Photo: ilma.com

COLUMN: Logging in watersheds — Nelson area logging companies weigh in

“We’re small, local, single-site operations. If things go wrong here, we can’t shift to a new location

The issue of logging in watersheds is once again making headlines locally, mostly around plans to harvest timber in the Ymir watershed.

As local businesses in the local forest industry, we appreciate and are listening to the concerns of the public on this issue. We agree that dialogue and conversation are needed, and we are hoping that this can be done with respectful conversation.

We think it might be helpful for your readers to hear about the broader perspective on harvesting in watersheds generally.

The Interior Lumber Manufacturers’ Association is comprised of 11 small- and medium-sized family owned businesses. Here in the West Kootenay, ATCO Wood Products (Fruitvale), Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. (Thrums), Gold Island Forest Products (South Slocan), and Porcupine Wood Products (Salmo), and JH Huscroft (Creston) are members.

Logging in watersheds has been carried out successfully and respectfully in our region for decades. As technical harvesting practices evolved, our companies (and the logging contractors who actually do the harvesting) evolved too. It takes a lot of work — sometimes years of planning — to harvest a tree.

The people responsible for creating harvesting plans and replanting programs adhere to all regulations are Registered Forest Professionals. They have legal and ethical responsibilities to their governing bodies. They work with other professionals, including biologists, hydrologists and engineers to ensure that the highest standards are upheld.

The forest professionals in our companies are some of the most passionate advocates for healthy forests that you’ll ever meet.

They believe deeply in their work, and they care about doing their jobs well. Even the suggestion that their professional responsibilities are compromised because they work for a wood products company is, quite simply, offensive to them.

These professionals live, work, and play in the same forests that you do. They have the same vested interest as the rest of us to have clean, clear water and healthy, vibrant forests.

We all depend on wood products every single day. We live in houses made from wood. We have products like doors, window frames, floors and more. We use paper every day.

Byproducts and waste become electricity. The importance of the forest industry can’t be overstated.

In B.C., we have a Timber Harvesting Land Base, where professionals in the Ministry of Forests have determined that sustainable forestry can be carried out, and watersheds are part of it.

We understand how crucial watersheds are to everybody, including us, and we have the desire and responsibility to get it right.

Those same professionals have determined that harvesting in certain parts of our region isn’t allowed — for example, in areas as vast as the summit of Kootenay Pass, where mountain caribou live. In that one habitat zone alone, more than 60,000 hectares of the THLB was protected and restricted from harvesting (more than 30,000 hectares of that amount was taken from the tenure area of Creston’s ILMA member mill, J.H. Huscroft.)

There are also social restrictions on how forestry takes place within public ‘viewscapes’, as one example of those considerations.

Add in forests burned in wildfires, parks, Old Growth Management Areas, and other restrictions, and the available Timber Harvesting Land Base shrinks considerably. So simply saying, “just ban logging in watersheds” isn’t a reasonable or realistic solution.

Before you reach your own conclusions about forestry, reach out to the people — your neighbours and friends — who have built their careers in it. Talk to the companies directly — those of us who are working hard to be stewards of the land. Learn about the significant planning that often takes years before a single tree is harvested.

ILMA companies can only survive if we continue to operate in a safe, sustainable manner. We’re small, local, single-site operations. If things go wrong here, we can’t simply shift to a new location in some other part of North America. This is our home, and we care deeply about doing the work we do — including harvesting in watersheds — carefully, sustainably, and to the high environmental standards we have in this province. We truly aspire to getting the job done right.

Ken Kalesnikoff, Chairman, ILMA, and CEO Kalesnikoff Lumber Co.

Craig Upper, General Manager, Porcupine Wood Products

Justin Storm, President and General Manager, J.H. Huscroft

Trevor Kanigan, General Manager, Gold Island Forest Products

Scott Weatherford, CEO, ATCO Wood Products

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