Forestry might be the North Thompson Valley’s biggest industry but only a handful of people showed up at a recent open house to learn what the forest licensees are doing on public land.
The open house to discuss the companies’ forest stewardship plans was held March 15 at Dutch Lake Community Centre.
Until several years ago, similar open houses involving all the licenses were held on a more or less annual basis, recalled Michael Scott, forestry superintendent with Interfor.
Requirements changed but now, with most of the forest licensees’ forest stewardship plans coming up for their five-year renewal, the decision was made to hold a group open house again.
Scott noted that most members of the public who take part are ranchers, trappers and others with specific interests in any changes or developments planned.
Others are more general, with interests in wildlife or landscape impacts.
The forest stewardship plans do not show specific locations of roads or cut-blocks, although larger forest development units are shown where harvesting, road construction and silviculture will occur.
However, most of the forest licensees participating had fairly specific maps showing what they planned to do.
If that was not enough, Ron Van der Zwan, stewardship officer with the Thompson Rivers District, demonstrated an online mapping system that allows anyone to access detailed information about the Kamloops Timber Supply Area via the Internet.
The system is the first, or at least one of the first, of its type in the province, he said.
It allows people to go online and see where the forest companies plan to locate their cut-blocks and roads.
Other layers in the system allow people to see other values such as wildlife habitat, visual sensitivity, old growth areas and so on.
Former district manager Rick Sommer sent the licensees a fairly comprehensive letter on his expectations for their forest stewardship plans, said Gord Pratt, acting resource manager with the Thompson Rivers Forest District.
Those expectations have continued under the leadership of acting district manager Rachel Pollard, he said.
West Fraser took over about half of Weyerhaeuser’s cutting permits in this area after Weyerhaeuser shut down its Vavenby sawmill.
Planning forester Matt Brown and silviculture forester Tyrell Law represented West Fraser at the open house.
Their company is now actively logging in this area, with the majority of the wood going to its sawmill in 100 Mile House, they reported.
A Clearwater-based contractor, KDC Forestry Consulting, helps with the logging, plus they use some local contractors for silviculture work.
Gilbert Smith’s sawmill in Barriere saws only cedar but they don’t log only cedar, said company representatives Dale Offermann, Glenn Foss and Craig Hewlett.
That means they need to trade with other licensees to get the cedar they want.
Another complication is that much of their operating area in the Blue River area is overlain with caribou habitat, old growth reserves, visual values and riparian zones.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to find a block of wood to cut,” one of them said.
Canfor’s display seemed to be the busiest at the open house, with many of those visiting it wanting to learn more about what some see as controversial logging planned for the Upper Clearwater and Trophy Mountain area.
Another area they plan on harvesting over the next few years is the Raft River Valley. After that, they will do more in the Blue River area.
Andrew Lavigne, Stefan Borge and Dan Arcand represented Canfor.
“BC Timbers Sales is a licensee for the government,” was how area forester Jessica Gunn described the agency’s role.
Formerly known as the Small Business Program, BCTS auctions wood to the highest bidder in an effort to find the market price.
The winning bidder then has two years to harvest the wood.
Also representing BCTS were Stephanie Howard and Frank Kohlberger.
Wells Gray Community Forest’s forest stewardship plan is not due for review but they wanted to participate in the open house in any event, said manager George Brcko.
Although the licensees’ forest stewardship plans are only renewed every five years (and often extended to 10), Brcko said he would like to see similar open houses held on an annual basis again.
Public interest likely would grow with time, he felt.
It also was an opportunity to see how other licensees deal with specific issues.
“I was interested in learning more about managing for small creeks. This gave me a chance to see how other companies do it,” he said.