The Guiding Principles for the Management of Land and Resources in the Upper Clearwater Valley (the Guiding Principles) is a formal land-use agreement between the British Columbia government and residents of a rural community called Upper Clearwater, situated two hours north of Kamloops and six hours northeast of Vancouver.
The terms of the Guiding Principles were arrived at by consensus during an 18-month negotiation process referred to as the Upper Clearwater Valley Public Planning Process (Planning Process) and initiated by the B.C. Ministry of Forests (MoF) in late December 1996.
The purpose of this process was to “consult and come to agreement on Forest Stewardship Plans for the Upper Clearwater Valley, North of Spahats Creek” – in effect to create a Local Use Plan under the then-recently-established Kamloops Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP).
For the purposes of the Planning Process, all crown land in the Upper Clearwater Valley north of Spahats Creek was divided into seven areas of interest, or Plan Areas, designated A through G.
Reaching consensus on future land use in Upper Clearwater was an arduous task requiring much give and take by all parties. In three of the Plan Areas – Areas B, E and F – local residents ultimately agreed to endorse establishment/expansion of three woodlots they had earlier opposed, covering 1350 ha. In the remaining four Plan Areas, MoF agreed in return to give special consideration to non-forestry values through adherence to the Guiding Principles agreement.
Prominent among the Guiding Principles agreement are the following five items:
- MoF will give local residents a meaningful say in future MoF land use decisions affecting Plan Areas A, C, D and G.
- MoF will refer any planned forestry activities to a citizen committee called the Upper Clearwater Referral Group.
- MoF will ensure that the quality, quantity and timing of water flow in six named streams – Fage, Ordschig, Case, Byrd and Duncan Creeks and Shook Brook – are maintained within their natural range of variability.
- MoF will ensure that existing oldgrowth forests remain unlogged.
- MoF will restrict future logging to salvage operations.
The Guiding Principles document was signed into effect on 19 May 1999 by MoF District Manager Jim Munn, who clearly felt it a fair balance between resource extraction and the rights and needs of other stakeholders:
“I believe that … we have achieved a new level of understanding and trust in each other as individuals, businesses and government agents entrusted with the task of finding and implementing solutions to a broad range of sometimes seemingly conflicting values. I believe that with the guiding principles, there is a balance with which we can all live.”
At the time the Guiding Principles document was signed into effect, the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act (FPC) gave the MoF District Manager final authority to withhold cutting and road permits.
That changed, however, in 2004 when the B.C. Liberal government adopted its Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). Under FRPA, the MoF District Manager no longer has authority to withhold cutting and road permits based on input from third party groups like the Referral Group. Instead the final authority now rests with industry itself in the form of “professional reliance.”
During the transition to FRPA, it seems clear that the MoF District Manager had a responsibility to the residents of Upper Clearwater to ensure that the Guiding Principles were accommodated within the new legislation, i.e., as a Local Use Plan under the Kamloops LRMP, as originally envisioned.
Unfortunately this did not happen; and as a result, the Guiding Principles document currently has no legal standing under FRPA.
This loss of legal standing has created considerable ambiguity in the application of the Guiding Principles. For while on the one hand it is clear that forestry interests under FRPA have the legal right to conduct business as usual in Upper Clearwater, yet on the other hand it is equally clear that the residents of Upper Clearwater retain a moral right to expect the B.C. government to uphold its part of the agreement. A recent B.C. Forest Practices Board report documents some of the downstream impact of this situation.
For many years, both MoF and industry – in this case CANFOR – have professed commitment to the Guiding Principles and a willingness to abide by them. Unfortunately, however, recent tests of these commitments have revealed them to be empty of meaningful content (see The Referral Group).
The Guiding Principles document can be linked to here: Guiding Principles.
Next up: The Referral Group