In this file photo from 2016, signs advocating for the protection of the western toad are set up at the bottom of a logging road near Summit Lake. File photo.

In this file photo from 2016, signs advocating for the protection of the western toad are set up at the bottom of a logging road near Summit Lake. File photo.

Don’t endorse Summit Lake park for western toad: NACFOR

Company lobbies council to reject idea to protect habitat, saying it won’t solve anything

Nakusp’s community-owned forestry company has asked the Village of Nakusp not to endorse the idea of a new park at Summit Lake to protect western toads.

The Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR) made the request in a letter to village council in July.

“Special interest groups are currently lobbying government to create a park overlying NACFOR’s Summit Lake operating area,” a letter states. “A park would not solve any of the perceived issues.

“It may in fact make the issues more difficult to study and very likely much more difficult for needed research to be funded.”

NACFOR says it has worked carefully not to impact the toad’s habitat since it began work in 2013, calling the animals “one of many issues” that the community-owned forester has successfully managed in that time.

The company has had to balance wildlife habitat, wildfire issues, water quality, geotechnical issues, recreational users‘ needs and many other needs.

“NACFOR operates successfully in a legal framework to manage the local forest, and returns social and economic value to the local communities.”

In fact, NACFOR points out that it received a clean bill of health in 2016 from the Forest Practices Board after a complaint from the Valhalla Wilderness Society.

“NACFOR has taken reasonable steps to protect the toads,” the company quotes the board as ruling. “The steps include seeking advice from specialists, contributing to western toad research, identifying and retaining western toad habitat attributes and implementing available guidance on measures to protect the toads.”

The company also pointed out that the real problems for the toad are loss of habitat through the development of private land in the area, recreational use of breeding habitats, and the highway corridor that cuts right through the toad’s migration route, among other things.

The company says its operations are designed to “take a light footprint over a relatively small area.”

“Our operations are designed to limit ground disturbance, to protect and enhance habitat features which may be of use to toads and other creatures and provide a diversity of landscape across the landscape including re-forested areas,” its brief states.

Some groups have been pushing for the creation of a 670-hectare park preserve for the toads, and giving NACFOR other lands to log in a swap. But the company rejects the idea as not really solving any problems.

“[T]he realities are that every piece of forest land has other resource values and constraints that have to be managed,” the company says.

“At Summit Lake we are recommending cautious and informed status quo management,” they conclude. “We have been good managers as government at all levels will attest.”

The western toad has been upgraded in its classification from a “special concern” species to “not at risk,” NACFOR officials point out, noting there are several large populations of the western toad in the area that are not part of the forestry company’s logging area.

Council made no decision on the matter, but received the letter from NACFOR as information.