The Village of Telkwa has asked the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for more time to digest the proposed Recreation Management Plan for the Telkwa Range.
In 2016, the Telkwa Mountain Recreation Access Management group was formed to provide recommendations to the Ministry on access management in the Telkwa mountains. The plan is being put together because voluntary access for non-motorized and motorized use has not been effective. The Ministry wants to manage access to help the declining Telkwa caribou herd grow.
On Sept. 29, councillors asked for an extension until February 2018 for public comment on the proposed plan, but found out at their last meeting on Oct. 11 that they were only granted an extension until Oct. 14. In a letter from the the Ministry, it was stated that the tight timeline is because the recreation management plan is a regulation change under the Wildlife Act; and these changes are made on a biennial cycle, meaning if they miss this month’s deadline, changes won’t take affect until 2020. The letter said the delay would adversely impact the probability of caribou recovery.
At their last council meeting on Oct. 11, Telkwa council made a motion to write a letter to the Ministry and ask for more time again, stating the time for public input and response is not efficient.
“The assertion that we were contacted to participate in the committee, I certainly don’t have an email in my records to that end,” said Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen. “Ultimately, this is our backyard. This is Telkwa’s backyard. The access to this area is through Telkwa on Coalmine Road. It is literally our backyard and our recreation playground and the other activities that take place. We have huge frustrations with the way this rolled out. When they say, well you were invited. Where was our invitation? It doesn’t seem like there was an effort to engage the Village in the process.”
Councillors noted many concerns with the proposed plan including the lack of access for motorized use, protecting a herd that isn’t genetically indigenous to Telkwa, and uncertainty about whether or not industrial and commercial leaseholders were engaged in the process.
“From my perspective — and council feels the same way — there is a lot left to be desired from the process. It isn’t that we don’t support environmental protection,” Repen added. “We certainly aren’t prone to bowing to threats like the federal government is going to step in and close everything. I think that is an inappropriate reasoning for accepting a substandard process.”
President of the Bulkley Valley Quad Riders Society Dave Tolton hasn’t seen the proposed plan yet but said they were included in the initial planning process.
“We asked for one ride up Starr Basin and they said we could have that and we asked for one ride up to the Grizzly Plateau and were actually given two a year, so we basically got what we asked for,” said Totlon.
However, the Smithers Snowmobile club has also been involved in the planning process but is not happy with the proposed outcome, which gives them less of a playing field and is also not happy with how the process has been rolling out.
The letter to the Village of Telkwa from the Ministry also said there will be additional opportunities for council and members of the general public to provide comment during the Province’s official public review period. That period should take place mid to late November.