Concerns for the future of logging, the amount of logging taking place and the quality of the sensitive Horsefly River watershed left in its wake were all topics of discussion at a meeting hosted by the Horsefly River Roundtable (HRR) recently.
About a dozen professionals from the Ministry of Forests and forest industry made presentations at the open house and made themselves available for questions and comments. About a dozen residents were in attendance.
It was a meeting months in the making as members of the HRR have been wanting to air their concerns with the amount of logging taking place in the designated fisheries-sensitive area.
“I think it was a really good turnout,” said Elaine Armagost, of the HRR, following the meeting. “Excellent points were made. The roundtable is still concerned why cutting permits are being approved when allowable clearcut percentages have been surpassed.”
Whether or not those percentages have been surpassed is up for interpretation, but one thing for certain is the shift in harvesting wood (beetle-kill pine) from the Chilcotin over the past 20 years, to the forests east of Williams Lake has occurred.
For example, Horsefly, Likely and Beaver Valley make up 17 per cent of the whole timber supply area for the Cariboo Chilcotin, however, over 40 per cent of timber harvested in 2022 was taken out of that 17 per cent area.
“The ministry counts every watershed within the watershed - they don’t add up all the numbers,” said Helen Englund of the HRR. “That’s part of the problem.”
Harvesting activities need to be done with much more sensitivity in Horsefly River watershed so fish and water quality can be preserved, said Armagost.
The four-hour meeting was held Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Horsefly community hall.
Jason Kerley, tenures officer with the Williams Lake forest district, said the province is nearing the end of the last Timber Supply Review (TSR).
The Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) for the Williams Lake TSA was set at a maximum of three million cubic metres, in 2015, with the chief forester setting a partition of 1.5 million dead and 1.5 million live trees. He said they have not surpassed that.
He was asked how the designation of the Horsefly River watershed as a sensitive fisheries watershed is being woven through the TSA and how objectives such as conservation and habitat quality are measured in achieving objectives set out by the designation.
Kerley said constraints in the watershed along with analysis guides harvesting in the area over the next 80 to 100 years and takes out pieces of the fisheries-sensitive watershed over time.
“Yes there is an order on it, but it’s not a no-harvest area. It’s an area where we slowly harvest, harvest is allowed to a certain percentage.”
Attendees also questioned the quality of logging operations in areas such as Patenaude Lake, where slash piles were left behind, as well as whether important sections of the Horsefly River were being harvested with detailed consideration for salmon and its habitat.
“I think a lot of people just give up,” said attendee Lori Walters of the feeling of some residents. “Nothing seems to change.”
Robin Webb felt similar.
“What you’re doing isn’t working,” he said at the meeting. “ … the mills in town are losing shifts, what’s going to happen … you can’t keep cutting everything in Horsefly … It really looks to me like you’re just taking everything you can, as quick as you can.”
Whether the current harvesting takes into account climate change and is sustainable was another concern aired.
Kerley noted the whole TSR process is based on sustainable and regeneration of trees and harvest.
Representatives from West Fraser, Tolko and B.C. Timber Sales attended the meeting.