This letter is in response to Ray Mason’s letter to the editor published in last week’s paper.
I would like to correct some of the inaccuracies in Mr. Mason’s letter.
On March 12, 2009, Gary Townsend, assistant deputy minister at the integrated land management bureau, signed an “Amendment to the Sea-to-Sky Land and Resource Management Plan to Include Non-Commercial Winter Recreation Zones.” In this document the ministry states: “These approved non-commercial winter recreation zones will serve as provincial policy.” What could be clearer than that?
It is neither voluntary nor is it a recommendation. There was also a map included with the document so that anyone with even rudimentary skills would know where the non-motorized areas are located. In addition, the LRMP “Detailed Management Direction” for the area is “to maintain the zone for quiet enjoyment by the public.” Again this is very clear.
While “quiet enjoyment” encompasses many aspects of a backcountry experience, the most obvious is quiet, the lack of non-natural noise. It also includes the ability to enjoy your skiing or snowshoeing without fear of a high-marking sled or a ghost-rider sled hitting you.
Ghost-rider sleds are when the rider pushes the unmanned snowmobile downhill and then skis or snowboards down after it. I have witnessed both of these events occurring in the Sproatt-Rainbow non-motorized zone on busy days.
There were several factors that contributed to the Sproatt-Rainbow Lake area being designated non-motorized. They include the two winter goat ranges in the area, the RMOW water supply, and the need for non-motorized users to have a safe place to enjoy the backcountry. This is supported by Gordon Erlandson in his Aug. 25, 2008 report, “Recommendations for the Management of Winter Backcountry Recreation in the Lillooet River Drainage and the Sea-to-Sky LRMP Area.” On page 11 it states: “There would have had to be substantive understanding of the following: a recognition that motorized use can have an impact on the ability of non-motorized users to fulfill their recreational experiences in areas where both types of uses take place concurrently — and that non-motorized uses do not have the same potential impact on motorized user experiences.”
Contrary to what Mr. Mason is suggesting, clearly all the non-motorized areas are open to everyone, you just can’t take your snowmobile there for the same reason that you can’t drive your car on a soccer field or jet ski on Lost Lake. It is for the safety of other users and to allow them to pursue their form of recreation without the negative impact of motorized users.
Mr. Mason is correct. Some areas, such as Brandywine, the Squamish Cheakamus Divide and the Pemberton Icecap, that were traditionally frequented by many backcountry ski tourers are now seeing reduced use by non-motorized skiers. The reason for this is pretty clear: we are being bullied out of these areas due to the unpleasantness of “sharing” with hundreds of snowmobiles. Who wants to ski for several hours while breathing snowmobile fumes only to find your powder destination all tracked out by snowmobiles?
It is a gross misrepresentation to say that non-motorized areas are “usually accessed by helicopter.” I personally have argued vehemently for a policy that bans helicopter access to any area that can be accessed in a day. I will leave it to the readers to determine if the average snowmobiler driving a truck with a sled in the back has a higher carbon footprint than my 50mpg Honda Fit that comfortably transports my family of four to the start of their skiing experience.
Any amount of garbage left by any user group is unacceptable. Personally, I have found one abandoned sled in the watershed. I have packed out several empty fuel containers, two snowmobile windshields and numerous miscellaneous parts from various snowmobiling areas. I was also with a group of hikers who removed four drive belts, five 20L fuel cans, two windshields, three gloves, two pairs of goggles, several straps, 10 water bottles, one sun cream container and 58 empty beer cans from one popular snowmobiling destination. As a result, my experience indicates that snowmobilers, like many other backcountry users, are not following the “leave nothing but footprints” philosophy.
The recent initiative by the B.C. Government at the direction of Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to rigorously enforce the Sproatt-Rainbow Lake non-motorized zone indicates just how seriously the government takes this issue. After being deprived of quiet enjoyment of this area for nearly five years I am cautiously optimistic that the public will be able to enjoy this non-motorized area as it was intended, for the enjoyment of all non-motorized users. After nearly 17 years since the concept of a Backcountry Sharing Accord was first initiated it will be a welcome accomplishment.