New closures at three local snowmobile areas are a done deal. Provincial Mountain Caribou Recovery Coordinator Darcy Peel broke the news in a presentation to Revelstoke city councillors on May 17. “I am the messenger of the decision the minister made,” said Peel, announcing new snowmobile closures for Caribou Basin, much of Keystone Standard Basin and amendments to the Frisby Ridge closure area that actually frees up some more snowmobile riding area. Peel said the changes were effective about two weeks ago, and that implementation is underway.
Although the changes had been the subject of meetings and discussions amongst stakeholder groups for months, the announcement was news to local snowmobiling organizations. Snowmobile Revelstoke Society executive director Angie Threatful said the decision was news to her, adding she was expecting ongoing communication with provincial government officials, and that the discussions would resume in the fall. “We are under the understanding that no decision has been made on these closures,” Threatful said.
“That would be big news to me,” Peel replied, adding he’d seen a signed letter indicating cabinet-level approval of the changes.
The Snowmobile Revelstoke Society has for months been lobbying to influence the proposed changes, including a visit to Victoria in February where they met with four cabinet ministers representing the forests, environment, transportation and natural resources portfolios.
Peel explained the changes were a result of scientific recommendations, and that the caribou management area around Revelstoke was the only one remaining with outstanding public recreation closures that hadn’t been implemented.
Revelstoke Snowmobile Club director Tom Dickson said the closures would deeply impact snowmobiling locally. “We’re looking at the straw that’ll break the camel’s back,” he told the committee.
Coun. Phil Welock asked Peel about the local conservation officer shortage, noting the sole local officer also had supervisory duties in the East Kootenay. Would closures work if there was no enforcement, he asked Peel. Welock noted the area hosts many visiting riders, some of whom “don’t give a damn about our laws.”
Threatful also asked about enforcement, noting new avalanche safety procedures had kept enforcement officials out of the field.
“We didn’t have a lot of non-compliance,” Peel said. “It was actually pretty good.”
Peel noted other mountain caribou recovery efforts ongoing in the local area.
Reducing the moose population by increasing the number of them hunters could kill had seen an “immediate” drop in the wolf population around Revelstoke. However, a similar program near Quesnel hadn’t worked the same way.
Local wolves have been collared and are being tracked, Peel said.
There were plans to soon relocate 20 caribou to the Purcell-South herd, with another relocation of 20 more next year.
For more on this developing story, see the May 25 issue of the Revelstoke Times Review.