The Draft Winter Motorized Recreation Management Plan released for public consultation on May 19th, 2021 is not supported by the BC Snowmobile Federation or science. Though their documents refer to the snowmobile sector being involved in the drafting of this strategy this plan is a long way from what we recommended. We have removed ourselves and our clubs from the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee and this plan.
But we want to be clear we are not opposed to recovering caribou or the shared recovery objective of “immediately stabilizing and expeditiously growing the population of the Central Group to levels that are self-sustaining and support traditional aboriginal harvesting activities, consistent with existing Aboriginal and Treaty rights”.
We are opposed to how the Province wasted our time pretending that we were creating a winter motorized management plan in the South Peace. At the time we started our work in 2020 we were clearly told, repeatedly, that there were no lines on a map and as important stakeholders that we were there to inform a draft snowmobile management strategy for the South Peace. With the plan they just released incorporating almost none of our recommendations it is apparent that 100% closure was the goal and that there were in fact lines on the map. They should have just gone straight to the public and saved 450 hours and $20,000 dollars of snowmobilers money trying to get it right. We are concerned that the public consultation will be treated no differently but still feel it is important for the people of BC to document their concerns through EngageBC.
We are now being told that the communities and politicians in the South Peace are being briefed and told that they could not accept the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SPSAC) recommendations as we were not willing to make the hard decisions.
Did we make the hard decisions in our report? You bet we did. Before we even started making recommendations for closure it was demonstrated that we do not snowmobile in 75% of caribou primary core use habitat that the threshold that caribou needed to prosper was already met. The Species at Risk threat analysis lists 65% of undisturbed habitat was needed and they had that and were already increasing in herd size. Still we believed in the objective provided to us and worked to review the 25% where we did have overlap to try to create separation. Why? because we wanted to do everything we could to support caribou recovery. So of that 25% we proposed the closure of 68% of caribou primary core use habitat which was a really hard decision. That 68% was our highest value area in the region being the terrain at or above treeline. Our plan brought the protected habitat in the South Peace to 92% and contributed significantly to the recovery objective. The 8% that we did not identify for closure was to meet our second objective which was to “maintain use of highest value and most unique winter motorized recreation areas and a diverse mix of opportunities in the region”. These were areas that were important tourism opportunities for the region or provided access to regionally unique opportunities. Our plan included a comprehensive education package to mitigate interactions and therefore disturbance.
The BC Snowmobile Federation recognizes the importance of snowmobiling not only to the lifestyles of British Columbians but also the economies of rural communities. Areas within the South Peace are no exception to this and are consistently rated as some of the best snowmobiling areas in Canada. The tourism potential of the region for winter recreation has yet to be realized but even today contributes almost 40 million a year, employs 444 people in the region and supports 5 snowmobile dealerships.
Our objection is that if Government has the goal of closing an area 100% to the people of BC they should be upfront and tell people that. Since the work started in the South Peace government has not been listening. They put out the Section 11 Agreement and Partnership Agreement for public consult. Immediately it was obvious that the people were not in support and felt that this agreement was negotiated behind closed doors. The Province just attached a "what we heard report" to each agreement and signed them anyway. Then the Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery gathered almost 60,000 signatures requesting a proper consultation that included a socio economic study of what their plans were going to do to the economy of the South Peace...still didn't change a thing. The Premier decided he needed an ally in the region to help him get people on side and appointed Blair Lekstrom to advise him on next steps. But it is apparent that Mr. Lekstrom also did not recommend what he wanted to hear which forced him to resign.
After all of that, the Province claimed to have realized their mistake and wanted to include stakeholders in the next steps. They created the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee to provide them formal advice on managing motorized recreation in the South Peace to support caribou recovery. This committee was the only opportunity the community mayors and snowmobile clubs would be provided into next steps. Looking back now, I don't know why we were surprised that this had the same outcome as the rest. Pretend to consult the stakeholders, decide you didn't like what they had to say then attach a "what we heard report" and continue with the plan to close the South Peace completely. Someone in Victoria believes they know what's best and will just continue to make decisions to support that direction. Who that someone is, we may never know, but it is obvious they have a lot of decision making power and unless the people across BC stand up to stop what is happening in the South Peace it is only going to continue spreading across BC.
The 299 million dollars our sport provides to the rural winter economy of BC is being eroded one sham consultation after another. We are being targeted through caribou recovery plans across BC. The reality is they need a bad guy and they have chosen us. The decisions they are making do not improve caribou survival. They closed a million hectares to snowmobiling in 2007 and not one herd has improved. That is because snowmobiles do not kill caribou and the threat we pose is listed as low but still they continue to close large tracts of land to snowmobile access and spend the bulk of their budgets on monitoring and enforcement for snowmobiling. It looks great on paper as they created an action, they implemented that action and they can do regular monitoring reports. Those monitoring reports are not whether caribou have had a positive response but rather compliance reports on snowmobile access. Closing areas to snowmobilers is done because they have a strong and easy tool to use...don't believe us listen to this Government Biologist explain it himself.
The draft plan for the South Peace they have released makes it clear it is not about snowmobiling at all. They have proposed significant snowmobile closures in caribou Summer Range and in areas where herds went extinct years ago. The threat from snowmobiles as explained to us was disturbance. In order to create disturbance the snowmobiles and the caribou need to be in the same place at the same time. This does not occur on a landscape where caribou herds are extirpated (extinct) or that they only use in the summer.
So our question back to the Province of BC is are you willing to do the hard work and come back to the table with the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee and find a solution that supports caribou recovery and continued snowmobile tourism opportunities that is supported by the people of the South Peace?
We are calling on all people of the South Peace to support the snowmobile sector by signing our petition to the Minister because your summer recreation, hunting and livelihood is next. We also encourage you to contact your local town council, MLA and MP. We have included their contact information on the left.