Liberals look for input for before road act completed

BC Liberals insist that the Natural Resource Road Act is looking for consultation before moving ahead.

The BC Liberals insist that the Natural Resource Road Act currently being worked on is going through the proper consultation process.

The Natural Resource Road Act, which will determine the future of the 450,000 kilometres of resource roads in the province, is in its drafting stage, after the formal input process ended in December of 2011.

“We want to hear from all user groups… We’ve had a formal process of input, and we’ve received a lot of input as the staff have been developing the framework. That closed in December,” said Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“But that doesn’t mean that we are not open to continued input. And we continue to receive input. And our staff here are continuing to consult with communities and user groups. So if people want to give input or suggestions, that opportunity is still there, and all they need to do is contact our staff in the ministry on that.”

With such a vast number of resource roads in the province, currently being administered by 11 separate pieces of legislation, it is an important issue that needs to be addressed. This is the second attempt by the provincial government to address the issue.

“Last time there were concerns about some of the direction in it. I think there were concerns that there hadn’t been enough consultation. So in this process we are working through a very extensive consultation process,” said Thomson. “The attempt here is to consolidate all that framework into one act that will benefit all the users of resource roads.

“So what we’re hoping is that through the process and the consultation we’ll get an act that streamlines the administration, improves safety, reduces the environmental impacts, improves compliance, and sets consistent standards for building, maintaining and using resource roads.”

There was concern expressed by NDP MLA Norm Macdonald that this new act may lead to the closure of resource roads in the Golden area, roads that are well utilized for recreational purposes, if not commercial.

“What we are looking at is the framework under which resource roads would be managed. And it would be premature at this point to say what all of that will look like… but there have been concerns expressed that our current framework leads towards more deactivation. That’s what we’ve heard from communities,” said Thomson.

“What we’re looking to do is find a framework that sets up better administration, with the ultimate goal that there will be less deactivation.”

Both the original discussion paper, which outlines the proposals for the Natural Resource Road Act, as well as a summary of public feedback is available on the ministry website www.gov.bc.ca/for.

It is expected that a Bill will be drafted in time to be submitted to the Legislature in the Fall of 2012.