UNBC researcher Don Manson asked for comments before April 1 for his draft community economic development plan for Clearwater. It’s a little late, but here’s a suggestion.
One of the action items Manson mentions in his draft plan would be to hold a regional mining forum. Such a forum would bring together all the possible players in any mining that might occur in the area, including the mining companies doing exploration work, businesses that service the exploration companies (or that would like to get into that business), potential employees and so on. The objective would be to improve the free flow of information so that everyone has a good idea of what the others are up to, all possible opportunities for collaboration are utilized, and any possible disputes are recognized early and dealt with.
Why stop with mining?
Some time ago for several years it was the practice for all the forest companies in what was then the Clearwater Forest District to hold annual public input sessions for their forest plans in one big forum. An interested member of the public could look at the maps of what Gilbert Smith was up to, then walk across the aisle and see Weyerhaeuser’s plans for the adjacent block. The forums were generally well attended and there appeared to be lots of useful information and feedback being exchanged – not least among the forest professionals from the various companies, eager to show off their latest software and curious about what the others were doing.
Although they appeared useful, the forums gradually died away. The main reason seemed to be because they were timed to coincide with National Forest Week but that was a time when the forest staff had plenty of other work to do as well.
Today, if you want to find out what the forest companies are doing in our backyard you need to go to each of their individual offices (usually by appointment).
Combining a regional mining forum with a regional forestry forum would seem to have a lot of synergies. Anything that affects the landscape, such as a major mine, would affect the forest industry, and vice-versa.
And why stop there? If we’re going to talk about mining and forestry, why not talk about non-timber forest products, trapping, hunting, fishing and all the other activities people do on our land base? Why not spend a weekend each year when we have all the mining types over here, the forest companies over there, non-timber forest products and other users in other venues? Everyone would be free to circulate from display to display, learn things, and make comments.
We often complain that major decisions about what happens in our backyard are being made elsewhere. What else can we expect, when we don’t even know what is happening there?
Such a regional land use forum would be a lot of work to organize. It would be best to start small, with something like the mining forum Manson suggested (and even that would take plenty of effort to get off the ground). Other partners, such as Simpcw First Nations, would need to get involved. Once it gets going, however, we should endeavor to let it grow into something of true lasting value to the residents of the Valley.