On January 26, Fernie Trails Alliance advised trail users of the latest closure. Source: Facebook

East Kootenay groups to call meeting amid logging ‘crisis’

Wildsight, Fernie Trails Alliance concerned about CanWel’s encroachment on trails, habitat in Fernie

Fernie community groups are expected to call a crisis meeting later this week amid growing concern about logging in the Elk Valley.

Forestry company CanWel owns approximately 55,000ha of land in the Elk Valley and has been logging in the area for some time.

However, groups such as Wildsight and the Fernie Trails Alliance (FTA) are becoming increasingly concerned about CanWel’s encroachment on wildlife habitat and trails.

FTA Board Chair Krista Turcasso and Wildsight Elk Valley Conservation Coordinator Randal Macnair attended Monday’s regular meeting of council, where they called on the City and community to act.

Wildsight is preparing to announce an open house with stakeholder groups, elected officials and community members to address what is being described as a “crisis”.

“This has been happening for some time in different parts of the Valley and now it’s right literally in our backyard,” Macnair told The Free Press.

“Nobody is saying we don’t want logging but we want to ensure that the various values on the land are respected and if you look at the clearcut just north of town, that’s not happening.

“That’s a steep slope, it’s been completely denuded and there’s lots of potential problems with that in the short term, and the long term.”

CanWel has been keeping the FTA informed of its harvesting activities, where trails may be affected. However, the group has noticed an increase in logging notifications this fall and winter.

The FTA is a not-for-profit organization that represents member clubs including the Fernie Mountain Bike Club, Fernie Nordic Society, Fernie Trails and Ski Touring Club, Stag Leap Co. and Island Lake Lodge.

It relies on grant funding, donations and volunteers to build and maintain Fernie’s vast network of trails.

On January 25, the FTA was advised by CanWel that harvesting would soon begin on the block where the Dirt Diggler, Three Kings, Dopamine and Smooth Salamander trails are located.

“Communications on future plans is something we really hope to work on with this company to ensure we can plan accordingly,” said Turcasso.

Turcasso recognized that as a private company operating on private land, CanWel is not obligated to communicate its plans with the FTA.

She hopes to maintain the FTA’s relationship with CanWel, while advocating for changes to provincial logging regulations.

The Elk Valley is in a unique situation because the logging is occurring on private land, whereas 95 per cent of the province’s timber is publicly owned.

Across most of B.C., the provincial government authorizes forest tenures, which grant the rights to the timber and outlines the conditions under which it is harvested from Crown land.

Timber harvested on private land has its own set of rules, regulations and practices.

These are laid out in the Private Managed Forest Land Act, which aims to protect both property owners’ rights and the environment.

Wildsight has previously raised concerns about CanWel logging in environmentally-sensitive areas near Elkford and its lack of consultation with the conservation group compared to its predecessor.

LOOK BACK: Logging concerns after company sale

CanWel is a Vancouver-based company and one of Canada’s largest national distributors in the building materials and related products sector.

In May 2016, it took over Jemi Fibre, a forest products company that operates primarily in B.C. and Saskatchewan.

At the time of sale, Jemi owned approximately 136,000 acres (55,037ha) of private timberlands, strategic Crown licenses and tenures, log harvesting and trucking operations, several post and pole peeling facilities, two pressure-treated specialty wood production plants, and one specialty sawmill.

Macnair said CanWel will be invited to present at the open house and directly communicate its plans with the community.

He hopes to hold the meeting in early February and expects to announce details later this week.

“There’s an immediacy to this and I think it’s an opportunity to raise a flag to the Province to say ‘hey, we have various values’ and, as I stated to council, the Minister is the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development,” said Macnair.

“We’re a community that’s trying to diversify our economy, so we have mining, forestry and recreation, and we’re succeeding in that. We need the balance on the landscape to ensure that our economy and community thrives.”

More updates on the open house will be posted at Thefreepress.ca.

Those with concerns about logging can contact randal@wildsight.ca.

 

Just Posted

Elk River reclaims property as its own

Laws make it harder to protect private land than ever before says farmer, local government

Fruitvale looks at re-branding village image

Council is applying for rural dividend grant to begin the work

Greater Trail hospice seeks volunteers

Training starts next month in Kiro Wellness Centre

Recognition at Trail Riverfront Centre

Hundreds of kids were part of “Imagine the Possibilities,” the Summer Reading Club

Music in the Park closes season Thursday, 7 p.m.

Grapevine: Events in Trail area for the week of Aug. 22 to Aug. 28

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says an intruder broke in

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

Most Read