Investigation Finds Forest Rules Followed, More Could Have Been Done

An investigation of a complaint about timber harvesting and landslides has found that Tolko Forest Industries Ltd. (Tolko) met the requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act, but could have done more to assess the potential impacts of its activities.

Silver Hills Watershed Watch complained that Tolko’s forest harvesting over the past few years between Lumby and Cherryville increased water flows, contributed to four landslides and introduced sediment into streams that supply drinking water.

“The investigation found that Tolko’s activities met all legal requirements,” said Kevin Kriese, chair, Forest Practices Board. “Tolko completed terrain stability assessments for its harvest blocks. However, it did not complete a watershed assessment, which we believe would have provided a better picture of the risks created by harvesting and might have led to different practices.

“Watershed assessments are not legally required, but are a good practice where forestry activities pose a risk to resource values.”

Tolko harvested one cutblock in 2015 and then salvage-harvested a second cutblock following a wildfire in 2018. In May 2020, four landslides occurred below the harvested areas, affecting McPherson Creek, which supplies residents’ drinking water.

Investigators identified a number of factors that contributed to the landslides, but it was not possible to determine the extent to which the harvesting was a factor, or whether the slides would have occurred anyway. Other contributing factors were the natural geology of the area, which is prone to landslides, high precipitation and snowpack levels, and wildfire impacts to natural vegetation and soils.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates public complaints about forest and range practices on public lands and the appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

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