Thirty-one backcountry tenures offered 

Two applications for commercial recreation backcountry tenures have been given the thumbs down by the British Columbia Assets and Lands Corporation (BCAL) but 31 others have been issued a green light to begin operations on Crown land this summer.

The authority is in the process of informing all applicants of its decisions and would not reveal details on individual cases. However BCAL special projects spokesperson David Reilley confirms that 31 offers of tenure are being sent out, most with new conditions attached. An additional eight applications for summer commercial activities have been put on hold pending further investigation by BCAL, but these businesses will be able to operate in the interim, says Reilley.

"The eight files have been given a grace period that extends throughout the full season," he explains. "Even if their tenures are eventually turned down, they will not be shut down mid-summer."

He says these operators will be required to pay tenure user fees just like the tenured companies.

BCAL has also said most tenure offers will be between three and five years with some as short as 12 months, in a bid to allow future flexibility over tenure conditions.

This latest announcement brings the total number of tenures approved since January 2001 to 34. Powder Mountain Snowcats, Superpipe Snowboard Camp Ltd and TLH Heliskiing Ltd were each issued one year tenures in mid-March 2001 for their respective guided snowcat, snowboarding and skateboarding coaching, and helicopter tourism investigative operations.

The current batch of tenure offers mainly consists of the 31 applications that were advertised throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor in late March and early April. These applicants had until Dec. 29, 2000 to submit their full proposals, as part of BCAL's 14-month transition plan, announced in October 1999. As a result, 53 applications for commercial recreation tenures were announced by BCAL last January. However some applications submitted and advertised prior to the transition cut-off date also form part of the latest batch of tenure offers.

"It can seem quite confusing that the numbers don't add up because some applications consist of both summer and winter components," Reilley says. "However we have just been dealing with the summer 2001 operations and will start assessing winter tenure applications during summer and fall."

Reilley says this will comprise the winter components of nine partially processed all-season files and four winter-only applications. BCAL has earmarked Nov. 31, 2001 as the deadline for announcing decisions on these files.

Reilley adds that some applications from single operators have been merged or even re-classified into not requiring a tenure because of low client usage or because investigations revealed the activity was not on Crown land. Another application was transferred to the BCAL office in Kamloops because the majority of its activity was in that area, he says.

One of the referral agencies consulted by BCAL during its processing of summer tenure applications was the Sea to Sky Commercial Backcountry Recreation Association. The SSCBRA is made up of the four long-term commercial recreation tenure holders in the area but has associate members waiting to become full members once they are granted tenures. Its mandate is to foster co-operation between backcountry operators by reducing conflict and negatively competitive practices, especially in areas of overlapping tenures.

John Spencer Nairn, SSCBRA president, says: "We invited all applicants to meet with the SSCBRA and all did, except for three or four, over the past couple of months. All round it's been a very positive experience."

He says it was up to each applicant to pass on solutions that came out of the meetings to BCAL, which would have helped in the approval process. The association has also made a number of recommendations to BCAL, such as removing the requirement for tenure in cases where the operation was very small, or reclassifying stationary tourism ventures – such as bungy-jumping – into land lease type set-ups.

Spencer Nairn says competitive and conflicting activities are of great concern to backcountry operators, including his own business, Cougar Mountain Adventures.

"If activities such as horseback riding and ATVing meet in the backcountry operators can lose their insurance because of the conflicting nature of the activities." He says there were a considerable number of such cases in the current tenure round, especially in areas of the Callaghan, Soo Valley and Brandywine.

Meanwhile well-established rafting companies in the Sea to Sky corridor expect it will be business as usual this summer. However they expect BCAL to announce a separate plan for the rafting industry in October.


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