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Decision on logging in Pemberton watershed rests with Kuster

Forest district manager evaluating information, must decide if proposal ‘adequately manages and conserves forest resources’

As Pemberton council prepares to throw everything but the kitchen sink at CRB Logging and Weyerhaeuser in a bid to stop a proposed logging operation, Pemberton’s own Integrated Watershed Management Plan and the issue of fireproofing have emerged as key arguments in the debate.

The Pemberton council, the Ministry of Forests, local logger Weldon Talbot and other special interest groups, developed the Integrated Watershed Management Plan, or IWMP, in the early 1980s as a guide for logging in the watershed.

The IWMP is relevant in this case because a small part of the area CRB is proposing to log on behalf of Weyerhaeuser is inside Pemberton’s watershed.

Talbot, who has logged in the watershed for 20 years and is one of two people both CRB and the council have referred to as an "expert", said the IWMP took "about seven years" to complete.

"What it involved was that all the stakeholders at the time said if there was to be logging, then what had to be done before it would be allowed," said Talbot.

"The result was that there would be a portion cut where we (loggers) operate and there would be an allowable cut for the watershed that would be sustainable.

"I believe it’s a 100-year rotation, so as long you met all this different criteria, like having reserves of 100 metres on either side of Pemberton Creek… then you were allowed to log."

Talbot said the IWMP allowed for 2,500 cubic metres of annual logging in the Pemberton watershed.

This is a significant point because Talbot has the contract to take that amount from the area every year, so if CRB starts logging in the area it will breech the recommendations made in the IWMP.

The good news for CRB is that the IWMP is not law, it’s simply a guide, but if it is broken there might be other repercussions.

For instance, Talbot could be forced to reduce the amount of logging he does in the watershed to accommodate CRB, or the Ministry of Forests could allow CRB to do some extra logging in the watershed, but this is something that would outrage environmental groups.

Either way, CRB’s plan to log the area behind the Signal Hill elementary school is facing stiff opposition and the man in the middle of it all is Ministry of Forests Squamish District Manager Paul Kuster.

Kuster’s job is to ensure CRB/Weyerhaeuser’s plan will "adequately manage and conserve the forest resources in the area," and if they do then Kuster does not have the power to stop logging.

Kuster is experienced and widely respected for his diplomacy.

"In this application what I have to look at is to see if it adequately manages and conserves the forest resources of the area – that’s the test I have to apply – when I have all the information in front of me," said Kuster.

"I’m hearing now a bunch of concerns like whether or not this logging is going to do anything in regards to… improving the area from wildfire risk.

"Or whether this does something to interfere with any known resource."

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner outlines in the Pique’s letters section this week (page 5) that the council wants CRB/Weyerhaeuser to conduct a number of studies on the area.

One of Pemberton council’s strongest arguments so far is that the logging will dramatically affect the "visuals" in Pemberton because it is so close to the village.

But Kuster said CRB proved four years ago when it logged another area close to Pemberton that it can log a section of forest without badly affecting the "visuals".

"But this (project) is awfully close to the community boundary and part of it is even in the community watershed, so there’s a bunch of other things that have to be analyzed."

Kuster also highlighted another advantage CRB has working in its favour: its timber licence.

CRB’s timber licence in the area behind the elementary school expires in 2005 but the company can get extensions on this because they effectively own the timber and would have to be compensated if they were prevented from logging it.

"It’s one of those awkward licences where the forest company is not regulated by their annual allowable cut," said Kuster.

"It’s one of those stand alone licences that commits that timber to that forest company.

"These licences were issued back in the early 1900s and the reason that was done was to give us (all Canadians) access across Canada, like rail access, and these licenses were intended to compensate (logging companies) for the benefits the public received."

Another issue the council has raised is why CRB chose to log this area of forest now and Kuster said this is a question many people are asking around B.C.

"We’re quite frequently encountering these issues all over the Forest District, weather it’s for recreational reasons or for other resource reasons we’re getting asked ‘why this patch of timber?’

"And the province of British Columbia has been going through some very difficult processes.

"In the mid 1990s they realized that people wanted to have some more park land and they went through the exercise of setting aside more land for provincial parks.

"Now we have 22 per cent of the total land area in the Squamish Forest District in provincial parks.

"Beyond that there’s a Land and Resource Management Plan that (the province) has been working on for a year and half and that’s looking at constraining other areas because of tourism, recreation or wild-land values.

"The problem that we have now is that when you look around in a district that’s as complicated as the Squamish Forest District it becomes a very difficult situation: where can the forest industry operate?

"I know that this is on the back doorstep of Pemberton and if there’s legitimate reasons that show they might not be able to adequately manage and conserve the area then they (CRB) shouldn’t log.

"But if they can meet all those tests, whether it’s here or elsewhere (in the province), well then, you know, they have to be allowed to operate somewhere."

Anyone wanting to express an opinion on the proposed logging in Pemberton has until Aug. 9 to forward letters to Bernice Patterson at Box 328, Mount Currie, B.C., VON 2KO or John Howe at Box 974, Squamish, B.C., VON 3GO.

Letters can also be forwarded to Andre Germain, Timber Office, Ministry of Forests, Squamish Forest District, 42000 Loggers Lane, Squamish, B.C VON 3G0.