MLA calls for backcountry closure

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok says region is at critical mass in terms of fire danger

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok, and his colleague Tom Shypitka from Kootenay East, think we have reached critical mass in this region in terms of fire danger.

They are requesting that the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations immediately shut down the backcountry to recreational users.

“We are requesting they shut down the backcountry right away, before the long weekend,” Clovechok said Thursday morning.

“We’ve seen how that Island Pond fire blew up. One spark could ignite the whole region. We can’t afford to risk it.”

The Island Pond fire is a 1,030 hectare fire burning south of Canal Flats.

Clovechok says he is receiving emails from constituents up and down the valley.

“People are asking why haven’t we done it? Alberta has done it.”

Alberta will not be allowing ATVs in the backcountry this weekend.

Clovechok, however, wants to go further.

“I want a complete ban on recreational use of the backcountry at this time,” he said. “We have at least a month more of this madness. We can’t afford to risk it.”

Clovechok is also appealing to locals and visitors alike this weekend in the event that a ban isn’t forthcoming from the Ministry — leave your off-road vehicles at home.

“It’s preventative. There are people out there scared to death.”

Clovechok is not requesting the backcountry be closed to industrial use.

“Loggers are on the logging roads and they are prepared. They carry fire extinguishers and other equipment.”

Clovechok has not yet been able to speak to Minister Doug Donaldson but has spoken to staff. He also left a personal voice message for the Minister and hopes to hear back quickly.

“I know he’s busy but I don’t think there will be a lot of resistance. I hope there won’t be. I’ve never seen it this dry. It’s tinder dry.

“Someone on a motorcycle hits a rock, there’s a spark and he drives away, maybe not even knowing. We can’t risk it. Both Tom and I feel very strongly about this.

“You saw how quickly the Pond fire took off. And I can’t say enough about the men and women from the Wildfire Service who are out there fighting these fires. We need to take every opportunity to say thank you.”

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