Disguised among the scenic backdrop of the Sunshine Coast is a 12-year old unkept promise, an agreement of a comprehensive land resource management plan (LRMP) for the Coast. Currently, according to the Integrated Land Management Bureau of B.C. (ILMB) website, the Sunshine Coast LRMP application is in the design process stage and has been an active application since 2001; however, members of the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA) and area politicians are getting inpatient.
"This is the single greatest issue facing the Sunshine Coast," said SCCA executive director Daniel Bouman. "Most of the province has an LRMP, and we need a comprehensive plan to ensure a sustainable future for the Coast."
According to an LRMP issues backgrounder provided by the SCCA (available on their website, www.thescca.ca), the level of fully protected areas in the Sunshine Coast Forest District is about three per cent of the land base.
"The land use planning to date has been of an ad hoc nature," Bouman said. "Comprehensive regional planning has never been attempted in this region. Judging from the many major resource conflicts and the large number of small local conflicts, a higher level of planning is long overdue and desperately needed." According to George Smith, a former land-use planner and concerned Coast resident, the situation needs honest facilitation between all parties involved.
"We should be asking who's involved," Smith said. "The premier of the province has led the people to believe that something is going to happen and spoke favourably towards LRMPs."
Recently, the provincial government announced plans to change the LRMP process, a new program that led Bruce Sieffert and Erin Palmer of the ILMB to address the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) last Thursday at the board's planning and development meeting.
"I'm hopeful this is the beginning of discussions between all parties involved," said Sieffert. "We are aware that there was an application in 2001, and that the government decided to put it on hold, but we are revisiting it now."
Listening cautiously, SCRD directors and members of the gallery stressed the importance of timeliness towards the issue of the LRMP.
"This matter goes back a long time, and we've had promises in the past," said Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk. "The file is seven inches thick on this issue, and now we're dealing with a crisis. We have huge threats to the Sunshine Coast and major developments in the works. We are looking for advice to break the log jam and get this process moving." These sentiments were echoed by the District of Sechelt in an interview with Coast Reporter this week.
"It's very crucial that we work collectively throughout the Coast to get a good solution for everyone," said Sechelt Mayor Cam Reid. Historically, LRMPs have been developed to address land use conflicts, environmental issues and competition amongst resource user groups. Processes are typically co-ordinated by a designated planning agency, involve stakeholders in interest-based negotiations and are approved by cabinet.
According to the ILMB's synopsis on LRMP processes, questions around legacy LRMPs and new federal government initiatives, new legislation and policies (FRPA) are being reviewed.
Bouman, who attended last Thursday's meeting, raised concerns over ministries whose interests, he feels, are not in line with the regional district's objectives.
"The Ministry of Forests is completely opposed. As well, the licensees have also expressed opposition to the plan," Bouman said. "It's the resource sectors that are creating the problems, so how do we get around the agencies that don't want to have an LRMP?"
Sieffert explained that the ILMB would be working with all agencies involved.
"I don't anticipate a roadblock. We are optimistic that this will work in everyone's favour," Sieffert said. Concerns were also raised over certain limitations to the new guidelines. Halfmoon Bay director Garry Nohr expressed concerns with the new program's direction number 4.10 in the ILMB synopsis, which states that "new plans should be undertaken only when the beneficiary or implementing agencies are prepared to support the costs of implementation."
"We will not have the funding we used to," Sieffert said. "We are trying to find ways to make it more affordable. No one wants to make an investment into any planning processes if you're not going to get anything out of it."
The SCRD board voiced their opinions over the guidelines that would be best suited and most appropriate for the Sunshine Coast.
"Our outlines would need to include an implementation process that would lead to law, not just guidelines," said Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar. "As well as community involvement, facilitation and sufficient resources made available, I don't care what you call it, as long as the outlines are utilized for the entire Sunshine Coast forest district."
One of the major objectives for the ILMB includes opening up the lines of communication between the provincial government and First Nations.
"We want a quicker resolution process," said Sechelt Indian Band Chief Stan Dixon. "We have to deal with all the agencies involved and put our ammunition towards an LRMP process."
Advocating for the Sunshine Coast's LRMP, Powell River - Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons questioned the Minister of Agriculture and Lands during a March 7 discussion in the legislature.
"A change has been reflected on the [ILMB] website, and I'm wondering if we could anticipate those recent changes as having any impact on the decision-making process in the ministry," Simons said in a statement in the legislative transcripts.
Minister of Agriculture and Lands Patrick Bell responded, stating that the shift was moving from not working with First Nations on the front end of land use planning processes to engaging with First Nations in the very early phases of land use planning processes.
Bell went on to say that the impact to the process going forward, in terms of development of a land use plan, would be the need for government to consult with the First Nations prior to making a final decision on where to go on the planning unit.
"This has been a very long process," Simons said, in a later interview with Coast Reporter. "Since the first issues surrounding mining development, the public called for the need for an LRMP."
The SCCA, in an effort to further understand the changes to the LRMP process, presented the SCRD board with a copy of a letter addressed to Premier Gordon Campbell that expressed concerns over future progress regarding the Sunshine Coast's application.
"We've heard all the political rhetoric before, but now the bottom line has been compromised," said Bouman. "We'll support it any way we can. We are hopeful everything said is true. We want to make it work. We want to see all the issues on the table and deal with them in an intelligent way."