Cherryville residents are declaring initial success in their fight against proposed logging.
About 55 people blocked road construction crews on a section of Cherry Ridge Thursday.
“We don’t want the road built without a statement being made,” said resident Carla Vierke.
The construction contractor arrived at about 10:30 a.m. and after speaking to protesters, departed the scene without doing any work.
“We had some effect today but we’re sure this will be an ongoing process,” said Vierke, who says the community will remain vigilant against logging.
“We want to create attention that B.C. Timber Sales is not listening to our concerns.”
Some residents have suggested that plans by BCTS, a government agency, for a logging road and harvesting on Cherry Ridge could trigger landslides that impact Cherryville on the valley bottom.
Eugene Foisy, regional district director, says it was important for residents to have a presence.
“BCTS is pushing ahead with the road before we do our study (on possible slides),” he said, adding that he’s not sure what BCTS’ plans are now that the contractor withdrew Thursday.
“I’m not sure where it will go.”
BCTS officials believe construction of a road and harvesting on Cherry Ridge does not threaten the community below,
“We’re public servants and it’s not in our best interest to put plans in place that put homes and property at risk,” said Colin Johnston, BCTS woodlands supervisor.
“Any area in the mountains has inherent risk so we have third party assessors and we ask them if it (harvesting) makes sense. Our goal is not to increase the risk with our activity.”
Johnston says the hydrological assessment seven kilometres upstream of Cherryville found there is no need to increase the hazard rating for Cherry Creek below the confluence of Currie Creek.
BCTS is reluctant to describe the proposed logging as clearcutting.
“There will be a percentage of tree stands retained on that site. There will be corridors left along the creeks,” said Warren Yablonski, a planning forester.
Johnston admits that some of the residents’ concerns may come from past forest practices.
“Things are not done the same as they were 30 years ago. The professionals we employ give us technical prescriptions about how to cross the land,” he said of the road construction.
BCTS plans to develop about 190 hectares of timber of two per cent of the suitable timber harvesting land base in that area.
“We have a certain allowable annual cut that has to be harvested. This area is available for harvest and it will create revenue for market,” said Johnston, adding that this portion of Cherry Ridge was identified as working forest in 2001.
There have been suggestions that this area should be included in the community forest operated by the Cherry Ridge Management Committee, and Johnston says the current plans for logging don’t preclude that from occurring.
“It’s a big piece of land and if in the future they (CRMC) get approval to expand the community forest, there’s lots of land there,” he said.
BCTS has been accused of not consulting sufficiently with the community, but Yablonski says consultation has occurred with CRMC and hydrological assessments have been provided to the Regional District of North Okanagan.
“We’ve said, if there is information people have about the development, we will consider it,” he said, adding that there is also a need to utilize professional consultants.
“The geo-technical stuff is very scientific and they have been in business for 25 or 30 years and they are familiar with the terrain.”
Johnston says BCTS is willing to involve the public in the process.
“We’re happy to continue the dialogue as we develop the cut blocks.”
Construction of 1.6 kilometres of the road was scheduled to start this week and the remainder will be completed next summer. Five cutblocks will then be put up for auction in fall 2015 and harvesting could occur in the summer of 2016.
Johnston says auctioning of one block has been deferred until the other blocks are harvested and reforested to address community concerns.