The Westbank First Nation is disappointed with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations decision to sever a majority of the land at Rose Valley from a controversial land exchange proposal.
The government announced earlier today that more than 85 per cent of the 698 acres of land proposed for exchange with WFN under discussion are not in the public interest to transfer and will remain Crown lands.
The dispute revolves around reserve land dedicated by the WFN to allow the completion of the Westside Road Interchange, and an initial government proposal to replace that land with Crown land in the Rose Valley watershed, a deal that has fallen under heavy criticism from West Kelowna residents and West Kelowna district council.
“We have honoured our end of the agreement. The province has a contractual, trust and moral obligation to honour and satisfy the land exchange terms of our government to government agreement ” said WFN Chief Robert Louie.
“Our legal options are now being explored.”
“WFN initially focused on obtaining provincial crown lands for the exchange but may now be forced to look at the option of fee simple land within neighbouring municipal boundaries if it hopes to find lands that are suitable for our community.”
WFN reminds the governments and the general public that the lands at Rose Valley, while they will remain Crown lands, are subject to aboriginal title and that WFN’s interests must be accommodated, Louie stressed.
Due to concerns over the decision process, WFN is now requesting the province put forward the parameters and criteria used to determine the suitability of the lands for transfer.
“We are concerned about the process used to make this decision, and particularly, the lack of opportunity to adequately explore the options provided by the ministry of transportation in their submission to FLNRO prior to this decision being made,” said Louie.
Both the province and WFN have expended significant time and resources on the Highway 97 corridor improvements, he added. The WFN is now requesting that the province provide clear parameters before discussions on any alternative lands go further.