After four years of debate and discussion the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process is finally wrapping up. Judging by the wildly opposing viewpoints expressed at a Feb. 17 open house to discuss the most hotly contested areas, its not going to be a happy ending for everyone.
When the members of the LRMP table were unable to reach consensus over areas within the 1.1 million hectare Lillooet Forest District, the process moves on to "options", a process whereby table members are asked to submit their vision for the areas to the government, which will make the final decision. Interested parties presented those visions to the public at the open house in an attempt to draw support before the government makes its decision.
"Basically the room was divided into two camps," says Joe Foy, campaign co-ordinator for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. The WCWC brought two busloads of interested people from the Lower Mainland, including a group from Whistler.
"When we got up there, it was awfully hard for people to figure out what was gong on, but there were highlight forms that highlighted the fact that some of the people at that planning table wanted to see 32 per cent of the area protected, and some people wanted to see no more than 12 per cent protected."
The local forest industry presentation did include a park in the Chilcotins, but according to Foy, "it doesnt include any trees, just the alpine the people who know and love the area want to see a large area protected, about 90,000 hectares and that includes forest."
A proposed park for the South Chilcotins has been before the government for 60 years, and is one of the oldest park plans in the province. While other areas in the LRMP are of concern to recreational users and environmentalists, the South Chilcotins area is the one area all opponents of logging have agreed is crucial.
"Because were coming up to an election, and because there is no hold on logging these key areas, time is really on the side of the timber companies who continue to knock out valley after valley," says Foy.
"For conservation purposes its absolutely critical that the government quits stalling and makes some decisions now."
Following the meeting, the options and comment forms will go the provincial government. LRMP planners are optimistic that the government will make a decision by the end of March.