The deadline for a report on proposed protected areas for the Lower Mainland region has been extended to the end of January. Members of the Lower Mainland Regional Public Advisory Committee believe they are making substantial progress in their negotiations and requested the extension prior to Christmas. Members are committed to working towards a consensus recommendation to government on a protected areas package for the Lower Mainland. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which wants the proposed Randy Stoltmann Wilderness Area included as a protected area, pulled out of the advisory committee last year because the Stoltmann area wasn’t being considered for protection. The Lower Mainland Regional Public Advisory Committee was formed last June to identify and propose to government areas for protection as part of the provincial government’s Protected Areas Strategy. Currently 10.6 per cent of the Lower Mainland’s land base is in protected area status. This number will increase to 13 per cent — roughly another 104,000 hectares. The proposed Stoltmann Wilderness Area is approximately 260,000 hectares. Several committee representatives have submitted proposals for new protected areas in the Lower Mainland region. A gap analysis is underway on all proposals, part of a systematic application of PAS goals and criteria to determine what resources or values are currently protected or warrant protection. As well, a socio-economic analysis is underway to assist the committee in arriving at protected area recommendations which consider all values. Some spotted owl conservation areas will be included in the recommendations to Cabinet, according to a Land Use Co-ordination Office press release. Spotted owl habitat not given protected area status will be managed under the special management guidelines currently being drafted by the Ministries of Forests and Environment, Lands and Parks. In the event that the committee is unable to reach a consensus the province’s Land Use Co-ordination Office will prepare a single recommendation for government by Jan. 31.