Activists are warning BC Timber Sales officials they could face a blockade if proposed logging in the Purcell mountains north of Argenta goes ahead as planned.
“I’m the only one they had to notify, because I have water rights on that creek,” rancher Gabriella Grabowsky told the Star, after meeting last week with BCTS’s Della Peterson and Sean Slimmon. “There’s nobody else to make people aware.”
But she believes that’s about to change. Representatives from the Valhalla Wilderness Society are getting involved, as is retired biologist David Stevenson, local environmentalists K.L Kivi and Moe Lyons, as well as others.
The proposed logging is on Glacier Creek, on the west side of Jumbo Pass, the opposite side of the mountains from the controversial Jumbo Resort area. During that time logging trucks will use the roads leading up to Monica Meadows, a popular tourism destination.
Kivi thinks it’s a bad idea.
“Really? We’re going to take one of our best, most beautiful areas and log the hillside? We’re going to have logging trucks driving up and down those often blown-out roads? They’re layering all of these impacts on an important economic base for Kootenay Lake. There are a bunch of issues.”
‘A textbook case of multiple use’
However, a number of residents support the project and would like to see it go ahead. Richard Brenton of Argenta told the Star the activists’ concerns are misguided.
“The original road in this valley was built for mining purposes,” he said. “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s the road was extended to the head of the valley, enabling the first pass of harvesting to take place.”
He said the road has provided access to the “world class recreational area” but is now in disrepair, which leads him to worry it might be closed.
“The Forest Service spent many thousands of dollars on road and bridge maintenance over the last 20 years in order to maintain access. The old cut blocks now support fine stands of young timber making possible the beginning of another pass of harvesting.”
He called it a “textbook case of multiple use” and said “the drainage lends itself readily to this shared usage.
“The residents of the area depend on the primary industry of forest management for support of secondary industries like recreation for our financial well being. If the primary industry is curtailed the secondary industry will suffer.”
He believes if logging doesn’t happen, it will hurt local businesses.
“There is no need for those opposed to harvesting to exhibit this kind of hypocrisy in an area where shared use has been shown to work for the benefit of all.”
Timber sale licences to be auctioned in 2017
According to Ministry of Forests public affairs officer Greig Bethel, the exact number of cutblocks to be logged will be confirmed this year or next, while they intend to auction timber sale licences in 2017 or 2018.
“Each proposed cutblock and road within Glacier Creek will require a site plan, which contains site-specific management measures from a registered professional forester,” he wrote in an email, noting the area being considered for development is approximately two per cent of the watershed.
Stakeholders and public with concerns “could influence their plans,” he wrote, adding that concerns they would consider included “timing or scheduling of harvest; block shape and size; and placement of reserve timber for the protection of specific wildlife or other unique features.”
BCTS has encouraged all parties to “embrace the concept of working together to manage high-value recreation within a working forest.”
Glacier Creek is a long-term operating area for BCTS, and there has been active logging there since the 1980s. However, there has been no development or logging in the valley since 2001.
What is a stakeholder?
According to the minutes of a Jan. 26 meeting with critics provided by BCTS, part of the discussion revolved around what constitutes a “stakeholder.”
Though Grabowsky was notified of the upcoming logging, the concerned parties wondered aloud why the general public and organizations such as the West Kootenay EcoSociety weren’t contacted or consulted.
“The Purcells are the ecological gem of southeastern BC. It is the only place healthy populations of animals like grizzly bears can thrive,” Kivi said. “And yet the only people they contacted were Gabriella and some trapline owners.”
She noted they didn’t notify or consult environmental groups or the Sinixt and Ktunaxa First Nations.
If they had broadened their definition of “stakeholder,” she believes concerns could have been raised and addressed earlier.
‘Ecologically responsible logging practices are subjective’
One concern being expressed is the steepness of some of the terrain. Another is the size of the clearcuts, which critics were promised would happen gradually over the course of 10 years section by section.
“We’re not denying that this is within the Kootenay Lake Forest District and Glacier Creek is included in that,” Kivi said. “They think they have the right, but we’re saying this is a problem on a much higher level.”
Kivi said there needs to be a “larger vision” for land use.
“We need to take in all the impacts. We can’t keep doing it piecemeal like this. Recreation, mining, forestry, tourism — these people don’t actually talk to each other and ask questions like ‘is this the best place to do this?’ They’re just looking at it from a forestry perspective.”
Kivi is encouraging anyone else concerned with the project to take action.
“When I suggested that this is such a high value area they should make sure to use the best logging practices, Della Peterson said ‘that’s subjective.’ That’s what stayed with me: ecologically responsible logging practices are subjective,” she said.
Grabowsky is worried about water contamination.
“I’m worried about things ending up in the water because I drink this water and my horses drink this water. Also, I think this is going to affect the tourism value because it’s going to look awful. They just log and burn and burn, waste so much wood it makes you cry.”
And that’s why they feel compelled to do something about it.
“People love that place and they’ve protected it from different threats,” said Kivi.
This won’t be the first time Grabowsky has participated in a blockade — in 2007 she was among those who protested a power project in the area. She believes the community will share her alarm.
“Because it’s so far away [from population centres], there’s a tendency to act like it’s out of sight, out of mind. That’s why I’m trying to get the word out.”
The deadline for the public input is Feb. 8.