British Columbia

B.C. waives Crown land rent for outdoor adventure companies

Jeff Pensiero, owner of backcountry resort Baldface Lodge on Kootenays' Selkirk Mountains, says the provincial aid is just a Band-Aid, not significant enough for him to put his business back into operation.

COVID economic relief for hunting, camping and ski operators gets mixed reaction

Baldface Lodge is one of the outdoor adventure operators that could benefit from the province's $1.36 million COVID-19 rent forgiveness program, but its owner Jeff Pensiero isn't impressed enough to put his business back into operation. (Jeff Pensiero)

Commercial outdoor recreation businesses paying the provincial government for use of Crown lands will have their rent waived for a year.  

"We want to help people who own or run outdoor recreation companies, because they are important to rural economies and they've been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development.

"By offering rent relief, we hope that they can continue to contribute to the well-being of remote communities throughout British Columbia."

About $1.36 million has been earmarked for rent forgiveness, which benefits 592 Land Act tenure holders and 443 Park Act permit holders.

The businesses include fishing and hunting lodges, guest ranches, ecotourism lodges, seasonal campgrounds and backcountry ski operations.  

B.C., Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson says he hopes the rent relief program can help the economy of remote communities across the province. (Doug Donaldson/ Facebook)

"I don't know if this is a solution. It's really a Band-Aid." said cat-ski operator Jeff Pensiero. "It's not really significant, I don't think."

Pensiero founded and owns Baldface Lodge, a backcountry resort in the Kootenays' Selkirk Mountains.

He won't open the lodge for the upcoming winter season and isn't hiring 118 seasonal staff.  

Pensiero says rent relief won't make up for the dramatic drop in revenue caused by COVID-19 travel restrictions.

"All this stuff is great, but there's no clients, you know. And the clients that are there, everyone dropped their pants, the people that are operating, to get into a price war."

Province charges other fees on operators despite rent relief

Eight-five per cent of Baldface Lodge guests arrive from outside the country. The Lodge hosts some 5,800 visitors a year and brings as much as $4 million to the local economy.

Pensiero says operators still face other government fees. There's no relief for last year's rent, despite a season shortened by the pandemic.

The province also continues to charge a $6 per skier, per day, backcountry fee. Last winter's cheque is due before the first snow falls.

"The skier day [fee] is much larger than the rent." said Pensiero. "Wipe it. Just don't make us pay for that. That would put between 30,000 and 60,000 in everybody's pocket, depending on how big they are."

On Sept. 17, 2020, the B.C. government pledged $100 million for the province's tourism sector, as part of its $1.5 billion pandemic recovery plan.

The funding falls short of the tourism sector's request to receive $680 million in aid.  

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