Is there a win-win solution to the Mount Macpherson logging issue?

By David F. Rooney
Revelstoke City Council is facing a tough decision on Tuesday, April 14: Should it continue to regard Mount Macpherson as a standard “working forest” subject to periodic logging, or should it push for a planning process that takes into account increasingly heavy recreation and tourism pressures?
This question is coming to the fore as BC Timber Sales has proposed logging the mountain beginning in 2016. Meanwhile the ad hoc Citizens for Mount Macpherson group has just released a 100-page document that includes signatures by more than 1,660 people from Revelstoke to Hanoi — literally. This hefty tome includes many, many personal comments about the area and its importance to the community and the signatories.
“We trust you will find the comment section enlightening as many of the respondents spoke passionately about the importance of the trails and accessibility to forested areas free from clear-cutting,” the group said in an e-mail to The Revelstoke Current. “With now just over 1660 signatures, there are a great many people that feel there is an urgent need to re-visit current land use planning and industry logging practices in one of Revelstoke’s most cherished recreational areas. This area has been shown to be of high value to the local residents and economy as well as to the growing tourism industry Revelstoke is coming to rely on more and more.”
The correct answer may seem obvious: yes, we should rethink how Mount Macpherson (and, perhaps, the Begbie Falls area, too) is managed. However, how that actually comes to fruition demands careful thought and leadership.
Some of that may already be in motion behind the scenes as MLA Norm Macdonald and Forestry Minister Steve Thompson have already begun discussing this issue. The two men had a conference call from the Legislature on Monday afternoon with ministry staff.
“I think he genuinely wants a solution,” Macdonald said afterwards. “As he put it, it’s a matter of finding a balance.”
While it’s unlikely that there will be a quick fix to this situation, the MLA for Columbia River Revelstoke said any solution must involve government paying close attention to what the community — and that means everyone — has to say.
As Community Economic Development Director Alan Mason notes in his report on this issue for City Council’s consideration on Tuesday, April 14, “with the enhancement of the trails systems, the recreational activities that take place on these trails have become important tourism attractions for the community, and we are seeing increasing numbers of skiers and mountain bikers accessing the trails.”
As most Revelstokians will recall there was a strong outcry when Stella-Jones began logging in the nearby Begbie Falls area in 2013. That’s when people realized that a long-term plan for managing the area created back in the 1980s no longer had any legal standing.
All parties to this current situation have invested money and effort to achieve their own particular goals. The forestry companies like Stella-Jones are already major contributors to the success of our economy while the recreation groups that are beginning to realize major success have their own economic ambitions for the area. And everyone needs to remember that even though Revelstoke and its residents regard these areas as ‘theirs’ City Council has no jurisdiction over any activity at Mount Macpherson or nearby Begbie Falls.
Will Mayor Mark McKee and Council be able to lead an effort, in concert with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, which does have jurisdiction, to find a long-term solution on concert with the province? That will depend on the foresight, wisdom and political courage of all of our elected leaders and the companies and interest groups that have competing visions for this area.
Please click here to see the report to Council from Community economic Development Director Alan Mason.
Please click here to view the petition signed by more than 1,000 recreational users of the area.