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s to s land use

By Loreth Beswetherick The Squamish Forest District has become a playground on the doorstep of B.C.’s metropolitan core and the need for a co-ordinated land use management approach has become urgent. The different provincial government agencies all recognize this and, although they have had no official sanction yet from Victoria, they have started working on what is being called the Sea to Sky Public Land Strategy, public land meaning provincial Crown land. Community growth and tourism in the area is booming. Mining, forestry and environmental agencies are butting heads. There are destination ski resort proposals, commercial backcountry recreation tenure applications and a the bid to host the 2010 winter Olympics. Peter Jones of the provincial Land Use Co-ordination office said these are just some of the reasons highlighting the need for a united approach. "There is a need to improve co-ordination and fill in gaps and build on some of the consultations that have taken place," said Jones who is the LUCO program manager for the Lower Mainland region. One of those "consultations" is the new B.C. Assets and Lands commercial recreation strategy for the Sea to Sky area. It will be just one of several studies woven together to form a master land-use plan for the Squamish Forest District along the lines of the Lillooet Land Resource Management Plan. "There is a Timber Supply Review that has been under way where the B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation and the Ministry of Forests and B.C. Parks are working with the Outdoor Recreation Council on an inventory of public recreation use and areas of interest," said Jones. "There is a tourism opportunity study and, at the landscape level, there is the Forest Practices Code where the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment are working on several initiatives with regards to old growth areas and wildlife management plans." Jones said all those initiatives need to be brought together so the province has a more co-ordinated and balanced approach to handle the rapid community growth in the region and the boom in recreation and tourism. Jones said this approach is not novel. "It’s a challenge within the provincial government that exists everywhere in B.C. but the scale and complexity of the issues in the Squamish Forest District set it apart," he said. "There is no question the Squamish Forest District is an international playground next door to B.C.’s metropolitan core. It has got certain dynamics, as a result, that make it different from Vanderhoof or Fort St. John." The nuts and bolts of how the Squamish Forest District land use plan will be put together must still be determined by government but work has already started with the Inter Agency Management Committee, or IAMC, which was set up last year and is comprised of senior regional staff from 10 different provincial agencies. "Despite everyone’s differences, everyone I have talked to inside and outside of government are in agreement that there is a real need to improve the integration and co-ordination of all the different provincial initiatives," said Jones. "There is a sense of urgency that has come about for a bunch of reasons including community growth, the 2010 Olympics and some destination ski resort proposals in the corridor. So the IAMC said look, even though there hasn’t been a final decision by government on how to proceed with a planning process, we need to spend some effort internally on getting some of the technical work done and filling the gaps. That is what we have been doing to date." There is a potential the Sea to Sky Public Land Strategy could take a shape similar to the Lillooet LRMP, which has been in the works for the last four years but it will likely be less time consuming. Much more work has already been done in the corridor than has taken place in the Lillooet area, and in the Sea to Sky area it will be more a matter of filling in gaps. There will also be no debate over protected areas. Jones said government has made it quite clear that the Protected Areas Strategy for the Lower Mainland area has been completed, whereas in other areas of the province the amount of land to be protected is still an open question. "With other LRMPs they spend a substantial part of the time trying to resolve that question." Jones will be in Whistler Thursday, March 2 at the Myrtle Philip community centre from 7 to 9 p.m. for the B.C. Assets and Lands corporation information session on the new commercial recreation strategy.