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Mule deer habitat at risk

Forest Practices Board says approved plans not good stewardship, blames poor communication between agencies

By Cindy Filipenko

Mule deer near Anderson Lake are at risk due to current logging plans, suggests a report from the Forest Practices Board (FPB).

Mule deer, named for their large mule-like ears, are prevalent in the corridor between Pemberton and Lillooet.

Anderson Lake property owners raised their concerns to the board, which subsequently investigated the complaints and became the basis for the report. Their concerns pertained to logging on Crown land south of McGillivray Creek, an area defined as winter habitat for mule deer.

The FPB, an independent watchdog group committed to ensuring sound forest and range practices, was unwilling to release the names of any of the complainants. Their media liaison, Erik Kaye, did confirm that the range issue was separate from one raised last year by Friends of the Old Growth Forest, a group protesting the logging of 81 ha near D’Arcy.

The report suggests that the primary issue that put the deer at risk was poor communication between government agencies that resulted in approval of logging plans that jeopardize the deer. The board identified B.C. Timber Sales, the Ministry of Forests and Range and the Ministry of Environment (MOE) as all having allowed higher than recommended levels of harvesting. Specifically problematic is the harvesting of Douglas fir, the snow-intercepting trees essential for the protection of the mule’s winter food supply.

“While the cutblocks within the mule deer winter range have not been logged as yet, the board concluded the approved logging does not represent good stewardship for deer at McGillivray Creek,” said Bruce Fraser, FPB chair. “All of our guidebooks and planning directives clearly indicated that more protection of snow-intercepting trees is crucial to protect mule deer winter range in this area.”

The forest licensee, N’Quatqua Logging Company, which was named in last year’s dispute in D’Arcy, was in this case exonerated of any wrong doing by the FPB. The report found that the company had acted in good faith and had complied with all provincial legislation.

The report also notes that the company did not have all the information it needed to create a deer-friendly plan, as the government agencies involved failed to provide current and usable maps of the area.

The report claims that the MOE provided ambiguous advice to the licensee on the impact the plan would have on the mule deer habitat.

“The MOE has adopted a new business model where it does not provide detailed advice on specific logging plans,” explained Fraser.

All involved parties received a copy of the FBP full report last week.

“The board hopes the parties involved will consider a voluntary agreement to protect the existing snow-intercepting trees, and consider ways of providing replacement timber for the licensee in a less sensitive area.”