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Whistler tour operator appointed to BCAL board



Whistler’s Johnny Mikes is one of four new members to have been appointed by the province to the board of the B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation.

BCAL announced the move before the Easter weekend, marking the first time community and industry perspectives will be heard at the Crown corporation’s board level. To date, the BCAL board has been made up solely of 10 deputy ministers and the president and CEO of the corporation, Cassie Doyle.

Mikes will be bringing his 30 years of experience as a B.C. backcountry tour operator to the BCAL board table. His voice will be joined by those of environmental activist, Glenda Ferris of Houston; Namgis first Nations chief, William Cranmer of Alert Bay and Gil Arnold, director of the Environmental Mining Council of B.C.

BCAL says the appointments are designed specifically to reflect the voices of conservation and the environment, as well as First Nations and tour operators. "Crown land is a valuable public resource and I welcome their expertise and advice," said Ed Conroy, the minister responsible for BCAL.

The board generally meets on a quarterly basis unless issues require more immediate attention. Board members set the strategic direction of the Crown corporation and provide advice. They do not participate in the day-to-day management and decision-making process.

Dianne George, BCAL director of communications said the appointments were not made through a formal selection process. The Crown corporation sought the input of the government’s Agencies Boards and Commissions office which put forward a list of names.

"The minister was looking for people who had an interest and background in Crown land issues, particularly in backcountry recreation and tourism, first nations and mining," said George.

"It was very important for the minister to broaden the number of voices that were providing some of the strategic thinking," she said. "I certainly think this is an opportunity to now have those voices heard. That is not to say those interests and concerns weren’t being reflected previously through the mandates of the previous representatives. Certainly, the environment was represented by the Deputy Minister of Environment Lands and Parks. But this certainly adds a community perspective."

The new members will serve on a year-to-year basis at the discretion of the minister.

Mikes said he hopes to be able to offer constructive input on BCAL’s process of tenuring Crown land for commercial recreation. He is the owner-operator of Canadian River Expeditions, based out of Williams Lake. He has a solid history in the field and experience in dealing with the Crown corporation in various parts of the province.

"My father started the business when I was a kid and I have grown up with it. Our southern-most trip is in Chilcotin country and we have trips that run all the way up to the Arctic ocean in the Northern Yukon," said Mikes.

"I have come across a variety of land planning initiatives over the years and my business has had to deal with BCAL permitting and tenures in other places."

Mikes noted the Crown Corporation’s process of tenuring land for commercial recreation is at various stages throughout British Columbia. "It really is at different speeds… different points in time in different parts of the province. Whistler is quite different from other places."

He said he will have to be brought up to speed on the other aspects of the Crown corporation. "I am sure BCAL does a whole bunch of things I don’t even know about, but this tenuring initiative is a pretty new thing and, as we all know, it has had some growing pains. Hopefully, if nothing else, I can help make that process work better."

Mikes also sits on the board of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment and the Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C. He said the WTA has endorsed his BCAL appointment.