PEACE REGION, B.C. – Representatives from Northeastern B.C. received a long-awaited response from the provincial ministry of land regarding concerns over snowmobiling restrictions in the region.

The restrictions have closed 13 of the 21 recreational use areas for snowmobiling in the region in order to protect caribou, according to the ministry.

The letter was addressed to both Peace region MLAs, as well as the federal MP for the region, and sent from the desk of the deputy minister of land, water, and resource stewardship, Lori Halls.

“The closures in the South Peace are part of B.C.’s overall commitment to reducing risks to caribou and their habitat from winter motorized recreation,” Halls wrote.

The letter outlined that numerous meetings were held to record the interests of snowmobilers in the region. It noted the commitment of the volunteers who put the meetings together.

“The recommendations brought forward by the clubs were of great value to the project. Through discussions with the local clubs, snowmobile values for all levels of experience were identified,” Halls wrote. 

Halls’ letter had a general summary of events and meetings held between stakeholders discussing the closures but presented few solutions to complaints made by residents and their representatives.

Mike Bernier, one of the recipients of the letter and MLA for the South Peace region where many of the closures are, said that the hours of work put in by the snowmobiling association to study the area was entirely ignored by the province. 

“Lots of studies were done,” he said. “300 hours of work by the snowmobile association—and the government didn’t listen to any of it.”

“When we asked for them to reconsider, they basically gave us a bureaucratic answer that didn’t even acknowledge the concerns,” he continued.

The year-round closures will largely affect snowmobiling but will also impact other outdoor recreation like quadding and four-by-fouring— not to mention the small businesses that support the activities in the region, Bernier said. 

“We have people in the region who live here and enjoy the backcountry— the back country is part of the way of life here,” he said.

One solution presented was the isolation of some areas due to overlapping restrictions. “A solution has been identified and mapping updated,” Hall wrote.

She also noted that the B.C. Caribou Recovery Program provided $150,000 to help snowmobile clubs in the area make plans for projects outside the newly off-limits areas.

“Projects could include new access, maintenance of existing trails, and other projects specified by the clubs,” the letter said.

Though the money is appreciated, Bernier said, it is money that should have been going towards the upkeep of backcountry recreation in the region regardless of the closures.

The restrictions were put in place in December 2021 to protect caribou habitats. Over 450,000 hectares of Crown land were closed to snowmobilers.

Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.