Big clear-cuts, big problems: Private land logging in the Kootenays

It’s hard to miss the new large clearcuts that are showing up in areas like Cottonwood Lake near Nelson, above houses near Wynndel (Creston), and the steep hillsides around the community of Fernie. Why are we allowing this kind of logging, to occur near communities, watersheds, in high value wildlife habitat, and in valued community recreation areas?

It turns out that those three areas are privately owned—and logging on private land has to follow very few rules compared to logging on crown land. Even though we give land owners tax breaks for registering their land as Private Managed Forest, we don’t get much in return. Private land loggers don’t have to worry about wildlife, they don’t have to worry about local viewscapes or trails and they only have to leave a few trees alongside streams. Otherwise, they’re free to clear-cut for maximum profit, without worrying about long-term sustainability or their impact on the overall landscape. And private land that is not registered as Managed Forests has even fewer regulations.

Now, a little private land logging here and there on small properties isn’t the end of the world, but large chunks of the Kootenay region are in private hands. A long time ago, the government gave a whole lot of land away to the railroads. Those parcels of private land changed hands and many have ended up in the hands of private forest companies.  

Managed Forest land in the West Kootenay – red, community watersheds – blue, protected areas – green

It’s not just the local impacts of the clear-cuts, but the cumulative impact on the landscape, where deer and elk are low on forest cover and connectivity for wildlife to travel is fragmented by a patchwork of clear-cuts. We’re making things worse and worse for wildlife and forests in the Kootenays—and right now, there’s no way to stop the situation from getting even worse, because Private Managed Forests land-owners can keep cutting until they’ve cut almost every last tree. There’s no requirement for the yearly cut to be sustainable in Private Managed Forest, like there is on Crown land.

In most of the rest of the Province, private land logging isn’t as big of a problem as is it here in the Kootenay region. BC is 95% public land and most of the logging in the Province takes place on crown land. But here in the Kootenay region, with so much of our forests in private hands the lack of regulations for private land logging are putting our wildlife and our environment at risk.

Wildsight will host a host a series of town hall meetings in Castlegar, Creston, and Nelson to give people a chance to learn more about private land logging in the Kootenay region—and to have a chance to speak up about the logging in their community’s backyard.

Managed forest land in the East Kootenay – red

It’s pretty clear that the the Private Managed Forest Lands Act has totally inadequate requirements to protect our communities—and our environment. The provincial government recently promised an audit of the provincial private managed forest system, but no further detail on the scope or timing of that process is available since the announcement in mid-January.

The bottom line is that our communities need better regulations and more community input into what happens in our forests. It’s time for the Province to start applying the same rules on private managed forest land as they do on Crown land.

Send a message to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson today asking him to update the Private Managed Forest Land Act.


Town Hall Dates:

April 25: Castlegar 

May 1: Nelson 

May 2: Creston