From the BCSF Office: We Are Backcountry Stewards Not Users

The government has committed to working with the BCSF, local clubs and the public on all individual herd level plans

by Donegal Wilson, Executive Director, BCSF

Lady sledder sitting on snowmobile.
The one statement that the BCSF would like to remind riders is that 'we are not backcountry users - we are backcountry stewards." Photo courtesy BCSF

I wanted to share how happy the BCSF is with the great turnouts at the Caribou Community Consultation meetings. The BCSF attended the meeting in Revelstoke, with more than 700 people in the room.

The government has stated that the Section 11 Agreement does not include any new recreational closures but does discuss a commitment to complete individual herd plans by the fall of 2020. The government is stating publicly that snowmobilers will be at the table, part of the negotiations prior to any further actions affecting our sport.

Right now, government has committed to working with the BCSF, local clubs and the public on all individual herd level plans. They want us to be at the table. This has been stated in every piece of material we have read or at meetings we have attended. We believe a review of the work they have done and the creation of new herd plans may have positive outcomes especially if we participate in a constructive way.

In the past the BCSF and many of our clubs took an aggressive position in 2007. It did not help our cause. Since then we all have worked to establish legal partnerships with government through the SMA’s and to secure key relationships with government staff/elected officials.

The BCSF has been told and believes that in the South (the Hart Range north of Prince George to the US Border) where we have existing closures that there will be few, if any, changes for the snowmobile community.

Each snowmobiler in BC needs a chance to be heard. We want to ensure that their message comes across in a way that is productive while allowing for us to voice our concerns. We now have a seat at the table with a government that says they want to collaborate. Let’s take that opportunity to use it to its fullest in the most productive way possible.

Be respectful always - no matter if it is government, a user group who is against motorized recreation. The best way to fuel their hatred is to behave in a way that confirms any stereotypes that may exist. Let’s demonstrate that we are not an uneducated user group with no respect for our natural environment; after all, the environment is what brings us out to the backcountry.

Seek commonalities and unity - due to our history, we sometimes feel backed into a corner as a group and feel the need to be defensive. We understand why this feeling exists, but this is not a productive strategy for land management negotiations. We need to seek common ground and for most people in BC it will be our love of the rural way of life. We still can most certainly voice our concerns to MP and MLA’s but we need to do it in an informed and productive way.

Seek the truth and avoid jumping to conclusions - the BCSF is working hard to keep the lines of communications open with Government, the Ministry’s science team and riders. Currently, we feel that they are listening. That we have an opportunity to affect change. If you are unsure of something you have read or have a question, please reach out to the BCSF or to government contacts directly for clarification. Misinformation can be crippling, causes confusion and fear. We strongly feel that we now have an opportunity to affect our future. We are being given a strong seat at the table. Let’s sit in that seat, using it to its fullest for the betterment of the future our sport

Keep a clean social media presence - it is important that all of our social media is the record of truth. It can be difficult when we feel attacked by environmental groups, especially with the foreign funding of NGO’s and their agenda in mainstream media. Resist engaging in online “warfare” with anti-groups. Keep in mind that all levels of Government are reading social media and following groups.

Reach out to your Municipal, Provincial and Federal Government - it is important that we educate these decision makers on the importance of snowmobiling at every opportunity. They need to understand who your club is, where your club operates, the economic impact the sport has for your community, the work the club does, and the public infrastructure the club maintains.

Keep it professional - much of the correspondence the Ministry and science team receives from the public is filled with rants, profanities and threats, which accomplishes nothing. Therefore, as clubs it is important that we educate and inform ourselves well ahead of meetings in order to make strong impact for our defense or point of view. We need respond professionally in a way that will be considered.

The one statement that resonated is that we need to stop being users…we are not backcountry users…we are backcountry stewards. It is the truth. We need to share it!

Donegal Wilson is the executive director of the British Columbia Snowmobile Federation (BCSF)

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