Road rage

A Vancouver Island prospecting group is concerned about provincial government legislation which privatizes British Columbia's back country roads "to the detriment of its citizens" - "dramatically" affecting the lifestyles "enjoyed by most rural British Columbians and First Nations." In the past, according to an analysis distributed by the Vancouver Island Exploration Group and obtained by Public Eye, the government had responsibility and control over such roads. But the Resource Road Act will "de facto" transfer their ownership "to a select group of Forest Sector Companies and unaccountable Crown Corporations."

Under that law, commercial and industrial road users will now have to pay those companies a fee to maintain those roads, "as well as arbitrarily assessed capital road construction costs - even though these capital costs may have long since been recovered (by forest firms) through stumpage, income, and tax deductions."

Furthermore, the analysis states the legislation "imposes certain future maintenance obligation" on those companies that will result in the closure "of all inactive forest related resource roads...This will make even ATV access nearly impossible. Thus, British Columbia's back country road infrastructure is slated to be systematically dismantled."

The group is convening an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss the changes. The analysis also alleges the bill "repeals and abolishes" the mining industry's legislated land access rights. The government hasn't yet responded to a request for comment. The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned analysis.

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Disguised behind a verbal facade of 'road safety', Bill 30 (the Resource Road Act) repeals all statute provisions providing "security of mineral tenure" and invokes conditions detrimental to sustainability of Mineral Exploration and Resource Development in the province of British Columbia. To the detriment of its citizens, Bill 30 privatizes British Columbia's Back Country Roads.

SUMMARY:

Introduced for first reading on April 16, 2008, Bill 30 (the Resource Road Act) invokes the most fundamental social, economic and political change in the history of British Columbia since joining confederation. The lifestyles enjoyed by most rural British Columbians and First Nations are about to be affected dramatically, if this bill is passed into law, Control and responsibility for British Columbia's vast network of back country roads are about to be transferred from the provincial Crown to a select group of Forest Sector Companies and unaccountable Crown Corporations. The terms and language used in Bill 30 are carefully designed to disguise this de facto transfer of ownership. In keeping with this theme, these new "˜entitlements' are labeled 'designated maintainers'.

Future "˜authorizations' granting access, use, and maintenance payments to the newly "˜designated maintainers' will be superficially governed by an unaccountable, independent quasi judicial, appointed Board entitled the
Resource Road Authority. The Resource Road Authority will have the powers
of search and seizure and decisions of the Resource Road Authority can not be appealed to the Provincial Courts.

In other words, all commercial and industrial users, as well as non-commercial users alike (as proscribed by future regulation) will require a "˜resource road permit'. These permits specify not only conditions of use but a schedule of payments to be made to these 'designated maintainers'. Fees will not only include road maintenance charges but arbitrarily assessed capital road construction recovery costs - even through these capital costs may have long since been recovered through stumpage, income, and tax deductions. In addition, Bill 30 imposes certain future maintenance obligations on the "˜designated maintainer' guaranteeing total deactivation of all inactive forest
related resource roads through removal of all bridges and culverts. This will make even ATV access nearly impossible. Thus, British Columbia's back country road infrastructure is slated to be systematically dismantled.

In addition, Bill 30 repeals and abolishes all legislated rights of access contained within the Mineral Tenure and Coal Acts. This is unprecedented in British Columbia's mining history. Bill 30 goes far beyond anything attempted by NDP Attorney General Colin Gableman in 1992. Under the guise of consolidation, Bill 30 abolishes security of Mineral Tenure in British Columbia.

Section 11.1 (subtitle - Certainty of access to mineral titles) of the Mineral Tenure Act, Section 10 (subtitle - Certainty of access) of the Coal Act and Section 10 (subtitled Power to use existing roads) of the Mines Right of Way Act are all repealed in their entirety.

Bill 30 also amends the definition of "˜road' as defined in the Mines Right of Way Act as inapplicable to "resource roads", thus rendering the Mines Right of Way Act without effect or force on Crown Lands.

The extinguishment of the right to use existing roads on Crown Land (without the need to pay compensation, further licenses and or fees) as previously enjoyed by free miners (prospectors) under Section 10 of the Mines Right of Way Act will lead directly to a cessation of green-fields (or grass roots) mineral exploration within the Province. Hundreds to thousands of kilometers of back country roads need to be traveled each year by a prospector to find one new mineral occurrence.

In anticipation of Bill 30, the Ministry of Forests recently dictated terms to International Forest Products to be used as a template for future "authorizations" by "˜free miners' (attached). Among other demands, this template calls for cash security of $170,000 to be posted for the simple use of a light truck for a period of six months on one resource road. This template, if used by the new Road Resource Authority, will render tenure maintenance, mineral exploration and development financially enviable to all but the largest corporate entities. Without a legislated right of access, both Mineral and Coal Tenures will be seen as virtually worthless by the financial community as well as in the eyes of the law.

In addition, Bill 30 also repeals the Industrial Roads Act. This Act insured the forest related road building activities did not interfere with a mine or mining related activities. Section 4 the Industrial Road Act read:

"Mines to be protected

4 Unless authorized by the minister, an industrial road administrator must not locate or construct its proposed industrial road so as to obstruct, interfere with, or injuriously affect the working of or the access or entrance to any mine then open, or for the opening of which preparations are being lawfully and openly made."

This and all other legislated protections of mines and mining related activities will be repealed in passage of Bill 30.

Despite comments made during the introduction of Bill 30 by the Minister of Forests, there are no guarantees of public access to Crown Land within the Resource Road Act. To the contrary, the Act contemplates that by force of future regulation, permits, fees and restrictions will be imposed on the general public for all uses, be it for recreation, hunting, fishing or gathering.

The official Summary - as directly quoted from Bill 30 is as follows:
"Explanatory Note This Bill requires that permits be held for all industrial uses, and prescribed Commercial uses, of roads in British Columbia other than highways. It establishes a Resource Road Authority and allows that authority and its delegates to issue, amend and transfer road authorizations. The Bill provides for particular users of resource roads to be tasked with the maintenance and deactivation of those roads, while at the same time allowing the government to remediate and close roads where necessary. It provides that resource roads are only to be constructed, modified, maintained or deactivated under appropriate road authorizations and establishes the ability to set the standards by which that construction, modification, maintenance and deactivation is to be performed. It provides for the manner in which resource roads are to be used, and contemplates that additional directions can be given for roads that have a high level of traffic. It also provides for the authority to enforce the provisions of road authorizations, this Act and the regulations, and establishes an enforcement regime that provides for both reviews and appeals of authority determinations."

2 Comments

These remote roads, built for the purposes of logging, should be public roads and should be maintained by the Crown as part of the overall road network of British Columbia.

What we have instead is a battle between two big business resource industries, and a provincial government determined to confer private privilege and costs on one of those industries to the detriment of the other and the general public. In this task the BC Liberals will be greatly aided by BC's semi-commercial environmental lobby industry, who want to see as many roads as possible de-commissioned and eliminated. They don't like people such as ATV riders who would use these roads recreationally, and they certainly don't want significant numbers of citizens seeing the back country and then asking why they cannot purchase or at least least lots for cottages there as would be the case in any other Canadian province.

This may seriously impact some remote commmunities only access by logging roads, making the village pay a bond and a user fee. Plus, access for fisherman (and women) will be all but removed as you will need a permit.. effectively shutting down the backcountry... what a idiotic idea..kill this bill!

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