Members of the White Lake Residents Association are delighted a cut block above their community has been altered to protect a major viewscape.
Executive member Bryon Every says the discussion process was long and arduous but the result was worth it.
“It was a difficult process with the government and the BC Timber Sales (BCTS) but we were finally able to come up with something that worked for everybody,” he says.
As well as having one of the highest-profile viewscapes above the lake, the proposed cut block was a very young and healthy stand of timber.
“The question was, why do you have to log that piece knowing how important it is to the community when there are other areas that could be logged,” said Every.
“Through many discussions and emails, we were able to get several different parties together and had a five-hour meeting on Nov. 6,” he says, noting there was representation from the Ministry of Forests, Vernon Forest District, and BC Timber Sales. “What stemmed from the meeting and what we inevitably ended up with was a 40-60 split.”
Every says BCTS originally planned to take 70 per cent of the timber in the stand in a patch form that concerned White Lake residents.
“We felt there were flaws in the design of that block and the long and the short of it is we actually came out with more than we asked for.”
“BCTS became willing and nice to work with,” he says. “They took our concerns to heart and pretty much implemented what we asked for, and changed their logging plans accordingly.”
An originally non-existent buffer between the proposed cut block and private property was replaced with a 75-metre wide buffer, something Every describes as a huge gain for the community.
“They redesigned patches, added to some that were weak, and made a considerable amount of adjustments to the logging plan,” he says. “There was a list of some pretty strict rules that normally don’t go into a logging plan and they’ve committed to putting a BCTS rep on site every second day to make sure everything is being followed.”
Every says he’s hoping the association’s work will benefit other communities.
“What we’re hoping now, and we have had confirmation, is that they also agreed a community shouldn’t have to go through what we did to resolve issues,” Every says. “We feel we made a milestone and that this could affect future negotiations about logging with other communities.”
But Every’s talk of a negotiation does not sit well with Colin Johnston, a woodlands supervisor for BC Timber Sales’ Okanagan-Columbia Business Area.
“It’s very important we don’t get on the negotiation thing,” he says. “Our job is to balance all the values for all British Columbians as it is a public resource.”
Johnston says one of those values is to get a fair return to the province’s taxpayers, while other values include meeting visual quality objectives set by government, protecting recreational trails and dealing with wildlife concerns.
“We’re not going to negotiate,” he emphasizes. “We can’t negotiate everything, but we can listen to the concerns and find solutions that meet those concerns.”
Having made it clear that the word discussion should replace negotiation, Johnston says White Lake residents were extremely easy to get along with and worked to a good compromise.
“It is important to us because we have other forestry operations in the area and other timber sales, and we want to make sure to set the right precedent in community involvement and working with the community,” Johnston says, noting the White Lake cut block included some old approved blocks. “The community had one perception and we had another perception, so it took some discussion.”
Through the discussion it made sense to retain some of the timber, says Johnston, who maintains BCTS is happy the parties were able to work it out and come to an amenable solution.