Big Creek watershed assessment to begin

Big Creek Watershed Rancher Randy Saugstad says the harvest of pine beetle-affected wood continues to have a negative impact on his ranch.

Big Creek Watershed Rancher Randy Saugstad says the harvest of pine beetle-affected wood continues to have a negative impact on his ranch.

“We got a mess here. Forest Practices Board know we’ve got a mess, but their mandate is such that they cannot do anything too controversial, and the mills are not doing anything illegal in harvesting the pine beetle wood because the government changed the laws,” Saugstad says.

Saugstad notes there wasn’t a drought this year or a cold snap in November 2011, yet he has no water to feed his 150 cows.

“When we only had the pine beetle to contend with I still had plenty of water,” Saugstad recalls.

In the last two years, one third of his place was under water for two and a half months in the summer of 2011, and this is the second winter in a row that he’s had no water in the winter for the cattle. The changes, he alleges, are a direct result of logging.

Saugstad has been waiting for a Big Creek Watershed Storage Assessment Project to begin, which the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources confirmed Monday will be taking place.

“Minister (Steve) Thomson sent  Mr. Saugstad a letter this week confirming that the Big Creek Watershed Storage Assessment Project is moving ahead,” a ministry spokesperson says. “The goal of this project is to create a template for watershed planning that can be used in other affected watersheds; identify various locations for water resource development; prioritize potential water storage locations; provide cost estimates; and outline specific design and construction requirements for water storage.”

Referring to the recommendations made by the Forest Practices Board study released last fall, Saugstad says one of the suggestions was that no more logging should occur in the Big Creek watershed until a hydrology study is undertaken.

“Now I learn that BC Timbersales is going to do more logging … .” Saugstad says. “What good is it for the Forest Practices Board doing these reports if government ignores them?”

The ministry has also confirmed that Tolko and BCTS have licences to harvest timber in the vicinity of Big Creek.

“Some of that work has taken place over the winter; however it’s anticipated that harvesting will soon stop for “break-up” (soft ground in spring) and then begin again in the summer.

“These plans are focused mainly on stands of pine-beetle killed timber that need to be harvested before they lose their commercial value,” the ministry says.

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