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Chilcotin park has parallels to East Kootenay protected area

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The B.C. government has yet to announce its decision on the fate of the controversial Southern Chilcotin Mountains Park.

Stan Hagen, the minister of sustainable resource management, told Pique Newsmagazine in a previous interview that a decision concerning the park would be made in October.

But according to Erik Kaye, the ministry's media relations manager, a decision is imminent.

"October's not over yet," he said this week.

Hagen travelled to the Southern Chilcotins in August to meet with local residents and listen to their concerns about the size of the 71,000-hectare park and its consequences on resource development, such as logging and mining.

"This shouldn't be a surprise," said Hagen. "We promised to review the decision and that's what we're doing."

After the Liberals were elected last May, the newly created government promised to conduct a socio-economic review of the order-in-council that created the park.

The former NDP government announced the park last April – one day before then-premier Ujjal Dosanjh called a provincial election.

"It was obviously a way to buy back 'green' votes," said Hagen.

But the Southern Chilcotin park is not the only protected area currently being reviewed.

The provincial government is also looking at overturning the decision that created the Southern Rocky Mountain Conservation Area, a 278,000-hectare protected area in B.C.'s southwest corner, near Fernie.

No decision has been announced.

The SRMCA was also created by the NDP in April through an order-in-council.

East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett has, like Hagen, accused the NDP of pandering to urban environmentalists in order to win votes.

Local residents are upset that the SRMCA was created without proper consultation and will prevent access to coal reserves.

Coal mining is the area's major industry but tourism is quickly catching up in economic importance.

Park proponents, meanwhile, are trying to turn part of the conservation area into a 100,000-hectare national park known as Flathead.

A similar proposal for the creation of a national park in the South Chilcotins surfaced during the mid-1990s.

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