Proponents of the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park are pulling out all stops to get their point across, as they expect the government to make a decision on the park in the next few months.
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is taking out advertisements in community newspapers from Vancouver to Lillooet and on Vancouver Island and asking people to contact their MLAs in support of the park. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee recently sent a mail-out on the park to the media and members, asking them to do the same. In addition, the WCWC has committed to sending groups of protestors to public appearances of the Premier and other government ministers to keep the issue in the public eye.
Newspaper columnists in the Lower Mainland have also started to weigh in on the issue again, leading conservationists to believe that a government decision is on its way.
"The rumour mill out of Victoria is working overtime. Weve heard through channels that our government will be discontinuing the park, and conservationists are very concerned," said Joe Foy, WCWC campaign co-ordinator.
"So were increasing the intensity of our campaigns to get our message across, and thats to keep the park a park."
Groups in favour of dismantling the park, which was created by an order-in-council by the outgoing NDP government in 1991, have also intensified their campaigns recently. The council of Lillooet recently sent a letter to the provincial government in support of dismantling the park.
The Mining Association of B.C., the most vocal opponent of the park, has also been working to get its point of view across namely that the creation of the park undermines the entire industry by bringing uncertainty to land use in the province and scaring away investment.
The 72,000 hectare South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park, which was created by the NDP cabinet in its last day in office, has not been officially recognized by the Liberals.
It is thought that the final decision on the park will be a compromise, with the government approving a smaller park for the area, and opening up the rest of the area to resource extraction and recreation.
Supporters of the park believe it has high wildlife and tourism values, already bringing in an estimated $10 million a year to the local tourist industry. The area has been recognized as a top candidate for park designation since the movement to protect the South Chilcotins began in the 1930s.
The groups in favour of protecting the area include the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the Sierra Club of B.C., the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the South Chilcotin Mountains Wilderness Society, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, and a variety of other conservation and tourism groups.