As the time for public input into changes being made to the visual landscape inventory has closed, Valhalla Wilderness Society is expressing concerns about plans to log in areas once preserved.
Craig Pettitt, a director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society says the BC government is reversing decades of forest policy that preserved scenic quality around parks and tourism communities.
“Many years of logging too much, too fast means the logging companies are suffering a fall-down effect in which they must drastically reduce their rate of cut,” says Pettitt.
“Instead of doing that, the government is opening up our most valued tourism resources for increased clearcutting. The tragedy is that in the end the logging companies will run out of wood and the tourism businesses needed to support our communities will have lost their prime resources too.”
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources is making changes to the Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs) of major areas around Kootenay Lake.
The current designation of retention — very little logging — would be changed to partial retention.
“This is the same change that occurred around the north end of Slocan Lake in the last few years,” says Pettitt.
“The logging has already badly damaged the scenic quality from the highway, from the lake, outside Valhalla Park and from the community of Hills. They leave a few trees on the cut blocks, but they are still clearcuts.”
The retention VQOs are part of the Kootenay-Boundary Land Use Plan that was created through the CORE land use planning process. Parts of the plan, including the VQOs around Kootenay Lake, were legislated in the Higher Level Plan. The Society’s concerns lie with BC Timber Sales imminently benefitting from a more lax provincial standard.
“It’s the fox being given control of the hen house,” says Pettitt. “If approved, these biased new VQO assessments would override the land use plan and scrap part of the legislation that was based on a whole year of painstaking deliberations by all the stakeholders in this region.”
Changes to the visual-quality objectives in the Kootenay Lake portion of the Selkirk Resource District were proposed for consistency, says Julie Castonguay, stewardship forester at the Selkirk Resource District office. Work on the existing map was started in the mid-1980s and different people refined it on several occasions until it was last dealt with in 2002.
Considering visual quality is important in logging on Crown Land and she says few changes are being made in the area around Nelson. She understands that people may have concerns about changes and that’s what the public input period ending August 15 was meant to address.
The proposal will likely become a legally recognized visual land inventory prior to the end of 2013.