The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), which was expected to be dismantled by the end of March, will continue to operate until the provincial election takes place in May 2017.
The OBAC directors hope that a potential new government could reinstitute funding.
“Because there was some dollars left, it was decided by the directors to wait until after the election to dissolve the society,” explained Bill Miller, the spokesperson for the coalition.
The province announced last year it would not renew funding for OBAC after March 2017. B.C. minister of jobs Shirley Bond told Lakes District News last November that her ministry recognized the great work OBAC has done in the past decade. However, she said her ministry was not considering providing additional funding to OBAC.
“The creation of OBAC was a bold and innovative initiative to respond to and mitigate the impacts of the beetle infestation,” said Bond. “The coalition has received $3 million from the province with additional funds from the federal government.”
The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition was created in 2005 to deal with the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. According to OBAC’s executive director Sharon Tower, the work of the organization has perhaps never been more vital, considering that the provincial annual allowable cut is expected to decline by more than 13 million cubic metres per year over the next decade.
The coalition involves 14 local government leaders who have worked to find a unified voice for the areas most impacted by the mountain pine beetle outbreak. The coalition has been developing regional strategies and priorities and communicating them to the provincial government.
In addition to providing a blueprint for action and a forum for regional leadership, Tower said OBAC has supported and enabled numerous initiatives in the region, including the midterm timber supply review, B.C. timber sales review, agricultural developments and the rail review.
“The past 10 years have shown how important it is for local governments to work together as a region; we need to continue this collaborative approach,” said Tower. “We will need to evolve to ensure we continue to be relevant and add value to the region.”
Meanwhile minister Bond said the province continues to move forward on initiatives and supports to mitigate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle infestation, including the $75 million rural dividend fund and the establishment of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. to rehabilitate impacted areas.