Government balks at public caribou consultations

Donna Barnett’s MLA report

The public has a right to be deeply upset with provincial government because of a lack of public consultation on plans to manage the Caribou populations back to health.

We all want to see this species rebound from its current low numbers in our region and right across the province.

But the public also wants to be a part of the solution, especially if the government’s plans involves significantly altering the industrial and recreational use of the land we call home.

We are talking about a huge swath of land sweeping from the Peace River region right down to the Kootenays.

Everything from tourism, forestry, mining and just the simple pleasure of enjoying the outdoors could be affected.

It’s no wonder that a group called Concerned Citizens for Caribou Recovery (CCCR) is quickly gathering steam out of frustration with the government’s behind closed doors approach to addressing the situation.

Aaron Mathias represents the CCCR and says their demands are simple: “We want baseline data on the science behind management decisions, a report on how this will impact the economy in rural British Columbia, and we want a genuine public consultation.”

But forest minister Doug Donaldson and environment minister George Heyman are still giving the public, local governments and even MLAs the cold shoulder.

I have written and called both cabinet ministers on multiple occasions and they still won’t budge.

In fact, the B.C. Natural Resources Forum held in Prince George last week would have been a perfect opportunity to launch public consultations with everyone there from industry to elected officials, but no dice.

Last week the Peace River Regional District issued a news release saying the government plans to initiate public and stakeholder engagement in that part of the world, but I would not hold my breath.

Every time a public meeting has been announced by a local government it suddenly gets cancelled at the last minute.

It’s time to let the public be a part of the solution.

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