As a result of this 2017 Sunnybrae landslide the Columbia Shuswap Regional District commissioned a study of the slope instability and then issued a call for a moratorium on logging in the area. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Urgent call for protection of forests as devastation increases

Shuswap Passion/Jim Cooperman

Despite the change of government in Victoria, there have been no changes to forestry policies that have provided corporations with unfettered access to the rapidly declining timber supply.

To address the negative impacts such as damaged water supplies, floods, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of recreational opportunities, loss of jobs, and loss of endangered species that are increasing exponentially, community activists are organizing a virtual five-day long summit culminating in a day of protest on Friday, Sept. 18.

The province-wide event’s lead organizer, Jennifer Houghton, is still reeling from the devastating floods in her hometown of Grand Forks that were a direct result of the massive clearcutting in the upper watersheds of the Grandby and Kettle Rivers. Another organizer, Taryn Skalbania, is from Peachland, which has been forced to build an expensive water treatment plant because its water supply is full of silt due to extensive clear-cut logging.

While the problems have not been as severe here in the Shuswap, we have definitely had our share. Landslides have crashed down into homes and communities due to the combination of heavy rain and melting snow on steep hillsides that have been clear-cut logged. The local population of endangered mountain caribou is hanging by a thread, as so much of their habitat has been logged and predator wolves move higher up the mountainside on logging roads and snowmobile trails.

After decades of overcutting and high grading here and throughout the province, combined with the impacts of pine beetles and fires, there are far fewer trees left to log and what remains is of lower quality. As well, automation has reduced the number of jobs in the forest industry. Consequently, there are only a few large wood-processing facilities still operating in the Shuswap.

Read more: Seymour Arm landslide interrupts drinking water to 500 people

Read more: Bastion Mountain landslide report ‘sobering’

Often, it is BC Timber Sales (BCTS) or smaller licensees that operate in the marginal old growth cedar/hemlock stands, which is resulting in massive amounts of waste left in enormous burn piles. Thankfully, some of the waste that is fairly close to the highway is now getting chipped, loaded into chip trucks and shipped to the pulp mill in Kamloops.

Given the history of logging-related landslides in the Shuswap, the major concerns are the proposed clearcuts above Mara Lake and Bastion Creek. Recently, a retired hydrologist reviewed the revised assessment for the Bastion Creek logging and found it was flawed. The government hydrologist also agreed it was defective, but cannot get involved due to her upcoming retirement.

Sadly, the timber that BCTS proposes to log on the Bastion hillside is of inferior quality and would not likely generate much income. If the logging goes ahead, the summer homes located alongside the creek near the lake will be at risk. Under the current model of forest management, timber extraction takes priority over private property and people’s safety.

There are solutions to the ongoing forest mismanagement. The team that is organizing the upcoming summit are calling for a “New Forest Charter” that would give priority to nature rather than to corporate profits in decision making, provide greater public control of public land and eliminate unfettered corporate control, reinstate local land use planning and ensure all management is based on science rather than profits.

To coincide with the Sept. 18 provincial action, there will be a rally at noon in Salmon Arm at the Ross Creek Plaza that will include a short play from the Salmon Arm Actor’s Studio entitled, “The Lumberjack’s Dilemma,” and live music and talks, all with appropriate social distancing. Learn more at forestmarch.com, where you can sign up to participate in the virtual summit.


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