Dear CVWMA Users and Supporters,
The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area Authority (Board) recognizes that closing the CVWMA has significantly impacted our visitors and our community. With this update, we hope to address a number of the questions that have been raised by the temporary closure of the CVWMA on 5 April 2020.
The decision to *temporarily* close the CVWMA was done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Province of British Columbia declared a provincial State of Emergency on 18 March 2020 (since expanded by two more weeks) and, ever since, provincial and federal health and government officials have provided guidance on how to respond to the crisis. COVID-19 cases have been reported in all Health Regions of BC and the media has reported cases in the East Kootenays in towns E and W of Creston. After careful consideration, the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Board has instructed CVWMA staff to close the Wildlife Management Area until further notice to curtail public use and assist with public efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
The Board’s decision is grounded on the guidance of Dr. Bonnie Henry, our Provincial Health Officer, of the Government of Canada and in our desire to address current public needs. Right now, the provincial and federal advice remains to stay home as much possible and “if required to go out for essentials like food or medication, use Social Distancing”. This advice applies to everyone, everywhere. In her 6 and 7 April COVID-19 BC Updates, Dr. Henry re-iterated:
“we must be steadfast in our commitment to holding the line right now in BC”,
“we must continue to keep doing what we’re doing that is making a difference”
“(we must) continue as well to focus on everything possible to break those chains of transmission in our communities across British Columbia”
“we need to continue to work to stay home and to do our part”
“now is the time to stay home”
We see no ambiguity in the core guidance contained in these messages. This message is also captured in COVID-19 advisories for the Town of Creston and the City of Nelson. Past updates from the Prime Minister of Canada were done from a podium that stated “Stay At Home” and the federal government has repeatedly recommended “stay at home as much as possible”. Prime Minister Trudeau stated a few days ago “what I have heard from medical experts is that the most important thing is for people to stay home”. The unprecedented situation we are in calls for unprecedented measures to protect our communities, health care workers, vulnerable citizens and our medical system. Our cities and sidewalks are near-empty because citizens are choosing to follow this guidance. The CVWMA therefore is not and cannot remain in a “business as usual” scenario where we “invite” people to come to our property.
Increased use of recreation and natural areas in response to COVID-19 has been observed elsewhere. It has led to multiple calls for closures and, in many instances, in actual natural area closures. There are two main views on natural area closures. Some see it as “frightening” that managers continue to allow and encourage park and natural area visitations given what is being experienced in Canada and world-wide, while others see a greater need for them than ever before to escape or get a relief from COVID-19 restrictions. Depending on one’s point of view, public use risk is considered high, low/non-existent and/or easily manageable through Social Distancing. People and agencies have different views on this matter and decisions to remain open or close are made based on different arguments (e.g. support greater public health needs/advice vs. assessment of risk on a case-by-case basis). Decision-making bodies are constantly reassessing earlier decisions, the latest example being the BC Parks closure announced today to stop the spread of COVID-19.
It is with concern that we noted an increase in public use of the CVWMA following the declaration of the COVID-19 provincial state of emergency, particularly on weekends. If not addressed, CVWMA public use is expected to continue to increase in conjunction with the Easter holiday and with people responding to ongoing COVID restrictions by increasing visitations to natural areas such as the CVWMA. For decades, CVWMA has been branded and recognized as a wetland of international significance and we have invited visitors from all over to come and visit. These visitors share the CVWMA with local and regional residents. From a community and public health perspective, this is not desirable right now. The Board’s decision is therefore to adjust our operations to meet what we see as unequivocal demands from our health officials. Public efforts and sacrifices by all British Columbians are the key tools through which we can collectively beat COVID-19.
Why are we being asked to ‘stay at home’? Because health officials and organizations such as ours believe we have a responsibility to slow the potential spread of the virus, protect our staff and visitors alike and contribute to the safeguard of our vulnerable citizens and of our communities. The CVWMA is popular destination well known inside and outside the East Kootenays and visits to our area are high during spring migration, which has our highest bird use. Visitor use also increases during weekends and holidays. Inviting or accommodating visitors from all over during our peak bird use (spring migration) is not desirable. Right now, these are not assets in our collective fight against COVID-19. Our top priority remains the safety of our visitors, staff and of our community. Because of this, we are *temporarily* curtailing public use for what we see as a greater public and community need and ask that the public refrain from using the Wildlife Area at this time. Public health is the number one priority at the CVWMA right now. We acknowledge that this decision will be unpopular with some.
This closure will be revisited on a weekly basis and weekly updates will be posted on our website www.crestonwildlife.ca.
We regret the impact and inconveniences to our supporters, visitors and partners and look forward to being able to return to normal operations. The faster we beat COVID-19, the sooner can we all return to regular operations.
Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area Authority