A new higher-level plan is needed for the Revelstoke area that better balance the social, environmental and economic interests on the land, says a local environmentalist.
“We think there should be a new Revelstoke Higher Level use plan because the demographic has changed. It’s not primarily a logging valley anymore,” said Virginia Thompson of the North Columbia Environmental Society. “Revelstoke isn’t primarily a logging community and I think the process should reflect that and the land use plan should reflect the uses that are here.”
Thompson was speaking in response to a report by the Forest Practices Board (FPB) that looked into a 2011 amendment to the Revelstoke Higher Level Plan Order (RHLPO). The amendment changed the area available for timber harvesting to make up for forest set aside to protect caribou habitat.
In February 2012, the NCES and Wildsight complained to the FPB that the amendment did not meet the biodiversity objectives of the RHLPO. They asked the FPB to see if enough public consultation was done and whether or not the government properly evaluated the social, economic and environmental impacts of the amendment.
The report, titled Biodiversity Management in the Revelstoke Timber Supply Area, goes into detail on how the amendment to the plan was made.
The FPB report made several conclusions. First, it said that public consultation met legal requirements but that it was not effective. It says that environmental groups should have been involved earlier in the process. In future plan reviews, “It will be important for public confidence that government find the means and apply techniques that support public engagement and stakeholder participation appropriate to the level of their interest and nature of their concerns,” the report states.
Second, the report says that he social, economic and environmental impacts of the amendment were properly evaluated but that it is “unknown whether the conservation provisions applied in the Revelstoke Timber Supply Area (or, for that matter elsewhere in BC) will actually maintain biodiversity.”
“A program of monitoring and scientific study is necessary to know whether land use provisions for biodiversity in the province are working, and to guide adaptive change where required,” the report states.
Thompson said the NCES, and other groups such as the snowmobile club, heli- and cat-skiing industry and other user groups, should have been included in the process leading to the amendment to reflect the growing importance of tourism and recreation in the area compared to more than a decade ago when the RHLPO started to be developed.
“Tourism is now at least as big as logging here and our point as far as process goes is we should have been involved during the 18 months so they could hear our point of view and not just the logging point of view,” she said, adding that the lack of consultation was symbolic, especially in light of the logging in the Begbie Bench area.
Thompson added that Revelstoke should have different biodiversity standards than the rest of the province because of the unique nature of the inland rainforest around here. The plan should also reflect changes in climate change science. She said there was also concern the amendment affected wildlife corridors that could impact mountain caribou recovery.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, the NDP forestry critic, said the report highlighted the lack of monitoring happening out in the field, as well as the lack of consultation he’s heard about across the province.
“The point that I’ve picked up from this report is that before you even have consultation, you have to have accurate information. It’s a pattern that’s very disconcerting,” he said. “You see it here in Revelstoke, a number of decisions where the community doesn’t feel that it’s properly informed about what’s going on in its own backyard and where its clear that government stewardship has been cut to such an extent that the information that needs to be there for the public is simply not there.”
In an e-mail response to questions, Steve Thomson, the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said that while extended public consultation was optimal, it was not always practice in the current fiscal climate. “We do agree that a more informative ad and maps would be helpful,” he wrote.
He defended the ministry’s stewardship practices, saying that compliance and enforcement staff carried out inspections to ensure compliance with regulations and that ministry staff worked with logging companies to ensure sound stewardship practices.
He said the Forest and Range Evaluation Program carried out effectiveness assessments on 11 specific values mentioned in the Forest and Range Practices Act, and is being expanded to include other values.
“As well, the ministry’s Resource Stewardship Vision and Framework provides the framework for broadening the ministry’s resource stewardship mandate to consider impacts from all resource-development activities,” he wrote.
“The ministry is also developing a cumulative effects assessment framework and has three pilot projects underway in different areas of the province.”