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Campaign to save South Chilcotin park stepped up



Cabinet could discuss future of the park as soon as Dec. 10

Jay MacArthur, the President of the South Chilcotin Mountains Wilderness Society (SCMWS), has heard through the grapevine that the provincial government will discuss the future of a 72,000 hectare park, that was created in the finals hours of the previous government, in a cabinet meeting on Dec. 10.

A government spokesman could not be reached to confirm that the South Chilcotin Mountains are on the agenda, but a decision on the park is expected within the next few months.

"If you have not sent a letter to the premier or your MLA lately, this would be a good time to send another one," said MacArthur.

The government planned to rule on the boundaries of the park in July, but deferred the decision in order to consult First Nations and give the government time to finish its work on a results-based forest practices code, which will replace the existing Forest Practices Code in April of 2003.

Sensing that a decision is near, the debate over the future of the South Chilcotin Mountains park has heated up.

Environmental groups, including the SCMWS, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the B.C. arm of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club of B.C., the Valhalla Wilderness Society, and a variety of tourism-related businesses in the area have recently stepped up their campaigns to get the government to recognize the boundaries of the new park. All groups are encouraging members of the public to send letters to the premier and their MLAs as soon as possible.

The park was created by an order in council on the last day of the Ujjal Dosanjh NDP government before the 2001 election, based on two options presented by members of the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan after more than five years of discussions.

The so-called conservation option supported the creation of the park, as well as a number of smaller parks, conservation areas and special management zones. The resource option, which was signed off on by forest companies and an appointed representative for mining interests, also supported the creation of a park in the neighbourhood of 42,000 hectares.

After the park was created in cabinet, however, local governments from Lillooet, Lytton, Squamish and Pemberton, as well as the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, asked that the new government dismantle the park because no economic assessment had been made.

The government commissioned an economic assessment that went on to support the creation of the park, revealing that the area already contributed about $10.5 million to the local economy through tourism and recreation.