A group of concerned citizens in the Grand Forks region has asked the provincial government's timber sales department to delay logging plans for an area that may serve as an important wildlife corridor between two provincial parks.
BC Timber Sales is currently drawing up forestry plans for a 3,200 hectare area, known as Lynch Creek North, which slopes down from the alpine in Gladstone Provincial Park to the valley containing the Granby River. The river flows out of Granby Provincial Park, to the northwest.
"When Granby and Gladstone parks were created in 1995, there was an intact, wildlife connectivity corridor between the parks, but, over time, clear-cut logging and road building have fractured the area," said Margaret Steele, a spokeswoman for Friends and Residents of the North Fork. "So basically this area – that we're calling the last, large, intact forest corridor – is the only area that allows wildlife in the Gladstone alpine to get down to the Granby River lowlands."
The group, which is made up of local ranchers and others who live around Grand Forks in south central British Columbia, have asked BC Timber Sales to halt logging plans until the impact on wildlife is better understood. Ms. Steele said the biggest concern is that a population of grizzly bears that travels between the two parks could be adversely impacted.
However, Shane Bowden, BC Timber Sales manager for the Kootenay business area, said the needs of grizzly bears are being taken into consideration.
"We agree that grizzly can be found in this area, and are accounting for such in road construction and deactivation plans, and in harvest prescriptions," Mr. Bowden stated in a recent e-mail to Ms. Steele.
He stated the government plans to "undertake only the minimally required road work" and that roads would be deactivated after timber harvesting is complete. "This approach was specifically put in place due to expressed concerns over grizzly bear and other wildlife," he wrote.
Mr. Bowden said the government has "similar interests" to the group concerned about wildlife values, and he promised that BC Timber Sales would use "our best professional judgment, to ensure timber harvesting can occur in Lynch Creek without unduly affecting other forest values."
Reached at his office Monday, Mr. Bowden declined comment, saying he needed clearance from the government's public affairs bureau before speaking with the media.
Ms. Steele said the Friends and Residents of the North Fork weren't fully assured by Mr. Bowden's e-mail and have started to circulate a petition in Grand Forks, asking for a moratorium. She said more than 100 people have signed the petition so far, and more than 60 came out to a public meeting on the issue.
Ms. Steele said since that meeting Mr. Bowden has invited the Friends group to attend a BC Timber Sales field tour of the proposed logging area.
She said that is an encouraging development and indicates BC Timber Sales has been listening to the concerns raised by citizens. But she's still not sure the logging plans reflect the needs of grizzly bears and other wildlife.
"There should be a moratorium until we have an understanding of the cumulative impacts," she said. "There's evidence grizzly bears use that [corridor]. So we are saying let's take a breath until we can find out exactly how many do use it."
Ms. Steele said when Granby and Gladstone parks were established, calls to establish a corridor linking the two wilderness areas were ignored.
Resource use maps show that since then extensive logging has occurred in the area between the parks.
Vicky Husband, a leading B.C. environmentalist, said the area up for logging could be the last viable wildlife corridor between the two parks, because elsewhere animals have to cross roads or clear-cuts. "The landscape between Gladstone and Granby parks is totally fractured," she said.