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forestry rec study

By Loreth Beswetherick The Ministry of Forests, in conjunction with the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., has prepared a draft strategy for public recreation use in the Sea to Sky area, but the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. is worried not enough land will be set aside exclusively for non-motorized access. The entire Squamish Forest District, including the Sea to Sky Corridor, has been mapped and zoned for different types of public recreation use in both summer and winter. Some zones have been designated for motorized access while others have been marked for non-motorized use only. The draft strategy was due to be wrapped Friday, March 31 but the next steps, like when the strategy will be made public and how it will be implemented, are not yet clear. The Ministry of Forests’ regional recreation forester, Doug Herchmer, said the public recreation use strategy is similar to the one prepared by B.C. Assets and Lands for commercial recreation use in this area. "We are basically trying to do something similar for public recreation. We’ve been wanting to do this for a couple of years now." He said the ultimate goal is to be able to resolve conflicts between user groups. Those conflicts are predominately between snowmobilers and backcountry skiers in the winter and ATVs, mountain bikers and hikers in the summer. Herchmer said the Ministry started working with the Outdoor Recreation Council on the project before Christmas last year but signed an official agreement Jan 1. The Outdoor Recreation Council has retained Pemberton-based consultant Darlene Anderson for the work. Herchmer said the document, once finalized, will be used to guide the Ministry in overall strategic planning for this district. How it will be integrated with the BCAL strategy has not yet been determined. He said he hopes to have some public forums or open houses similar to the one recently held by BCAL. "The danger is in developing a plan or strategy that is not implementable in the field," said Herchmer. "We don’t have the staff and the resources to be running around and telling people you can’t be in this area or that area. "I think, that with what we are trying to do, we are going to have to have users buy into what we come up with." That way, said Herchmer, there will be a fair amount of automatic public compliance. "People can’t expect the government to be there looking over their shoulder." Anderson said the mapping and zoning generally reflects current public recreation use. She said areas already with roads will likely stay designated for motorized use. "I mostly tried to accommodate the current use." She said designating areas used extensively by snowmobiles already as non-motorized areas would be close to impossible to implement. This is what has the Federation of Mountain Clubs worried. FMBC president Lesley Bohm said backcountry skiers have already lost most of the easily accessible prime alpine areas to snowmobilers. She said in the last 20 years the enormous increase in motorized use has made traditional areas like Mount Brew, Brohm Ridge, Brandywine, Metaldome, Callaghan, Sproatt and the Squamish side of Tricouni Mountain unusable. She said the picture is fast repeating itself in the Duffey Lake Corridor. Bohm said the BCAL strategy leaves no area free of commercial recreation and most commercial recreation these days is motorized. "Nobody seems to want to reclaim any of the valleys we have lost because of the powerful snowmobile lobby," said Bohm. "My hope with this public recreation study is that some areas will be returned to non-motorized." Bohm said there is nowhere left to go for day trips in peace and quiet. "All the people we know don’t go out on overnights every single weekend and the only way you can get beyond Whistler and into the backcountry is to go overnight," she said. "Snowmobilers don’t care who else is there. We don’t ruin the experience for them but they ruin it for us. If Whistler is looking at its future as a tourism place they better watch out they don’t reduce the entire countryside to a buzzing hornets nests. Tourists aren’t gong to like that." Bohm noted Europe solved its backcountry crowding problem by banning motorized access altogether. Anderson said, however, the FMCBC will likely be surprised at the amount of area she has set aside for non-motorized use only, but she pointed out in other areas it would just be unrealistic. "Sure I could zone it but how are you going to implement it?" Anderson, a backcountry skier, hiker, mountaineer and Outward Bound instructor, said she knows which valleys are shorter and more suitable for pedestrian access. She also noted that even though areas may be zoned for non-motorized access, it does not mean they won’t be logged. "A lot of what the FMCBC wants is wilderness areas. I can’t create parks. That was done with the Protected Areas Strategy." The Outdoor Recreation council and Ministry of Forests will be meeting to discuss the next steps in the process. Both the public and the commercial recreation strategies will form part of the larger Squamish Land Use Plan being spearheaded by the Land Use Co-ordination Office. The plan will be similar to the Land Resource Management Plan currently being wrapped up in the Lillooet Forest District. The public recreation strategy will also help a Simon Fraser University student come up with ways to determine maximum carrying capacity for the commercial recreation zones in the area. If, for example, there is heavy public use in certain areas, fewer tenure applications may be approved by B.C. Assets and Lands for those zones.

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