The fight for Ymir’s watershed spilled out into a regional debate as the community protested logging plans near its only water source.
In April, B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) made plans to harvest in the area around Quartz Creek, which feeds into a dam and small intake system Ymir relies on.
The plans were immediately denounced by local residents.
“The stakes are as high as they get,” said Jason Leus, a Ymir resident who organized the ongoing protest. “Water is essential to our existence, and we are so close to crisis as it is in hot, dry summers. We have a supply issue already. If anything else is done to endanger our source of fresh water, we could be in very big trouble.”
Ymir quickly garnered provincial and regional support. Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall supported protecting the watershed, while the Regional District of Central Kootenay voted to oppose logging in the area. Leus and Lower Kootenay Band councillor Jared Basil also travelled to Victoria in October to enlist support from the Green Party.
Meanwhile, the issue evolved into a broader debate about logging.
In September, Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association president Ken Kalesnikoff was grilled at a packed RDCK meeting about logging near water sheds.
“This isn’t a logging problem, it’s a BCTS problem. If we’re not careful, we’re going to have dust coming out of our taps,” said Ymir’s regional director Hans Cunningham.
A BCTS representative wasn’t at that meeting, but in October the organization’s timber sales manager told the Star that it was doing everything it could to meet the community’s expectations.
“The main fact we want to keep reiterating is that we’re still in the information-gathering phase,” said Russ Laroche. “There are people putting us down for not doing things properly, for not listening to them and their concerns, but so far all we’ve been doing is listening.”