Nakusp and Area Community Forest intends to do selective logging on Box Mountain as part of wildfire mitigation work. Photo: Nakusp and Area Community Forest

Nakusp and Area Community Forest intends to do selective logging on Box Mountain as part of wildfire mitigation work. Photo: Nakusp and Area Community Forest

Nakusp community forest answers citizen concerns about wildfire mitigation

Residents of Box Mountain watershed are concerned about planned selective logging

A group of property owners in the Nakusp area is concerned about plans by the Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR) to log part of their watershed as part of wildlife mitigation work.

Protectors of Box Mountain Watershed says logging will threaten the water source of up to 177 residents.

“We’re not going to let this happen, because we have water issues already where we live,” said spokesperson Ed Evans.

Frances Swan, project manager at NACFOR, told the Nelson Star that some timber harvesting was always a possibility under the 2018 Nakusp Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

The goal is to selectively log parts of the mountain to “open up the stand, open up the crowns to reduce the likelihood of a crown fire,” she said, adding that 50 per cent of the trees would be retained, and that fuel mitigation work – limbing, clearing undergrowth and deadfall, all done by hand – would follow.

Swan said NACFOR plans to have a meeting with anyone directly affected by water or industrial traffic issues early in the summer, after it has completed hydrological studies. She said this consultation has always been part of the plan.

“We are intending to consult and hopefully do a field tour at some point get out on the landscape with residents that could potentially be impacted by this project by this activity,” she said.

That tour is one of many things that still need to be done before any logging might take place, including applying for and receiving a forest licence contract to do the cutting, Swan said.

Evans also suggested that the planned logging is a commercial venture disguised as fuel mitigation.

Swan says there will be no profit from the logging. The proceeds will partially pay for the hand treatments in the fuel mitigation work that would happen later.

Evans, arguing that wildfire mitigation work is not necessary, described the area as a “premature old growth forest … on a north side. There’s very big trees there. And there’s natural spacing, lots of limbs are very high up.”

Evans’s group recently invited UBC forestry professor Suzanne Simard to inspect the forest, which she did on May 25. Simard’s letter to the group, which she describes as “preliminary observations,” describes the forest and states that “the lack of understory, north aspect and presence of multiple ephemeral streams together indicate the site is at low risk of fire.”

Swan said she did not want to refute Simard, acknowledging that she is a highly respected forester.

“But we’ve done a lot of work in there,” Swan said. “We did 80 plots there, we’ve covered that mountainside really thoroughly, we’ve collected a lot of data. And we have a pretty good idea of what that forest looks like.

“And there are certainly areas that have old trees, there are areas that are more mossy, but there are also areas that have a higher risk as there is way more blowdown. There’s other issues in those areas.”

There are two of other reasons why this work is not likely to happen any time soon, according to Swan.

The first is road access. NACFOR still has to negotiate a route through a rural residential area and it is unknown how long this will take.

Second, there is no funding for the fuel mitigation work that would follow the selective logging. Funding for such work usually comes from the provincial government, and none has yet been approved. Swan said without funding for the fuel treatment work, the logging will probably not proceed either because NACFOR wants the two stages to proceed in tandem.

Related: Box Mountain residents rally to protect their water

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