchasing land to conserve wildlife are you participating in reducing competitive prey species, and wolf culling? Doesn’t that work against the whole “we bought this land to preserve wildlife” platform?  Oh and one more.. I appreciate logging in my community, but if you are purchasing land to preserve it’s natural state, and are  limiting access via motorized recreation why are they still logging it?  Oh right.. economic viability.. have you taken a look at the positive effect snowmobile tourism has on our economy?

Oh man, I’m such a bad ass… how DARE I ask questions such as these.

If you say federal dollars are not utilized to facilitate projects such as penning projects and other initiatives, who pays for the governmental staff hired to monitor “progress”?

I could go on and on.. I have a LOT of questions, with very little answers being provided.  WE have a lot of questions left unanswered.  We as Snowmobilers.

My son Leo and I enjoying an adventure in Ymir BC

That really is the truth of the matter.  It isn’t politically correct to kill wolves… It isn’t wise for the economic viability of many British Columbian towns to limit logging and mining, but those snowmobilers…many hates us based on the propaganda shared from our less than stellar moments.  Every time someone is caught in a closure, demonstrates a lack of safety or stewardship it is another nail in the coffin for snowmobilers. Here is an idea to the next generation of up and comers in the snowmobile scene.. how about put down the selfie stick and your incessant drive for “likes” on social media and jump in to help organized snowmobiling.  Your power and your voice can help make a difference  It may in fact, be a crucial turning point in this whole fiasco. Sure selfies aren’t in themselves a destructive force of evil.. but hey.. if you’re out there in the public eye make it count!

Me in a gnarly sandwich with the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation Executive Director Donegal Wilson and President Richard Cronier

The voice that fights for us is called organized snowmobiling.  The clubs and the Provincial representation that fight against closures are only as strong as the foundation it grows from.  Twenty freakin Percent of snowmobilers support their local club, or the clubs in the areas they enjoy.  20% support the sport… but it’s usually the 80% that I hear from who complain that “we” are doing nothing to stop closures..

The calls began.. preparing myself for the worst I braced myself for call number one.  Honestly I was a little frustrated.  We had just had our AGM which took hours for me to prepare.  Slide Show, dialogue, data compilation to show case what we are up against, what we are planning and what we hope we can accomplish this season as a club.  Some are working or have other valid excuses for not being at the AGM, but many don’t attend or support the club because they resent having to pay to play.

I was pleasantly surprised by the words being spoken on the other end of my telephone.  There was no blame, there was no animosity only questions.  Good solid questions about what “WE” as a club, a user group can do.  I tried to hide the emotion in my voice.  What was once a non supporter of the club.. one of the “what does my club do for me” kind of people was offering to help, and offering to pitch in to facilitate a solution.  One member at a time our club can grow, our efforts can grow and our voice can grow.  He truly and honestly got it.  This was a fantastic and inspiring telephone call!

Look at those hooligan snowmobilers giving back in the name of safety.  How dare they

There are many times I think to myself, why.. oh why am I taking time away from my family and my personal life to be an advocate for snowmobiling.  Pull that cord and go..many enjoy the sport that way.. surely I can too?  That one phone call  call reaffirmed why I am involved, and why I care.  Our people matter, our sport matters, and we as human beings matter. The next phone call of my day however sent me into a spiral of eff bombs and chopping fire wood to release my rage…Clearly I’m not the only one frustrated.

I work for the British Columbia Conservation foundation, and have had many conversations with informed objective experts. My job is awesome, and has a clear cause and effect with efforts.  Help people remove food attractants that entice wild animals into areas near humans and teach them how to be safe coexisting with the wild animals around them results in less wildlife destroyed, safer communities, and we all live happily ever after.  I love animals, I love people, I love snowmobiling, and I love my time spent in the back country.  I don’t dislike Caribou, I dislike political agenda that utilizes my Tax dollars to work against me.  How many politicians are simply sick of the Caribou issue and would like it to go away?  (I feel like Oscar from Corner Gas… My Taxes pay your Salary!!!)

We do have political support.  Caribou recovery meeting in Victoria BC

I can count 12 Federal and Provincial politicians who feel frustrated with the Caribou recovery implementation plan.  They see the writing on the wall and take heat when money is spent without producing a favorable result.  It’s political suicide if they were to say.. Ok enough is enough.. The Caribou issue is really wasting millions of tax dollars that could be utilized elsewhere but those environmental preservationists have a lot of money and media attention.  If we abandon Caribou recovery in non viable areas (Selkirk Purcell herd) and focus efforts on herds that have potential to grow we could actually succeed at this Caribou recovery game, but those preservationalists would never let that happen.  It amazes me that mismanagement of living breathing animals leaves preservationalists unphased in the world of animal rights.

Why are Caribou so much more valuable than the moose?  That moose populations around Revelstoke can be reduced to the point of becoming threatened yet no one blinks an eye?  (the idea of competitive prey reduction from what I gather is if wolves have less to eat they will reduce in numbers therefor potentially increasing caribou numbers) What a shock.  It didn’t quite pan out that way.  Are Caribou seriously more important than Moose, elk, deer and people?

The creature isn’t the issue, the political mismanagement is a huge issue.  Political agenda, political flexing of power, and other political crap blows smoke and mirrors to the masses.. the only way to fight politics, is with politics.

Membership truly DOES matter and makes a difference!

Many were  thrown for a loop with the latest snowmobile closures for it appears that political agenda has hopped borders.  First Nations representatives in Idaho claim a vested interest on the Caribou that reside primarily up the Salmo Creston Pass near Creston BC.  That was an unexpected twist of events.. but really was it?  Let’s face it, organized snowmobiling is under funded, under supported and composed of volunteers with limited political experience.  Of COURSE this would happen!  How could it not? We don’t have unlimited funds to fight for our cause.  Funds to help us publish and circulate a media campaign in support of our sport.  Funds to hire professionals to lobby on our behalf. We have people like me.  Mothers, Fathers, Grandfathers, and other every day Canadian Citizens trying to balance their passion for the sport with earning a living to support a family.  We’re tired and burnt out, but we are still trying.

Look at those hooligans at it again!  Me with Past BCSF President Erin Hart presenting a sizeable donation to the BC Lions Club Society for Disabled Children.  Someone needs to stop them!

Twenty percent of snowmobilers support organized snowmobiling.  In Creston my estimates indicate there are more than 200 active snowmobilers in our community, yet we increased membership last year to a mere 65.  Riders from Salmo, Fruitvale, Trail, Idaho and Washington all enjoy our Salmo Creston Pass without supporting the club. The club is small without trail head monitoring.  We do not have the man power to chase you down for your contribution, but why should we?  I want to spend my Sundays and Mondays out in the back country slaying fresh powder do you really think I need to chase you down for your contribution?  Do you really think we are maintaining user agreements, developing trail systems and staging areas, constructing and insuring warm up cabins and grooming so you can simply show up?  on a side note.. if Trump is elected will he build a wall to keep our Snow Mexicans and Caribou safely contained in Canada?  I’m ok with the wall if it means those who don’t support our riding area and club are refused access.  . Walls for everyone!!!   We all feel it, unjust political agendas pushing to limit or eliminate our sport. We all share a sense of interdependence, so working together will benefit all of us, no matter if we live in Canada or the United States.  Support the sport, and support the areas you ride.

If you are a snowmobiler who does not support organized snowmobiling what are your plans?  The whole “I’ll ride anywhere I want” doesn’t hold a lot of oomph when your truck and snowmobile are impounded and fines presented.  Ride wherever you want types of mentality actually fuel more closures.. giving the nay sayers ample ammunition to throw in our faces when user agreements are in jeopardy.  I’ll do what I want, whenever however I want… Ya may have worked for Snoop Dog, but lets face it.. Mr Snoop has wayyyy more money than snowmobile clubs or organizations with skilled legal advisers and a marketing strategy team watching his 6 so he can spout out that I’m a rebel crap with little back lash or opposition.

Realistically I can tell you the future looks bleak if we can’t get our shiznit together.  If we can’t work together to support the sport it will be no more.  It’s happened before in other countries like Norway where it is illegal to ride snowmobiles for fun.  http://blogs.transparent.com/norwegian/snowmobiling-in-norway/ and lets face it how many of us would continue to enjoy our sport if we had restrictions pertaining to off trail use, or the banning of 2 stroke engines?

I love back country riding, I love the adventure and I love having the right to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling but we the people have to speak up for ourselves.  Our voice is amplified by  organized snowmobiling.  Please support your club, and support your right to ride.  Be a voice, be a volunteer, but first of all please be someone who represents the sport of snowmobiling in a positive way to break down negative stereo types that plague our efforts.  Be the change, by being a member!

3 thoughts on “Let’s blame Snowmobilers. A Caribou Recovery story.

  1. Excellent article . I have bought 2 memberships every year for at least 20 years and my brother and i have been very voCal on this sunext to Provincial politicians. I hope I can still ride the mountains in my remaining retirement years.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am a guide outfitter in the itcha mountains
    Same thing has happened here
    Over logged
    Baddly managed
    No predator control
    Now they want to shut our season down
    We need help up here
    Possibly joint venture

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks a lot but you also neglected to mention the heli ski choppers circling or crossing over prime caribou areas and are they not banned from this practice, I have a few videos of proof for you but every time I mention heli ski its OK because the are professionals, YUP I agree at taking tips right ?
    Also who do they call when in trouble? Yup .the red neck sport !!!

    Liked by 1 person

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