Expressing serious concerns with the provincial consultation process on caribou recovery plans that have the potential to result in backcountry closures, Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) Directors voted unanimously to request the province conduct more extensive consultation.
The Provincial Government recently extended the deadline for feedback on these proposals until May 31, 2019, however, CSRD Directors believe this is not nearly long enough and asked for the timeline to be extended another 12 to 18 months. The Board is also seeking a consultation meeting to take place with the CSRD Board and other local governments to have their questions answered and provide them with additional information.
The new joint Caribou Recovery Program proposal made between the province and federal governments includes plans for an increase in undisturbed habitat for the endangered Mountain Caribou species, as well as a review of logging practices, heli-skiing and road rehabilitation in caribou habitat areas. It also considers predator control programs and additional caribou captive breeding programs.
Directors expressed concerns regarding the program leading to potential loss of backcountry access for recreationalists, motorized or not, potential negative economic impacts to the logging industry and loss of access for trappers or guides. There was also a concern raised that if backcountry closures take place, it will be very difficult to have them re-opened for public use in the future.
Gary Sulz, CSRD Director and the Mayor of Revelstoke, and Terry Rysz, CSRD Director and the Mayor of Sicamous, led the discussion by recapping concerns heard at two public meetings held in those communities. More than 1,000 people attended these meetings and hundreds more watched the Revelstoke meeting on live streaming.
While both Sulz and Rysz expressed the concern for the well-being of the caribou, they also reiterated a concern that proper consultation has not happened with other community stakeholders, especially in terms of potential financial and social impacts in areas of the CSRD where the economy is grounded in tourism and forestry.
"We need to stand in the roadway on this and work together as a group. We don't want to be shut out of this process. We need to show the provincial and federal governments that this is a serious issue, and what they've done so far isn't enough," says Sulz.
CSRD Board Chair Rhona Martin was supportive of additional consultation.
"We need to be at the table. There will be different opinions, but if we are all at the table, we will all hear the same thing. That's important because you can't just pick and choose what you want to hear to build your cause."
The CSRD will be sending a letter to the province outlining their requests.