Mungall: More community input into future of Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area

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The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA) is indisputably a 7000 hectare Kootenay jewel. It all started in 1947, when Dr. James Munro of the Canadian Wildlife Service completed his biological study of the area, concluding that the “Kootenay Flats constitute the largest and most important resting and feeding ground for waterfowl in the interior of British Columbia.”

By 1960, the BC Wildlife Federation and West Kootenay Association of Rod and Gun Clubs defined the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, giving it boundaries when they proposed to purchase all surrounding Crown lands around Duck Lake for wildlife conservation. While their proposal was rejected, it started something, and eight years later the Government of British Columbia passed the Creston Valley Wildlife Act, creating the CVWMA.

To this day, the CVWMA and its operations are defined by the Creston Valley Wildlife Act. Recently, the Liberal government issued a press release saying they signed a 30 year agreement with Ducks Unlimited and will now be managing the CVWMA under the Wildlife Act.

First, I should say that the release was a surprise. Just weeks ago, I asked the Minister for the whereabouts the four-year-old CVWMA Mandate Review, then asked him to commit to a non-partisan approach on this issue. The CVWMA has existed and will exist for decades, ideally centuries, if we all work together for its best interest. He said he would honour that and would meet with me. I requested that meeting, only to be refused. Next thing I know, he issued the press release, claiming a done deal.

More importantly than speaking with me, however, was the need to work with local residents. The same day I asked the Minister for a non-partisan approach, I also asked about public consultation. He said he received input, but offered no more detail. You can read the transcript below.

I find it disconcerting that on such an important community issue, you were left out the loop. Local government officials also told me that they were unaware that the Liberals were considering a direct partnership with Ducks Unlimited. This isn’t the fault of Ducks Unlimited –an amazing organization doing fantastic work. Rather, leaving us out of meaningful dialogue on one of our regional jewels is simply poor process by the Liberals.

Had we been in the loop, this is what we would know: There is NOT a 30 year agreement with Ducks Unlimited. Rather, there is a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) for infrastructure upgrades and operations for now. A thirty year agreement requires the government to repeal the Creston Valley Wildlife Act, which they have not done and will not do until after an election should the new government –whoever that may be—want to go that route.

This is significant because the Liberals have ignored important MOUs once an election is over –just ask Simon Fraser University about the MOU for their Surrey Campus. So inside the rhetoric, what we have is a desperate government delivering misleading announcements to curry favour with voters after a decade of neglect. This isn’t fair to you or Ducks Unlimited.

Regardless of how the Liberals operate on this issue, I remain committed to the best interests of the CVWMA. That involves you, partners like Ducks Unlimited and a transparent process. This jewel is too precious, and its care too important to play politics and leave anyone out of the loop.

Click here to view the Memorandum of Understanding

Debates of the Legislative Assembly

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

M. Mungall: I’d like to thank the minister very much for that. I look forward to continue working with him on these issues. I know they’re of great importance, and they impact the day-to-day lives of people at the north end of my constituency.
I’d like to move on to some questions around the Creston Valley wildlife management area. In 2008 the ministry responsible at that time for the wildlife management area began a mandate review process for the management of the Creston Valley wildlife management area.
In September of 2011, I was copied on a letter that the CVWMA staff sent to the ministry, asking where this review is at and that it be prioritized. Of course, I’m sure the minister is well aware why this issue needs to be prioritized. It’s in terms of the governance of the Creston Valley wildlife management area.
Right now there are three people who sit on the authority: one from federal government, a representative from provincial government, and then there is a representative from the public. Currently the public representative space is vacant. It’s been vacant for a while. Neither of the government representatives actually live in the area.
In terms of governance, there’s nobody local who is involved. This has been a problem for quite some time. I don’t think the minister has disputed that. We’ve had casual conversations about this.
I’m just wondering. In reading the minutes from February from the town of Creston…. The Creston Valley wildlife management area presented to the town of Creston with the anticipation that this mandate review would be forwarded on to the environment and land use committee at their March 8 meeting. I’ve since met with Richard Dalon, who’s the executive director. He said that did not happen.
Of course, my question is: just where is this mandate review? Is it with the minister? Is it with the committee? Where is it in the process?
Hon. S. Thomson: As the member opposite said, we have had conversations on this very important subject. Just to advise, as she knows, there was a mandate governance review. That has, from a staff perspective, wrapped up. The report or the options have been provided to me. So it rests with me in terms of taking the next steps forward on it. What I’d like to do is to be able to undertake to come back and have the direct discussions with the member opposite on the approach within the next few weeks.
It is under active consideration. We do know that we need to make some decisions with respect to this, because it is an important area. As she points out, the current situation is not the best for good governance of this very, very important area — one that I’ve had the chance to visit on a number of occasions with my grandchildren, who live in Creston. Some great stories out of there, with my granddaughter at her birthday party getting charged by a moose while they were in a canoe — things like that.
Again, just an area that we’re very interested in, and that’s why we’ve had the mandate and governance review. It does sit with me now to take it forward, and we’re going to be doing that. Then I would be — given the member opposite’s interest in this — more than happy to sit down with her and review that.
M. Mungall: I’d like to thank the minister for opening up the door for such an opportunity to discuss this further with him. I think this is another issue, like Meadow Creek Cedar, where there is a lot of opportunity for a non-partisan approach. I mean, the Creston Valley wildlife management area has been there a long time. It’s going to be there for a long time, irrespective of who’s in government, so it needs to be an issue that is taken care of or well addressed by whoever the representative of the community is of the day, as well as whoever is in government on any given day.
I do want to ask the minister, however, if, as he moves forward or if he has already done this…. I’ve pointed out that the people who are currently on the authority, all two of them, don’t live in the area. Of course, this area is just so valued by people throughout the Kootenay region.
I’m just wondering if there have been any discussions or any type of stakeholder engagement with people in the local area about the governance, about this mandate review. If there hasn’t been, will there be, and what would it look like?
Hon. S. Thomson: There’s significant history on this file, as the member opposite mentioned. It’s been in place for a significant period of time. I think that people are aware of the importance of it, of the options. We have received input. I think the next steps are to consider what the options may be and then to have that engagement with the member opposite on that.
Our goal in all of this is to ensure that we recognize the importance of the site and that we provide for the long-term enhancement of it and the long-term effective governance of the area. I think that’s what the mandate review is focused on.
I would like to be able to deal with the options and then have the engagement with the member opposite on it. I know that we both have the common interest in the outcome of this.