Dear Editor:

As co-chair of the Kootenay Snowsports Society we have been reluctant participants in the Backcountry Coalition since January. We heard a rumour Kat Hartwig from Wildsight was organizing this group and were immediately concerned that backcountry access restrictions could occur if we didnt attend.

Like a number of participants, we were there not because we believed in a backcountry plan or that there was anything wrong with not having a plan. We were there under duress. Wildsight also initiated a plan for the Golden area which some backcountry enthusiasts there describe as a travesty.

A number of incidents have called the integrity of this coalition into question, the first being the grants that were applied for by Wildsight, saying they were sponsoring the coalition and using all of our names, without the knowledge or consent of many of us. The coalition steering committee treated concerns about this as frivolous.

It is also of note that whilst coalition members have made it clear on a number of occasions to the various politicians that their participation is welcome only as observers, Gerry Wilkie (Regional District of East Kootenay director and former president of Wildsight Invermere chapter) and Paul Denchuk (District of Invermere councilor) have taken spots on the steering committee. Three other Wildsight members have also attended steering committee meetings.

Now we have the issue of government representatives being withdrawn by the ministry. News in last weeks Valley Echo was the first most coalition members heard of this, although the steering committee has known about it since July 23rd. Minutes of the steering committee meeting of that date circulated to coalition members strangely omit the discussion that took place. Why?

Gerry Wilkie seems to be a self-appointed spokesperson for the coalition, as does Pat Morrow, who is listed as Wildsight on coalition sign-in sheets. Minutes for all coalition and steering committee meetings are taken by a Wildsight member. Coalition facilitator Dennis Hamilton is supposed to be neutral yet Dennis is speaking to the press about an issue that most coalition members havent even heard about or discussed. Think twice. Who is really running this show? All is not as it is crafted to appear for public consumption.

The government is correct in withdrawing its support for what is NOT an unbiased process. User groups will have a greater chance of having their access issues dealt with fairly and without bias by ministry staff rather than dealing with a coalition driven by a small group of radical environmental activists.

It is for these reasons the Kootenay Snowsports Society has left the Columbia Valley Recreation Access Coalition, and encourages other stakeholders to do the same.

Cheryl Willard

Kootenay Snowsports Society