Stein Park announcement draws mixed reaction
The creation of the Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park last week was lauded as the "crowning achievement" in a long list of protective measures taken by the NDP government and outgoing Premier Mike Harcourt, but not everyone is supporting the park announcement.
While Premier Harcourt, Environment Minister Moe Sihota, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs John Cashore, the Lytton First Nation and a host of environmental supporters were celebrating the creation of the 107,000 hectare Class A provincial park in the Stein, a small group of Mount Currie's Lil'wat People were declaring the announcement a stab in the back.
Most of the Stein Valley is the traditional territory of the Lytton Nation, but a portion, at the western end, is claimed by the Lil'wat People as part of their traditional territory. Some Lil'wat are upset they were not involved in the park announcement. Harold Pascal, the traditional groundskeeper for Lil'wat burial sites, says dubbing the Stein a "provincial" park, basically "gives every tree, trail and sacred site" in the Stein to the province of B.C.
"This is not a good thing, this is another example of the government finding a really nice way to take more of our traditional territory from us," says Pascal, who has no ties to the Mount Currie Band Office.
No member of the Mount Currie Band Chief or council was present at the Stein announcement and Mount Currie Chief Allen Stager did not return calls from Pique. Lytton Nation Chief Byron Spinks says the Mount Currie Band Office was made aware of the plan last June, but "some of the internal difficulties in Mount Currie" kept them out of the Stein announcement.
In 1987, the Lytton and Mount Currie bands announced they would do whatever they could to protect the Stein, a 40 kilometre long unlogged valley connecting the dry Interior with the West Coast.
Chief Spinks says it is unfortunate the Mount Currie people feel snubbed by the announcement, but the Lytton First Nation is going to forge ahead with plans to jointly manage the new park hand in hand with B.C. Parks. The park announcement included plans to create a locally developed land and resource management plan that will proceed in the 1.1 million hectare Lillooet Forest District. A management board, made up of B.C. Parks representatives and representatives from the Lytton First Nation, will manage the park and its resources. But a growing Pine Beetle infestation is threatening trees in the valley, so legislated protection may not be the end of the matter.
"When people come to the Stein they will get a lot more than just the natural beauty of the valley," says Spinks. "We will be providing historical and cultural interpretation for park visitors by members of the Lytton First Nation." Spinks says he is unsure how many jobs will be created for the Lytton Band or the dollar value of economic spin-offs from the Stein.
The Stein park announcement brings the amount of protected areas in the Lower Mainland region to 10.5 per cent of the land base. Under the Protected Areas Strategy, the NDP government has pegged 13 per cent as the amount of land which will be protected by the year 2000.
Premier Harcourt, who is cutting a green swath as he pads his political reputation with "historical" land-use announcements, also announced he would be freeing up 80,000 hectares of land for logging. The 80,000 hectares is land which had been studied for protection in the Lillooet forest district.