By David F. Rooney
Word that forestry company Stella-Jones has a permit to to begin logging trees in the Begbie Falls area — for decades popular with mountain bikers, hikers, cross-country skiers, family picnickers and just about everyone else in town — has been electrifying social networks across the city since the middle of last week.
Forestry company Stella-Jones, which had $640.1 million in sales across North America in 2011 produces telephone poles, railway ties and other pressure-treated timber products, has a provincial permit to cut trees in the Begbie Falls area. At the suggestion of Community Economic Development Director Alan Mason, it is holding a public consultation regarding its plans at the Community Centre on Friday, November 16, from 3 until 7 pm.
This show-and-tell is intended to give the public an opportunity to ask questions about the plan, see maps of the area and the planned cuts and hear the company’s reasons for cutting the area.
This is not the first time the company has attempted to remove trees from the area. A 1990 logging proposal by Bell Pole, which was later purchased by Stella-Jones, met with public resistance and a plan — the Begbie Falls Integrated Resources Plan, was put in place to prevent a collision of values between loggers and everyone who loves and uses the area for everything from hiking, skiing and climbing to berry picking, fishing and hunting.
At the time, the plan identified 374 hectares available for logging. 49 per cent of that could be conventionally skidded, 45 per cent skyline cable yarded, 4 per cent unconventionally ground skidded and 2 per cent logged with a helicopter. Friday’s meeting will likely reveal just how the company would like to log the area this winter.
“Past logging history (yes, the area has been repeatedly logged over the decades) has created a trail network at the north end of the planning area,” the plan noted. “This area has the potential for future recreation expansion.”
That potential is being realized now and most people will likely conclude that logging will erode the pleasure felt by the area’s many, many recreational users. So there is likely to be some resistance.
One e-mail received by The Current said the City’s Economic Development Commission is “… very concerned about the impact this will have on our community for obvious reasons.
“Clear cutting this area will not only impact the users, but also the resort in that our guest and homeowners look at this area as part of the viewscape and a clear-cut directly across the valley between water level and (the) highway will be an incredible eye-sore.”
Mayor David Raven, who is also chairman of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, said after Sunday’s Remembrance Day ceremony that he is aware of the issue but there were no plans — at the time — to discuss it at Tuesday’s 3 pm City Council meeting. That could change and Council would be wise to be ahead of the curve on this issue rather than behind it. (One has only to look at the unhappiness caused by gravel mining off Westside Road to see why.) It doesn’t have any direct jurisdiction over the Begbie Falls area but it should have some influence over what happens there — if it chooses to exercise it.
To be fair to the mayor and Council, the City has no direct jurisdiction over the Begbie Falls area, but the CSRD — over which Raven also presides — does. At least one CSRD director is deeply concerned about the current logging plan.
Area B Director Loni Parker has clearly outlined her concerns in a column. In an e-mail to The Current on Tuesday morning she said she had asked that “this item put on our agenda for our Board meeting this Thursday. I will be asking the Board to send a letter requesting that operations cease until a review of the BFIRP is completed.”