Lillooet LRMP still a work in progress 

There are four tentative land use maps for the Lillooet LRMP currently before the government and all, except one, call for the reduction of the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park.

The four focus maps were created after getting input from the various area stakeholders.

They were asked: "What would the package of protected areas look like if ... greater emphasis was placed on the following values:

• Biogeoclimatic Representation and Wildlife

• Forestry

• Mining

• Tourism

The tourism map is the only one where the boundaries of the controversial park do not shrink. In fact, they get larger under that scenario.

Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resource management, was in Lillooet on Monday, March 18 meeting with stakeholders but he could not comment on the details of the focus maps.

"I haven't looked at them because I don't want to prejudge them, but certainly the staff has done a lot of work on them," said Hagen.

He does not want to look at the maps because he may have to make the final decision about the future of land use in the area if the stakeholders fail to reach a consensus.

"Sometime in the spring we'll be looking at whether or not we have a decision or whether I'll have to make a decision," he said.

"I want to give all of the groups a chance to come to a consensus."

An online summary report on the discussions thus far shows there are still diverse opinions over the areas that should be protected in the LRMP.

Reaching a consensus on land use in Lillooet has been very difficult in the past.

It has been more than five years now that the debate over this area has dragged on. Under the NDP the Lillooet LRMP was unable to achieve consensus and, as a result of the impasse, the table presented two land use options to the government.

The government chose the "conservation" option over the "resource" option in March 2001, essentially creating the current boundaries of the provincial park, making it 72,000 hectares.

The South Chilcotin Park is a hot spot in the Lillooet LRMP, a place with ancient forests and diverse wildlife, as well as opportunities for mining and forestry.

Environmental and conservation groups were very pleased with last year’s decision, but other groups at the LRMP table felt their interests weren't given due consideration.

Over the past few months, since the Liberals decided to reopen the Lillooet LRMP, the process to reach a decision has been revamped.

"This whole process we've changed to make it open and transparent so that people can actually see what's going on and know what's happening to their lives," said Hagen.

Last month the government gave the public the chance to comment on the process though a Web site. They are currently compiling the information that was gathered from about 160 online users.

The focus maps are another new tool to help the public. The maps are not intended to be final options, said Hagen. Rather, they are a new way of recording information.

The maps are available online at http://srmwww.gov.bc.ca/sir/lrmp/lill/

"It's really so that people can look at an area and understand what areas are being suggested as far as the logging or mining perspective or what is being suggested as far as the conservation perspective," said Hagen.

"Instead of trying to read it on a paragraph, you can actually see it on a map."

At Monday's meeting Hagen met with the mining, forestry, tourism, conservation, recreation and community sectors as well as local government and First Nations.

Each group had roughly one hour each in which to bend the minister's ear.

"I felt (it) was a very productive day and a very worthwhile day so I'm glad I did it," said Hagen.

The LRMP is currently in the second draft stage. All replies must be handed in to ministry staff by March 28 and there will also be more meetings among First Nations and staff.

"We're trying to see if we can find a consensus that wasn't there before," he said.

The ministry is also in the process of conducting a preliminary Socio-Economic and Environment Assessment around the four focus map scenarios to develop an understanding of the differing level of benefits and impacts associated with each.

Of the Lillooet LRMP process Hagen said: "It's what we call a work in progress."

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