The drama of logs versus drinking water plays itself out every year in the West Kootenay.
It’s not in the mandate of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) to deal with disputes about logging and watersheds but the district is increasingly being asked to do so by landowners, according to Ramona Faust, one of the representatives for rural Nelson on the RDCK board.
“We don’t have a department, we don’t have the expertise, we don’t collect any taxation for this,” she told the Star in April. “But we, as directors, have been put in this position and it is a heavy load to carry.”
For example, a logging company’s plan to open up a decommissioned logging road at Laird Creek near Balfour has led to a complex discussion between landowners, the RDCK, and the ministry of forests about what constitutes an independent scientific assessment of, in this case, terrain stability in a forest.
Timber companies are mandated to hire their own experts and write their own plans and reports, but these are sometimes not perceived as independent by water users.
A similar discussion has played out in the Argenta area this year. And the impasse in Ymir over forestry and water, initially reported by the Star in 2017, continues into 2019.
Add to the mix the unique status of private land logging, for which there is much less regulation than on Crown land.
The extensive clearcutting planned for both sides of Highway 6 between Giveout Creek and the Apex ski area was a significant story this year because the cut could drastically affect the landscape in one of the forested entrances to Nelson. It could also interfere with the recreational value of the rail trail, Cottonwood Lake Park and the cross-country ski area.
The RDCK, concerned about this, wrote to the forests minister asking for legislation to control private land logging.
The several parcels of land in question were purchased in late 2017 by a newly formed company owned by Mike Jenks and Bernie van Maren.
The RDCK has been negotiating with the company, Nelson Land Corporation, looking at the possibility of buying the land to prevent the logging.
During the fall, public concern about the logging gradually increased, culminating in a public meeting in December attended by 375 people who heard from scientists and community groups on the value of the forest around Cottonwood Lake and from several community leaders who urged the formation of a non-profit to purchase the land.