Positive response to sub-committee recommendations as deadline nears
With the round table discussions of the Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process set to wrap up at the end of April, the conservation sector is encouraged that they may have fostered a compromise that all participating sectors can live with.
From Feb. 26 to 27, a planning forum subcommittee presented its vision for the Sea to Sky LRMP to the full committee in Squamish, which included representatives from the forestry and energy sectors that had opted out of the subcommittee discussions. The mining sector participated at first but missed the last few meetings because of an industry meeting.
For the two months before making the presentation, Whistlers Johnny Mikes, AWAREs representative at the LRMP table, and the other members of the subcommittee met once a week to fill in sections of the map and hammer out compromises wherever there were land use conflicts between different sectors.
In the process they took the needs of resource industries into consideration, as well as the needs of conservationists, tourism and recreation, and other land use groups.
Although the recommendations have not been formally adopted in the LRMP, the subcommittee is encouraged.
"After having been at the meeting and watching the presentation and the reactions from other table members that were not part of the sub-committee, from a conservation standpoint Im very encouraged that weve got a basis to move forward on," said Eckhard Zeidler, an AWARE director who accompanied Mikes to the meeting.
"It was not looking very good for a while, but certainly all the hard work that the subcommittee did really helped to get the LRMP moving forward and possibly could even end up in a consensus document very soon."
The fact that the subcommittee did its best to consider all users, including resource industries, in their maps was the difference, Zeidler added.
"They really tried to take into account what (forestry, mining and energy) would need without them being there, and I think thats borne out by the positive reactions when the findings of the subcommittee were presented to them.
"My congratulations to all the people who worked so hard at the subcommittee level, and to all the sectors who worked on this thing."
Some of the subcommittees maps were questioned, but the majority of the plan received a tentative approval from the other sectors.
"Id say if the (LRMP) does get completed with the kind of tone it has right now, with endorsements for a great deal but not all of the subcommittees recommendations, I believe we will have gone quite some distance in maintaining the integrity of our wilderness backyard, and were going to give the grizzlies and wildlife a fighting chance in this part of the world," said Zeidler.
For Mikes, the subcommittee was necessary to give the LRMP enough detail to be an effective document.
"A lot of (committee members) have been saying for a long time that there wasnt enough specific detail in terms of geographic ideas, what we wanted to see happen in valley x or valley y. There was a dissatisfaction within the table for the whole LRMP process because it didnt seem like the geographic-specific direction was coming about adequately."
According to Mikes, the subcommittees maps are fairly detailed given the short time frame they had to work with, and that committee members did their best to anticipate the needs of the absent sectors.
"Virtually everyone at the table said we need to do this valuable mapping work and make some priorities for land use in different places," said Mikes.
"There are also some ideas that dont preclude certain activities in certain places, but for the sake of wildlife and recreation, for example, would suggest how these things might happen."
For example, forestry might be asked to log and then decommission the logging roads in certain areas, or to use helicopters to keep areas roadless for the benefit of wildlife. Mining claims werent questioned, but there were some ideas for building access roads through sensitive areas, and restricting those roads to mining alone.
Before the Sea to Sky LRMP process was started in January of 2001, the B.C. government had made it clear that no new parks would be accepted since that issue had already been dealt with in the 1996 Protected Areas Strategy. The PAS network was never fully accepted by environmentalists who believe that the parks created were not representative of habitats, and contained mostly rock and ice.
Mikes says the new maps dont advocate the creation of new protected areas, but do challenge the boundaries of the existing parks.
"We would be happier if we were able to add some parks where we feel it would be good to have them, but we would also feel good if some of the park boundaries that exist especially the parks that were created in the 1990s as part of the Protected Areas Strategy were looked at, because that was a hectares game," said Mikes.
"There are some funky, weird straight line boundaries that dont go up to the height of the land, and theres no park values on the other side of that line. You get cases where the valley bottom is protected, but not the valley walls, the whole view of the park. Wed like to see those values protected as well.
"It doesnt have to mean extending the park boundaries, but wed like to see some special management in those areas to preserve the integrity of the parks."
After members of the committee looked at and discussed the subcommittee proposals on Thursday, the group met again Friday to talk over the Draft Sea-to-Sky LRMP interim report, which is available on the Web site at http://srmwww.gov.bc.ca/cr/resource_mgmt/lrmp/
The Sea to Sky LRMP round table process is expected to wrap up before spring, although a few segments of the plan, including First Nations treaties and land claims, will continue to be discussed through the summer.