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26.04.2017 (206 Days Ago)

Topics of interest from BCMC member Chris Ludwig about Conservation and BC Parks.

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April 26th Conservation Chair Report
April 26th Conservation Chair Report
206 days ago 2 comments Category: Park Huts
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Due to my heavy load as club Webmaster and our current lack of a print newsletter, I have been thin on writing about club conservation and advocacy issues (my dual role in the club as its co-FMCBC Director with Brian Wood).  Starting with this report, I intent to make a regular habit of it as time permits.  

The BCMC's primary function to its membership is to enable its members to have fun in the outdoors.  This always was and always will be the case.  Behind the scenes and mostly invisible to the membership, the BCMC also has a sizeable and active group of backcountry advocates (myself being one of them).  BCMC advocates make up the majority of the FMCBC's (Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC) Recreation and Conservation Committee.  BCMC Advocates are involved in many other groups as well including Friends of various parks organizations, Garibaldi Park 2020 (which I co-founded and built the website for), and several others.   All members of the BCMC are welcome to join these groups and engage in advocacy at any time, but we recognize that most members are understandably focused on their outdoor adventures.

Since I began advocating for backcountry users back in the early 1990's I have taken notice of some clear trends.  I will state in no uncertain terms that in spite of our best efforts as advocates, our user group (the non-mechanized backcountry user) is losing very badly.  We are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to access, Government financial commitments/investment, and Government attention.  You need not look far to see clear examples of this trend - the entire sea to sky corridor and the north shore mountains are littered with access restrictions, access difficulties and the proliferation and preferential treatment of commercial operators and commercial interests.  These problems seem to be growing exponentially at a faster rate that we advocates can cope with.  

In the 1980's and 1990's there simply were more places to go, more roads and more access.  Look no further than the Joffre Lakes Parking Fiasco last year to see how things have changed.  The reasons - more hikers, more social media, less places to go.  BC Parks and MFLNRO have responded to this crisis of overuse with the bunker mentality.  Limit access in Garibaldi Park to the five trailheads, charge backcountry fees to camp in the wilderness, restrict access through the Cypress BAC, and on and on it goes.  The list of restrictions would comprise a very thick novel.  

Some user groups have faired better than others.  In Squamish/S2S, Mountain Bike clubs were granted over 120 Section 57 authorization for trails.  I would be hard pressed to identify more than five or six such hiking trails (the new BCMC Watersprite Trail being one of them) oriented to our user group.  

I am not sure what the solution for our user group is.  Governments get far better bang for the buck investing in front country camping sites for families at provincial parks than they do for some obscure backcountry trail or campground.  This is why some of us changed the style of advocacy we were doing in 2015 from a collaborative model to a more confrontational model.  We knew we had been losing badly for decades and noticed that the more aggressive style of other groups such as the Snowmobile Clubs was very successful compared to ours (and the FMC's).  It seemed natural to follow their model.

I am, however, personally somewhat pessimistic and believe that we are always going to come in last in the eyes of Government and the civil service.  I am often puzzled as to why our Governments think so lowly of the regular citizen and non-mechanized backcountry user as opposed to commercial operators who are consistently granted concessions, and exemptions to regulations and policies that we as citizens are held so strictly to.

Despite my occasional feelings of defeat, I have no intentions of throwing in the towel.  The founders of the BCMC gave us Garibaldi Park, Stein Valley Provincial Park, Pinecone-Burke Park and many other gifts and blessings.  As your BCMC Conservation Chair I have a duty to fight as hard as I can to protect these gifts and the rights of our membership to use them, even knowing full well that the cause may be a lost one.  The great visionaries of the past within the BCMC would demand nothing less of us. 

On a final note, Paul Kubik and I are serving as the BCMC's representative to BC Parks on the development of the new Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park Master Plan.  The club's vision (approved by the BCMC Executive and supported by the FMCBC's Rec and Con Committee), which includes many new trails and new cabin sites can be viewed in detail at the following link (including extensive mapping):  CLICK HERE

If you wish to get involved and help with the club's backcountry advocacy efforts, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Chris Ludwig

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