A tracked feller buncher clears logs from the east side of the mountain above Wynndel. (Photo credit Lorne Eckersley)

Wynndel logging raises concerns

A logging operation in Wynndel that is clearly visible from Northwest Boulevard in Creston has some area residents fearful for their water supply and public safety.

A logging operation in Wynndel that is clearly visible from Northwest Boulevard in Creston has some area residents fearful for their water supply and public safety.

With roads cut into the mountainside and an apparently unpermitted access to Highway 3A northwest of Wynndel, the Jemi Fibre Corp. logging operations appear to be nearing completion.

“Several months ago a well-respected resident alerted me to the sale of 450 acres in the valley above Wynndel that transferred ownership to Jemi Fiber (using another company),” a Wynndel resident told the Advance last week. “A forester told this resident that Jemi Fibre has a reputation for not using sound logging practices and doesn’t replant. Presently, there are no rules to enforce him to do so. “

Jenks’ company has a long history of logging private land and generating controversy, has been identified in the media as BC’s largest private land logger. The Province newspaper reporter Greg Middleton wrote on February 22, 1998 about concerns about Jenks and his logging on Twin Islands, near Cortes Island:

“I’ve been buying property and logging it for years,” Jenks said. “I find property with enough timber to make it worthwhile. I buy it, I log it and develop the land. It’s what I do. They’re not going to stop me.”

He’s currently logging 680 hectares that he and his partners bought on Gabriola Island in December 1996 and started logging almost immediately. Jenks insists that he’s doing nothing illegal and is, in fact, making the property more attractive by thinning out the trees to create a park-like setting.

“Most of what they’re saying is lies,” counters Jenks. “I am not clear-cutting and it’s not old growth forest.” He says many of his opponents are hypocrites that cut trees for firewood and log their own land to build their houses-and then insist that he not log.

Jenks was also generating controversy at about the same time when he logged about a third of Denman Island and a portion of Gabriola Island.

In a story in the Nelson Star last week, Bill Metcalfe reported on concerns about a pending project in the West Kootenay: Private land on both sides of Highway 6 from about two kilometres north of Cottonwood Lake to the south end of the Apex cross-country ski area will be logged this summer or next.

Because it is on private land, the owner, Nelson Land Corporation headed by Mike Jenks of Cranbrook, has limited rules to follow and does not have to tell anyone about his plans.

It is unknown where or how large the cut blocks will be and whether the forest will be clearcut or selectively logged. The land to be harvested could include the forests around Cottonwood Lake (except the small area of the park on the northwest end of the lake) and the slope immediately above the Apex ski area, and all of the land in between on both sides of the highway.

Because this is potentially a large, highly visible project that could significantly affect the landscape on the approach to Nelson, the Star has tried to find out what areas will be logged, how they will be logged and over what time period, what measures will be put in place to protect Cottonwood Creek or to avoid increasing avalanche risk, how wildfire risk will be mitigated, and whether the public will be informed or consulted.

Jenks is a veteran of private land logging in other areas of the province. Contacted by the Star in February, he said he won’t talk about his plans because he never speaks to the media. His logging contractor, Sunshine Logging of Kaslo, also won’t discuss it.

The source close to the Wynnwood sawmill confirmed that Jenks or Jemi Fibre had shown interest in purchasing local mills in the past, including Wynnwood. The offer, he said, was “flat out rejected.” The logs from the current operation, he added, are being trucked to the West Kootenay.

Wynndel resident Gordon Rodney said on Tuesday that, while he might have personal opinions about the logging operation, he does not believe the Wynndel water supply will be affected. The water system’s intake is well above and behind the land now being logged, he said.

“Is it possible for RDCK, with Wildsight support, create a by-law of sorts that requires private landowners to use sound logging practices that include replanting within a specified period of time (using certified planters)”? Debby Johnson, another Wynndel resident asked. ” It would also make sense for the landowners to be held responsible for the logging company’s negligence in regard to meeting logging standards for their property.”

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, who is also the Minister of Mines, Energy, and Natural Resources had not responded by press deadline to questions about whether her government is reviewing regulations for logging on private land.

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