This management plan aims to direct the management of the Big Creek and South Chilcotin Mountain parks. In the plan the key features and values of the parks are expressed, the suitable types of management actions are determined, the right levels of use and advancement are identified, long-term vision and management goals are set up and various management strategies to accomplish the vision and goals of the parks and therefore also reacts to present and anticipated threats are specified.
Both parks are situated roughly 80 kilometres west of Lillooet, 180 kilometres north of Vancouver and 100 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake and lie within southwest British Columbia. South Chilcotin Mountains Park encompasses 56,796 hectares of mountains and alpine areas and Big Creek Park 67,918 hectares. They are both Class A parks described in Schedule D of the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act and are therefore dedicated to the conservation of their natural environments for the use, inspiration and enjoyment of the public. Commercial development and resource extraction are forbidden. The Park Act, the Park, Conservancy and Recreation Area Regulation, the management plan and policies and procedures of BC Parks are all part of the management.
Adjacent to the parks, forestry and mining take place together with recreational activities including heli-skiing which also occurs within South Chilcotin Mountains Park.
The Lillooet Land and Resource Management Plan recommended South Chilcotin Mountains Park. Big Creek Park however was proposed through the Cariboo-Chilcotin Land Use Plan. These plans include direction on protected areas and are a primary guidance for park management. Within the parks, tenures are administrated including parts of seven traplines, four guide outfitters territories and ten range tenures for horses and cattle. Several tourism operations providing guided horseback riding, hiking and biking, facilities associated with two guide outfitters and several more commercial tenures were converted into park use permits.
Management planning began in 2011. Input as well as participation from First Nations was a first step in the planning process. BC Parks invited the public to participate and consulted with stakeholders, First Nations, government agencies and public interest groups to collect information on values, desired activities, public and commercial use and management issues that needed to be discussed. This plan ensures that the values are kept up while also providing the activities the public desired.
The South Chilcotin Mountains Park has big value to the St’at’imc Nation. They drafted their own land use plan that is relevant to park management planning in many ways. For example, respect of cultural traditions, sustainability, and to include global warming into management planning. Big Creek Park is important to the Tsilhqot’in Nation for hunting and gathering activities. The parks also have economic value to the towns around them, including tourism and ranching.
Values and Roles of the Parks
Variations in the topography and climate ranging from glaciers to lower wetlands make the parks highly significant for their ecological value. It is important for Grizzly Bear populations in British Columbia and a diversity of other wildlife. Among other things, ease of access, diverse topography and variety of wildlife are just a few things that attract visitors from around the world.
The parks have geological history that display rocks from many eras and Mesozoic Era marine fossils linked with sedimentary rock areas. It has a drier climate with a lot of wind especially at higher altitudes and variations of environmental conditions with varied vegetation and wildlife.
The parks have a considerable distribution of ecosystems found in the provincial protected area system, including the Central Chilcotin Ranges Ecosection located in the northern half of South Chilcotin Mountain Park, the Southern Chilcotin Ranges Ecosection occurring in the southern parts and The Chilcotin Plateau Ecosection located in the northern half of Big Creek Park.
The parks support a variety of vegetation and wildlife with scattered Whitebark Pine stands which are an important food source for the Grizzly Bear. Other species include but are not limited to Mountain Goats, Moose, Black Bear, Grey Wolf, Bald Eagle, Cougar and Californian Bighorn Sheep. Hunting is allowed in both parks through hunting season and limited entry permits, however, it’s limited due to difficult access.
The parks have many cultural values including the three First Nations; the Tsilhqot’in, the St’at’imc and the Secwepemc, plus the ranching and mining history.
The rounded mountains and valleys make them easily accessible for both wildlife and humans. The parks have significant recreational values. Some activities include hunting, fishing, riding, mountain biking, hiking, wildlife viewing and much more.
Many researchers and naturalists come to South Chilcotin Mountains and Big Creek parks to focus on research such as landforms, fossils, wildlife habitat and a variety of other topics.
The vision of management includes a secure ecological integrity, healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations including but not limited to Grizzly Bear, Moose, Californian Bighorn Sheep and Grey Wolf. Endangered species shall find a secure area protected from a variety of threats. Visitors coming to the park should experience a strong sense of wilderness and adventure. Those who visit the park or live near the park experience an understanding of stewardship and respect for the land and its cultural heritage. The conservation should be maintained with every activity taking place inside the parks.
A high priority in the park management plans is the protection of the ecological integrity. Currently the ecosystems are in good condition however there are few issues that need to be addressed, for example incomplete habitat mapping and natural values inventory. It is important to keep the natural diversity of wildlife and plants, create awareness on the ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife in the parks, preserve fossil resources, prevent invasive species from prospering on park ground, make the park border more obvious and ensure the water quality within the parks.
Many of the trails used by wildlife are also popular with humans. A healthy wildlife population need to be guaranteed especially including the Grizzly Bear, Rainbow Trout and Bull Trout populations.
With three First Nations being within the parks it is important to respect their cultural heritage and work cooperatively with them. To ensure the continuation of these cultural values it needs to be respected and recorded for future generations.
The public desires a remote and isolated experience within the parks. Aircraft access might not only disturb this silence but also the wildlife around it. In addition, trails and boundaries need to be clearly defined and the amount of signs should be increased. A backcountry and wilderness experience must be maintained.
There are concerns about the sustainability of the current level of use and if it has already gone over the limit. Too much recreation activity could displace wildlife and destroy the backcountry experience. Keeping the quality of the environment including wilderness, solitude, wildlife, ecosystems and viewscapes, means making sure the recreational activities and facilities will only result in minimal disturbance of wildlife and other visitors.
In connection to ranchers the management plan wants to recognize their prior uses, rights and tenures and ensure that tenure holders continue to have use of trails for ranching and other activities.
Many public and tourism operators requested more presence of rangers to make sure the rules are being obeyed and to provide information.
To maintain the natural values of the parks the visitors should be informed and encouraged to become advocates for the conservation of the environment.
The entirety of both parks are zoned as Wilderness Recreation. Important habitat areas should be identified to ensure that no recreational activities are undertaken in these areas. In the future the zoning plan should be modified when more areas have been researched. The separate zones might include Wilderness Conservation, Wilderness Recreation and Natural Recreation.
There are several high priority strategies that have been identified for implementation. They include but are not limited to the acquisition of wildlife habitat use and corridor movement mapping, assessment of the trails for environmental impact, insurance of bear awareness and management and development of an access plan to supply visitors with the requested remote experience that does not impact wildlife.
For park management it is important to ensure the consultation with First Nations and tenure holders or other land users. The environment cannot be affected by the recreational use of the trails nor can the wildlife be disturbed. Public safety must be a priority to ensure this the amount of signs should be increased and the borders clearly defined. Raising awareness especially about bear safety will make human bear encounters less dangerous.
In general, the values that need to be maintained are the biodiversity and natural heritage of the parks as well as the cultural values concerning the three First Nations located within. Both parks have many recreational values as well allowing a multitude of activities to be carried out.
- Source BC Parks. March 2016. South Chilcotin Mountains Park and Big Creek Park Draft Management Plan. Available at : https://bcparks.ca/planning/mgmtplns/lillooet/mp-fprd/south-chilcotin-mts-and-big-crk-mp-fprd.pdf?v=1461518110691 [Accessed 03/2021].