Province says calls for logging moratorium premature

Regional district directors advised to wait for final assessments

Placing a moratorium on logging operations in the Sicamous area would be premature, says the province.

At the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s April board meeting in Salmon Arm, directors unanimously supported a resolution to make recommendations to Tolko Industries Ltd. (Lumby) and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) that a moratorium be placed on future logging in the Hummingbird Creek and Mara Creek watersheds due to the history of large debris flows and that Tolko hold public engagement meetings in communities where they plan to log.

Mark Hopkins, provincial tenure and First Nations officer in the Okanagan Shuswap Resource District, addressed those concerns in a May 13 letter to CSRD chair Rhona Martin on behalf of ministry executive and Ray Crampton, district manager of the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District.

Hopkins wrote that FLNRO has received a number of letters from area residents and, given the debris flows of 1997 and 2012, the concern is understandable, as is their need for assurances logging operations do not represent increased risk to Swansea Point residents.

Hopkins goes on to say Tolko has shared the company’s preliminary plans for harvesting and road building with many residents of the Swansea Point area.

“Although not required by their current Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP), Tolko elected to advise all landowners with domestic water intakes within 1,000 metres of possible operations in the area,” Hopkins wrote. “The information provided by Tolko was intended to identify the concerns of residents at the earliest possible date. These concerns will inform and complement the detailed hydrologic, engineering and terrain assessments that have yet to be carried out by Tolko.”

Hopkins also pointed out incorporating proposed cutblocks and roads into its forest service plan does not get Tolko automatic approval.

Before any activities can proceed, cutting permits and/or road permits must be submitted to, and approved by, the district manager of the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District. As well, these permit applications must clearly demonstrate that they are consistent with the commitments made in the forest service plan.

“Taking such a step (moratorium), however, would be premature before the assessments are complete and an informed decision can be made,” wrote Hopkins. “Tolko has assured me of their commitment to continued dialogue with the residents of Swansea Point as they proceed with assessing the area. I encourage you take advantage of these opportunities.”

At the June 15 board meeting, Martin said she is pleased with the attention raised on the issue and pointed out that some residents in her area have been in consultation with the company.

“I am hopeful they will still come out to meet with residents,” she said, noting the need for continued pressure on forest companies and the province. “I think this person (Hopkins) gets that people are concerned, but I think we can’t let it go unobserved.”

Area D director Rene Talbot said he had heard that everything at FLNRO is on hold until the new government takes control.

Discussion came to a close with Area A Rural Reveslstoke Loni Parker asking that the board continue action.

“Can we do a follow-up letter so it doesn’t matter which government is in charge?” she asked.

The board unanimously approved sending a letter to Tolko to request that the CSRD be apprised of any meetings the company will be having based on its assessments of the areas.