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South Peace

  • Donegal Wilson posted an article
    The BCSF reviewed the draft Partnership Agreement and submitted our comments to Government see more

    The B.C. government, the federal government, West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations have been negotiating an Inter-Governmental Partnership Agreement for the Conservation of the Central Group of the Southern Mountain Caribou (“Partnership Agreement”). The draft Partnership Agreement applies to the Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou in the South Peace.

    The BCSF reviewed the draft agreement and submitted the attached comments to Government on behalf of BCSF Member Clubs.

    The top five key points of our response are:

    1. Term of Agreement should be five years-It is apparent in reading the Agreement that the proposed 30 year term does not match the actions laid out in the Agreement. The terms and schedules to the Agreement are short term or immediate in scope and much of the language is referencing items to be developed, possible projects to be considered, targets to be determined, temporary committees, interim measures and schedules that only apply to implementation of the Agreement of itself.  We think that the Parties need to embrace that this is new ground and instead use this agreement as the stepping stone to the creation of a long-term vision on caribou recovery with broad public support. 
    2. Managing motorized recreation– We are concerned the Agreements includes an action to implement the Central Group Caribou Motor-Vehicle Closure Engagement Plan. Our concern is based on that we have asked for a copy of this plan and have been told that the document has not been finalized nor can it be shared as of closing of this consultation period.  So we do not know what we agreeing to or commenting on.
    3. The Klinse-za Park expansion-  The current Klinse-za Park is listed as “Off-Road Vehicles (ORVs) being prohibited in the existing park. ORVs include ATVs, off-road motorcycles, snowmobiles and side-by-sides.” The wording to expand the park without including this key piece of information makes it unclear to us and the public of the Parties intention to make zone B3 a non-motorized area. The expansion of this park effectively removes snowmobiling from two high value snowmobile areas to the community of Chetwynd and will not include the snowmobile sector in reviewing this action or its boundaries. 
    4. Habitat Restoration Projects –They are planning to undertake restoration projects but the list of projects has not been provided.  Habitat Restoration and lineal line removal can seriously impact snowmobile access but does not seem to have any requirement for consultation. By removing access to an area you do effectively close the area without a requirement to consult impacted users. This results in forcing the public onto unsafe access trails or can result in illegal trail building.
    5. Public Consultation-The agreement states that all consultation must be completed within four months of the initialing of this Agreement. We have been told that the Agreement was initialed on March 1, 2019 which makes the end of public engagement to be June 30th. With the public consultation sessions that were held in the Northeast scheduled only ten days after the agreement was released, we question the ability for the public to be properly informed or effectively participate in a consultation process. Also, the four month timeline also does not allow for the Parties to implement any of the feedback from the public or bring back a second draft for review. 

    To read the full response letter that was submitted please open the attached file.  

  • Donegal Wilson posted an article
    Blair Lekstrom's report "the Path Forward to Recover the Caribou Plan in Northern BC" was released see more

    Blair Lekstrom's report "the Path Forward to Recover the Caribou Plan in Northern BC" was released today.  The BCSF submitted our comments to Mr. Lekstrom to help inform his report and we also submitted our recommendations to all proposed signatories on the Agreement at the end of May.  You can read our full list of recommendations here.  

    The recommendations Mr. Lekstrom has made are:

    1. Government must not move the Partnership Agreement forward until full and proper engage- ment has occurred with Local Governments in the Peace Region, the District of Mackenzie, Industry, and Back Country user groups. Engagement must be done in a manner that is inclusive, transparent and be given the time to achieve public support. 
    2. Ensure proper consultation with and possible inclusion of both McLeod Lake Indian Band and Lheidli-T’enneh First Nation in the rebalanced Partnership Agreement. 
    3. A comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Analysis must be completed in cooperation with the impacted areas of the Partnership Agreement prior to the agreement being finalized. 
    4. Recognizing that it will take time to rebalance the Partnership Agreement and ensure the document can be more fully accepted and supported by the region, impose a temporary moratorium on Zones A2 and B3 until a comprehensive engagement process is complete and all possible options are considered.
    5. The province needs to work with the Forest Industry to identify ways to mitigate any negative impact on volume from the deferral zones. Through discussion this may then ensure AAC is made available from adjacent units. 
    6. Moving forward remove zones B2 (Klinze-sa park expansion) and B5 (proposed West Moberly First Nations Woodland license) from the Partnership Agreement as both of these issues were agreed to prior to the development of the PA. If the province moves forward with a Woodlands license for West Moberly First Nations the requirement to harvest that timber must be actioned or the license should not proceed. 
    7. Ensure that moving forward that the rebalanced Partnership agreement include but not be limited to the following; 
      1. A clause that states it is not the intention of the agreement to impact negatively the industry which operates in the region and such a clause should reflect the view that supports the continued viability of industry (this clause can be discussed and developed by the parties engaged at the consultation table); 
      2. Ensure enhanced, fair and equitable representa- tion on both the Caribou Recovery Committee (section 8) and the Technical Working Group; 
      3. Develop the Central Group Caribou Motor- Vehicle Closure Plan in cooperation with user groups prior to the finalization of the Partnership Agreement and include it in the document (section 38); 
      4. Define the Indigenous Guardian Program and include it in the final Agreement (section 40 and 41); 
      5. Revisit the Dispute Resolution Process with a view to make it much clearer (sections 61 and 62); 
      6. Ensure the Mitigation and Offset program is developed and defined and included in the Agreement (section 35); 
      7. Ensure the development of the Managing Predation (section 39) is inclusive of those referred to in recommendations 1 and 2; and 
      8. Ensure each clause contained in the agreement is written in a clear and concise manner that can be easily understood. 
    8. Government continue to provide funding for the caribou maternal penning program which is seeing positive results in the growth of the number of caribou. 
    9. Government continue with funding provided for the caribou feeding program which is seeing positive results in the growth of the number of caribou. 
    10. Continue with the Wolf cull program in the Peace Region which is leading to a positive result in the number of caribou. 
    11. Pursue the possibility of implementing a captive breeding program for caribou. 
    12. Moving forward work with the Peace River Regional District and the District of Mackenzie to determine a possible overarching group that could be used as the lead table in discussions as they relate to these issues, as well as any future issues that may impact the region. This group should include all of those referenced in recommendation 1 as well as First Nations if they would agree to participate. This may be an option that government wishes to pursue in other regions as well, which could help alleviate ending up in a similar position to what we find ourselves in with regard to the Caribou agreements. 
    13. The Federal Government must accept responsibility for the costs associated with any mitigation measures which may be needed to offset any negative impacts the final agreements may have on communities, industry, back country user groups and individual workers who may be negatively impacted. This recommendation reflects the fact that it is the Federal Governments Species at Risk Act which has led to the development of both the Section 11 Bilateral Agreement and the Draft Partnership Agreement. 
    14. Although not within the jurisdiction of the prov- incial government, I would recommend that the Federal government incorporate the need for a full and comprehensive Socio-Economic Impact Analysis be part of all at risk species deliberations under the act and such a section be included in an amended Federal Species at Risk legislation. 

    A full copy of Mr. Lekstrom’s report is attached.

    From a press release made today made by Premier Horgan it is apparent that he plans to at least implement some of the recommendations:

    “Government is implementing an interim moratorium on new resource development in parts of northeastern British Columbia, while providing more time to protect jobs and support workers as it engages with affected communities and industries on long-term caribou protection strategies.”

  • Donegal Wilson posted an article
    Shows a strong desire to recover caribou while maintaining quality opportunities for snowmobiling see more

    Caribou Recovery & Snowmobile Management in the South Peace

     

    Keremeos, BC (February 3rd 2021) -- The Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou have been listed as threatened under the federal Species at Risk Act. The Government of British Columbia, Government of Canada, West Moberly First Nation and Saulteau First Nation developed and endorsed the Intergovernmental Partnership Agreement for the Conservation of the Central Group to the Southern Mountain Caribou (Partnership Agreement) on February 21, 2020. This agreement sets out the actions that the signatories will take to achieve 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”.

    Many of the most popular snowmobiling areas in the South Peace overlap important caribou habitat. Though not the primary driver of caribou population decline, snowmobiling can create undesirable impacts on caribou by disturbing or displacing animals to lower quality habitat.  Recognizing this, the Partnership Agreement committed the province to Clause 37 which outlines the commitment for the consultation of technical experts, first nations, local governments and snowmobile clubs to inform the design and implementation of a winter motorized recreation management plan to mitigate disturbance and displacement of caribou. This clause created the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SPSAC) and enabled it to be involved with the development of management options for winter motorized recreation access.

    The attached “Caribou Recovery & Snowmobile Management in the South Peace” is the recommendations of the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SPSAC) which included the BC Snowmobile Federation, the snowmobile clubs in the South Peace, local communities, and the Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery.  In total the committee members attended 13 meetings, which were a combination of in person and virtual meetings, and committee members dedicated more than 450 hours of volunteer time to this process.

    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 scope of this report 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.

    The BC Snowmobile Federation believes that the attached recommendations developed by the SPSAC show a strong desire to recover caribou while maintaining quality opportunities for snowmobiling in the South Peace.  The data reviewed during the creation of this report included current herd data and habitat usage for the last five years to ensure that recommendations were current and relevant.  The Committee felt strongly that Adaptive Management needed to be a core principle of any management plan going forward to ensure that changes in landscape, herd movement and snowmobile usage can all be reviewed regularly. 

    Now that the SPSAC report has been delivered to the decision makers we hope that our recommendations will be given weighted consideration in the development of the winter motorized recreation management plan for the region.  This plan is a small part of a much larger and complicated recovery plan needed to help the Government meet its objective of creating self-sustaining populations of caribou to support traditional aboriginal harvesting activities.  Managing snowmobiling alone will not achieve this objective but the BC Snowmobile Federation Clubs will continue to be leaders in caribou recovery and support the province in its efforts to restore Southern Mountain Caribou to self-sustaining populations across British Columbia. 

    The BC Snowmobile Federation is a non-profit society created in 1965 to establish, maintain and protect quality opportunities for organized snowmobiling in BC. The BCSF collectively represents 60 snowmobile clubs and 44,000 riders in the Province of BC.  On the ground, our member clubs are non-profit societies maintained by caring volunteers who promote safety, stewardship, and responsible backcountry snowmobile recreation.

  • Nicole Matei posted an article
    The BC Snowmobile Federation Establishes New Snowmobile Infrastructure Fund see more

    The BC Snowmobile Federation Establishes New Snowmobile Infrastructure Fund

    South Peace Snowmobile Clubs the first to benefit with a $330,000 investment

     Keremeos, BC (Apr 08 2022) -- The BC Snowmobile Federation (BCSF) is excited to announce our new program, the Snowmobile Infrastructure Fund.  This Fund has been created to support the ongoing investment in snowmobile club trails, equipment and infrastructure to grow snowmobile opportunities in BC.  The BCSF has secured our first investment of $330,000 from the Province of BC - Caribou Recovery Program for the Snowmobile Clubs located in the South Peace region.  

     

    This investment has established a new segment of our Snowmobile Infrastructure Fund specifically for the snowmobile clubs in the South Peace including the Rocky Mountain Riders (Mackenzie), Pine Valley Trail Blazers (Chetwynd) and the TR Ridge Riders (Tumbler Ridge).  The Province has made this investment to enhance snowmobile opportunities in the South Peace Region that were impacted by recent winter motorized closure decisions to support caribou recovery.  The funds will be used to improve access, parking, trails, grooming, and other associated snowmobile infrastructure in the areas that remain open to our riders.  

     

    From the Vice President of the TR Ridge Riders, Ryan Lamming “We are extremely excited to have some progress made towards solidifying a management plan in our region. With so much uncertainty over the last few years, we can now put some of that behind us and start planning for development. Our communities and members have been so patient during this process and it'll be nice to have some answers for them in the very near future. We have big plans for our club and they all encompass growth which didn't seem to be an option when initially viewing the management plans. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the BCSF and the clubs for all their tireless efforts in ensuring that our communities and it's members, continue to enjoy our pristine backcountry riding areas".   


     From the BCSF Executive Director, Donegal Wilson “This region has been held back from snowmobile development for many years while the caribou recovery plans were being considered.  During this period our clubs have been in a state of limbo, unable to make investment or establish any snowmobile trails permanently.  The initial process is now complete, and though we do not agree with all of the land use decisions that were made,  we do appreciate that the Province honored its commitment to invest in snowmobiling in the region.  This will allow snowmobile clubs to move ahead with the needed infrastructure for their ridership while we continue to work with the Province designing innovative ways we can support caribou recovery and simultaneously allow snowmobile access". 

     

    From the BCSF President, Peter Doyle “It is our vision that the BCSF Snowmobile Infrastructure Program will continue to grow with new partners and a continuing investment to support our clubs across BC.  We know that snowmobile tourism is driven by quality trails that have ample parking, maps, trails that are clearly signed, emergency shelters to warm up in and smooth trails that are freshly groomed.  This fund was established to support snowmobile clubs in investing strategically together to grow our snowmobile opportunities in BC.”

     

    The BC Snowmobile Federation is a non-profit society created in 1965 to establish, maintain and protect quality opportunities for organized snowmobiling in BC. The BCSF collectively represents 60 snowmobile clubs and 44,000 riders in the Province of BC.  On the ground, our member clubs are non-profit societies maintained by caring volunteers who promote safety, stewardship, and responsible backcountry snowmobile recreation. 


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    If you would like more information about this release please contact:

     

    Donegal Wilson, Executive Director

    BC Snowmobile Federation

    (250) 499-5117

    Email dwilson@bcsf.org 

     

  • Donegal Wilson posted an article
    The BCSF submits comments to the Province of BC in response to South Peace Draft Management Plan see more

    The BC Snowmobile Federation (BCSF) and our member clubs participated in developing the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee (SPSAC) Recommendation Report that was delivered to the Province in February 2021.  This report was a culmination of over 400 hours of time and $20,000 in BCSF member funds.   We stand behind the recommendations of this report and are submitting this report in its entirety as our response to the draft management plan that is currently circulating.  We request that the Province refer to the maps in our report that provided for the protection of 92% of occupied habitat in the South Peace and allow the members of the SPSAC to be true partners with you in Caribou Recovery.    

    The SPSAC was tasked with finding a balanced approach that supported caribou recovery and continued snowmobile access.  The SPSAC focussed our recommendations on occupied habitat and included a core principle for Adaptive Management whereby public access is adjusted seasonally or temporarily when caribou are not present. This allowed for the communities to continue to grow snowmobile tourism without impacting caribou recovery.  Snowmobiling does not alter habitat, there has been no evidence of a snowmobile trail leading to a predation event in the South Peace, and today the collar data collected by the Province provides no evidence of habitat abandonment due to snowmobilers.  

    In addition to submitting our report in its entirety we are also submitting the following direct comments on areas that the Province has not addressed:

    1. Legal Establishment of Snowmobile Polygons:  The legal establishment of all snowmobile areas that remain open must be included as an immediate next step. These applications need to be fast-tracked as it is our understanding that Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) is no longer considering new applications.  A typical application has been taking five to seven years to process which is not acceptable.  The clubs in this region that have been trying to get their trails established have continued to be pushed off until the caribou planning process was started.  We believe that if you can implement a closure in less than six months then the protection and clear definition of what remains open should also be able to occur in that timeframe.   

    These areas must be established as recreational polygons and include the access trails, the grandfathering of existing cabins, and approval for new shelters or parking infrastructure required as part of the enhancement funds.   The Province should then enter into Partnership Agreements with the snowmobile clubs in each community to ensure the continued management of these areas long-term for public benefit.   Without this establishment of the entire polygon there is no legal recognition on the landscape of our usage and we will see our remaining areas further eroded through other land planning processes.

    1. Industrial pressure requires additional FRPA Objectives to be set: The snowmobile closures proposed align directly with the boundaries of the Industrial Moratorium, as such, it would appear that this will lead to increased pressure on the remaining land base below 1200M.  This will put public recreation areas directly overlapping industrial work sites and roads.  Therefore the legal establishment of the recreation polygons should include site-level objectives requiring forest licensees to communicate with recreation stakeholders and define mitigation strategies for the protection of public recreation resources including:
      1. The alpine and coniferous forest features along recreation sites or trails will be retained to preserve the outdoor recreation experience and prevent early season melt on snowmobile trails.
      2. Forest planning will include safety considerations for recreational access during the winter months and after harvesting is complete.  This will include harvest planning consideration above and below a recreation site or trail to ensure that new exposures and avalanche paths are not created. Or that any new avalanche paths are mitigated by terrain modifications such as deflection berms.
      3. This recreation site or trail is part of the working forest, and as such, activities that are likely to impact access or the recreation experience need to be communicated with the Designated Partner on the trail at least six months in advance.  
    2. Access must be protected:  All access routes into areas that remain open must be protected and in most cases improved to allow safe access to what remains.   This will require a commitment from many decision-makers and budget considerations across departments.  We need a commitment that the Province will manage all the decisions and provide an adequate budget to ensure areas that remain open can be safely accessed by snowmobilers long term.  This includes:
      • Forestry Roads for access or part of trail networks will need to be established by the Province as a provincial responsibility and an adequate budget allocated to ensure that they are safe for winter passage including replacing bridges, repairing unstable slopes, water damage, etc must all be mitigated, repaired or replaced.  It is not ok to come back a year later and remove a road to an open snowmobile area because the Province does not have the budget to replace a bridge.  
      • All restoration work will need to be done in close consultation with the snowmobile clubs in the area with clear details and commitment/assurance provided in writing that restoration work is not further limiting access or removing active trails in areas that have remained open.  That is not enough to ensure that future restoration work that is contracted out or done by industry as part of their deactivation of roads or lineal lines will not further limit our access.  It needs to be a firm commitment that someone within Government will ensure that the snowmobile access will remain open across departments and Ministries.  The snowmobile clubs cannot be responsible to track and try to manage multiple consultations across Ministries.  Government knows we are there, has committed to keeping these areas open for the continued economic benefit of the communities in the region, and therefore needs to commit to managing all processes that could further limit snowmobiling in the region.
    3. Enhancement Budget Needs to be Confirmed: Increased traffic to these areas will be immediate and therefore any approvals and subsequent infrastructure development must be completed prior to December 1st of this year.  Enhancement funding needs to be confirmed immediately and amounts for the next five years shared with the snowmobile clubs.  Once known, the clubs should meet with the Province to prioritize projects and begin implementation of key tasks focused on managing capacity, economic benefit, and safety immediately

    The British Columbia Snowmobile Federation does not support the current plan as circulated with sentiment echoed by the eight thousand signatures collected by the public. The Province’s draft plan has taken the precautionary principle and used a long planning lens with no consideration of the secondary objective, which was for snowmobiling to remain viable.  The SPSAC focussed on creating a comprehensive plan reactive to where caribou are and adapting public access regularly to maintain separation as herds grow and habitat usage changes.  The Province’s plan, however, is to apply a blanket closure of lands to the public whether caribou are present or not, and use punitive means to gain compliance. What the Province’s plan fails to acknowledge is that, according to the science, snowmobiling is considered a low threat to the herds and should only be managed where access is considered pervasive.  In the South Peace, on today’s landscape, the number of riders is low and spread across the region which prevents snowmobiling from being considered pervasive in any one area.  With this plan that will change. 

    It is our position that the members of the South Peace Snowmobile Advisory Committee diligently completed the work that was requested of us in the Terms of Reference and now ask the Province to follow through and review that work to ensure that quality snowmobile opportunities remain.  Closing 1 million hectares completely to recreational snowmobiling in the South has not provided any improvements to the herds but has directly impacted the economy of many communities and provided much financial burden to snowmobile clubs that are now trying to manage a growing sport with much less available terrain.   

    This plan will not be successful without the support of the BC Snowmobile Federation, the snowmobile clubs, the riders, and the communities they support.  So we again ask the Province to follow due-process: review the recommendations forwarded in the SPSAC report, and implement the plan presented outlining the protection of  92% of occupied habitat with a strong adaptive management principle establishing the clubs as partners.  This collaborative effort will allow us to stand with you in support of your work and assist the province in the implementation of a successful caribou recovery initiative in the South Peace.