Boundary residents are going to bat for Williamson Lake, opposing what they say is drastic logging planned for the scenic area by BC Timber Sales.
Stan Swinarchuk is a former logger who said he’s concerned about how close the logging is coming to the lake, which is located off Highway 43 near Westbridge.
“I go to the lake and I check it out. I was up there in April, and I find they have it all ribboned out,” Swinarchuk said. “The lake was open so I went and fished a little off the dock, and I start thinking, logging in a campground? Can’t be. After I get down, I went in to see Forestry and ask what is happening at Williamson Lake.”
Swinarchuk said he was told about the logging and it had been approved at that time, but said he raised concerns about the proximity to the lake.
Abiding by forestry regulations, the logging line is set back a minimum of 10 metres from the lake on the north shore, in many cases farther back.
Scott Leslie, woodlands supervisor of BC Timber Sales (BCTS), said logging is a complex process with many agencies and restrictions being considered before a final plan is proposed.
“[It] comes with restrictions that are legislatively given, and these do meet that standard,” Leslie said. “We want to continue to provide the values that are there; however, there is forest industry and economy tied to all of this so we’re in the middle.”
Leslie said BCTS is looking at pushing back the line to accommodate concerns, and is currently working on drawing up a new plan that will take into account what residents value in the area. The most important thing, he said, is that residents get involved in the process and register local campgrounds with Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
The provincial government sets logging restrictions and regulations, and BCTS abides by these restrictions. Right now the logging is proposed, and no cutting has begun, said Leslie.
Since then, the group including Swinarchuk and Leslie, with other residents concerned about the logging, has been up to the site to discuss concerns and potential changes. Swinarchuk has also written letters to different government officials, advising them of the logging and the impact he believes it will have.
The area is in a formally designated recreation zone; however, Leslie noted that the area is not legally binding and any proposed logging just needs the approval of the Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
“We went to Parks and Recreation, we had to apply under the section, and Parks and Rec says ‘this is what the objectives are, go ahead,’” he said.
Swinarchuk said there should be no logging within the recreation zone, and said that despite the science behind it, he believes the logging will drastically impact the water.
“When they take all the trees out, the water that feeds the lake starts to warm up. It warms the temperature of the lake, then you start to get algae, and when you get that, it’s finished. It creates carbon dioxide in the water and kills the fish. It’s going to destroy the lake.”
The Riparian Area Regulations Model is set forth by the B.C. government that protects wetlands and lakes from degradation as a result of development. Through the regulation, each riparian area is assessed by a third party on the values of the area, and how best to protect them. Leslie said the current model abides by all environmental concerns.
The site, which is within the recreation polygon, should be considered a free zone from logging, Swinarchuk said. The sites were designated in the 1960s based on consideration and a visit to the area, taking into consideration all the factors in the area that could impact the lake.
“I call it a safe zone for the lake. All the lakes have a safe zone on it,” he said. However, Swinarchuk said changes to the Forest Recreation Regulation are to blame for the loophole allowing this logging.
Section 16 of the Forest Recreation Regulation states that “unless authorized by a designated forest official, a person must not use a recreation site … or wilderness area for … a business or industrial activity.”
Fred Marshall, a Midway resident with a background in forestry, said that although the recreation site isn’t legally binding, this doesn’t mean the area should be logged.
“So although there is no legal prohibition, the recreation reserve has been put around [the lakes] to protect them in their natural state. Even though they don’t prohibit logging, these designations discourage it.
“It is upsetting and disappointing that the Ministry, which is supposed to be looking after these areas for the public good, would do this.”
Marshall added that logging for safety reasons, including fire, would be an exception, as was the case with the Kettle River Park, which was logged to reduce dangerous and fire-damanged trees. But, he said, there is no reason to log these healthy trees and logging only diminishes the value of the area.
“This is just industrial logging. Timber should not usurp recreation, aesthetic, fishing, wildlife, etcetera. Tourism is way bigger in BC’s economy than forestry is. And here we are whittling it away.”
However, Leslie said the proposal abides by the restrictions and all government science behind it. A large portion of the problem is education behind the logging process—it’s difficult for citizens to know when and how to get involved.
“We need people to sit down with us earlier and in a way that is a bit more overarching strategically,” Leslie said. “Say, ‘these are the things that are important.’ We can plug that into the planning process to get closer to a balance, where we are doing our harvesting but also seeing it’s a recreation and coming to a compromise in the middle.”
Swinarchuk said he doesn’t believe that the logging should go forward just because it is legally allowable.
“I think it’s a crime, if not legally, then morally. As soon as they made Section 16, that opened a can of worms. They can go anywhere. But morally you shouldn’t do that,” he said.
Right now the site is a proposal, and starting next year the bidding process will go forward to log the area. Currently, Leslie said, he does not know the value figure associated with the area and it is dependent largely upon the bidding process. The final value of the logging will depend on what’s attractive about the area to each contractor—the type of wood or age of the trees, for instance.
This area was chosen for logging, he said, because the trees have passed the peak of their life. After this point, the trees become more susceptible to disease and bug infestations.
“The attack is not there right now, but it’s ranked on susceptibility,” he said.
Leslie added that at this point, BCTS has no formal responsibility to consider input from locals, but they are trying to do so anyways.
“We are making changes to facilitate some of the comments that come up there,” he said. “We are going through a process, no matter what stage of the game, to take that consultation [and] to consider it and make changes.”
Swinarchuk said he decided to get involved this issue because he values the land.
“I took my grandson up there [fishing], and he said, ‘Grandpa, if they log this I don’t know if it will be worth coming up here anymore.’ He’s 20 years old. There are a lot of people who use that lake,” he said. “People, they said ‘Stan you can’t fight the government,’ but someone has got to stand up and say something. So it happened to be me, because I don’t want to go to my grave thinking my grandchildren are going to say, ‘grandpa how come you didn’t try to do anything.’”