Increased logging activity for Brown Creek residents

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
May 15th, 2012

It is an effort to drive out to the rural community of Brown Creek located at the north end of North Fork Road. The winding rural road takes about 30 minutes to drive in the summer and much longer in the winter.

But the trade off is why there’s a community out there at all — the serene solitude of rural living. There’s old homesteads, a colourful collection of locals who hold a common thread of love for the land, the environment and the ability to enjoy those in peace and quiet.

Their fear is that their peace, quiet and clean air will all come to an end with more Crown Land cut blocks being opened up for auction over the next two years by BC Timber Sales (BCTS).

They made these views known during a special public meeting hosted by BCTS in Brown Creek Community Hall on Thursday, May 10.

More than 30 residents gathered outside the hall at 6 p.m. to go in en masse. Many of them were members of a new organization called the Friends and Residents of the North Fork (FRNF), which aims to safeguard the rural lifestyle they all enjoy.

They arrived with one goal in mind — to be heard. Affects on water quality, excessive logging truck traffic on their narrow rural roads, wildlife and the closeness of the cut blocks to the Granby Provincial Park which is home to grizzly bears and mountain goats and the view of Hornet Mountain are all concerns for local residents.

“I’m really concerned how close some of the cut blocks are to some of the residences and these fish bearing streams,” said Margaret Steele before the meeting began.

They must be running out of timber or it seems they are because they are getting too close to people.

Some of the proposed cut block areas will sit along private property lines and infringe on private water rights.

After meeting and greeting with BCTS staff, many of whom are from Nelson and Grand Forks, the community took charge of the meeting and asked to be addressed as a group so they may all hear questions and answers fellow landowners have.

“It’s not cool,” said resident Grant Burnard during the meeting. “We don’t think it’s fair for BC Timber Sales to have an ongoing relationship with this community when you log up to our property lines and down to the road or when you come anywhere close to water sources that we use.”

“We think we can do it,” said Rick Mazzocchi, BCTS planning forester out of Castlegar. “We’ve done it in lots of other areas. So we’re optimistic we can show a product that you might not love but that you can probably live with. We’re not going to clear cut right to the road’s edge.”

Some residents were concerned about the visual impact logging Hornet Mountain, which has a dominate spot on their skyline, will have on property values and on tourism.

Unlike Christina Lake, which also has active logging zones that were sold by BCTS, BCTS does not classify Brown Creek as a “visually sensitive” zone.

“For this area the government has deemed it is not a visually sensitive area,” said Dawn Guido, BCFS practices forester from Grand Forks. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t a visually sensitive area to you folks who live here. We understand that and we want to be good neighbours.”

Hearing your concerns help us develop our plans and to be good neighbours and we are hoping we can incorporate some of your concerns you are talking to us about into our plans and we can work with them.

“Not being there is not an option as far as I’m concerned as the timber sales manager, it is part of public land and part of the timber land base and our intent is to be in this area,” said Shane Bowden BCTS timber sales manager for this region. “Logging has been going on in this Grand Forks area for many, many years and I hope it continues … We are going to do our best to mitigate impacts.”

Logging trucks greatly feared

Like the rest of Grand Forks, this won’t be the first nor the last logging activity to happen in Brown Creek.

Photographer Kristina Hockley and her husband Grant Burnard homestead a beautiful acreage on Brown Creek Road. There home is quite close to the road and they see at least a dozen logging trucks a day down it already. They fear the new activities will add to that number and make the roads even more unsafe to drive on or even be close to.

“It’s scary,” said Hockley during the meeting.

Hockley said there was an incident with her son on the road when a logging truck came barreling down the curve between her house and the bus stop in which he was nearly hit. She doesn’t want to see that terrifying moment happen again to her or anyone else.

Angelica Herlihy has been living in the Brown Creek area for 20 years. In those years she’s seen the logging truck traffic increase greatly. She says the engine brakes wake her at night and in the early morning hours all the time.

The BCTS staff advised residents that any concerns about the logging trucks should be taken up with the company who’s vehicle it is or by calling BCTS who can provide that information.

“After hearing all those conversations (about logging truck operations) for almost 30 years now fortunately, as far as I’m aware, on any roads that we’ve built there have been no serious accidents with the school bus or children or those kind of things,” said Bowden. “We’re talking about logging truck drivers who are responsible citizens and who live in the community and who are professional drivers.”

“I beg to differ,” said many of the residents in unison.

“We can’t see their license plates because they’re driving too fast,” said Astrid Kihl, whose home is on one of the private properties that will be logged up to the property line.

We’re lucky if we can get our kids on the bus without having (a logging truck) to practically slam on their breaks.

The new logging traffic won’t all necessarily be going down the North Fork Road but down the Granby Road too depending on who wins the right to harvest and where the logs are being driven to, said Bowden.

“It’s not really going to change what’s going down the road,” said Bowden.

Logging could begin this summer

BCTS is a government agency who is mandated to market crown timber. The operation has been going since 2003 and the 584 staff across the province manage about 20 per cent of the provincial allowable cut.

Besides identifiying areas for future timber harvest, BCTS also conducts forest planning, timber cruising, engineering, road construction and maintenance, bridge installations and tree planting. The areas are then put to a public auction where the highest bidder wins.

In the Brown Creek area many areas have been identified for harvesting but it won’t all be happening at once.

Roads to the seven blocks along Lynch Creek area are set to be constructed this summer. The road along the north side of Lynch Creek will be upgraded hopefully by this fall, said George Edney, BCTS planning supervisor out of Nelson. The timber rights for the removal of about 37,000 cubic meters of timber will go up for auction and removal in 2013 or 2014, said Edney.

Included on the list of areas also being considered for logging is Hornet Creek, which includes four cut blocks under review, some road construction and will be visible throughout the area because it includes Hornet Mountain. Miller Creek will be looked at this year to see the possibilities, said Edney. These sights are still several years away from having the timber auctioned.

The process from start to finish takes years and multiple site visits and studies, said Edney.

“It is more complicated then sending in a bulldozer,” said Edney.

And the BCTS work doesn’t end when the auction is won. They send staff up to ensure government standards are being upheld during the whole harvest, said Edney.

Christina Lake set for logging up Stewart Creek Road this summer

Two six-block sections of forest on Stewart Creek Road in the Spooner Creek Forest Service area are ready to be auctioned off to the highest bidder late this month.

The two sections will each yield about 35,000 cubic meters of timber.

There are four homes on the rural road. All of them get their water from Moody Creek, which is also fish bearing. Some residents have been drinking the water out of the pristine creek for more than 30 years and don’t want to see it harmed.

The road is narrow with some sharp corners and all the homes are located below the dirt road, which means there will be a lot of dust when the logging trucks start hauling.

The areas identified for auction by BC Timber Sales have been studied over the past few years with help from the Christina Lake Stewardship Society, said Edney. However, residents of the road said they were not consulted or included in those discussions.

Edney said the Spooner Creek Trail, which is used by many people for hiking and taking ATVs down, will be saved and the water quality of the surrounding creeks will be protected.

For more information about BCTS visit www.for.gov.bc.ca/bcts .

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