Private land logging forum in Fernie Feb. 7
A large clear-cut north of Fernie has community members concerned about logging on private land around the city.
On Thursday, February 7, Wildsight will host a public forum to give people a chance to learn more about private land logging in the Elk Valley—and to have a chance to speak up about the logging in their community’s backyard.
Canwel, a forestry company that owns an eighth of the total land in the Elk Valley, has logged a large area on a steep slope north of Fernie. This has increased locals’ concerns about the lack of rules and community input for private land logging. More cutting has started just south of town.
The Fernie Trails Alliance and Wildsight recently brought their concerns to the Fernie city council.
“A clear-cut like this, right beside Fernie, wouldn’t be allowed on Crown land,” said Wildsight’s Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator Randal Macnair, “but because logging on private land is poorly regulated in B.C., Canwel doesn’t have to worry about local trails, viewscapes or wildlife. Logging that leaves trails in the middle of clear-cuts and is very visible from parts of Fernie doesn’t help our tourism economy.”
One-third of the Elk Valley is in private hands, compared to only five per cent of the province overall. Weak logging regulations for private managed forest mean the Elk Valley landscape could see many more big clear-cuts than elsewhere in the province.
“Land owners like Canwel get a break on their property taxes if they register Private Managed Forest,” said Wildsight’s Conservation Coordinator Eddie Petryshen, “but it turns out regulations for private land logging are minimal and don’t require that community needs or connectivity for wildlife be considered.”
The Private Managed Forest Lands Act provides woefully inadequate requirements for the logging of private land. The provincial government recently promised an audit of the provincial private managed forest system, but no further detail on the scope or timing of that process is available since the announcement in mid-January.
“Managed Forest regulations allow complete clear-cuts, with no requirements to keep any trees except for a few beside streams—and without trees, wildlife are the big losers,” Petryshen said. “Logging doesn’t have to meet any of the rules to protect viewscapes that are required on Crown land.”
“With so much of our area in private hands and so many big clear-cuts recently, I’m worried about connectivity across the landscape for wildlife,” said Bill Hanlon, Provincial Chair of the British Columbia Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “We can’t let private forest owners just keep cutting until our valley is a patchwork of clear-cuts with no cover for ungulates.”
Much of the private forest land in the Elk Valley was originally given to railroad companies by the Canadian government. The land has been owned by various logging companies over the years, including Tembec, which managed it similarly to their operations on Crown lands.
After 2014, when Tembec sold a large block of lands to Jemi Fibre, which became part of Canwel, logging practices changed dramatically on private land in the Elk Valley.
“Once Jemi and later Canwel came in, they started liquidation logging—cutting for immediate profit, with no concern for the long term economic health of the valley,” said Macnair. “Because there’s no maximum annual cut on private land we’re losing more and more forest and we’re putting more and more pressure on wildlife and ecosystems in the Elk Valley.”
The public forum starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 7 at Fernie’s Best Western Mountain Lodge.
Wildsight says it has invited Canwel to present on its upcoming logging plans around Fernie at the forum.
“Our Elk Valley communities need better regulations and more community input into what happens in our forests,” said Macnair. “It’s time for the province to start applying the same rules on private managed forest land as they do on Crown land.”
Lead image: Recent clear-cutting north of Fernie. Photo by Eddie Petryshen
Submitted by Wildsight