The B.C. government has rejected a call by the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) to develop a comprehensive land-use plan for the area.
In a letter to SCRD board chair Garry Nohr, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said his department is not contemplating any new land-use planning process for Mount Elphinstone.
"We believe that current resource designations, such as the establishment of Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park and old growth management areas in the vicinity, adequately balance environmental, economic and social values," Thomson said in the letter, dated Dec. 14. "I can assure you that Ministry staff, including B.C. Timber Sales, are available to answer inquiries and assist with any land-use conflicts as they occur."
The letter was received at the SCRD's Jan. 17 planning and development committee meeting, where directors also passed an urgent resolution calling for B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) to cancel harvesting plans in the McNeill Lake watershed. The motion also urged Thomson to address what staff called a long-standing lack of consultation by BCTS.
Last month, after he was re-elected chair of the SCRD board, Nohr said one of his goals for 2013 was to get the province back to the table to help develop a land and resource management plan for the region.
A land-use plan could be "a real saviour" by preventing "these ongoing clashes that happen" over resource extraction, Nohr said.
An over-arching plan would benefit residents and investors as well, he added, as "resource industries would know what they can and cannot do."
Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons said the current dispute over logging in the McNeill Lake watershed is just the latest example of why the region needs a land-use plan.
"How many issues have been raised and have upset people? A land-use plan would allow us to have less conflict in our community and more cooperation," Simons said. "Obviously companies need to have some certainty, but communities need to be respected. This is a death by a thousand cuts."
The province's role should be to coordinate the planning process and bring all the sectors together, Simons said, noting that the Coast has a clear need for regional planning as it is a major recreational playground for Lower Mainland residents.
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