Mountain bikers and trail users in Campbell River have reason to be happy after BC Timber Sales announced it would be changing the road building and timber harvesting plans for the Snowden Demonstration Forest.
“The bottom line is that BCTS listened to the concerns that we raised, took them seriously, and responded appropriately,” Snowden Forest advocate Garry Ullstrom said in an email to the Mirror. “I’m hoping that one of the lasting benefits will be that the local groups mentioned in the update will work together more closely on other issues of common concern in and around our community.
“When we work together we can accomplish a lot.”
Snowden Forest is located northwest of Campbell River. It is part of the North Island Timber Supply Area and can be used to meet annual cut requirements set out by the provincial chief forester. BC Timber Sales is responsible for timber extraction in the region, and the area has also been used by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to promote public awareness of integrated resource management.
Snowden has also become a popular mountain biking and hiking trail system, with local groups volunteering to build trails and promote the area through events as a recreation destination. Recreation in the forest is managed through a joint agreement with Recreation Sites and Trails BC and the River City Cycle Club. Furthermore, the area is home to the John Hart watershed, which makes up part of the Campbell River water supply.
In 2017 and 2018, plans to harvest timber from within the forest caused a pushback from users and local governments, who asked for a moratorium on logging in the area until a long-term plan that incorporated the recreation and environmental uses of the area was developed.
Those talks resulted in the formation of an advisory group made up of different stakeholders and users of the area. Discussions of the advisory group will inform the five and 20-year plans for the forest.
“Long-term planning also provides confidence that cumulative impacts of harvesting over time are considered and incorporated, as contrasted by multiple, standalone harvest opportunities across the landscape,”said a spokesperson with FLNRORD who asked not to be named. “This generates opportunity for collaboration at a high level between recreational users, land managers, researchers, NGOs, commercial users, and industry.”
In the guiding principles of the forest, BCTS has indicated the area can support a harvest of roughly 10,000 cubic metres per hectare, but that they would be limiting it to 5,000 – 6,000 cubic metres per hectare. Two of the five blocks outlined in the initial plans have been changed to accommodate the recreation and ecological needs.
“Two out of three blocks from the initial public referral are harvesting forest with health concerns due to root rot. Root rot causes trees to blowdown which poses a safety hazard to users of trails and increases the costs of maintaining the trails,” said the FLNRORD spokesperson. “One of the relocated blocks will utilize single tree retention throughout the harvest area to capture the educational/trial aspect of the Snowden Demonstration Forest. The other block change moves a block out of higher recreational use to an area of lower use.”
They are planning harvests in four five-year increments, starting with 2018. The long term plan is subject to change, and is based on information available today. Those areas are located far from the watershed, and will be chosen to have the least impact on recreational activities within the forest.
Other immediate changes include building an additional 1.6 kilometres of trail to replace an impacted portion of trail. Harvesting plans include using scattered, individual tree retention in one block, and moving other harvest areas further from trails. Work will be stopped during weekends, evenings and in regularly scheduled events. Public will be notified of trail closures and trails will be signed accordingly.
“From the RCCC perspective we are generally pleased with the BCTS update,” said River City Cycles president Bryan Yells. “Trail access is going to be maintained in evenings and weekends which is fantastic.
“We even get a new section of trail to replace a section of trail requiring significant maintenance.”
“Knowing that trails are open on evenings and weekends is huge in terms of attracting trail users. The club is working on a new trail starting this fall and are working hard to try and attract some new riders by providing a wider variety of trail types,” Yells added. “We have also seen a large increase in foot traffic with the recent BC Parks closures and hope to retain many of these new users.”