Residents are taking a stand against a proposal that limits motorized access in the Pend D’Oreille valley.
A petition against the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources’ Access Management Area (AMA) plan is garnering interest from some locals who are stepping forward as the “undersigned.”
Proposed changes to Kootenay Boundary’s regional access management program were presented at a stakeholder meeting turn public last month.
Members of the ministry pitched that the road closures 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.
Also, it was noted, decreasing numbers of mule and whitetail deer have prompted the government to propose this action.
The petition suggests protection can be accomplished by returning the existing hunting seasons to what they used to be or creating a new limited entry hunting seasons for all ungulates and introducing specific road closures in habitat areas considered sensitive.
About 270 people had signed the online petition at change.org by Thursday afternoon while others continue to add their names to hard copies set up at various places like Teck and Valley Firearms throughout the Trail area.
“I want that wildlife resource to be there for years, I grew up in the Pend D’Oreille,” said John Urquhart Jr. of Valley Firearms, who is also a landowner in the Pend D’Oreille.
But his beef, along with others, rests mostly on the lack of public consultation.
The draft proposal notes that a meeting was held on March 11 in Trail for some initial discussions on off-road vehicle recreation, the conservation properties and sensitive wildlife habitat in the Pend D’Oreille valley.
In attendance was BC Hydro, Trail Wildlife Association (TWA), Teck, Village of Fruitvale, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources (FLNR) representatives, Beaver Mountain Snowmobile Association, West Kootenay ATV club and ATV B.C.
Following the meeting, a public open house was held at the entrance of the Pend D’Oreille on March 28, hosted by TWA, FLNR, and ATV B.C.
But this is not enough, according to former TWA member Rick Haines.
“The main thing here is that the Trail Wildlife Association went ahead and whether they spearheaded it or not is not known yet,” he said. “But they didn’t ask any of their membership how they felt about this, and they put Trail Wildlife’s backing on the proposal.
“I joined the Trail Wildlife so I could have a voice, so I could speak up against things like this and have a say and they took my voice and used it for something that I totally don’t back,” he added. “I bet 95 per cent of the Trail Wildlife Association, maybe more, would not have backed that proposal.”
Haines has pulled his membership as a result and is trying to put the brakes on the proposal. He helped Bob Wishneski write the petition and is working on getting a list of the members of TWA in hopes of calling a meeting to oust executive members because of the lack of consultation with the 450 members that make up TWA. He is also connecting with his MLA.
TWA refrained from commenting until it has its executive meeting, scheduled for Nov. 9.
“The issue at hand is nobody was told about this, and it was slid through behind a closed door meeting, where we weren’t even invited,” he said, noting the most recent stakeholder meeting.
“The executive membership was at that door trying to keep us out of that meeting.”
The stakeholder meeting was planned as an opportunity for a couple representatives from different groups connected to the land to take a look at the first draft and provide input. Then TWA was going to host its public meeting, which Haines suggested should have taken place ahead of time.
Comments were collected at this meeting for consideration before the second draft is sent to Victoria, which then posts all proposed regulation changes for the next Hunting and Trapping Synopsis onto its engagement website for general public feedback. This consultation period is likely to occur in November or December on the Angling, Hunting and Trapping Engagement website at http://apps.nrs.gov.bc.ca/pub/ahte/.
But Haines fears this will be too late. In his mind, the solution should be simple.
“If there’s not enough deer, shut down deer hunting,” he said. “If there is not enough elk, shut down elk hunting. If there’s too much dust coming from the roads and invasive plants are being spread, don’t make any more roads.
“I have a hard time believing that we (ATV community) have a greater impact than logging in there, and logging won’t be given any stricter rules inside that AMA then they do outside it,” he added.
The proposal maps out that motorized vehicles won’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. Main roads will remain open. The hope is that closing spur roads to motorists will reduce the impacts of motorized vehicle access on wildlife populations, their habitats, and sensitive ecosystems.
Several calls and emails to representatives from FLNR were not answered by press time Thursday.