Reluctant applicant seeks West Kootenay land tenure

·3 min read

Julie-Ann Chapman doesn’t sound like the usual person applying for rights to access Crown land for her business venture.

“I’m not gonna lie, it’s the last thing I ever want to do, especially around this area,” she told the Valley Voice. “But if I want to continue to offer my training, I have to do it.”

And in fact, Chapman’s business isn’t typical either.

The Krestova-based businessperson isn’t applying for backcountry tenure to take well-heeled tourists skiing in sensitive bear habitat, or to pull gravel from a mountainside.

She runs She Shreds Mountain Adventures, a company that trains people in safe snowmobile use, search and rescue, avalanche survival, and occupational training.

“It’s an education-based offering. We teach mountain safety, proper mountain etiquette, respecting the mountain, the environment. We give them a little history of who is entitled to the land and takes care of it,” she says. “We teach travelling safety in the backcountry. Our whole curriculum is safety-oriented and educational. It’s not guiding or touring.”

And as such, she says it means minimal impact on the environment.

“It’s day-use only. Our access is using already-existing forest service roads. The areas we’re asking to operate in are in already-existing snowmobile recreation mapped areas.

“This is where everyone already goes and snowmobiles in the area. I’m not taking away any secret stashes from the locals. And my clientele is very entry-level, they’re not getting far in a day.”

She also said her company stays on top of environmental trends, continually upgrades their snowmobiles to reduce their impact and hopes to move to electric snow machines as soon as possible.

“It’s something She Shreds is going to embrace and change and we will be updating to electric snowmobiles when they’re readily available,” Chapman says.

Chapman has run her business for nearly a decade and a half, and five years ago returned to the Krestova area, where she grew up. She’s been operating her business under temporary permits in about eight areas around the West Kootenay, including along roads in the Pass Creek area, Meadow Creek, and Nelson. The total area of the scattered holdings is 1,800 hectares, or about 4,400 acres.

Usually, businesses are the party looking for land access. However, Chapman says she applied for tenure in those areas at the insistence of the government.

“The government has put a lot of pressure on me to apply for a licence of occupation because they say they want to satisfy the public and satisfy the Land Act laws a little bit more,” she says. “They basically forced me to apply for a licence of occupation.”

Chapman says she’s had no complaints about her operations from West Kootenay locals, and hopes it won’t be a problem now.

“My temporary permits are based on compliancy. So if everything is going good, and there’s no complaints, I keep getting my temporary permits,” she says. “So for 10 years I’ve been able to get them. I have given proof to the public I’ve been able to run under certain rules and regulations.”

The public’s opportunity to comment on the application ended on November 17. The application is now back in the hands of provincial bureaucrats, who’ll review the public comments and ask her for response.

She hopes to have the permanent tenure by her next season, but says if it’s denied, she’ll continue to operate with her temporary permits if necessary.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

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