Trail Wildlife responds to land dispute

“Our members have been harassed, called names and have dealt with overwhelming rude phone calls.” ~ Terry Hanik

The Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) does not back a draft proposal that limits motorized entry in the Pend D’Oreille valley, according to its president Terry Hanik.

The volunteer group wants to set the record straight on a dispute that “got out of control,” he told the Times Tuesday.

“Our members have been harassed, called names and have dealt with overwhelming rude phone calls,” he continued. “One member even had a large metal gate that was used on a road closure that was cut up and placed on the end of his driveway.”

Proposed changes to Kootenay Boundary’s regional access management program were presented at a stakeholder meeting turned public late last month.

Ministry staff assured that closing spur roads to motorists reduces the impacts of motorized vehicle access on wildlife populations, their habitats, and sensitive ecosystems in the Pend D’Oreille.

Many in attendance had a hard time directing their input toward the map and instead asked why they were given short notice of the proposed changes. The general public that managed to squeeze into the room wondered why they weren’t informed at all.

“The ministry wanted to hold a stakeholders’ meeting before a general wildlife meeting and open public meeting,” Hanik explained.

When word got out to the public, it spread like wildfire, which fuelled debate at the meeting and left many pondering where the group stood on the changes, if not at the head of the table.

“People said we were spearheading it, that we were doing it behind closed doors,” said Hanik. “No, we’re not.”

TWA’s mandate is to cooperate actively in the protection of B.C. forests, soils, waters and natural habitat of fish and wildlife. Hanik takes offence that the group’s name has recently been trashed and its years of work almost “forgotten.”

The 90-year organization has had its hand in many projects over the years including transplanting elk locally and in Christina Lake, feeding sheep on the Salmo Creston, working on the spawning channels in the Murphy Creek area and goat transplants in Trail and Syringa.

Though TWA, in general, supports AMAs (access management areas) where sensitive areas are regulated, Hanik was just as stunned by the sudden proposal.

The group was up to speed on AMAs and some of the work done in the East Kootenay, and knew eyes were set on the neighbouring area.

But like everybody else, the executive read the proposal just before the meeting, said Hanik, who later discovered that the group’s name was noted as supporting the proposed changes and has since had the association’s name removed.

“We weren’t happy with the way it was handled,” he explained. “What happened was information got out and it went viral and people got the wrong idea.”

TWA held an executive meeting Monday night to address some of the concerns in regards to the proposal. The “mess” highlighted a lack of communication between the executive, who show up to regular meetings, and the rest of the group totalling about 450 members.

The executive has decided to work on its end of communication by collecting email addresses at its next membership meeting this Monday with talks of emailed reminders and making minutes from meetings public on its website. The group is hopeful some new blood will find their voice.

The ministry says road closures in the Pend D’Oreille are an attempt to conserve habitat that are in distress and being pushed out by motorists, noting that an increase in off-road vehicle use and illegal trail building have damaged conservation properties and promoted the spread of invasive plants throughout the valley.

Greig Bethel, public affairs and media relations for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource, said the current draft of the regulation change was completed after the Oct. 26 meeting. Government provided the early draft of the proposed change to 22 stakeholder organizations and individuals in late-September/mid-October for review and input. The final draft will be open for public feedback by the end of the year for one month on the province’s Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website, http://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/, with the final decision on the proposed regulation change announced in the spring.

“Every two years, government develops draft regulation changes under the Wildlife Act for the hunting and trapping regulation synopsis with input from stakeholders and other interested British Columbians,” he explained.

Hanik concludes “the proposal is not a done deal” and is looking forward to finally having a meeting with the membership.

TWA’s information meeting is scheduled for Monday at the Local 480 Hall in Trail at 7 p.m.

TWA members must bring their membership cards for entry as its closed to the general public. The group is pushing the ministry to host another stakeholder meeting and a public one. “We figure the ministry is responsible,” said Hanik.

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