In 2008 the BC Liberals introduced to the Legislature a piece of legislation called the Resource Road Act. This legislation, which could have restricted your access to backcountry roads, was so contentious that the government was forced to withdraw it.
There is little doubt that reviewing the management of our back country roads is a worthwhile exercise. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that commonly held assets are managed properly for a range of values.
Last year, the government began a consultation process to develop a new Natural Resource Road Act and that public consultation occurred in November and December. Unfortunately, many of the stakeholders that should have been consulted feel that they were not given adequate opportunity to participate.
The government is proposing that the responsibility for use and maintenance of resource roads be transferred to private entities, usually the primary user of that road. While this may seem a logical way to reduce the burden of responsibility on government, it could restrict the use of that road by other current road users.
Rural residents rely on resource roads for access to recreational opportunities such as hunting, hiking, camping and fishing. Small resource industries and tourism operations also rely on these roads. Any changes to access and maintenance levels could have serious repercussions.
If your particular use of a resource road is not the primary use of that road, under this legislation you could have your access restricted.
And if you have built a business on that road, and you are designated as the primary user, you could find that in order to ensure access you will have to lay out a large sum of money to maintain that road. You may also have to take on liability for that road.
I fully understand that we must take action to ensure that public money is not needlessly spent maintaining roads that rightfully should be abandoned. And I understand that there are some roads that likely should be decommissioned for environmental reasons.
But I also understand that some of these roads provide much needed recreation and business activity that communities in this part of the province rely on. Great care must be taken to ensure that all the values provided by these roads are considered, and to ensure that we do not hastily move towards a system that has serious unintended consequences.
I’ve heard from prospectors, hunters, backcountry operators, hikers, ATVers, woodlot operators and a host of others. They all say that management of resource roads is too important to be handled with improper consultation and poorly written legislation.
Norm Macdonald is MLA for the Columbia River – Revelstoke riding.