Table members of the Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan are supporting the provincial cabinets decision to select a land-use option that would increase both parkland and industrial utilization within the 1.1 million hectare area.
"This is a sustainable decision that is good for our community," said Mike Kennedy of the Lillooet District Community Resources Board. "We now have the necessary framework to carry out the detailed planning for phase two. This decision has broad support within our local community."
Phase Two flushes out the wording and legalities of the specifics included in the phase one outline, a process which LRMP co-ordinator Phil Whitfield expects to complete by fall of 2002.
Unable to reach a consensus over key areas by the LRMPs deadline, table members submitted two options to the provincial cabinet this summer, which has final say under the LRMP terms of reference.
One option was sponsored by the forestry and mining communities, and asked that no new parks or protected areas be set aside above and beyond the 12 per cent that had already been set aside previous to the LRMP process.
The second option was sponsored by conservation and recreation interests, and asked for new parks and protected areas. It also recommended a sustainable increase in the annual allowable cut to compensate for any of the timber values lost in the creation of those protected areas, and provides access to mining in over 80 per cent of the land base.
On Aprl 17, the last day in cabinet before Premier Ujjal Dosanjh called the provincial election, he announced the decision to go with the conservation option on the basis that it is "good for the environment, working people and communities."
Prior to the cabinets decision, all table members even those who sponsored the first option said they would support whichever option was chosen, wrapping up five years of negotiations.
"This decision promotes a fair balance between all interests at the Lillooet LRMP table," said Norma Wilson of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. "We are convinced that this plan provides greater opportunity to diversify the local economy and offers greater certainty for the forest and mining industries. The plan also provides increased opportunities to generate economic benefits through development and diversification of recreation and tourism business based on the natural attributes of the area."
The conservation plan recommended 14 new protected areas, including a 71,400 hectare park for the Southern Chilcotin Mountains and Spruce Lake, a popular recreation area. The new park includes five major valleys with old growth forests and wildlife values such as grizzly and black bears, and California bighorn sheep. Conservation advocates have been trying to secure park status for the area for the past 60 years.
Yalakom Valley resident and Lillooet Community Resources Board vice-chair Bill Spencer called the cabinets decision "an outstanding achievement for which a lot of local people deserve credit.
"Over the past six years, Ive learned that there is strong support for conservation in this forest district and how elated and relieved many local residents are now that this courageous decision has been made.
"There has also been unswerving support from my aboriginal friends for any efforts made to ensure that the land and all species of fish, bird, animal and plant life are sustained here in perpetuity."