May 15, 2016
We have had multiple inquiries regarding our impression of the Final Draft Management Plan for South Chilcotin and Big Creek Parks. It is our view, that the Draft Plan does not provide a balance between the local tourism economy and wildlife conservation. It does not serve the Ministry’s objective to “optimize outdoor recreation and tourism opportunities within parks and protected areas” (Objective 4.4 page 15: http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2016/sp/pdf/ministry/env.pdf#page=5).
Due to the insufficiencies we see in the recent plan, we have put forth a petition to support further revisions. We would like to take this opportunity to share in greater detail our reasons for putting forth this petition.
We have been conversing with BC Parks since 2011 with little success. The recent Draft Management Plan provides little support for our business (Tyax Adventures), or for the value of tourism and recreation in the area. Unlike the strategies shared in the recent Draft Management Plan, it is our view that Tyax Adventures, tourism and Recreation can co-exist with healthy wildlife populations and a high-level user experience.
As you know, Tyax Adventures offers a high quality recreation experience that showcases beautiful British Columbia, while driving regional and international tourism in the region. Along with Tyax Resort and Spa, Tyax Adventures is the major employer in the Region. We contribute significant funds to both manage and maintain the Park’s infrastructure. Financially and logistically, we also support the implementation of Grizzly Bear conservation, and we diligently take action to protect and enhance the Park’s user experience.
Why does the South Chilcotin Mountains and Big Creek Park Management Plan Final Draft not work for tourism and your recreation?
- It will implement unnecessary temporary and seasonal closures of trails (Draft Plan – p28) and aircraft access (Draft Plan-p26).
- Using the “precautionary principle” (Draft Plan – p24) these restrictions will go into effect and potentially shut down our business and unnecessarily limit your recreation.
- It will implement unrealistic limitations on Park visitors including recreationalists and tourists.
- It will “seek to relieve some of the mountain bike pressure inside the park” without fact to support the impact of mountain biking in the area (Draft Plan – P38).
Here is some information from local sources known for their integrity, and includes over 150 years of combined knowledge and the findings of three local Biologists. This local knowledge and further local scientific research, has yet to be referenced in the Draft Plan and calls into question the above proposed restrictions.
- The Park area has historically been the most highly used tourism/ recreation area within the greater South Chilcotin Grizzly Bear Unit (GBU). During this time the Grizzly Bear population within the park has been very healthy and continues to thrive.
- Many of the restrictions above are meant to protect the areas in which Grizzly Bears feed known as critical areas. The assumption implies that people recreating nearby, and planes flying overhead, are displacing bears from these critical areas resulting in stress on the population. One of the best indicators of whether bears, particularly sows, are receiving enough food is the size of their litters. The Park contains numerous sows with 3 and 4 cubs, which would indicate that they are feeding very well and not being deterred from these critical areas.
- The Grizzly Bear Recovery Strategy for South-Western BC’s main focus is to encourage bears migration from areas of sustainable populations to areas where the population is unsustainable or populations do not exist. It is highly likely that the Bear population within the Park, our main operating area, is at a sustainable level while the surrounding area, the greater South Chilcotin GBU is classified as threatened. Some of the restrictions above to trail use are being suggested to protect migration routes thru the park. In consultation with local Biologists, trail use, particularly non-motorized, is not considered a barrier to bear migration. Rather, highways and railways are considered true barriers, of which we are responsible for none.
- Within BC Parks own survey a similar number of respondents listed hunting within the park and aircraft noise as a concern. There is a significant discussion on aircraft noise and subsequent strategies to limit flights in the recent Draft Management Plan. Unreasonable limitations of our flights will jeopardize our business. Given the shared concern over hunting and air traffic, it is disturbing that there is minimal discussion and strategy regarding revised hunting protocol within the Draft Plan. This comes in light of the fact that 16 Grizzly Bears that have been killed within the South Chilcotin GBU within the past 11 years and 3 have been killed by local trophy hunters. We can confirm that there have been no recorded Grizzly Bear deaths as a result of airplanes, mountain bikes or other tourist activity within the park.
- The Draft Plan, although better than the preceding draft, remains challenged in recognizing mountain biking as a legitimate use. Mountain biking has been the main source of recreation within the Park for the past ten years. The South Chilcotin is a World Class Mountain Bike Destination. Mountain biking is a significant contributor to the local economy. From recent survey data collected by Bridge River Valley communities, a large majority of summer visitors are mountain bikers. Given the value of mountain bikers to the local economy, it is our view, that the Management Plan should look toward managing use effectively, rather than suggesting mountain bikers build alternative trails, develop trails outside the Park, and imply that bikers are the main concern in regards to Grizzly Bear mortality.
As a leading tourism operator in the area we deeply value the health of the environment and wildlife as this is directly related to the user experience. These commitments are consistently upheld by the pro-active measures we undertake to protect such values. Here is a sampling of the many actions we have taken to secure our ongoing sustainability:
- Donation of 2% of all profit to the Chilcotin Grizzly Bear Conservation fund; a fund that goes directly to the St’át’imc Grizzly Bear Research project, which has been involved in Grizzly bear research and recovery efforts since 1999.
- Bear-Aware practices implemented on all levels at all Tyax Adventure Backcountry Camps.
- Annual staff training from professional biologists regarding safe and sustainable bear protocol to support our goal that all staff, guests and bears remain as safe as possible.
- Transmitters placed on all mountain bike guides for the 2016 season to gather information regarding relative locations and interactions between bike groups and Grizzly Bears.
Multi-Use Education, Safety and Enhancement:
- All guests receive detailed instructions on proper trail etiquette for encountering another party be it horseback riders, hikers or bikers.
- Extensive trail maintenance is done annually by Tyax Adventures to remove dangerous deadfall and other potential hazards.
Float Plane sustainability:
- Most flights into the park are completed by 11am daily, leaving substantial time for zero plane traffic.
- We fly a limited number of flights into the park daily.
- An investment of $50,000 has been put into our plane for 2016 to reduce noise by 20%.
We support the movement to keep the South Chilcotin Park intact and healthy as a conservation area, but we support a plan that can achieve this goal in combination with keeping the Park accessible to multi-use recreation. Recreation and Conservation need to be considered equally in the Management Plan and with proper strategic planning and research, this can be attained.
In conclusion, we would like to see the recent South Chilcotin Mountains and Big Creek Management plan revised to recognize that multi-use recreation and Tyax Adventures are a vital part of the Park. These components must be protected and valued equally with conservation efforts that are rightly supported by local and factual scientific research.
Please contact us with any questions you may have, and we thank you for your support as we work to secure access to the park. Here is a link to the South Chilcotin Mountains and Big Creek Park Management Plan Draft – March 2016. Here is a link to our online petition. And if you are inspired further, please contact your local MLA to share your concerns or place a comment directly to BC parks by following this link.
Sincerely, Dale Douglas