It’s a plan that will help backcountry enthusiasts find balance while providing enforceable regulations to protect the terrain. As the only area in the East Kootenay without a Recreational Access Management Plan (RAMP), members of different community groups including Summit Trail Makers, Windermere Valley Snowmobile Club, Wildsight and local government officials have been meeting to get started on the process to create a Columbia Valley RAMP.

Noticeably missing from the previous RAMP meeting held in May was representation from local First Nations Bands, Shuswap Band and Akisqnuk First Nation (part of the Ktunaxa Nation).

Diane Cote, territorial lands management coordinator for the Shuswap band, was in attendance at the latest meeting held on Monday, July 31st. Ms. Cote expressed concern about the plan moving ahead without First Nations’ consultation.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act states, “The existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” Ms. Cote brought section 35 forward to the RAMP meeting to highlight First Nations rights over decisions made over the land.

“We need to be at the table and we need you to understand what our values are,” said Ms. Cote.

Ms. Cote brought forward the notion that recreational areas may be a vital area for cultural heritage, and that First Nations’ culture needs to be considered first.

“It’s still an impact, a potential impact on our cultural heritage,” said Ms. Cote.

The group recognized the importance of working with the local First Nation communities on the RAMP project and continued recognition of title rights.

During the RAMP meeting, the group listened to a presentation delivered by Darcy Monchak, representing the Golden RAMP, to provide insight for the Columbia Valley group as they move forward with creating a plan for the Valley.

Mr. Monchak highlighted what worked and what didn’t work while the Golden plan was created, offering suggestions for the Columbia Valley group. He made recommendations such as getting provincial and local governments involved, making decisions by landscape levels not road by road basis, agreeing on a mapping key and having balanced sector representation.

Mr. Monchak stated that the Columbia Valley is looking at two years of work before the RAMP will be ready. He recommended the group seek out government experts to advise, especially when addressing environmental concerns.

“There’s nothing that beats having the expert at the table,” said Mr. Monchak.

After Mr. Monchak’s presentation, the group discussed their next steps to getting the process started which includes finding additional funding and gaining provincial government support.

“The province is the driver; no one else can drive it,” said Village of Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt.

Meaning without the support of the provincial government, a statutory Columbia Valley RAMP won’t move forward. Mayor Reinhardt and Gerry Wilkie, Regional District of East Kootenay Area G director, have requested a meeting with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development at the Union of BC Municipalities Convention in September to discuss the plan.

The group will reconvene in early October to discuss their next steps to developing a RAMP for the Columbia Valley.