A handful of scientists and community groups are concerned about private logging around Cottonwood Lake and the Apex Ski area.
Michael Proctor, biologist and grizzly bear expert, told a public meeting in December that the Cottonwood Lake area is a natural corridor for grizzlies to pass from one mountain range to the next.
“As the countryside gets more populated, bear biologists try to find corridors where bears can travel across settled valleys,” Proctor said. “They like to do this at wetland areas. Cottonwood is a grizzly corridor, the only place between Nelson and Salmo.”
Local resident Pierre Kaufman said he lives near Cottonwood Lake and this is the first year there have been no grizzlies in the area. He speculated that it was because of the logging activity.
Richard Green of the Nelson Rod and Gun Club talked about the group’s annual Father’s Day event, called Fishing Forever.
The club provides fishing gear, lunch and a boat to children and those who are too elderly or disabled to go fishing themselves.
He said it’s an important part of the identity of Cottonwood Lake.
“Usually we have about 300 people from all over,” Green said. “I like to fish. But I like Fishing Forever better. And I want the lake to stay pretty.”
The purpose of the meeting, organized by local resident Andrew McBurney, was to inform the public about the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s ongoing negotiations with landowner Nelson Land Corporation to potentially buy the land and add it to Cottonwood Lake Park.
Speakers at the meeting also promoted the formation of a non-profit group to fund raise at the local and national levels to purchase the land (see related story on Page 2).
Doris Hausleitner, who teaches wildlife biology at Selkirk College, talked about the wetlands at Cottonwood Lake.
“Wetlands are nature’s kidneys and liver,” she told the audience. “They filter and decontaminate water. They absorb water and release it slowly. They provide protection from flooding. They are like a big sponge.”
She said wetlands allow aquifers to replenish in times of drought, mitigate the impact of climate change by storing carbon, and have unique assemblages plants and animals.
Marc Deschenes is a geotechnical specialist and an avalanche safety instructor.
He explained that cutting the north-facing slopes will make the area avalanche prone, creating a risk for the recreation area, highways, creeks, water quality and fish-bearing streams.
The Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., in a letter to local municipal governments read aloud by McBurney, said every year the society stocks Cottonwood Lake with 2,000 rainbow trout.
The letter supported the RDCK’s attempt to purchase the land around the lake and add it to Cottonwood Lake Park.
“The Cottonwood Lake fishery has some attributes that are not common,” the letter stated. “The lake is close to town, it is stocked with catchable-size trout, it has a fishing dock, and it is managed as a family-sized fishery with an electric motor-only boating restriction.
“Lakes with these features are rather unique and they are critical to the society’s objective to introduce children and families to sport fishing.”
Kim Green, a Selkirk College instructor, researches the effects of logging on surface water flows.
She said logging means more snow on the ground with less shade, resulting in an increased rate of snow melt. This in turn results in increased slope runoff and changes in the flow and timing of runoff.
Green said snow melt could happen several weeks earlier if the logging goes ahead, creating elevated flows into the wetland, higher lake levels, and more water coming out of Cottonwood Lake earlier than usual.
“The stream channel could likely see increases in flow, some scouring in the channel, higher floods through there, which is not a good thing,” Green said.
“All that extra snow will create a much wetter situation over there [on the north-facing slope] so you can have erosion, landslides… and decreased stability of those slopes.”
Jason Rusu of the Nelson Nordic Ski Club expressed concern about clearcutting on the steep slope above one section of the Apex trail. He said this could be an avalanche hazard and might shorten the ski season.
Deb MacKillop of the Nelson Cycling Club told the crowd that the club has reached out to Nelson Land Corporation requesting permission to build the final leg of a trail through the forest above the lake because it wants to connects its trails at Morning Mountain to Cottonwood Lake.
She said the club hopes to build that section of the trail next summer.
“Once cyclists get to the lake,” she said, “you can come back to Nelson or go to Salmo-Ymir. It links all the network from Blewett to Rails to Trails.”