Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 9:00 am
The provincial government has lent a sympathetic ear, but no immediate answers, to the roaming horse problem on the West Bench and other areas next to the Penticton Indian Reserve.
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen directors met with John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention last week.
Michael Brydon, RDOS director for West Bench-Okanagan Lake West, said Monday that Rustad stated he knows about the issue and directed ministry staff to help co-ordinate resources to develop a response.
The Penticton Indian Band and RDOS earlier this year completed a study into the root cause of the free-ranging horse problem. In addition to overgrazing and the impact on nearby residential properties, there are traffic safety concerns as the horses roam over unfenced areas.
An aerial survey in late March counted 558 horses at several locations across the reserve from Marron Valley north to Summerland. With an estimated growth rate of about 20 per cent per year, the number was predicted to increase to more than 600 by this fall.
Brydon said the RDOS is looking for provincial help in addressing a problem which is just getting worse.
“The number of horses is increasing very quickly and we’re looking to them for some help,” he said.
The regional district requested Rustad’s assistance in co-ordinating the many government jurisdictions involved in the issue and to provide funding for a long-range horse management plan.
Brydon noted the province is working closely with the Penticton Indian Band on its new Skaha Hills development, which could also be impacted by free-ranging horses.
The West Bench director hopes the government might consider a long-range management plan as a pilot project for other areas in the province.
“There’s some very complicated issues here. There’s culture issues, economic issues, jurisdictional issues,
legislative issues. This is why it’s such a hard problem.” he said.
“We’re sort of painted into a box by provincial legislation on one hand and, I guess, the Constitution of Canada on the other hand.”
Still, Brydon said he’s somewhat optimistic about the province’s willingness to become involved, noting Rustad is very familiar with such horse problems in his own Nechako Lakes riding west of Prince George.