The Progressive Conservatives' Land-Use Framework hit a snag at the Bonnyville-Cold Lake Trappers Association meeting on Thursday at the Beaver River Fish and Game. Numerous trappers from the area blasted the regional land-use framework draft, and took aim at the process of consultation, which some felt was poorly conducted.
Attended by 60 people, Ken Yackimec from Sustainable Resource Development and Luc Nowicki from Parks fielded questions and concerns about the potential impact of the vision for the Lower Athabasca Region.
“Who in the world would ever dream it affected us?” asked trapper Randy Vezeau during a break in the meeting. He called the consultation process “under-handed,” as the name Lower Athabasca Region formulated by the government is one locals wouldn't think affected them.
The consultation sessions were not adequately advertised, which resulted in few trappers getting involved in the process or completing the government workbook that asked for feedback on the draft, according to people at the meeting. Many in the room said the workbook was vague, one going as far as to call it “idiotic.”
One person noted that the consultations occurred when farmers were in the field, making it difficult for them to attend.
The draft plan calls for an expansion of the Lakeland Park and recreation area near Pinehurst and Wolf Lakes in a conservation area. The draft does not specify which activities would be permitted, causing several trappers concern about the area's future. A conservation area's uses has not been defined, making a tourism project in that area a possibility.
“We make our living in that country and if they trash it or over-use it, it isn't any good to us,” explained Vezeau.
Others expressed concern about government protecting Aboriginal traditional uses of the land, but not other trappers. Omer Plaquin asked what would happen to ATV users and the ATV industry if the plan cut down on recreational uses. A woman asked whether horse riding in the conservation area would become prohibited.
SRD's Yackimec said trappers were rightly touchy about “normal, average, everyday, non-consumptive, non-destructive uses suddenly being regulated,” after the meeting. “Nobody actually wants to see that.”
He added that individually, nobody is doing anything wrong, but that collectively, “We're doing some damage. That's what we're trying to grapple with.”
He said the draft plan is “fuzzy” in defining a conservation area. He admitted that the workbook didn't need to be in “government speak,” which may have affected peoples' willingness to provide feedback on the plan.
Yackimec encouraged the trappers at the meeting to continue providing feedback to the government as it works on another draft to be completed by spring. He said the feedback at the meeting was what the process needed.
During the meeting, Parks' Nowicki quipped, “They're really listening, which is strange for the government.”
However, various speakers at the meeting said they felt the regional plan had already been created without their input. One speaker asked attendees to raise their hands if they felt invited to participate in the consultation, to which no one in the room raised a hand.
The land-use framework poses a political hurdle for the Progressive Conservatives, who, according to Yackimec, were responding to a high level of unregulated activities on Crown lands.