The initial Sea to Sky Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) process was expected to take a year to complete, given that the provincial government at the time had no plans to introduce any additional parks or protected areas after creating a Protected Area Strategy for the region in 1996.
However, after more than six years — including almost four years of round table meetings among stakeholders — the Sea to Sky LRMP is still not complete. Most recently it has been sidelined while the province has been in negotiations with First Nations over their own land use plans. Those negotiations have been completed with In-SHUCK-ch and Squamish First Nations, and are underway with the Lil’wat Nation.
In the meantime, the Integrated Land Management Bureau, a division of Agriculture and Lands, is hosting a series of open house meetings in the Sea to Sky corridor to review the draft LRMP plan and how it will change as a result of the First Nations land use plans.
“There are new land use zones, for example, in Squamish and new protected areas,” explained Tracy Ronmark, who is administering the LRMP process for the province.
“We did have a plan going into negotiations with First Nations that showed what the public and stakeholders had recommended for land use, and we used that as a basis for negotiating so the plans are compatible in some ways.
“We view the agreements (with First Nations) as enhancing what the public saw and tried to stay very close to what the original recommendations were.”
According to Ronmark, the province hopes to wrap up negotiations with Lil’wat Nation in the next six months. Sometime after that the province will release a final draft of the LRMP and bring it to cabinet for approval.
None of the three First Nations that have land claims in the Sea to Sky LRMP area participated in the round table or stakeholder discussions, preferring to deal with the province on a one-on-one basis.
Johnny Mikes of Whistler was paid by the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) to represent conservation values during the stakeholder discussions. Although he was restrained from lobbying for any new protected areas by the LRMP’s terms of reference, he did succeed in winning concessions from the forest industry and other industrial users that will create special management areas limiting certain activities. Stakeholders also agreed to a moratorium on logging in certain areas that expired before the LRMP process could be concluded.
However, First Nations effectively kept the moratorium alive in areas considered a high priority by conservation groups by initiating their own land use negotiations.
That in turn has succeeded in protecting some key areas in conservancies that will be finalized once the proposed plans are adopted by the province.
“There are definitely some in the conservation community that are pleased with things like the conservancy in the Upper Elaho that came out of negotiations with the Squamish and Upper Rogers Creek that is part of the In-SHUCK-ch plan,” said Mikes. “A big chunk of the LRMP area is Lil’wat Nation territory so we’re eager to see how that’s going to be resolved.”
One area where Mikes was disappointed is in the lack of a regional plan to deal with Independent Power Projects.
“That’s definitely one of the main disappointments of the LRMP for me,” he said. “It’s also an issue that’s not going to go away, and people feel really strongly that we should have some sort of plan to decide where these run of river projects are built and how to deal with transmission corridors. It’s still the wild west as far as the IPPs are concerned.”
The Whistler open house for the Sea to Sky LRMP takes place tonight, Thursday, Sept. 13, at the Pan Pacific Hotel. The open house runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Members of the public will be able to give their input on the draft LRMP document and how it relates to First Nations plans.