The South Chilcotin Mountains Wilderness Society wrote a terse letter to Premier Gordon Campbell and the Liberal government two weeks ago to set the record straight about the current status of the disputed South Chilcotin Mountains Park.
The letter was sent in response to comments made by Yale-Lillooet MLA Dave Chutter in the Legislature on April 21. According to Chutter, the "Premier of the day (Ujjal Dosanjh) ignored both options and arbitrarily created a protected area not a park, as the Wilderness Committee claims just before calling an election Opposition leader Carole James has falsely suggested that a consensus on the LRMP has been reached and wants this House to endorse her plan."
SCMWS begs to differ, pointing out in its reply that the South Chilcotin Mountains Park was created as a result of the previous government choosing one of two options presented by the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan forum.
"There was no cherry picking," wrote the SCMWS, "when the previous Government selected the Conservation, Recreation, Tourism and Community offer, without any modification whatsoever."
Furthermore, Order In Council 524 which was approved in 2001 on the former governments last day in power states that the regulations of the Park Act would apply to the area until the boundaries were made official through legislation.
As a result, the SCMWS takes the position that the area is already a de facto park, and that any decision to redraw the borders or allow activities such as mining and forestry would require the government to redraw park boundaries or revoke park status decisions that would be extremely unpopular.
For its part, the current government believes that the Order In Council creating the park ignored the wishes of people living in the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan area, and was issued outside of the normal LRMP process. Therefore, the government denies that the area has any kind of park status and reserves the right to alter the boundaries and to discard special management zones that were created outside of the boundaries through the Order In Council.
In a letter to a member of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, Premier Campbell himself stated that "Contrary to false claims by some groups, there is no provincial park in the South Chilcotins."
AWARE director Eckhard Zeidler says the governments position is hard to understand, given the facts.
"In the minds and hearts of British Columbians, it pretty much is a park," he said.
"Were disappointed that our members are being told that its not a park, when they know theres an Order In Council to direct it to become a park we dont appreciate the provincial government telling them it never received anything even approaching park status, when it has."