Tsain-Ko, BCTS defend Egmont logging plans

‘We are not just ticking a box,’ CEO assures community

About 130 people attended a virtual meeting on June 25 about a sweeping logging operation that could start as early as July and clear cut more than 150 hectares in the community of Egmont.

Over the three-hour session, representatives of Tsain-Ko and B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) addressed at-times heated questions and repeatedly defended their efforts to reduce the size and change the shape and locations of cutblocks, commission environmental studies and seek public input.

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BCTS is a provincial agency that manages about 20 per cent of the province’s annual allowable cut on public land and auctions licences to harvest. Tsain-Ko, a development corporation owned by shíshálh Nation, has been awarded a licence to harvest 75,000 cubic metres of timber in a five-year period. The company is two years into the licence.

Residents raised concerns over the destruction of the area’s ecology, the risk of contaminating drinking water, damaging road infrastructure and hampering the area’s tourism-dependent economy.  

Several expressed dismay that they were not notified about logging that would occur in close proximity to their homes and properties.

Rick Craig, president of the North Lake Residents’ Association, acknowledged that BCTS and Tsain-Ko had addressed several of their concerns, but described the logging as still having the potential to “leave a lasting legacy that could be very damaging.”

Logging on all four sides of the lake “is just too much,” said Craig, asking that EGG25, a cutblock on the east side of the lake, be cancelled due to concerns over water quality and because of an elk nursery. He asked that bidding not move ahead until a plan is put in place to ensure North Lake’s water quality won’t be impacted, and a water quality monitoring process has been established.

He also said Egmont Road’s capacity to handle logging trucks should be assessed by an expert and wildfire risk should be discussed with the Egmont volunteer fire department before bidding moves ahead.

Tom Silvey, representing the Egmont Community Club, expressed concern about how the visual impact and logging trucks on roads could affect tourism. “This could affect our economy for 20 years,” he said.

Silvey described the meeting as “premature” and wanted “complete professional assessments” of biology and hydrology studies, a full water quality study for North Lake and provincial approval for the volume of logging truck traffic proposed. “Our community expects and deserves a cumulative effects impact assessment,” he said.

He asked for additional meetings and more time for the community to review reports and studies.

Tom Johnson, woodland manager for BCTS, said the Ministry of Transportation confirmed the road is capable of handling the truck traffic.

Participants asked whether BCTS was simply “ticking a box” by holding the meeting or whether they would change the plan.

“We are not just ticking a box,” said Tsain-Ko CEO Debbie Hendsbee in response, reminding participants it was the province’s decision to designate the area as eligible for logging.

“If we were just ticking a box we wouldn’t have started at the very beginning where we were able to make quite a few changes working with small groups,” Hendsbee said. “We did move the blocks based on the ground-truthing of the people in the community,” she said.

“We have been working very hard to balance the needs of the different groups and to understand the community-based opportunities.”

Earlier in the week, BCTS released a highly anticipated hydrological risk assessment report and Tsain-Ko agreed to shave three hectares off cutblock EGG6 in response, as recommended in the report. That cutblock is located east of Agamemnon Channel and is part of Timber Sale Licence TA0333, which is expected to be up for auction this summer, but with hauling prohibited during July and August, as requested by community groups.

One participant objected that BCTS had initially said no logging would occur in the summer months.

Lee-Ann Ennis of the Ruby Lake Lagoon Society said logging could interfere with a species of fish in the area used for cancer research. “We’ve got academics coming from the United States and Canadian universities to study sticklebacks right in North and Waugh Lakes,” she said. “It’s really important research and it needs to be brought into the discussion.”

Ennis said other species-at-risk such as the western painted turtle and kokanees related to the endangered Sakinaw sockeye could also be affected.

Johnson said BCTS is working with biologists and making sure buffers are appropriate.

On other issues, Hendsbee said Tsain-Ko would commission an additional hydrology study for two cutblocks added after the initial study was commissioned – all blocks in TA0334.

Hendsbee also apologized to residents near Agamemnon Channel who felt shut out of the communications and said they would meet with the group.

Near the end of the meeting, Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons  said he had also communicated concerns to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson and shíshálh Nation Chief Warren Paull. “I don’t try to give people hope when I don’t have any control over it, nor do I think you should feel like you’re not being heard. You’re being heard.”

The deadline for the comment period for the logging plan is Aug. 7.

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