When the pine beetle epidemic began to decimate B.C.’s forests, a unique group formed to try to mitigate some of the devastating effects.
The Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC) came together eight years ago, with representatives from nine regional districts, six tribal councils and Community Futures Development Corporation of the Central Interior First Nations.
During the early stages, the SIBAC board learned there were many issues affecting rural communities.
“These issues were broader and deeper from the impact of the mountain pine beetle,” wrote board chair Rhona Martin in a letter to SIBAC member organizations.
Martin, who is the newly elected chair of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board and regional district director for Electoral Area E Rural Revelstoke/Malakwa, noted that through research, consultation and reports created through the Rural BC project, SIBAC realized there is a critical need for support in the area of rural development.
“To meet this need, SIBAC tends to explore the possibility of evolving into an ongoing rural development structure,” she wrote, asking for continued support from all member organizations by way of an appointed member to the board.
“To effectively tackle the systemic issues around rural development, we believe SIBAC has the right structure to make a significant difference.”
In lieu of seeking financial support in 2015, SIBAC is organizing and hosting a major international rural development conference in Salmon Arm in May and is asking member organizations to budget for as many board and staff members to attend as possible.
“Similar to the Reversing the Tide conference, which was very exciting and had speakers from around the world talking about economic development, speakers will also come from around the world,” said Martin.
“We would like as many people within SIBAC to attend and take what they learn back to their communities.”
Since 2011, SIBAC has funded and led a major initiative call Rural Development BC, with two other regional beetle action coalitions.
The purpose of the program is to provide recommendations to the provincial government. SIBAC board members were pleased that Premier Christy Clark acted upon one of the key recommendations by formally designating a cabinet minister with the specific responsibility for rural development in B.C.