A stakeholders meeting became a public forum Monday night when concerned residents turned up to reject a proposal that limits motorized entry to the Pend D’Oreille valley.
The Muriel Griffiths room was nearly maxed out at 80 people when some of the general public managed to squeeze into the discussion that veered off course from the map proposal at hand to finding other resolutions to conserving wildlife populations, their habitats, and sensitive ecosystems.
“This was partly brought on by fish and wildlife management, as far as I’m concerned,” said Bob Wishneski, a hunter and member of West Kootenay ATV. “Five/six years ago we didn’t have an open elk season, plus there was limited entry, we didn’t have a general open season, we didn’t have doe season, we didn’t have spike or bull moose season.
“It’s the regulation change that made a big problem,” he added. “Can’t you put the regulations back the way they were and leave the roads open?”
The diverse membership of the Trail Wildlife Association is divided on the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources proposal.
The draft suggests motorized vehicles shouldn’t have entry to the watersheds of all creeks flowing into the Pend D’Oreille River on the north shore, from the Waneta Dam to the confluence of the Salmo River, and the watersheds of Pete Creek, Wallack Creek, Grouse Creek and McCormick Creek in the lower Salmo River.
What felt like a “secret meeting” to some told the story of the TWA’s’ group of up to 450 members, 30 of which are generally active and have been part of the discussion for some time, and the remainder who are only finding out about the proposal this week.
Bob Denny, president of Chamber of Mines, wanted to know why no one from the mining sector was notified of the proposal. His concern rested with the 90 per cent of mining work done without a permit.
“These are people’s livelihoods and for you guys to not even notify them about what’s going on is strictly appalling,” he said.
Hunter O’Neill introduced himself as “not invited or affiliated with any clubs,” a common thread throughout the evening for those who came expecting a public meeting.
“You’re closing to those on quads and ATVs but are you also talking about a complete moratorium on any logging in the Pend D’Oreille valley . . . because that obviously has far more environmental impact.”
An extensive trail network and rough roads already cross through this entire area, and BC Timber Sales intends to start logging in the Limpid and Wallach drainages in the fall of 2015.
“Why has there been so little information given to the public?” asked John Urquhart Jr. “The only reason we were informed of this proposal is that it was believed that we would support this closure. None of our neighbours were notified.”
The Urquharts, landowners in the Pend D’Oreille, shared the stakeholder meeting on their Facebook page in attempt to open up the discussion to people who recreate on the land.
Proposed changes to Kootenay Boundary’s regional access management program are an attempt to conserve habitat that are in distress and being pushed out by motorists, according to the ministry. 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. Also, decreasing numbers of mule and whitetail deer have prompted the government to propose this action.
Urquhart Jr. stood in front of the crowd to share his view on the “flawed review.”
“The largest cause of habitat degradation in the Pend D’Oreille valley was the building of the dams and associated power lines,” he said. “BC Hydro seized these properties and then convinced people it was for wildlife compensation.”
He highlighted the need for a conservation officer to enforce current laws. He went onto to add that the large pressure the areas receiving is mostly due to the restriction of access to Fort Shepherd, closing access to the south of the Pend D’Oreille valley and the opening of the six-point elk season.
“If the Trail Wildlife Association wants to be effective and actually represent the interest of its members it should be doing something other than playing for others behind closed doors,” he added.
This stung for someone like Rick Fillmore, who has devoted his life to conserving land and habitat
“Some of these guys have been working 40-50 years, myself included,” said Fillmore. “And you don’t get any pats on the back. All you get is a knife in the back for trying to save wildlife.”
The club started in 1925 and was called The Trail Rod & Gun Club. In the late 60’s the name was changed to the Trail Wildlife Association. Its mandate is to actively cooperate in the protection of B.C. forests, soils, waters and natural habitat of fish and wildlife.
Annual club memberships give members use of the Casino firearms and archery ranges.
TWA was part of the Wildlife Harvest Advisory Committee, a roundtable group of interested parties talking about access management. Though the local group was informed early on, the scheduling of the stakeholder meeting did come quick and made the proposal seem final when, in fact, it’s just the start of a public consultation process.
Comments were noted Monday night and were to be included for consideration before the draft is submitted.
TWA will be hosting another meeting for the general public to comment on the maps and the proposed access restrictions shortly.
Meanwhile, the second draft will later be sent to Victoria, which then posts all proposed regulation changes for the next Hunting and Trapping Synopsis onto its engagement website. That’s when the public can take advantage of the online consultation period likely to occur in November or December on the Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website at apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/.