Regional Rundown: Three important Columbia Valley initiatives

The grandeur and diversity of the landscape in the valley provides opportunities for outdoor recreation activities and economic benefit.

In a previous article, I outlined the provision and management of a wide range of Regional District of East Kootenay community services which I am involved in and responsible for as director for Area G. I have also enjoyed participating in a wide variety of volunteer community and regional initiatives. Just as it teems with biodiversity, the Columbia Valley is also alive with creativity and a strong sense of the need for responsible and constructive socio-economic and environmental planning. A large number of proposals and initiatives are out there. Because of space, I will just discuss three of them.

The Columbia Headwaters Community Forest is awaiting provincial government approval to begin operational planning. Guided by a knowledgeable board of directors and endorsed by all local governments in the valley, the community forest would join over 50 other community forests throughout B.C.

The objective of our community forest is to provide long-term micro-management of a defined area of forest in our valley region to reflect community values and priorities, including protection of local watersheds, recreational and cultural activities, ecological bio-diversity and viewscapes. Of equal importance is the local benefit of employment, opportunities for value-added processing, environmental education, research, training for forestry careers, and increased participation by the valley community in management of their “own” forest. The community forest’s economic management goal is straightforward: all profit is to be reinvested.

The Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners is a diverse group of representatives from local First Nations, provincial, federal and local government, and community organizations encouraged by the provincial government to develop effective stewardship and management practices for the Columbia River Wetlands. The result of one of the partners’ current scientific projects widely anticipated this spring is a successful reintroduction of the endangered leopard frog into the Wetlands.

The Stewardship Partners are completing a guide for recreation users of the river from its headwaters at Canal Flats to the beginning of the Kinbasket reservoir just north of Golden. The Upper Columbia is the only remaining stretch of the river in North America still in a relatively natural state; it’s a biophysical paradise to be carefully managed just as it is celebrated and enjoyed.

The grandeur and diversity of the landscape in the Upper Columbia Valley provides exceptional  opportunities for outdoor recreation activities and economic benefit. These activities have been increasing year after year largely because of our proximity to Calgary. But this is the only region in the East Kootenay that does not have a provincial statutory plan for managing recreational access (motorized and non-motorized use) of provincial Crown land. Recognizing this, representatives from a number of local outdoor recreation organizations have been meeting over the past two years under the name of the Columbia Valley Recreation Access Council to try to establish recommendations for an eventual plan to manage the conflict and environmental impact of increasing recreational activities.

While supporting the goals of the recreation access council, the provincial government Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is concentrating on resource development and for the time being is not undertaking any further land use planning. However, recent discussion with management at the ministry indicate that they encourage the access council to continue working together, and that Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations staff will be available on an occasional basis to attend meetings to answer questions and provide some planning information.

Gerry Wilkie is the regional district director for Area G, and can be reached at gdwilkie@cyberlink.bc.ca .

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