Members of the Houston Snowmobile Club keep up some 250 km of trails based primarily on forestry roads.

Members of the Houston Snowmobile Club keep up some 250 km of trails based primarily on forestry roads.

B.C. floats new plan for resource roads

Industry and recreation groups are voicing concerns about a provincial proposal to change how it manages forestry and other resource roads.

Industry and recreation groups are voicing concerns about how B.C. plans to manage forestry and other resource roads.

More than 450,000 km of gravel resource roads crisscross the province, opening up Crown land to loggers, miners, BC Hydro and others. The same roads provide access routes to some remote First Nations and to the backcountry areas that B.C. hunters, hikers and other recreation groups like to get out and enjoy.

Currently, B.C. has 11 different laws and several agencies to manage its resource roads—a costly and sometimes confusing system that the B.C. Liberal government has promised to simplify with a new Natural Resource Roads Act.

Nechako-Lakes MLA John Rustad says the B.C. Liberals withdrew a similar bill in 2008.

“We didn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for input,” said Rustad.

This time, he said the province is doing more consulting. B.C.’s natural resources ministry posted a 40-page discussion paper about the new bill in October and gave stakeholders until Dec. 15 to comment.

Rustad said another flaw in the 2008 bill was that it seemed to shift too many insurance costs onto industry.

“There was a general belief that it had actually become a disincentive to do things on the land base,” he said, explaining that anyone who manages a resource road has to buy liability insurance in case a road washes out or triggers a slide that causes environmental damage.

Liability is still the number-one challenge, said Rustad.

“Companies are interested in getting it off their books as quickly as possible,” he said, but that could mean deactivating roads that other resource companies and recreation groups want to use.

In such cases, Rustad said the question is who takes over.

“Who then takes on the liability?” he asked. “Who takes on maintenance costs of going out to the culverts and checking that everything’s okay?”

According to Doug Routledge, vice president of the Council of Forest Industries, in many cases the province is still the best candidate to manage the roads.

“The nature of their use has changed dramatically in the last ten years or so,” Routledge explained.

Whereas most of B.C.’s resource roads were previously used by a single forestry company, Routledge said it’s now common to see multiple users.

New traffic is coming from oil and gas companies in northeast B.C., he said, and a growing number of recreational users.

“Those roads are much more like a public highway,” he said.

In places like Tatla Lakes, he said forestry roads have also opened up two-wheel drive travel to remote First Nations.

“That’s a new and increasing amount of road use,” Routledge said, “I think there’s a role there for the provincial government to play.”

Routledge said if the province wants to keep an open-road policy, one thing it could do is set up a standard contract for cost-sharing.

“If we want to go fishing on the river or something like that, I don’t think we want to stop and put our twonie into a user box each and every time,” he said. Instead, he said, taxpayers could help keep roads open by having the province pay some 10 or 15 per cent of the costs.

Speaking for the Houston Snowmobile Club, Les Auston agrees that the B.C. government should continue to manage most resource roads.

Based on the province’s discussion paper, the club has already said it cannot support the new roads bill.

“When you read through it all two or three times, basically they’re trying to get out of maintaining those roads,” said Auston. That’s understandable, he added, except that there’s now a big push for more tourism on those roads.

Houston’s snowmobile club looks after some 250 km of trails, mostly on former or active forestry roads.

Auston said the club carries a $10-million insurance policy for the trails, receives another $2 million coverage from the province for maintaining them and has a good relationship with local forestry companies.

Although the discussion paper says resource roads will only be deactivated for environmental or safety reasons, Auston said the club is not so sure that government won’t deactivate roads as a control measure to keep people out of an area.

“That’s always been a concern of ours, and it’s a valid concern today,” he said.

Eckard Mendel, who represents northern B.C. hunters and handles access policy for the BC Wildlife Federation, echoed Auston’s concerns.

“The government, as far as I’m concerned, hasn’t proven that there’s a big issue with liability on roads left to get old on their own,” Mendel said.

“We don’t want to see roads de-activated so that people can’t access Crown land. We think the public has a right because the public in fact owns those roads.”

A finished version of the Natural Resources Road Act is expected by the fall of 2012, and will likely come into effect in 2013.

For more about the proposal, see the project website at www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/nrra/.

More than 450,000 km of gravel resource roads crisscross the province, opening up Crown land to loggers, miners, BC Hydro and others. The same roads provide access routes to some remote First Nations and to the backcountry areas that B.C. hunters, hikers and other recreation groups like to get out and enjoy.

Currently, B.C. has 11 different laws and several agencies to manage its resource roads—a costly and sometimes confusing system that the B.C. Liberal government has promised to simplify with a new Natural Resource Roads Act.

Nechako-Lakes MLA John Rustad says the B.C. Liberals withdrew a similar bill in 2008.

“We didn’t really provide a lot of opportunity for input,” said Rustad.

This time, he said the province is doing more consulting. B.C.’s natural resources ministry posted a 40-page discussion paper about the new bill in October and gave stakeholders until Dec. 15 to comment.

Rustad said another flaw in the 2008 bill was that it seemed to shift too many insurance costs onto industry.

“There was a general belief that it had actually become a disincentive to do things on the land base,” he said, explaining that anyone who manages a resource road has to buy liability insurance in case a road washes out or triggers a slide that causes environmental damage.

Liability is still the number-one challenge, said Rustad.

“Companies are interested in getting it off their books as quickly as possible,” he said, but that could mean deactivating roads that other resource companies and recreation groups want to use.

In such cases, Rustad said the question is who takes over.

“Who then takes on the liability?” he asked. “Who takes on maintenance costs of going out to the culverts and checking that everything’s okay?”

According to Doug Routledge, vice president of the Council of Forest Industries, in many cases the province is still the best candidate to manage the roads.

“The nature of their use has changed dramatically in the last ten years or so,” Routledge explained.

Whereas most of B.C.’s resource roads were previously used by a single forestry company, Routledge said it’s now common to see multiple users.

New traffic is coming from oil and gas companies in northeast B.C., he said, and a growing number of recreational users.

“Those roads are much more like a public highway,” he said.

In places like Tatla Lakes, he said forestry roads have also opened up two-wheel drive travel to remote First Nations.

“That’s a new and increasing amount of road use,” Routledge said, “I think there’s a role there for the provincial government to play.”

Routledge said if the province wants to keep an open-road policy, one thing it could do is set up a standard contract for cost-sharing.

“If we want to go fishing on the river or something like that, I don’t think we want to stop and put our twonie into a user box each and every time,” he said. Instead, he said, taxpayers could help keep roads open by having the province pay some 10 or 15 per cent of the costs.

Speaking for the Houston Snowmobile Club, Les Auston agrees that the B.C. government should continue to manage most resource roads.

Based on the province’s discussion paper, the club has already said it cannot support the new roads bill.

“When you read through it all two or three times, basically they’re trying to get out of maintaining those roads,” said Auston. That’s understandable, he added, except that there’s now a big push for more tourism on those roads.

Houston’s snowmobile club looks after some 250 km of trails, mostly on former or active forestry roads.

Auston said the club carries a $10-million insurance policy for the trails, receives another $2 million coverage from the province for maintaining them and has a good relationship with local forestry companies.

Although the discussion paper says resource roads will only be deactivated for environmental or safety reasons, Auston said the club is not so sure that government won’t deactivate roads as a control measure to keep people out of an area.

“That’s always been a concern of ours, and it’s a valid concern today,” he said.

Eckard Mendel, who represents northern B.C. hunters and handles access policy for the BC Wildlife Federation, echoed Auston’s concerns.

“The government, as far as I’m concerned, hasn’t proven that there’s a big issue with liability on roads left to get old on their own,” Mendel said.

“We don’t want to see roads de-activated so that people can’t access Crown land. We think the public has a right because the public in fact owns those roads.”

A finished version of the Natural Resources Road Act is expected by the fall of 2012, and will likely come into effect in 2013.

For more about the proposal, see the project website at www.for.gov.bc.ca/mof/nrra/.

 

Just Posted

Jill Mackenzie carefully replaces books on the shelves at the Houston Public Library. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
District approves annual library grant

Craft kits featured for summer reading club

The tradition of Houston Christian School grads giving Bibles to incoming kindergarten students will take place this year, but outdoors and in a modified fashion. (File photo)
Houston Christian School grad day is June 24

Grads themselves have set tone for the day, says teacher

Scott Richmond will be starting as the new vice principal for HSS and TSE. (Submitted/Houston Today)
Houston gets a new vice principal

Scott Richmond takes over from Dwayne Anderson who moved to Smithers

A Pacific Salmon Foundation grant of $3,000 is going towards the tree plantations. (Cindy Verbeek photo/Houston Today)
550 trees planted in Houston through A Rocha

Houston Christian School students and volunteers help with the tree planting

Currently the Houston station has 16 paramedics, two ambulances and one community paramedic vehicle. (File photo)
Retirement of longtime paramedics worries Houston community

“No loss of service,” assures BC Emergency Health Services

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read