Regional district rejects Lillooet land-use plan 

Board members say NDP guilty of politicking

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board of directors is calling for Phase 1 of the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan to be brought back to the table for a unanimous decision.

SLRD chair Susan Gimse says the plan wasn’t agreed upon by all the stakeholders and that the NDP government stickhandled it through cabinet before last month’s provincial election.

"It’s supposed to be based on consensus," she told Pique Newsmagazine , "but it was done in haste."

Russ Oakley, the SLRD’s Area A director who represented the Gold Bridge-Bralorne area at the table, agreed with Gimse.

"There is some grumbling going on," he said.

The Lillooet LRMP was concluded in April when stakeholders took two options — a conservation-oriented plan and a resource-oriented plan — to the provincial cabinet for endorsement. The planning table was not able to achieve a single consensus recommendation.

The government chose the conservation plan that, in turn, created 14 new protected areas including more than 70,000 hectares in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains and the popular Spruce Lake area.

"This decision is based on five years of hard work by people who want a plan that is good for the environment, working people and communities," said then-premier Ujjal Dosanjh.

Not everyone, especially the SLRD board, concurs with the decision-making process though.

"There needs to be one plan that everyone agrees upon and then we can go forward," said Gimse.

But, at the time, stakeholders — ranging from the Lillooet community resource board to conservation and recreation groups — all agreed to abide by the government’s decision.

Oakley, who lives close to the newly created Southern Chilcotin park, said there were mistakes that happened and that the NDP might be guilty of cow-towing to environmentally conscious urbanites in order to win votes.

"The industry side of the table is complaining about plan," he said. "In a nutshell, the size of the Spruce Lake park is the bone of contention.

"Everyone’s got their numbers, especially the government. But counting animals and trees is not an exact science.

"I guess the ‘greens’ felt better off dealing with the NDP and it looks like that is what happened."

According to the LRMP decision, the plan also makes it possible to increase the area’s overall timber harvesting volume and will keep more than 80 per cent of the land base open to resource development.

About half that area is dedicated for industrial activities such as forestry, mining, tourism and agriculture. Phase 2 of the LRMP will establish specific zones for access to resources.

But a disclaimer written into the plan gives the provincial government — including the recently elected Gordon Campbell and his Liberals — the authority to change that decision in the context of the final Phase 2 recommendations.

According to a press release issued at the time of the Phase 1 decision, government "may refine its decision."

Oakley said that would be the right thing to do. "I would like to see the new government take a look at it and send it back so there’s only one option," he said.

Gimse, however, said she’s not holding her breath. "It’s hard to say what will happen. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see."

Phase 1 of the Lillooet LRMP, which was started in November 1995, establishes the overall strategic direction for planning area. Phase 2, which is scheduled to be finished by March 2002, will add further details to finalize the process.

The Lillooet LRMP is one of many community-based resource plans across the province that tries to balance a broad range of competing uses and values for public lands and natural resources.

To date, 85 per cent of B.C. is covered by land-use plans that are either completed or underway — including the Sea-to-Sky region.

But despite all the second guessing, Oakley said he will stand by the NDP’s decision.

"I don’t trust them but I can live with it," he said.

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