Logging trucks travelling through Nelson from forests south of city limits are hauling timber salvaged from blowdown caused by several windstorms over the last eight months.
Brent Petrick, forester for Anderson Creek Timber, told the Nelson Star the windstorms affected a number of different locations dispersed throughout a total area of 80 hectares.
“That doesn’t mean we are harvesting 80 hectares,” he said, adding that the company will cut a total of about 25 hectares of small dispersed openings.
The project is taking place on the company’s 600-hectare parcel of forest just south of Nelson. This is the third time in the company’s 40-year ownership of the property that it has cut timber, according to Petrick.
“The harvest prescriptions are small clearcut, due to the forest type and damage to the stand,” he said, “and includes a variety of single tree retention, group and patch retention and identification and retention of high value wildlife features.
He said the blown-down timber, if left, would be a fire hazard.
Petrick said the company won’t be logging anything but blowdown and other trees damaged by it.
“We’re not adding a whole bunch of harvesting up there just because it’s there,” Petrick said. “We have no interest in that type of harvesting.”
He said the project will be completed by mid-July.
The recent timber blowdowns might be a harbinger of the future, Petrick said, because of the trend toward more severe and frequent windstorms along with warmer winters.
The Anderson Creek Timber property is private land and is governed by B.C.’s Private Managed Forest Land Act, which provides less regulation than Crown land forestry in such areas as biodiversity, wildlife protections, and sustainable harvest, but Petrick says this is not an issue at this property.
“We exceed many of the regulatory standards government has provided for private managed forest land,” he said.
Privately owned forests are not required to be classified as a private managed forest — they can remain totally unclassified and unregulated — but by opting in as private managed forests they get a tax break from the province.
‘So many emails’
On June 11, Nelson consulting ecologist Rachel Holt alerted the public to the logging in an online message that questioned a number of aspects of the cut and encouraged the public to contact the company and local politicians, whose email addresses she provided.
“(Following her post) city councillors got tons of emails,” said Councillor Rik Logtenberg. “So many emails.”
One of Holt’s concerns was that the company did not explain its plans to the public in advance.
Petrick told the Nelson Star he communicated with the people he saw as directly affected: adjacent landowners, the City of Nelson, the cycling club, and B.C. Parks (because the property is adjacent to West Arm Provincial Park).
He said he never considered putting out a notice to the general public and felt no obligation to do so.
“Whether or not there is a legal requirement does not negate the professional accountability part of the work,” Holt said. “It’s not just a piece of hill somewhere. It’s Nelson’s backyard, it’s Nelson’s watershed, it’s Nelson’s fire risk. It’s Nelson’s recreation to the tune of millions of dollars.”
Holt said the RDCK and the City of Nelson should have asked for details on how the logging would affect short-term fire risk, water supply to the city, wildlife and bird nesting, and recreational values, and that this information should have been evaluated by an independent expert and made public.
She suggested that the debris from the logging could be a worse fire hazard this summer than the blowdown, and that the logging should be done in the fall, outside of fire season.
“Although neither city nor RDCK have no real jurisdiction, they should be looking out for the potentially very significant negative impacts caused by such activities around Nelson, and advocating for a careful precautionary approach,” she said.
City of Nelson approves
One of the hundreds of mountain bikers who use the trails on the Anderson Creek property is Rik Logtenberg. He said that as a city councillor he had concerns about the logging because it is in Nelson’s watershed, so he rode up to look at it.
He said he talked to Petrick, observed the blowdown and looked at drone footage of it, and came out confident that the company is doing the right thing.
“It was very clear that the risk of that ground fuel from blowdown is so significant, that something had to be done,” he said. “The trails are such an asset to the community that we have to do everything we can to protect them.”
Mayor John Dooley said the city knew about the logging plans in advance and he is confident that it is not impacting the watershed, that the company will replant the forest, and that the work reduces a fire risk caused by the blowdown.
“There was a lot of misinformation out there, that they were doing these massive clearcuts of 80 hectares,” he said.
Dooley said that because the logging is outside the city and on private land, the city would not have been able to do much about it any event.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s elected representative for the area, Ramona Faust, when contacted by the Nelson Star, said she had no knowledge of the logging before it started.
World class mountain biking trails
The many kilometres of mountain biking trails on the Anderson Creek Timber property have been built and maintained by the Nelson Cycling Club with the permission of the landowner since 2001. The most recent blowdown blocked some of the trails, and Petrick says it was the club that first alerted the company to this.
The club has published on its website a list of trails that are closed temporarily due to the logging, and posted signs on the trails themselves, some of which will have to rebuilt in the areas that are being cut.
“We’ve lost the top half of the trails, or two thirds, we don’t know because the logging hasn’t stopped yet,” says the club’s Mark Holt (no relation to Rachel Holt).
“So we’re waiting to see what the real impact is up there. We’re disappointed that there was blowdown and this all had to happen so quickly. I hope we don’t lose any more trails.”
Mark Holt is a veteran trail builder and mountain biker in the Nelson area. He said he hopes to continue to work with Anderson Creek Timber and sustain a relationship with the trails in the future.
“I wish we had had the opportunity or more time to sit down and discuss with Anderson Creek Timber and save a small portion of these world class trails,” he said.
He said he respects the fact that the club has been riding on private land and realizes that mountain biking depends on logging roads for access to the wilderness. He said he is trying to stay positive.
“There’s potential for some great lookouts and some great benches up there. We’ll have to get the community involved and rebuild and make Mountain Station a beautiful place again.”