The Snowden Demonstration Forest is a popular mountain biking and hiking area near Campbell River, but it’s also a working forestry location, so the city wants there to be a long-term management plan developed to preserve the area’s tourism and recreational values. Mirror file photo

City still fighting for long-term plan for Snowden

Another letter from the province without ‘tangible response’ spurs mayor to request in-person meeting

The City of Campbell River still isn’t pleased with the province’s responses to its numerous requests for the development of a long-term strategy of the Snowden Demonstration Forest.

The city has been asking for a long-term plan to be created that would integrate forestry, recreational and environmental interests well into the future for quite some time, but the letters they have been getting back from the province don’t seem to indicate that will happen any time soon.

They also requested a moratorium on road building in the area that will provide routes in and out for forestry equipment until such a plan is in place.

At a meeting in council chambers last June, representatives from all sides of the discussion made presentations to the city saying they all agreed that such a plan would be a great benefit and agreed to work together on developing one.

A committee was struck “to ensure long term (years five to 20) and short term planning (next five years) in the Snowden finds the best balance of values and conditions – including timber, recreation, community watershed and others.” It is made up of representatives from the city, the regional district, River City Cycle Club, River Runners and other stakeholders with interests in the area, be they educational, recreational or economic, and became known as the Snowden Advisory Group.

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But in February, city staff came back to council to say that BC Timber Sales – which plans the cutblocks to be logged – “has indicated its intention to proceed with timber harvest preparations in 2019 immediately following adaptation of a short term (five year) plan,” and would re-start its road building activities to accommodate that intended harvesting.

Which spurred the city to send yet another letter emphasizing its point, saying, in part, “before irrevocable change to the core area has occurred in the form of timber harvest, the city reiterates its desire to see a higher level of legal protection of the non-timber values of the Snowden Demonstration Forest, along with active, comprehensive and long-term planning for all forest attributes and activities, and requests a moratorium on harvesting until this request has been evaluated in full.”

The response to that letter to Forestry Minister Doug Donaldson was only three lines long. It thanked the city for its letter, said “your comments have been noted,” and told them “your comments will be given every consideration.”

At its most recent meeting, council debated its next steps. The first of which is to send yet another letter.

“The response letter was not what we were expecting and didn’t really provide any tangible response either from the local office or the ministry office as to our request,” Mayor Andy Adams says, “and we feel obligated, on behalf of all the people that are working for that area, to follow up with a(nother) response.”

Adams says he will be also down in Victoria as part of his role on the board of the Municipal Finance Authority later this month, as will Coun. Michele Babchuk – who will be down that way representing the Strathcona Regional District on a separate matter – and they have been working to get a sit-down meeting with Minister Donaldson to address the issue directly, in person, rather than through letters.

“The clock is ticking, because the local BCTS office up there on Dogwood has their mandate to do their allocation for the annual allowable cut and they’re trying to figure out how to meet their quota for our region, and their harvesting plans for the Snowden is part of their way of meeting that annual obligation,” Adams says. “We have some concerns with some of the cutblocks they’ve proposed and we understand that the Snowden is a demonstration forest, but it has evolved into being much more than that. We think there can be a happy medium.”

Although he admits it will ultimately be up to the province to do as it sees fit, Adams says they’ll keep up the fight for Snowden’s protection no matter what those decisions are.

“Even if these cutblocks proceed, we’re not going to stop,” Adams says. “They will then have their obligation to do future cutblocks and we’ll do our best to try to preserve as much of the area as we can.”

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