New district manager oversees Thompson valleys

Rick Sommer took over what was formerly the Headwaters Forest District on Monday of last week. He also is in charge of the former Kamloops Forest District

Rick Sommer is the new district manager for the Thompson Rivers District

Rick Sommer is the new district manager for the Thompson Rivers District

There’s a new district manager in charge of the Forest Service in the North Thompson Valley, and it’s someone familiar with the area and to many local residents.

Rick Sommer took over what was formerly the Headwaters Forest District on Monday of last week. He also is in charge of the former Kamloops Forest District. Name of the amalgamated district has not yet been finalized but it is tentatively being called Thompson Rivers District, he said.

Sommer was woods manager for Tolko-Louis Creek until the wildfire of 2003. During his approximately 12 years with Tolko his responsibilities included supervising the forestry work done by the company throughout the Valley, going as far north as the North Thompson headwaters west of Gosnell.

Before that he was woodlands manager with Holding Lumber Company (Interfor) on Adams Lake. There his responsibilities often brought him into the upper Adams and Tum Tum Lake country.

“There were many times when I came into the district manager’s office here and in Kamloops to talk about forest issues. Now the roles are reversed,” he said. “I’ve lived the majority of my life in rural B.C. and fully realize the challenge of living the rural lifestyle as compared to the big city.”

A major change is the district that Sommer is in charge of isn’t just the old Headwaters Forest District, but also the former Kamloops Forest District as well. And they aren’t called forest districts anymore – just districts, in keeping with the expansion of the former Ministry of Forests to become the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources.

“The decision was basically made about two years ago to align the two forest districts into one big district,” said Sommer.

The changes are part of the downsizing being done across the provincial government in search of greater efficiencies.

In addition to managing the provincial forest, the ministry also has responsibility for lands and natural resources.

“The whole ministry is trying to become holistic managers of the land base,” said Sommer. “It’s still early days but that’s the direction the government is going.”

The former Forest Service office on Highway 5 in Clearwater now holds two components of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources: the district staff plus BC Timber Sales. It also holds the local Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure office, Clearwater Fire Zone (responsible for fighting forest fires), and Front Counter BC – the provincial agency primarily concerned with providing authorizations, applications, licenses and permits to the natural resource industries (mining, forestry, agriculture, water and land).

Born in Victoria and raised in Kitimat, Sommer graduated from UBC in science and forestry. He started his career as a forester with Takla Logging (Canfor) in Fort St. James. From there he went to Holding Lumber and then Tolko-Louis Creek.

After two years with Tolko at Heffley Creek he started working for government, taking charge of BC Timber Sales in Fort St. James and Vanderhoof.

Sommer was formerly president of the Association of BC Forest Professionals.