Supporters of the proposed South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park do not expect a final announcement from the provincial government until the summer, but they may get a preview of a new draft of the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan a lot sooner than that.
According to Marc Imus, the strategic planning co-ordinator for the Lillooet LRMP, work is continuing on the draft, and they expect to release their documents shortly for public comment.
The South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park was created after the previous NDP government ruled on two options presented by LRMP table members after five years of discussions. After it was adopted in the last session before an election was called, local communities asked the new Liberal government to disregard the plan because it did not include an economic impact assessment.
An economic assessment has since been completed that supports the creation of the park, but the plan was reopened to review the size of the proposed park, to further consult First Nations, and to comply with new government policies specifically the results-based Forest and Range Practices Act, which replaces the Forest Practices Code, and a Working Forest initiative that would protect timber access for forestry companies.
Environmentalists are concerned that that Working Forest Legislation announced by the provincial government on Jan. 22 will extend corporate rights over more than half of the provincial landmass. They argue that the law would make it impossible to create new parks, protect drinking water, provide habitat for endangered species, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, maintain scenic areas and views for the tourism industry, and reach First Nations land settlements.
Groups supportive of the South Chilcotin Mountains Park are already concerned that the government is delaying their final decision regarding the park until after the International Olympic Committee votes on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games which means its probably "bad" news.
"The government has no right to hold this decision over our heads like this," said Joy Foy, the campaign co-ordinator for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, in addressing the AWARE annual general meeting on Jan. 19.
"I dont know, but I feel in my heart that this means that theyve already caved into the resource industry on this one, and they dont want that decision to hurt their chances of winning the Olympic bid. I cant see any other reason why they would wait this long when we were told to expect a decision before last summer."
Environmentalists are concerned that the proposed Working Forest Legislation could ultimately affect the future South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park.
The province has stated in the past that the park designation made by the previous government wasnt official, and that they were within their rights to reduce it in size from a planned 72,000 hectares. If the Working Forest Legislation becomes law before the government announces its decision on the park, government would then have to compensate timber license holders in the area with cash or land and might be inclined to go smaller than supporters are asking for.
No date was set for the draft release of the Lillooet LRMP, as table members are still working to reach compromises with First Nations groups in the LRMP area.