An industry perhaps feeling on the defensive lately pivoted with an open house last week in which it tried to take the offensive and defend its work.
At the behest of the Revelstoke Cycling Association and Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club, Revelstoke forestry companies hosted an open house at the community centre on Tuesday, but their approach left many people feeling dissatisfied.
The open house was held in response to concerns regarding logging in the area immediately surrounding Revelstoke — particularly a proposal for further harvesting in the Mount Macpherson area that would impact several Nordic skiing and mountain biking trails, but also logging on Boulder Mountain and Frisby Ridge.
The Times Review reported in September that BC Timber Sales intends on logging two cut blocks on Macpherson in 2016. The article led to several letters to the editor opposing the decision, citing the recreation value of the area.
Present were representatives from four of Revelstoke’s major licensees: BC Timber Sales (BCTS), Stella Jones, Downie Timber, the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation (RCFC), and one woodlot operator.
They organized a four-part presentation that explained how forests were managed in B.C., the importance of the local logging industry, and the relationship between forestry and recreation.
However the elephant in the room and the reason about 150 people came out — the proposal for new harvesting at Mount Macpherson — went largely unaddressed, and the lack of an open question and answer session left people disappointed.
“I was very surprised that the format was non-inclusive to all the different groups involved and it was just a presentation by the loggers,” said Steve Scott, a local mountain biker. “It felt like they were trying to quell disapproval from the different groups.”
His comments were echoed by many in on- and off-the-record conversations following the presentations.
“I think there was a lot missing here at this meeting,” said Loni Parker, the director for Area B Rural Revelstoke. “I think a lot of people will be disappointed because there wasn’t an open Q&A session and there wasn’t a lot of information put out about the actual harvesting in the area.”
(Note: copies of the PowerPoint presentations can be read at the end of this article.)
Ken Gibson, the retiring recreation officer for the Revelstoke area, began the presentations with an explanation on how recreation sites and trails were managed in respect to the land base. “They are in the working forest. They are not parks or protected areas,” he said. “This designation means integrated resource management must take place.”
As he explained it, trails are approved following consultation with other stakeholders. If trails were protected, it would be much more difficult to get them approved.
His goal is to make sure the stakeholders work together. As an example, he pointed to the memorandum of understanding that exists between Stella Jones and the Revelstoke Cycling Association. The two parties are expected to consult when they plan work in overlapping areas, and they are expected to meet once a year. “It’s all about working together,” Gibson said.
Pat McMechan, a forester with Stella Jones, spoke about land management in the Revelstoke area. His presentation focused mostly on land use policy, forestry planning and the annual allowable cut system that sets out how much timber forestry companies are expected to harvested. Logging around Revelstoke is governed by the Revelstoke Higher Level Plan Order.
McMechan said 24 per cent of the Revelstoke Timber Supply Area is harvestable, and of that, only one per cent of the harvestable timber is logged every year. “However, a considerable amount of that Timber Harvest Land Base (THLB) is around the city of Revelstoke,” he added.
Angus Woodman, who works for Downie Timber, spoke about the local forestry sector, noting the existence of four major licensees, four woodlots, a successful mill, and a diverse mix of species. The sector employs about 375 people and makes up close to 20 per cent of Revelstoke’s income.
“The future of Revelstoke’s forest industry is quite bright,” he said.
Rob Mohr, a forester with BC Timber Sales, responded to pre-written questions from the Revelstoke Cycling Association. It was these answers that got closest to addressing logging impacts on trails, without actually answering them. The closest he came was a question that asked about long-term logging plans for Macpherson, Boulder and Frisby.
“I’m going to cop out a little bit on this one and let you ask this question at the open house portion,” he said. “I think the key point to remember is mature timber in the THLB will be harvested over time, within constraints.”
In response to another question about forming a joint-use committee for Macpherson, Boulder and Frisby, he said he didn’t know what purpose it would serve.
“We have to understand we do have this higher-level plan and we have provincial legislation that has already been formulated with input from these stakeholders,” he said. “Any new approach to the planning end of things should be led by the provincial government – because it is a provincial resource – and evaluated against the current system.”
Afterwards, each stakeholder retreated to their respective corners and fielded answers from people one-on-one. People grouped together and discussed what they heard, and how to move forward.
There was an acknowledgment that the licensees were working within the parameters set out by the government, and a realization that this open house was not the channel to make real changes. That would need to happen by lobbying government.
“I think what a lot of people wanted to know and were coming here for — what are the channels we go through to have the legislation that the forestry companies follow changed?” said Scott.
Aaron Orlando, the only city councillor present at the meeting (he said the rest were tied up in an eight-hour council meeting that he left to attend the open house) said the matter was a complex issue that would involve ongoing communication and dealings with the province.
“I sense a community trying to come together trying to find a better way of doing things, but we don’t hold all the cards by any means,” he said. “Economics and regulatory framework are huge in this and we’re struggling to find a better way of doing this and that’s complex.”
Geoff Battersby, who said he was speaking as a citizen and not in his role as chair of the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation, said there was room for a solution satisfactory to everybody.
“Revelstoke’s got a great history of doing that kind of thing, but it’s not happening, obviously,” he said.
Chris Pawlitsky, the president of the Revy Riders dirt bike club, said that so far the licensees have been cooperative with his club. Logging this winter will impact a 100 metre section of one dirt bike trail on Frisby Ridge, and Stella Jones agreed to repair it. Still, he wasn’t completely happy with the current situation.
“It’s David vs. Goliath. I don’t think it’s fair they can come in and roll us over,” he said. “All the hard work we’ve done — they can wreck it in one afternoon.”
Still, he added, “I’m not going to stop it, so I’m going to work with them.”
One issue that came up in several conversations was having the Macpherson area turned into a community forest, and possibly run by RCFC. Loni Parker, who sits on the board of RCFC, said the idea had been broached in the past, but without success.
“It would be very positive for the community if RCFC was managing the area,” she said. “I’m sure the dialogue will take place again and hopefully the new mayor and council will be onside as well and we can have a dialogue between the CSRD, city council and RCFC to see how we can move forward to get more community input into the areas right around Revelstoke.”
Not everyone was disappointed in the presentations. Gary Graf said he thought the talks were well prepared and from the heart. He didn’t have any concerns with logging right around Revelstoke.
“As a matter of fact I’ve been really impressed about having been a relatively recent arrival in Revelstoke, the whole notion of integrated management, cooperation, shared use — I think it says a lot about the community,” he said.
As for the logging at Macpherson, Mohr said it was still set to go forward in 2016, but there was some flexibility in terms of how it would be done — whether it was a clear cut, or if the trails were left untouched.
“There’s not going to be no harvesting, but we want input as to what people want to see,” he said. “Do they want some trees left there? Are they willing to accept the risk of blowdown, or we can be more aggressive and clear it out a little bit more? It might look more impacted, but there’s no risks.”
Editor’s note: The author of this article previously wrote a column advocating for a restriction of logging on Mount Macpherson. If you have any concerns regarding bias in this story, please call Alex Cooper at 250-837-4667 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org