Cherryville residents are demanding details before herbicides are sprayed for industrial uses.
Tolko Industries is presently developing a pest management plan, and it includes the potential use of chemicals to control weeds in forestry blocks.
“There are concerns about how this will affect the river and the watershed,” said Eugene Foisy, North Okanagan Regional District director for Cherryville.
“Residents are concerned huckleberries won’t come up because it (some herbicides) kills everything.”
Foisy insists there hasn’t been enough information provided to the public, and Tolko should hold meetings in the community.
“It’s not as open a process as it used to be, and pesticides in the watershed are pretty scary stuff, especially if you don’t know anything about it,” he said.
NORD will ask that Tolko officials make themselves available to the community.
Some residents and organizations have already lodged protests with the Ministry of Environment.
“We believe the use of these chemical pesticides and herbicides that are non residual, ie. that flow with water, will inevitably poison our treasured creeks and the Shuswap River, threatening their sustainability for our downstream neighbours ad ourselves,” stated the Cherryville Water Stewards in a letter.
The Cherry Ridge Management Committee, which oversees environmental issues, says it has not been consulted with by Tolko.
“Local stakeholders are determined to have input into your harvest plans to mitigate the impact of your operations on soil stability, groundwater flows and habitat values,” said Wayne Cunneyworth, committee vice-president, in a letter to Tolko.
Pest management plans are mandated by the provincial government and must be done every five years.
The current process by Tolko includes all communities in the North Okanagan.
“Herbicide use we don’ take lightly,” said Murray Wilson, forestry woodlands manager, adding that the goal is to protect the environment and public health.
Less than one per cent of the total area harvested by Tolko was treated by herbicides in the last five years.
“It’s the last resort for us,” said Wilson, adding, though, that there are times when chemicals are required because brush prevents seedling growth.
“We are using the same herbicides people use on their lawns.”
Wilson says each forest block is considered individually and there is the possibility herbicides may not be needed.
“We don’t do aerial spraying. It’s all done with backpacks,” he said.
“We have buffers around streams and we spray around individual trees and not entire blocks.”