A massive swath of land southwest of Williams Lake is being informally dedicated this weekend as a tribal park by two communities in the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, which was granted title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land in a historic Supreme Court ruling last year.
However, the mayor of Williams Lake is speaking out against the designation, claiming that it is unclear how Dasiqox Tribal Park will be governed and what effect it will have on jobs and resources in the region.
Questions about how a tribal park is run
"Nobody knows what tribal park status means," Mayor Walt Cobb told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce. "Nobody has a clue."
Dasiqox Tribal Park, which was initiated by the Yunesit'in and Xeni Gwet'in First Nations with the support of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, will cover an area of about 3,000 square kilometres — larger than half of Prince Edward Island.
The Tsilhqot'in First Nation first announced the creation of the park in October 2014.
Russell Myers-Ross, chief of the Yunesit'in First Nation, told Daybreak Kamloops that a tribal park is an entirely new concept of protecting land under First Nations leadership.
"It's a proactive way of looking at the land in a different way than it's been managed so far," Myers-Ross said, citing the Prosperity and New Prosperity mines and overharvesting as examples of concerns that his community has had.
"We've gone through processes that we haven't been able to manage in the way that we've wanted to," he said. "We're trying to redirect a lot of those energies as conflict into... a process where we can coexist."
Mayor concerned how park will affect industry, jobs
Mayor Cobb said his constituents have come to him with concerns about what this designation will mean to them.
"The ranchers are concerned, the loggers are concerned, the tourism operators are concerned, that once this becomes a park, they'll be history," he said.
"We need the land for resources, we need the land to make sure that we can survive, that we have jobs for our people. The Cariboo Chilcotin [region] has over 20 percent of the land base now tied up in either parks or special use zones, and we're not going to be able to make a living soon.
Cobb also said that neither Williams Lake city council or the regional district were consulted about the park. Cobb and Cariboo Regional District Area K director Betty Anderson decided Thursday they will send letters to the federal and provincial governments urging them to oppose the park, after Williams Lake city council voted to defer sending a letter for six weeks.
Chief Myers-Ross said the consultation process is still being planned out — and research will be done before the Tsilhqot'in decide on the level of development allowed in the park. Industry and development are usually not allowed in provincial and federal parks.
"The intent was to always have consultation, and this August my intent is to also visit local non-First Nations," Myers-Ross said.
To hear the full interview with Mayor Walt Cobb click on the audio labelled: Tsilhqot'in celebrate BC's first ever tribal park
To hear the full interview with Chief Russell Myers-Ross click on the audio labelled: First Nations still planning consultation for Dasiqox Tribal Park near Williams Lake