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Interface Planning Casebook - Case File 6 > Casebook > Valley Vision

Valley Vision | towards a comprehensive vision for the future of the Bulkley Valley

Interface Planning Casebook - Case File 6

In 1997, British Columbia adopted a Land Resources Management Plan (LRMP) covering the Bulkley Valley that is generally considered one of the most enlightened in the Province. ( Click here to open ILMB’s webpage for the Bulkley LRMP. ) Included within the area covered by the LRMP is the east slope of Hudson Bay Mountain. The mountain rises 2000 metres directly above Smithers and views of Hudson Bay Mountain dominate the valley, providing a magnificent backdrop for the town and the surrounding region. The slopes contain vast tracts of unspoiled forest lands and a prominent glacier. Hudson Bay Mountain, like the surrounding lands, is of great historical, cultural and spiritual importance to the local First Nations, the Wet’suwet’en.

The LRMP recognized the great value of protecting the scenic, recreational and cultural values represented by the presence of the mountain and its wilderness-like setting. Recreational opportunities include a well developed trail system with trailheads within a 5-10 minute drive of downtown Smithers, and a well known and very popular cross-country ski area. The local Mountain Bike group is now planning on expanding the biking opportunities on the mountain-side by adding new trails.

The forests along the flanks of Hudson Bay Mountain are included in an area known as the Smithers Community Forest. The Smithers Community Forest is now covered by the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Agreement which is a forest tenure held jointly by the Town of Smithers and the Village of Telkwa and operated by a Board of Directors that includes representatives from the Wet’suwet’en First Nations. The mission of the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest Agreement is primarily aimed at providing economic opportunities through sale of forest products, but it also recognizes the need for careful management and protection of recreational and environmental values.

The LRMP created Core Ecological Zones that covered the east slope of the mountain’s sensitive forest areas including red listed and blue listed locations containing rare and endangered plant species, as well as winter browse and other features important to maintaining the area’s large wildlife populations. The LRMP required maintenance of interior forest conditions in the Core Zone. In addition, the LRMP recognized the importance of protecting recreational features, but also provided for continued logging by the Community Forest. In an attempt to reconcile these somewhat competing interests, the LRMP required that no permanent management roads be built within the Core Ecological Zone. All of this involved an area directly adjacent to private land and containing potentially highly valuable locations for housing development.

On several occasions, owners of some of the private land adjacent to the Core Zone sought to build roads through the Core area to access their property. These efforts were denied, except in 2005 when one landowner entered into an agreement protecting sensitive land within his private property in exchange for the right to build a road. The owners of other parcels then renewed their efforts to get similar permission. In 2008, they applied for a road right of way on a route that crossed through red and blue listed ecological zones and a public trail system several times. The public was given notice of this application and many comments were made about its inappropriateness. Then, without further notice to the public, the proposed route was changed so that it avoided the red and blue listed areas, but crossed the very popular hiking trail system in 5 locations.

Despite substantial public opposition and the three previous occasions on which this application had been denied, this time it was approved. The Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB) concluded that the private owner did not have a viable alternative route and that a “driveway” of this nature was not barred by the LRMP prohibition against permanent roads. (Click here to download the full rationale as a PDF file ). The proponents state that they need the access to complete their plans to build a cabin for rental by residents and visitors who want to enjoy the spectacular views, the wilderness character of the mountainside and the recreational opportunities afforded by the local trail systems.

To facilitate the ongoing discussion about the road proposal, the Bulkley Valley Stewardship Coalition (BVSC) provided ongoing notice about the status of the road proposal to the public through its listserve. In fact, the public would not have become aware of the change in the proposed road’s route without this information, since the ILMB did not believe there was any need to send out a new notice about the alteration in the route. The BVSC, in conjunction with the website operated by Valley Vision has now developed a map that identifies in one view all of the features and values at stake in this debate about use of the public land at the interface. Download the map from Valley Vision.

Proposed road in Seymour Ridge area with existing and proposed trails and core ecosystem zone

Opportunity

The public notice rules need to be improved to require full notice to the stakeholders in any area (i.e. local landowners, recreational and environmental groups, commercial tenure holders), as well as through meaningful notice through publicly available sources (i.e. websites and newspapers). Such meaningful notice would include maps that accurately and clearly identify all of the important features at stake and updates when changes in the plans have some material effect on the nature of the proposal. Citizens groups such as BVSC and Valley Vision can play an important role in stimulating public debate by broadly disseminating information about development proposals and by providing feedback to decision makers about public views and responses.

Planning Principles at Stake

4,6,7,8,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,19,25,26,32,33,34
Refer to Planning Principles

Contributor

J. Gilden

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