The consensus-based process adhered to by the Columbia Valley Recreation Access Coalition (CVRAC) doesn’t appear to have the consent of all the community’s stakeholders, which is why the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has put its staff involvement on hold, a Ministry spokesperson told The Valley Echo.
“The committee is in early stages of discussion, and had requested some advisory assistance from local ministry staff who attended initial planning meetings,” said the spokesperson. “But, since the committee is not yet fully assembled and some key stakeholders have yet to be invited to the table or may be unable to able to commit to such an initiative, the ministry decided to put its staff involvement on hold while it works on existing projects.”
Last week The Valley Echo reported that the Ministry had pulled its staff out of monthly CVRAC meetings that had to do with beginning a recreational access management plan for the Columbia Valley. The grassroots group was formed in October 2011 by local citizens and interest groups who wished to better plan for backcountry and recreation access management in the Invermere Timber Supply area. Accusations have since come forward that the meetings are more weighted towards some people’s agendas more than others, and are not being conducted democratically.
The spokesperson explained the ministry had not commenced or endorsed such a planning project.
BC Liberal candidate for Columbia River-Revelstoke Doug Clovechok said it’s not that the ministry doesn’t support a recreational management plan for the area. The issue is more to do with the way the plan is unfolding and the process around it.
“I believe that we should have a backcountry management plan, I do,” Clovechok said. “I think we should have one for this valley and I know that the ministry agrees with that but it’s got to be done in the right way and having people meet and discuss, that’s good, that’s how great ideas are borne and how things happen, but once you get to a point where you’ve got a group of people who are actually dictating to the other people, ‘This is what you’re going to do and you can’t talk unless you’re the sector representative… ‘ Who appointed you guys and who elected you?”
“I think that one of things we cannot have is to have these kind of spin off groups or self-motivated groups starting to create policy around anything when they’re self-appointed and self-elected.”
Wildsight development director and CVRAC steering committee member Kat Hartwig said the planning was about looking after the Columbia Valley, which everyone loves and recreates in.
“To me, it just seems that there is an initiative to filibuster the whole process and I don’t know why,” she said. “People who’ve been concerned that it’s not a democratic process have been asked to volunteer and step up to the steering committee so they can run the process but they haven’t done that, so it’s very confusing to me — on one hand they’re attacking the process but on the other hand they’re not stepping up to make it a better process as a volunteer.”
The Ministry spokesperson said the two other East Kootenay backcountry recreation access management plans — in Golden and Revelstoke — occurred roughly five to eight years ago under different circumstances and in a more favourable fiscal climate.