Into the watershed

Island Timberlands willing to discuss selling — for the right price.

Island Timberlands area engineer Jacques Prairie unlocks a gate on an Island Timberlands owned logging road in the China Creek watershed on March 18

Island Timberlands will not stop logging in the China Creek watershed unless there’s a serious purchase offer on the table, says Morgan Kennah, Island Timberlands manager of sustainable timberlands and community affairs.

The timber company believes that their logging practices don’t endanger the city’s drinking water supply.

According to Kennah, Island Timberlands’ (IT) logging practices are sustainable and do take into account environmental values.

“We live in coastal B.C. so there’s usually a creek somewhere, if not many creeks. So you’re looking at water, drinking water in this case, you’re also thinking of fish habitat,” Kennah said during a tour of the watershed last week.

The company takes that into account by leaving a buffer of some size between the logging and the body of water.

“It all depends on the size of the water body, really,” she said.

Stream, creeks, wetlands and lakes “each get some retention left depending on their size, except for the very smallest creeks that are very far away from any drinking water intakes.”

That retention ranges from 10 metres to 30 metres away from the water depending on whether it is a drinking water source or if fish are present.

Although she declined to get into specifics, for China Creek, Kennah said “we always plan a buffer because it is a larger creek and the drinking water intake is very apparent.”

Logging on private lands is managed by the Managed Forest Council, a branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources which lays out regulations and guidelines for buffer zones around creeks, lakes and other bodies. According to Kennah, IT also voluntarily imposes stricter regulations on the logging contractors it employs.

Much of the concern has been focused on McLaughlin Ridge, a steep slope above the city’s water supply.

(The News featured the environmental concerns about logging the ridge in an August 2014 feature linked here.)

This is the same area that local environmentalists are interested in purchasing.

“We’ve had one group in particular interested in McLaughlin Ridge for purchase.”

However, Kennah said that “the message that’s been shared with those groups many times is that if you’re interested, we’re willing to sit down and have a conversation with you; that conversation will include a confidentiality agreement.”

That conversation, according to Kennah, will “include only serious financeable parties. So those are people that have money, not people that are looking to manage an area or people that are looking out of personal interests to be involved.”

Jane Morden of the Watershed Forest Alliance, a local environmental organization, has said previously it’s hard to pin down funding and interested parties when the landscape of the land in question isn’t guaranteed.

Kennah said there were no parties interested in the China Creek watershed where the negotiations had reached a point where a pause in the logging might be considered.

“If those parties or party is interested in coming forward and entering in those arrangements then maybe some of those things can be discussed and some of that very temporary concern in what the interest area might be might be discussed and negotiated.”

However, Kennah said that IT is in negotiations to sell environmentally sensitive lands on the south Island, although she could not disclose details.

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As to logging McLaughlin Ridge, Kennah said that IT has “plans to harvest that area sometime in the future” but not in 2015. However, Kennah admitted that IT’s logging plans are constantly fluctuating

“We work in a market-driven business. We’re only taking trees we know we can sell and reforest properly.”

But for 2015, “as far as up on the steeper slopes, we don’t have a plan to harvest…[the trees] will look pretty much the same,” Jacques Prairie, area engineer for Island Timberlands, said.

While Kennah did say that the elevation changes in China Creek are “striking,” Prairie added the company takes measures to protect the integrity of the steep slope.

“If there’s any potential where we feel that falling or harvesting may accelerate some sort of slope disturbance then we bring in a professional geologist or a professional engineer to assess the hillside and they give us some guidance as to what the level of cut can be.”

As far as purchasing the land, Kennah emphasized that any negotiations and details would be subject to a legally binding confidentiality agreement.

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“Island Timberlands is a business and as a business we’re interested in working with different organizations whether they want to work for us or purchase land from us.”

For any interested parties however, the message is simple; Island Timberlands only wants “people that have money and are actually willing to purchase,” Kennah said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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