Much-maligned park could be opened to resource development
The Liberal governments review of the Lillooet LRMP, including the 71,000-hectare Southern Chilcotin provincial park, is causing concern among local conservationists.
"This could be the beginning of an assault on B.C.s provincial parks and protected areas," said Eckhard Zeidler of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment. "Whats next? Garibaldi?"
According to Zeidler, AWAREs backyard wilderness co-ordinator, the Liberals are pulling a page out of a former provincial governments playbook.
During its four decades in power, the pro-business Socreds opened Vancouver Islands Strathcona provincial park to resource development. (Strathcona, established in 1911, was B.C.s first provincial park.)
"Were somewhat distressed," said Zeidler. "(Southern Chilcotin) park is a bellwether."
Zeidler also said he was concerned about what the review means for the Sea to Sky land-use planning process.
"It might set a troubled precedent," he said. "But were hopeful that theyll make the right decision."
The Liberals review, however, is winning accolades from people who live near the park.
Russ Oakley, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional Districts Area A director who represents the Gold Bridge-Bralorne area, said hed like to see the park reduced in size to accommodate mining explorations.
"It has the potential to be a productive area," he told Pique Newsmagazine .
Oakley noted that the mining industry has been active in the area since the 1890s. "It could be a real hot spot again," he said.
Sustainable Resources Minister Stan Hagan is scheduled to meet with concerned citizens and industry groups Aug. 23 in Lillooet.
Southern Chilcotin park, which includes the popular Spruce Lake recreation area, was created last April through an order-in-council by the NDP government one day before the provincial election was called.
Oakley and other members of the SLRD board have said the NDP decision was deliberately stickhandled through the legislature to win votes from environmentally-conscious urbanites.
The SLRD voted in June to reject the park and the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plans "conservation" option.
The NDP was forced to choose between two options a "conservation" and a "resource" plan after the LRMP negotiating table couldnt reach a consensus on its own.
At the time, the table members agreed to abide by the governments decision.
According to the LRMP, more than 80 per cent of the land base is still open to resource development. About half that area is dedicated for industrial activities, such as forestry, mining, tourism and agriculture.
A disclaimer written into the plan gives the provincial government including the newly elected Liberals the authority to change that decision.
The Liberals promised to review the plan, which they say does not include a socio-economic impact analysis, as part of their election promises.
"The park covers 35 per cent of the area and the majority of residents feel thats a bit overdone," said Oakley. "Were not against parks but there needs to be a balance."