The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) won’t intervene in private land logging like their West Kootenay colleagues, despite mounting public concern in Fernie.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) has been in negotiations to buy land owned by Nelson Land Corporation since last summer.
At the same time, a crowdfunding campaign spearheaded by the newly formed Cottonwood Lake Preservation Society has raised over $53,000 in two months to provide seed funding for grants to purchase the land.
The potential deal comes amid concern planned logging will reduce the recreational and aesthetic value of Cottonwood Lake Regional Park and the Apex and Busk ski areas.
Similar concerns have been raised in Fernie where forestry company CanWel is clearing vast tracts of land surrounding the tourist town, impacting trails and wildlife habitat.
LOOK BACK: Fernie to host logging meeting on February 7
However, the RDEK won’t be going down the same route as the RDCK anytime soon, according to Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.
“The RDEK is not in a position to do anything about it. There’s a private land logging commission and there’s no legislation around that,” he said.
“We have no ability to zone or do anything and if we did at this point, they would be grandfathered.”
Sosnowski explained rezoning the area won’t stop the logging due to a grandfather clause, an exemption that allows persons or entities to continue with activities or operations that were approved prior to the implementation of new laws.
“There’s nothing we can do, it’s all the provincial government,” he said.
While Sosnowski supports what the RDCK is doing, he doesn’t think buying private managed forests is a viable option for the RDEK either.
“I support what the RDCK is doing, I guess their directors voted in favour of it,” he said.
“Now the RDEK buying the land already logged, there’s a huge liability with that. There’s a big question around who then would be responsible for the reforestation because the company is responsible for the reforestation, that’s something they have to do.
“Something like that would have to go to a referendum and ask the people if they want the money spent on that.”
Sosnowski did not attend a recent public forum on private land logging hosted by Wildsight in Fernie as it clashed with an RDEK meeting in Cranbrook.
LOOK BACK: CanWel defends logging practices
According to the Area A Director, the Fernie clearcuts are “nothing” compared to those in less visible areas.
“It’s too bad that they’re not practicing sustainable harvesting,” he said of CanWel.
LOOK BACK: City of Fernie to address logging concerns
Sosnowski said he has been working on the issue for three years and previously lobbied for change with former Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.
“I was upset because it’s unsustainable logging,” he said.
“My dad and myself in my younger years were loggers… I know a lot about it and I know what sustainable is, and they are not offering sustainability, not even close, and that’s what fired me up initially because my grandsons won’t have the opportunity to log around here because there will be no logs left.
“… If they (Wildsight) want to take opportunity to bring the community up to speed on what’s going on on the land, good. That’s a very good thing but I’m sorry I know that nothing can be done.”