Ministry of ForestsGovernment of British Columbia
Skeena Stikine Forest District
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1.1 Purpose of this Report

Earlier this year the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board established a Consensus Management Direction (CMD) for the Bulkley Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP). That document provides direction in all aspects of planning for Crown lands within the Bulkley portion of the Bulkley/Cassiar Forest District. An implementation requirement of the CMD was the development of a Recreation Access Management Plan (RAMP) for the district.

An advisory group comprised of people representing motorized and non-motorized recreational use (both summer and winter) has met over the past seven months, to discuss the components of a RAMP for the district. This report presents a summary of results from the meetings, a workshop, and from a post-review by the winter use sub-committee.

1.2 Provincial Context

Many other districts in the province are experiencing similar growing pains and are cutting their teeth on regulating the backcountry recreation experience, one of British Columbias premier resources. The Invermere, Revelstoke and Fort St. James districts are committing to similar recreational plans, and a Provincial Backcountry Skiing- Snowmobiling Committee (PBSSC) was established by BC Lands (Kootenay Regional Operations) last year with many of the same concerns and results as our own advisory group.

This committee looked at the ski/snowmobile issue from a provincial perspective, considering issues of policy, legislation and communication. In doing so, it took a consensus-based approach to the backcountry ski/snowmobile issue, ensuring that the interests of all participants were identified and addressed in all areas. The committee first identified the key issues that participants felt characterized the conflicts at a provincial level, and then built consensus-based recommendations in each area. The committee also looked at winter recreation conflicts in two areas, the. Golden and Invermere Forest Districts. Local conflict resolution groups asked the committee to provide recommendations to local district forest managers. [Draft Report of the Provincial Backcountry Skiing-Snowmobiling Committee (June, 1996) p.4. See Appendix 1 for the complete report.

The provincial committee did not see a need for any additional legislation surrounding backcountry recreational use. Rather it recommended the formation of local agreements and it emphasized that enforcement of existing legislation and policies must be made possible. Of particular note was a recommendation to enforce the Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act and Snowmobile Regulation #65/72 (see Appendix 1, pp.9-10.)

As well, the PBSSC commented on the protocol between the BC Forest Service and BC Lands regarding management of Crown Lands. BC Lands is responsible for regulating and managing commercial recreation, and the forest service is responsible for public (non-commercial) recreation. The committee said better communication and coordination between the agencies is necessary to ensure that policies continue to be relevant

1.3 Background

The need for an agreement to accommodate those who pursue backcountry recreation in the Bulkley portion of the Bulkley/Cassiar Forest District was perceived more than 20 years ago. In 1975 the regional office of what was then the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks studied the conflicts between backcountry skiing and snowmobiling. Following a look at the conflicts between backcountry snowmobiles and backcountry ski experiences, a meeting was called between members representing. the variety of interests considered.

At that 1975 meeting several points of interest were established by consensus, including the following:

The winter recreation system for the Smithers area should be structured as follows:

Since 1975, both winter and summer backcountry recreation has increased in the district. The area has become known for the premier backcountry experiences it offers, and the local population has increased. Technological advances have led to the use of snow machines and all-terrain vehicles that are equipped better than ever before for ventures into remote areas that were once the preserve of the occasional mountaineer and ski tourer. As well, several backcountry cabins have been built for the use of day and overnight trippers, and their popularity has led to increased use by both motorized and non-motorized recreationists.

The need for a Recreational Access Management Plan was identified during the development of a Consensus Management Direction by the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board. In that document these recommendations were made under Section 2.3 General Management Directions:

This strategic RAMP will address the following:

  • Completion of the RAMP within a reasonable time frame while maintaining a high planning priority;
  • Motorized and non-motorized access with respect to recreational experiences (Motorized access includes both on-road and/or off-road vehicles. These may need to be dealt with separately);
  • Conflicts between snowmobiles and backcountry skiing. For example, by designating some areas for the exclusive use of each;
  • regulating motorized access in areas containing resource values that will be negatively impacted if there is no regulation;
  • access management in terrain sensitive to site degradation by off-road vehicles;
  • enforcement provisions that are required when necessary are to be identified. Bulkley Land and Resource Management Plan Vol. 1: Consensus Management Direction (Smithers: Ministry of Forests, 1996) p.28.

The CMD also made further comments on sensitive terrain:

Terrain sensitive to site degradation by off road vehicles may include alpine/sub alpine terrain, sensitive wetlands and designated recreational trails. The following should be considered:

  • snowmobiles are permitted except where otherwise specified in the RAMP.
  • travel will be permitted on identified hard surface roads and trails only (in sensitive terrain);
  • road deactivation to minimize off-road vehicle damage to fragile ecosystems may be necessary in some circumstances. CMD p.29

1.4 Process

In order to fulfill the RAMP recommendations made in the Consensus Management Direction, Bulkley/Cassiar Forest District staff called together an advisory group comprised of delegates from winter and summer backcountry recreational organizations, as well members of organizations having commercial interests in the backcountry, both recreational and industrial. (See, Appendix 4 for a list of participants.)

This Recreation Access User Sub-committee was convened on June 5, 1996 to discuss the nature of the issues, and what approach might be taken to begin to manage the relationship between motorized and non-motorized users. The result of this meeting was an agreement to:

  1. Hold a series of information gathering meetings over the summer months; and
  2. Convene a joint workshop session in the early fall to consider recreational access management strategies that might be implemented in the Bulkley portion of the district to reduce conflicts between motorized and non- motorized users.

Six meetings took place over the summer of 1996, at which representatives of summer and winter recreational interests .discussed the issues related to motorized and non- motorized recreational access and the creation of a RAMP. User-specific information was exchanged about priority recreation areas and the access required to enjoy these areas.

At the August 7 sub-committee meeting, participants discussed the objectives and requirements for a joint workshop that would use the information gathered at earlier meetings to create recreational access management planning recommendations for the district. This workshop was held September 28-29, 1996 at the Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers and was attended by representatives of summer and winter, motorized and non- motorized, recreation user groups.

Participants expressed a need to keep workshop attendance to a manageable size. To this end, organized groups were asked to send two representatives to the workshop. Where individual interests were involved (i.e. commercial recreation) these individuals were also encouraged to attend.

1.4.1 Workshop Objectives

The purpose of the workshop was to provide a forum in which representatives of motorized and non-motorized recreational interests could work together to develop proposals for better managing motorized and non-motorized recreational access.

More specifically, the objectives of the workshop were:

  • to utilize the information that recreational users provided to each other during information gathering sessions held during June, July and August;
  • to develop recreational access management principles for the district;
  • to identify priority areas for the management of recreational access;
  • to discover ways to approach the resolution of conflict areas or problems that are jointly identified; and,
  • to create recreational access management proposals that can be circulated for broad public review in the district.