South Chilcotin Park under review, again 

It’s been less than one year since the South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park was created, but its future still hangs in an uncertain balance.

The Liberal government has decided to review an NDP decision that saw the creation of this 71,000-hectare park last March, to see if there are other viable sustainable resource management options there.

"I did a five hour helicopter flight over this area and it's extremely beautiful," said Stan Hagen, the minister of sustainable resources. "But at the same time, there are natural resources there and, as you know, the way we pay for health and education and other government services in this province is we extract natural resources. So we must find a balance to deal with this."

The decision to review the area over the next four months comes as a huge blow to environmentalists.

"It's an absolute travesty," said Eckhard Zeidler of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment. "Finally they did the right thing by creating the park... and now it's all up for grabs again."

There were valid reasons for the Liberals to take a second look at this decision, according to Hagen.

The former government approved of the creation of the park just one day before former NDP premier Ujjal Dosanjh called a provincial election.

"There is always the suspicion that the decision is being made for political purposes rather than good public policy purposes. I think it was released for political purposes," said Hagen.

He also said there were a lot of complaints from people who live and work in the region who did not feel as though their views had been heard. Specifically, most of them felt that there was not sufficient attention paid to the interests of the forestry and mining industries in the area.

"I would ask that they would allow mining exploration and development in that areas that were defined as hot, geologically speaking," said Russ Oakley, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's Area A director, who represents the Gold Bridge-Bralorne area. "Modern mining techniques have very little environmental impact," he added.

The opponents of the NDP decision also felt there needed to be a socio-economic study of the area, something that was not done under the previous government.

The Liberals have since completed a social and economic analysis of the proposals and will be using this new information as well as the work from the former table in making their decision about the future of the park.

The debate over this area has dragged on for more than five years now. The Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) table was unable to achieve consensus this year and as a result of the impasse they presented two land-use options to the NDP.

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