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Letter to Minister Thompson

(Hon. Steve Thompson) 

Once again Minister Thomson I urge you to review an extremely weak argument that has resulted in the Gilpin Grasslands becoming an important motorized vehicle recreation area.

None of the salient points in a letter dated Dec. 30, 2014 and signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Gary Townsend will stand up to scrutiny. The most egregious point given in the letter is that Gilpin has been a motorized vehicle recreation area for thirty years is not true. The truth is that Gilpin has seen a significant increase in motorized recreation only the last five years. 

It is hard to comprehend why you would create a motorized vehicle recreation area on Gilpin when the scientific literature is very clear in describing the negative impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat. Your decision is polar opposite to what is happening within the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Electoral Area A; Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford. All three communities have funded an Access Management Compliance and Enforcement Program.

The introduction to the Access Management Compliance and Enforcement Program states the obvious. “In the Kootenay Region as well as over much of B.C. the rapid expansion in the resource road network and the growing popularity of four wheel drive and off-road vehicle use has resulted in a dramatic increase in public use of the forest roads and adjacent forest lands. This increase in public use has resulted in physical and human access related impacts on sensitive ecosystems, fish and wildlife populations and their habitats as well as a loss in diversity in traditional hunting, fishing and outdoor recreational experiences. Additional impacts on fish and wildlife habitat through the spread of invasive plant species, soil erosion and sedimentation of fisheries streams can also be directly related to unmanaged motorized access”.

I am sending you the introduction to the Access Management Compliance and Enforcement Program. The Table of Contents includes a map for each of 16 access management areas and recreation trails which describe the status of roads and trails.

The most encouraging event in the Access Management Compliance and Enforcement Program is that Regional District A; Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford has provided the funding to hire an access management enforcement officer who is also involved in educating the general public on the importance of access management.

The link to the Outdoor Access Guide RDEKA is:

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/kootenay/eco/accessmaps.htm

I thank Conservation Service Inspector Joe Caravetta for providing me with the information that highlights the failure of your staff to recognize Gilpin’s unique value as an important wildlife area. I also received a two page paper titled “Access Management in the Kootenay Region” that cites two sections of the Wildlife Act. Section 108 allows the Ministry to place restrictions on the use of motorized vehicles for the purpose of hunting and fishing and Section 109 that allows the Ministry to place restrictions on the use of all motorized vehicles within a specified area for the purpose of wildlife management including the protection of fish and/or wildlife habitat and ecosystems.

How many thousands of acres of critical wildlife habitat in the grassland ecosystem of our province have been lost to development since August 1972 when Frank Richter, a rancher and Cabinet Minister in the WAC Bennett Socred Government convinced his cabinet colleagues to  purchase  the 1470 acre Boothman Ranch for $190,000.00 because of its importance to wildlife?

How many critical wildlife habitat acres have been lost since the Mike Harcourt NDP Government recommended Gilpin be designated a Special Management Area because of its rich biodiversity during the 1994-96 West Kootenay/Boundary Commission on Resources and Environment?

How many acres of critical wildlife habitat have been lost since your former Cabinet colleague, Barry Penner who as Minister of Environment convinced his cabinet colleagues to support the creation of the Class A Gilpin Grassland Provincial Park in 2007?

The Draft Management Plan July 2008 for the proposed Gilpin-Morrissey Wildlife Management Area supported by your former colleague, Barry Penner when he was the Minister of Environment  states on page 14 “All non-status roads would remain open to motor vehicles- environmental assessments may be required to ensure recreational use does negatively impact wildlife and wildlife habitat. There will be a focused effort on reducing the number of redundant roads”.

I urge you to instruct your staff to convene a meeting in Grand forks for the specific purpose of creating an access action plan that supports the rationale of why three provincial governments       acknowledged the significance of the Gilpin Grasslands as a critical wildlife habitat area

What will come of our wildlife resource if wildlife habitat is going to be subject to popularity initiatives that have no connection to science or democratic process that embraces the hallmarks of good governance transparency and accountability?

I urge you to distance yourself from all of the voices that have forced you to make decisions that have resulted in the collapse of integrity in wildlife and wildlife habitat management and reflect on the prophetic observation of Preston Manning, the godfather of the Reform Party now an integral part of the National Conservative Party of Canada, who in an article that appeared in the National Post January 3, 2015 stated the obvious; ”The Manning Center’s public opinion polls point to environmental issues becoming one of the top priorities of younger Canadians”

Barry Brandow