Creston Valley residents must regain control of wildlife area

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To the Editor:

The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area has taken habitat away from the wildlife, using it as a farm for cattle instead of what it was set aside for, and has taken vehicle access away from the local public.

The CVWMA is governed by a board of three government officials: Tony Wideski, Andre Breault and Richard Dalon. I have spoken to each of these individuals and they say that the board works quite well. (That is their opinion, not mine.) This board, through Dalon’s management, has allowed cattle on CVWMA land, with fences in disrepair not keeping them off the dike, causing considerable damage to both the dyke and riverbank. I believe they should be held accountable for damages. I tried to stop the cattle before damage was done, but the CVWMA did as it pleased. Repairs should not come from our tax dollars, as we don’t have a say in what is done. The farmers should not be held responsible because management wanted to get rent for land that is supposed to be set aside for wildlife.

The CVWMA does not get provincial or federal government funding. It has had both in the past, as well as funding from BC Hydro, donations and government grants. With all of this funding, it could not manage CVWMA at a profit. In my opinion, this is because each manager thought the area was his domain, and it has been taken away piece by piece. Too much money has been spent on the interpretation centre and not enough on the wildlife.

I propose that a local board of directors be formed, consisting of local residents of the valley (nature lovers and those who have lived here and know the history), the Creston Valley Rod and Gun Club, the Regional District of Central Kootenay and Ducks Unlimited — a variety of people who want to improve the CVWMA instead of closing it down to everyone.

At a rod and gun club meeting, Dalon told us the CVWMA was going to block access at Sirdar because people were using this crossing to get to Duck Lake and said we were a liability. After speaking to CPR officials, we were told there is a sign saying, “Use at your own risk.” The CPR said it has no problem with us using this crossing. The rod and gun club helps pay for the area to be cleaned up of garbage.

Dalon also came to the Duck Lake Diking District meeting, telling the directors that the public is a liability and should not be allowed on the dike. I always believed that it was the job of the diking district’s directors to act as the majority of members see fit.

The East Kootenay Anglers Society raised money to put in a proper trail from the parking area to Duck Lake. This offer was declined by the CVWMA. The current trail is steep at the top and difficult to pack down boats. The CVWMA introduced a charge to leave boats there, and to fish the lake and hunt, yet we have no proper access and boats have to be left there because it is too hard to pack them up and down all the time. Hunters and fisherman already pay for to access waters and government land when buying provincial licences and tags, which each include a $5 habitat fee. We are forced to buy these permits if we want to use the area, while others have an option and are asked to donate or buy a membership to the CVWMA.

Dalon continually says this is government mandate, and he hides behind these two words. Until the management is willing to work with the local people, they will continue to be the liability to the valley and the CVWMA. The residents of Creston Valley must regain control.

Gordon Ogilvie