The province’s decision to restrict vehicle access on backroads in wildfire-affected areas is supported by the Chiefs of the Okanagan National Alliance.
Motor Vehicle Closed Areas have been established in the Thompson, Okanagan and Kootenay regions after the 2021 wildfire season. Industrial roads, including forest service roads, are closed unless used to gain entry to private property or is designated as open year-round. There is no ‘sunset clause’ in the regulations meaning they will reopen when deemed appropriate.
The 536,000-hectare closure — 99,409 of which are due to the White Rock Lake wildfire — has been instituted in order to protect from the “impact to habitats that need time to recover,” after substantial wildfire damages and the construction of more than 2,900 kilometres of fire guards, the forest ministry said.
“As part of our continued commitment to protect our territory, the Syilx Okanagan Nation and member communities remain steadfast in ensuring that all parts of our tmixw and tmxʷulaxʷ conserved and safeguarded,” said Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Keith Crow.
“We have guardians out on the land in these burn sites that will be monitoring the areas and working with local conservation officers to provide information to users, observe and report incidents and support the MV closures,” said Crow, who is also ONA’s Wildlife Working Group chairman.
The closures do not impede the ability of Syilx Okanagan members to access the land.
Members are still able to access the land, as outlined in the Constitution Act. The general public should be aware that Nation members have rights and may be using the land in the areas that are closed to others.
The Syilx Okanagan Nation, alongside Syilx communities, are working in partnership with the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development to determine and establish long-term parameters in the areas to protect and enhance wildfire populations for generations to come.