Friends of Strathcona Park goes to court

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by ken_vandeburgt, May 24, 2012.

  1. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    Friends of Strathcona Park
    Courtenay, B.C.

    MEDIA RELEASE
    May 24, 2012

    Park Protectors Take Government to Court

    In a case that could break new legal ground, the Friends of Strathcona Park have filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to challenge the ability and authority of the government of BC to ignore the public’s interest in preserving and protecting natural resources in favour of supporting private business interests.

    While the specific case revolves around the granting of a park use permit to an exclusive private resort, allowing horse tours into a wilderness valley within Strathcona Park, it also raises the broader issue of the violation of public trust by government on a broad range of other issues.

    “Whether the local issue is the creeping privatization of B.C.’s parks, the sale of BC Rail, the diminishment of health care services, the abdication of environmental assessments, the pressure to construct oil pipelines without consultation, or unprecedented permission for new mining projects, almost every British Columbian can relate directly to a feeling of loss of control over their “commons”, says Kel Kelly, a spokesperson for the Friends’ group.

    “We have entered a new era, where the partnership between governments and private interests is so strong that it is rapidly eroding places, natural wonders and ideas that hold a powerful place in the hearts of most British Columbians. Things we have long held as sacred and public are being stolen from under our feet”, says Kelly. “We have no alternative but to challenge these thefts of public assets, both on the ground and in the courts. That is what this case is about.”

    The Friends of Strathcona have garnered support from the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF), an initiative of West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), who are dedicated to saving the environment through law. “West Coast agrees with the Friends that decisions about what goes on in Strathcona Park, and other Provincial Parks, need to focus first and foremost on what’s good for the park, and its ecosystems and recreational users, and not on business interests”, states Andrew Gage, Staff Counsel and EDRF Liaison for West Coast.

    “We believe we have a strong case here”, says Kelly, noting that the petition to the court is based on strong substantive grounds. “Permission for this park use permit was granted by the government despite overwhelming opposition from every community adjacent to the park, from every public input session and from a wide variety of citizens’ groups.”

    The Friends will be arguing that there are limits to Ministerial discretion in granting a permit including that the permit cannot violate the public trust and that the Minister of Environment must consider environmental impacts in granting a permit.

    “This is an important case for all of us who want to protect our commons for future generations”, says Kelly. “We feel we have a good chance to win this battle.”

    For more information contact:
    Kel Kelly at 250 337-8348 or kelkelly55@yahoo.ca or
    Marlene Smith 250 337-8220 marjuds@telus.net or
    Andrew Gage at 604-684-7378 or Andrew_Gage@wcel.org
     
  2. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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  3. mbiraman

    mbiraman Paddler

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    Good luck with that,,,,,important issue.
     
  4. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    Thanks for the link to WCEL's page on the issue. I read it and can't help but think they've chosen two terrible ideas to fight over; a road that goes NEAR a protected place (Burn's Bog) and a horse trail that goes through a protected place. It's that kind of blind (to the optics) willingness to fight over stupid things that makes me despise what the environmental movement has become. Regardless of their justification, I think they should be putting their resources and energy into fighting the legal cases that could actually change things for the better. Instead they fight battles that gain them no support outside of a tiny group of special interest activists.
     
  5. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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  6. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    You have a point. The optics is this fight is about horses in the park.

    If it were just about horses then the cost is that anyone hiking there has an experience that is a bit more unpleasant than it would otherwise be. However, this issue runs much deeper than the horseshit. At its core its about to whom do BC Parks belong to.

    Consider that you as a member of the public would find it extremely difficult to ride a horse in the Bedwell Valley. The only access is by sea or via a very steep mountain trail that uses fixed ladders. The only horse riders in the Bedwell Valley will be guests of the resort at the head of Bedwell Sound.

    Consider the issue of infrastructure. The resort will build tent pads and an outhouse in the Park. Note the remnants of the mining road and gravel bars along the river make excellent campsites and tent pads are not needed. I do not know what the tent pads will look like; I fully expect to see very upscale tents such as you might see with some kayak outfitters in places like Schmidt Creek or Spring Island. The tent pads are thin edge of the wedge. BC government recently changed the Parks Act to allow commercial accommodations in Parks. Wilderness Tourism Association, of which the resort is a member, seeks to build small roofed accommodation throughout our Parks for their exclusive use.

    The tent pads will be reserved through BC Parks. Consider there is not now a reservation system for backcountry camping. You can use the tent pads when the resort isn't using them.

    Consider the proponent is building over $300 000 worth of infrastructure consisting of bridges and trail upgrades. None of this work is going to tender even though BC Parks will be the owner. The value of the contract is such it should be going to inter-provincial bid. The Park Use Permit is being used to circumvent BC procurement laws.

    This Park Use Permit is a contract whereby the BC Government is in effect ceding control of 10000 hectares of park through which the trail provides the only access in exchange for a nominal annual fee, $300 000 worth of horse trail, and the right to operate commercial horse tours. We, John Q. Public, are getting RIPPED OFF.

    Consider that the Park Master Plan was changed to accommodate a Park Use Permit Application by one commercial operation. This change was driven by one BC Parks official in spite of significant public opposition. The original Park Master Plan was initially made through extensive consultation with members of the public with a deep attachment to Strathcona Park.

    BC Parks are Public Commons. The wilderness in our parks is to be managed as a public trust by our government. The public trust doctrine is that the wilderness in our parks is to be managed so that the park is to be passed on to future generations in as good or better condition than it is now.

    This fight isn't so much about horses as how we are going to see our parks managed in future. It's about whether allowing a commercial operation to run horse tours where there were not previously horse tours, diminishes that wilderness. Do you want to see wilderness in our parks, our public commons, eroded by commercial enterprise?

    It should be noted here that Canada does not have a tradition of Public Trust Doctrine. Anything stated in this case about Public Trust Doctrine has the potential to be precedent setting for all our parks.

    As you can see there are a lot of precedents being introduced in this Park Use Permit. Commercial Wilderness Tourism seeks to sell a unique product; our wilderness, and, that wilderness does not include you. If we do not successfully fight these precedents in court then we can expect further commercial inroads made in Strathcona and other parks. It's not a small unimportant issue.
     
  7. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    Hi Ken;

    As is your style, you make a persuasive and well thought out argument. Even so, I don't think that the commercial venture that is being proposed damages my ability to enjoy that park, if I so choose. I believe there can be "reasonable accommodation" of some commercial interest. As far as this being the "thin edge of the wedge", I'll happily take that risk if it allows me to ride a horse safely through the Bedwell Valley. If a future commercial interest wants to put a Chevron gas station or a Tim Horton's in the park to accommodate some other group, then I'll join the fight against it.

    The suggestion that the Park Use Permit cedes control is a bit of a specious argument in that it doesn't cede "all control" and give the park operators absolute authority over all areas (and activities) in the park. Probably just a few campsites that they are going to spend their own money to create. Money that the Provincial government is unable, or unwilling, to spend. BTW, what makes it an "upscale tent pad"? In floor heating? Soft gravel? Self-hammering tent pegs?

    I also don't have a problem with a single BC Parks official making the decision "in spite of significant public opposition". Sometimes it's really good to have at least one adult in the room to make rational decisions. The public is too often (not always, but often) misinformed or simply ignorant of all the issues. I've also been intimately involved with the "Public Consultation Process" (at a municipal level) and can state that it is a huge farce of pseudo-democracy in action. A tiny group of highly partisan activists set the agenda and then present it as "THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE".

    If the Friends of Strathcona want my support, they will need to spend their energy and effort persuading the Provincial (and Federal) government to raise taxes and cut health care spending so that we can have more and better parks. Good luck selling that to a largely self-interested voter.

    Full disclosure: I own two horses, but have never wanted to ride in Strathcona. And still don't. :wink:
     
  8. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    The argument that it cedes control is made because there are now probably less than 20 people that visit the lower Bedwell area of the Park every year. The people who go there are seeking solitude and wilderness that is getting harder to find. When the place is getting horse tours once a week (or more) then the wilderness is diminished and even less recreational visitors will want to go there. Basically the resort operator will be left to manage the trail as they see fit for their own purpose. In effect they get virtually exclusive use of land that belongs to the public to make a profit selling wilderness as a product.

    The photo of the upscale tent is from Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts website. I don't think it will be a tent like this in the Park but it likely won't be a regular mountain tent either:



    http://www.wildretreat.com/
     

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  9. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    Holy Sh!t. 20 people in the park looking for solitude as a reason to stop horse tours. Well I'm convinced. Lets close off all of the other parks in the province in case those 20 people want solitude there as well. That's some selfish freakin' people you got in the lower Bedwell.

    Have you ever considered that more people enjoying the natural beauty of the Bedwell Valley might lead to better protection for the rest of it?
     
  10. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    Yes that has been considered.

    In 1993 when the Bedwell Valley was restored to Strathcona Park a trail was built from Bedwell Lakes to the sea. The trail incorporated the mining and logging road thats been built up off and on since mining was started in 1890s. Its the only sea to alpine trail on the coast and, notably, in Clayoquot Sound.

    The morphology of the river has been changed by the logging. Its a mountain valley. There are frequent landslides and floods. The old road is washed out and obliterated in many places. The old mining reports describe the river as having a history of washing out bridges. The only remaining bridge in the park crosses a 70 foot canyon.

    The 'living bridge' is old and it has been condemned. The trail has been closed because BC Parks hasn't the money to replace it. Further, people were getting turned away by the land owners at the head of Bedwell Sound and word got around to that effect. The problem of private land access has been temporarily addressed and permission currently exists to cross land using the old mining road even if the resort would prefer to relocate the trail. Even so it is expensive to access by water taxi and its a long kayak trip. So public recreational traffic has been discouraged rather than encouraged.

    Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) has recently pioneered a new route along the true left bank of the river. It means there is no need to cross the Bedwell River at the ford point above Ashwood creek and again at the old condemned 'living bridge'; no bridges needed in the park. FOSP maintains a suspension bridge outside the park to connect the trail to the Bedwell River Recreation Corridor. A rough trail has been cleared using volunteers except for a 4 km section in the middle which is currently only marked by flagging. We are working to encourage more people to use the new route. FOSP will be leading two groups of hikers before the summer is out.

    Its a lot more pleasant to walk the new route than is the old logging road. The old road is essentially a tunnel through new alder where the old forest used to be and an exercise in getting your face slapped by shrubbery. The new route has view points and passes through a variety of marine/alpine forests including remnants of large old growth.

    The downside of opening up wilderness areas to easier public access is that the Parks are home to many species of wildlife. The Bedwell Valley is Elk habitat. Black Bears are numerous. Cougars and wolves have been seen. The neighboring Ursus valley is Marbled Murrelet habitat and no doubt when the trees return to their former glory in the Bedwell so will the Murrelet. Just to name a few ... There has not been much study inside the Park to determine what the effect of increased numbers of hikers or horse tours will have on the native wildlife.
     
  11. Roy222

    Roy222 Paddler

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    Back to the Horse s h i t.
    I think your best enviromental argument against horses is what they will eat. What they eat will spread all along the trail and thru the rest of the park by birds. If the operators can't import oats, straw and hay, then there operation might not make money. It sounds like a wacked out argument, but it might have value.

    Good Luck!

    Roy
     
  12. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    This statement is way off base.

    There are but 12% of the lands on Vancouver Island designated as Parks.

    What is wrong with requiring business that conducts non-conforming activities to confine those activities to the remaining 88% of the Island? What is selfish about keeping such commercial activity out of our Parks?

    Tourism and recreation need to be considered as resource extraction. They don't have the same impact on the land as mining and logging but the resource is just as finite.

    There are numerous Park Use Permits issued to Tourism Business Operators to conduct business selling tours of conforming activities. Conforming activities defined as hiking, mountaineering, skiiing, kayaking, fishing, outdoor leadership training ... mainly human powered activities the recreational public also engages in. I have no issue with this.

    I should correct my earlier statement. I have no idea how many people actually visit the lower Bedwell Valley. 20 seems a reasonable number but it could be zero it could be a hundred. The last survey was done mid-1990s shortly after the trail first opened and numbered about 50. The trail is currently marked with signage as closed so zero is more likely.
     
  13. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    These are issues that have been addressed in the Park Use Permit. There are provisions for horses eating sterile feed prior to and during their forays into the Park. There is provision for a manure plan too.

    The horses are already on the resort land at the head of Bedwell Sound. The resort currently operates tours outside the park in the lower Bedwell Valley and in the unlogged Ursus valley. If there is an environmental issue regarding introduced species its already too late.

    The resort is a first class operation. I have no issue with the resort doing things responsibly.
     
  14. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    I could accept that as a valid argument if you were to say that "anything goes" on the rest of the 88%, but frankly that would be just as bad of an idea as saying "no commercial ventures of any kind" on park designated areas. Would it be reasonable to say Enbridge should have carte blanche to put a pipeline through to Kitimat, IF they stay out of any designated parks? I don't think so. Also, painting it as non-conforming when the conforming uses are so restrictive isn't reasonable.

    Suggesting that the 12% is too little, or too much, doesn't make much sense to me. How did we come up with 12% as some sort of magical number? If we increased the amount of designated park, but allowed a broader range of uses in those areas would that be ok? What if we reduced the amount well below 12% but made the uses far more restrictive than they already are? How would you feel about 12% of the population of BC (4.4 million people) doing all of their conforming recreational uses in that park. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I'm trying to illustrate a point. 12% is a bit of a meaningless number.

    If one wants to classify tourism & recreation as resource extraction they'll need to then quantify how much extraction the resource can support. Yippee, more bureaucratic programs and studies. Oh, and while you're at it in the Lower Bedwell studying how much horse manure can be spread along those trails, you better get working on the impact of all those kayakers (and hikers, mountaineers, skiers, etc.) on all the other park areas in the provinces. Personally I'd prefer to have less bureaucracy and more riding, kayaking, hiking, what have you. I'd also way prefer to have the limited funding we (voters) are willing to give to B.C. Parks, be spent enforcing rules that really do impact the use of those areas; littering, vandalism, ignorant users that treat the parks as their personal garbage dumps and party zones. They are a far bigger threat to our parks than a professionally operated horse touring company.

    So what about the impact of all of these activities as compared to horseback riding? The chemicals, materials, energy and the consumption that these other activities produce are just off loaded onto someone else. At least with the horses a lot of their impact (if any) is very localized. The feed, the manure, the jobs, the profits all start and end very close to the use. Meanwhile those other activities transfer much of their benefits far away from the park that has to absorb their impact. But at least MEC shareholders benefit from all those backpack sales.

    Don't worry, I won't hold the number against you. I know what you were getting at. If the number of people using the trail is that small, it strikes me that the park area in question is wildly underutilized. If I was planning on re-evaluating whether to keep it as a park or turn it into a clear cut, the horse tours option would seem pretty good.
     
  15. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    My perception is that "anything goes" is already the watchword outside of parks. There is no where else to go but Parks where you can count on not having a negative experience involving loud drunks, motorized recreation vehicles, jetboats, and even horses, and landscapes blighted by logging, mining, and condos. Why must the entire province be open to exploitive, conflicting, and intrusive uses?

    As I stated on the thread discussing the pipeline, my line in the sand is Parks boundary.

    I don't know where the 12% number comes from. I recall there being some arbitrary target discussed years ago as to what should be the minimum we set aside from destructive resourse extraction. I am aware of a wilderness group currently pushing to double that number. It will likely be a Provincial election issue though I doubt we will see 24% set aside.

    I like Mexico's ZOFEMAT law where 20 meters above the high tide line is considered Federal Land for use as a riparian area for the benefit of marine life that depends on the intertidal zone. If I were king for a day ...

    http://207.248.177.25/images/stories/do ... sco/14.pdf

    I like the conservancies that have been started in recent years. These are parks that do allow a wider range of activities. Craycroft Island is such a place. Conservancies allow for commercial tourism tenures, first nations traditional plants gathering, even local run of river projects (to support the commercial accomodations). Logging and Mining are not allowed. Setting up a conservancy in areas around existing parks could allow creation of buffer zones so that activities like logging don't come to the boundary of the parks.

    http://www.leg.bc.ca/38th2nd/3rd_read/gov28-3.htm

    A prime location for a conservancy would be the Ursus valley, an area threatened by logging and probably an issue driving the resort being discussed here to seek tenure in Strathcona Park.

    We are already seeing a trend where the population of BC doing all of their 'conforming recreational' uses in parks. Currently there is pressure on parks because there is a large number of people looking for places where there is only 'conforming recreational' uses. I used to hike the Elk River trail in Strathcona on long weekends and not see a soul. Now bridges have been installed so its a popular day hike and camping permits are required.

    See Wilderness Tourism Association's papers that relates.

    http://www.wilderness-tourism.bc.ca/issues.html

    For starters the resort is owned by a financier who maintains a residence in Monaco. If the resort actually generates a profit the money doesn't stay local.

    The impact of all these human powered activities on the land in Parks is much less than the impact of horseback riding. Which is one of the environmental reasons why we feel horses don't belong in a coastal rain forest and sensitive mountain environment. I've hiked in places where the ruts caused by horse use are shoulder deep and the horses get stuck in the mudholes they created.

    In the Bedwell Valley you can still find ruts leading to mine sites that were supplied by horses before the mining road was upgraded to a truck road.

    As far as the chemicals materials and energy use to make hiking equipment goes I'll suggest that horse tours carry a lot more gear than any hiker ever could and as a result tourists on horseback consume more resources per capita.
     
  16. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    And yet, here in lies the rub...

    After all your arguments, legitimate or otherwise, it still comes down to trying to rationalize why horse back riding in a park is a bad thing. In the end I'm still not convinced. I'll leave it with my original premise that the optics of FOS are completely mad.

    Respectfully...

    Kelly Whitehouse
     
  17. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I've got to assume you have never hiked (aka walked) on a forest trail that's been torn up by horses or mountain bikes.
    What a mess....
    Tear it up, use it up, get a buck quick before we're dead. No point leaving anything for the future.
     
  18. KayDubbya

    KayDubbya Paddler

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    I mostly paddle... but I also ride horses and have never "torn up a trail" with one. I have however been on many trails that were destroyed by kayakers & canoeist (Bowrons) as well as mountain bikes, ATV's, dirt bikes, 4x4's, power boaters and all manner of things. I've seen piles of garbage and empty beer cans/bottles left in camp sites. I've seen people throw bags of garbage into pit toilets because they were too F**KING STUPID to carry out the empty cans they drank while using the park. I've also seen hikers hack down trees and tear apart outhouses to make fires, so they're not special either. Let's face it John, there's no shortage of effed up assh*les out in the wild. But if you give a business a financial incentive to maintain the area they're using, you're far more likely to find it left in good condition. The people you allude to are probably not in the business of offering horse or mountain bike tours as their business model; though if they are, they are likely subject to some sort of regulations. Regulations that could shut them down for destroying the trails that you may be referring to.

    And sure, there may be assh*les on horse back too. So what? Do you think that banning horses from the Lower Bedwell is going to stop the assh*les ruining some other part of the park? Or are you just hoping that no one, ever, goes there? Ken alluded to the fact that there are almost no visitors since the trail was mark "closed". Doesn't strike me as a good use of the "park designation" if no one goes there. Further more, if no one is going there now, why not turn it into horse trails (or a mountain bike park for all I care)?
     
  19. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    If you have ridden horses on soft, damp earth trails in dense forest or even open meadow, you haven't been paying attention if you believe you haven't torn up the trail.
    Hiker's boots don't damage trails as much as bikes and horses. (check the psi loadings.....).

    Years ago, I did some backpacking and climbing in the Eremite Valley (Jasper Natl Park) where horse packing was allowed. The hard, gravelly trails along the river were fine, but everything beyond that was 'torn up' with prominent hoofprints. I'm sure that the horse operators were 'regulated' (nudge, nudge) by the Park.

    Hiker's boots don't damage trails as much as bikes and horses. (check the psi loadings.....).

    And the argument about garbage is just a distraction. You won't find much damage or garbage far from a trailhead, IF the trail is restricted to foot traffic. With horses, bikes, motorcycles, and ATVs, you can bring all those cases of beer into the back country. I've never heard of a 'bush party' with a 15 km walk-in.

    uh...because some changes are not reversible....?
    Using the present govt. policy of 'no money for parks; privatize the suckers' as an excuse is really a bad idea. The govt. has closed the trail because apparently a bridge 'needs repair', and the easiest way to avoid liability is to just close the trail and then open 'er up to private development.

    Anyway, just banging heads here. Till next time....
     
  20. ken_vandeburgt

    ken_vandeburgt Paddler

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    The rationalization should be the other way around. Why should there be horse back riding in a park, particularly in a sensitive and fragile mountain environment?

    Try and make arguments that don't also open the door to mountian bikes, floatplanes, snowmobiles, Atvs, etcetera.

    The environmental assessment states horses will have a minimal impact.

    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planni ... ation.html

    There is also a mine that does environmental assessments for everything it does each of which has a minimal impact but in sum total results in one of the largest mines in western Canada.

    http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explor ... strath_wm/