The B.C. government is keeping quiet about its review of the Lillooet Land and Resources Management Plan and the Southern Chilcotin Mountains provincial park.
Stan Hagen, the minister of sustainable resource management, was in Lillooet Aug. 23-24 to take a first-hand look at the controversial area and listen to local residents? concerns about the plan.
"Consensus was not achieved (on the LRMP) and a socio-economic review was not done," Hagen told Pique Newsmagazine in an exclusive interview at the Lillooet Forest District offices. "This shouldn?t be a surprise. We promised to review the decision and that?s what we?re doing."
The NDP government was presented with two options by the Lillooet LRMP table. The NDP chose the "conservation" option rather than the "resource" option.
"It was obviously a way to buy back ?green? votes," Hagen said of the decision. "Many people contributed five years of their time and energy to this process and it won?t be wasted."
The NDP announced it had chosen the conservation option in April ? one day before Premier Ujjal Dosanjh called a provincial election.
"Mining was virtually overlooked in the LRMP," said Hagen. "Look at what generates wealth in B.C. ? resource industries."
Hagen did admit that the tourism industry is starting to play a bigger role in the province?s economy.
"There?s no question we need to look at economic diversification in this area," he said.
On their first day in Lillooet, Hagen and Yale-Lillooet MLA Dave Chutter met with LRMP and forest service staff before taking a five-hour helicopter tour of the area.
Hagen and Chutter flew over the Fraser River Canyon and into the Thompson River Valley between Spences Bridge and Lytton. The tour continued over Siska Creek, Stein Valley provincial heritage park, Melvin Creek, Lost Valley and the Bendor Range before a refueling stop in Gold Bridge.
Hagen and Chutter then flew into the South Chilcotin Range and landed briefly on Eldorado Mountain, which is in a contentious area of the newly created provincial park.
The tour then continued over the Bridge River glacier and headwaters, Bralorne, Shulaps Range, Nine-Mile Ridge, Camelsfoot Range and Yalakom River Valley, before arriving back in Lillooet.
After the heli-tour, Hagen and Chutter met with local government representatives, including the mayors of Lillooet and Lytton and local directors from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, and Lillooet residents, including the local community resource board and chamber of commerce.
This was Hagen?s first visit to the area. Hagen is also the MLA for Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Yale-Lillooet MLA Chutter lives in Merritt.
On the second day, Hagen and Chutter had separate meetings with resource-industry representatives and conservationists.
"We?re trying to meet with as many groups as we can," said Hagen.
"For a successful process, we need to have community support," added Chutter.
The Liberals? review hinges on the size of the Southern Chilcotin Mountains provincial park and a number of "deferred areas," which will be reviewed in Phase 2 of the LRMP process.
Industry groups and local residents want the Lillooet LRMP ? specifically the South Chilcotin area ? to include more resource development. The review has irked conservation and environmental groups.
According to Hagen, the Liberals? review will be completed in October. He did not say if there would be any changes to the current LRMP decision.
But Hagen did say something that would lead one to assume the current decision will not be left as is: "B.C. is back open for business."