Recent Items, 1999
March 12, 1999, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Untouched by the hands of government since being submitted to Victoria some six months ago, a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) for the Dawson Creek region was unveiled by Environment Minister Cathy McGregor on Thursday. In a speech delivered at the George Dawson Inn, McGregor said all of the recommendations made by the Dawson Creek LRMP table after six years of negotiations were accepted by the government.
“This is truly a locally developed plan, not one just put together by bureaucrats in Victoria,” she said. “The approved plan, developed here in the Dawson Creek area will help resource companies in the region to thrive and prosper. At the same time, the plan creates a natural legacy for future generations.”
The Dawson Creek LRMP, which covers the same area as the 2.9 million hectare Dawson Creek Forest District, protects more than 180,000 hectares, covering 6.75 per cent of the area, and creates 16 new protected areas.
They include the Peace River-Boudreau Lake protected area, the Pine-Le Moray area with its caribou and moose habitat, and the Klin-se-za mountain area that McGregor said is particularly important to First Nations. In addition, McGregor said 13 per cent of the LRMP will be special management zones where values such as habitat, scenery and recreation are conserved while still enabling resource development.
Other plan areas will be managed for agriculture, mining, forestry, settlement and other development needs in the region. And McGregor said enhanced resource development will be allowed in more than 20 per cent of the plan area.
Mining and energy exploration and development will continue on all lands outside of protected areas, and McGregor said oil and gas companies will be allowed to use directional or diagonal drilling to get at pockets found in protected areas from outside their boundaries.
A grazing enhancement component is also included in the LRMP and now that the plan is approved, McGregor said the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to work with local interests on developing grazing enhancement projects through the Grazing Enhancement Fund.
“The Dawson Creek plan provides clear direction for sound resource management and demonstrates the kind of balance that can be achieved with land use planning,” McGregor said.
Whenever land use decisions are to be made, McGregor said government agencies will refer to the LRMP. For the province as a whole, the government is aiming to put 12 per cent of B.C. into protected area. Currently, the total is at about 11 per cent.
Louisiana-Pacific woodlands superintendent Martin Scholz said the plan will provide stability in planning and Amoco Canada vice president of governmental affairs Annie Smith said the LRMP was a fair process that will provide the certainty that will lead to lower costs and shorter timelines.
Chetwynd Environmental Society member Wayne Sawchuk said that sacrifices were made on all sides. At 33,105 hectares, the Pine LeMoray area was not as large as he would have liked, part of it being designated special management zone instead. But he also noted that the forest representatives at the table had to give up the 23,225 hectare Elephant Ridge area to protected status.
“Everybody had to give up something,” he said.
One of two oil and gas representatives at the table, Sandy Laing, welcomed the allowance for directional drilling. “It allows us to be able to access resources that we already had the rights to and at the same time allow us to leave the surface undisturbed,” he said. ‘So it’s a win for all sides.”
Notably absent was a mining representative after the mining sector decide in January to pull out of all LRMP processes across B.C. in protest over what they say is an unfair process. (The Dawson Creek LRMP had been completed by the table before the withdrawal). McGregor said she was disappointed in the move and that the government is continuing to encourage mining to come back to the table. Meanwhile, she said, government agencies are speaking for mining interests at the table.
LRMP chair Jim Forbes said an inter-agency management team will meet to work out an implementation strategy. He said it could mean more trails and park benches for some areas while others may be left alone, depending on the reasons for their designations.
The LRMP table will also get a chance to review the plan in three years time.