Letters to the editor for the week of January 2nd 

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Backcountry forum agreement group effort

I wish to dispute the statements made by Mr. Ray Mason in (the "Letters to the Editor," Pique Dec.19, 2013).

The Winter Backcountry Forum held in 2001–2002 was initiated by a Crown corporation known as Land and Water BC (LWBC) in the spring of 2001. LWBC knew that problems were occurring in the backcountry between user groups and in a proactive manner decided that a forum of stakeholders would be the best route to go, including commercial tenure operators.

It was a meeting to provide guidance on how to manage the Sea to Sky backcountry, particularly in the winter. With the impending 2010 Olympics, the government thought it was wise to invest time and money in getting the participants together to advise the government on how to manage the backcountry prior to the onset of visitors in 2010.

LWBC decided to set up a core group of people in the summer of 2001 to set the ground rules, terms of reference, and code of conduct. LWBC approached two snowmobilers, Roger Stacey of Pemberton and Don Gamache of Whistler, who had attended one of LWBC's meetings to get their perspective on the idea.

Both Roger and Don had been pondering a similar approach and were enthusiastic about the process. The core group of people came from Outdoor Recreation Council, the BC Snowmobile Federation, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC, S2S Commercial Backcountry Recreation Association, BC Heli and Snowcat Association, and government representatives from provincial agencies and local and regional governments.

On June 27, 2001, the core group met for the first time. The group included Roger Stacey (Pemberton Snowmobile Club), Don Gamache (Pemberton Snowmobile Club), Clayton Prince (E.D of BCSF), Norma Wilson (ORC), Al Colombo (LWBC), Jennifer Davis (MSRN), Pat Harrison (E.D of the FMCBC), Doug O'Mara (President of the Heli-Skiing and Snowcat Association and President of the S2S Commercial Backcountry Recreation Association) and David Reilley (LWBC).

In our first forum meeting on September 27, 2001, upwards of 50 people attended. Each person was asked what a perfect day in the backcountry would be.

This was the beginning of the process of listening to others who use the backcountry. It was determined that there wasn't an easy solution to managing the backcountry and thus a Backcountry Forum was initiated. In the end, a group of 25 to 30 people remained dedicated to the process as the weeks and months came and went. I agreed to be the first chair of the Backcountry Forum. We agreed that we would switch chairs every three months, but the group endorsed me as the permanent chair for the remainder of the Forum.

The group decided to hire a professional facilitator, Sue Ferguson of Whistler. In addition, it was decided that each association or federation would try to get eight representatives from their sector to attend the first meeting scheduled.

It was decided that the forum should not have more than 40 participants, otherwise the meetings would be too cumbersome to run. We were to include people from both within and outside our organizations.

These are the people who participated on a regular basis at the winter backcountry forum:

Commercial Operators:

Alberto Corso, Powder Mountain Snowcats (Snowcats/Downhill Skiing)

John Spencer-Nairn, Cougar Mountain Adventures (Snowmobiling, Cross-Country Skiing, Dog-sledding)

Kathy Milne, Backcountry Snowcats, Ltd (Snowcats)

Doug O'Mara, Whistler Heli-skiing (Heli-Skiing/Downhill Skiing)

Shawn Wilson, Blackcomb Snowmobiles (Snowmobiles)

Rob McCurdy, Whistler Alpine Guides (Mountaineering)

Brad Sills, Callaghan Country (Cross Country Skiing)

Public Snowmobilers:

Clayton Prince, BC Federation of Snowmobiles (has left the process)

Don Gamache, Pemberton Snowmobile Club

Nelson Bastien, Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club (replaces Clayton Prince)

Mike Blomfield, Blackcomb Snowmobile Club

Al Maten, Blackcomb Snowmobile Club

Barry Groundwater, Blackcomb Snowmobile Club

Peter de Haan, Pemberton Snowmobile Club

Public Skiers:

Pat Harrison, Valley Outdoor Association

Mike Feller, BC Mountaineering Club

Monika Bittel, Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC

Mary Henderson, Alpine Club of Canada, Vancouver Section

Mark Grist, Varsity Outdoor Club (replaced by Sandra Nicol, VOC)

Lesley Bohm, North Shore Hikers

Al Whitney, Federation of BC Naturalists

Norma Wilson, Outdoor Recreation Council of BC

Government Representatives:

Al Colombo, LWBC (replaced by Malcohm Leong, LWBC)

David Reilley, LWBC, subsequently MSRN

Bob Cunningworth, LWBC

Jennifer Davis, MSRN (replaced by Ross Kreye, MSRN)

Tom Bell, BC Parks

John Crooks, MOF

Keith Bennett, RMOW

Guy Patterson, SLRD

Facilitator: Sue Ferguson of Whistler

At the end of the forum in 2002, all of the above representatives with the exception of the government representatives (who did not vote) voted in favour of the winter backcountry forum agreement. I was just one of the above who voted in favour and contrary to Mr. Mason's accusations, I did not sign on behalf of the group. It was a group effort!

In 2009, the people who participated in the Sea to Sky process were honoured by the Fraser Basin Council for their sustainability efforts.

Pat Harrison, former chairperson Sea to Sky Winter Backcountry Recreation Forum

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