Williams Lake city council is tackling the issue of forest health in a resolution it will be submitting to the North Central Local Government Association for consideration.
The resolution advocates for the extraction of diseased trees taking precedence over park or protected area designations, as well as other restrictions such as mule deer winter range or old growth designations.
During its discussions of the resolution at council’s regular meeting Tuesday, March 21, Mayor Walt Cobb said he has heard criticisms about the resolution, but said it is only about removing diseased and infested trees and does not advocate clearcutting.
“It is going to get worse,” he said. “You talk to people in the forest industry and they will tell you there is a whole hillside going down to the Fraser River that is already grey with the fir beetle.”
Coun. Ivan Bonnell, was the only member of council to oppose the resolution.
He said by allowing the extraction of diseased trees to take precedence over winter range and old growth values will take the region back 30 years to the war of the woods and what people fought to protect.
“If we wish to enshrine that those values be maintained then we need to change the language in the resolution to suggest that we support those values but still want to take efforts to support forest health,” Bonnell said.
The resolution as it’s worded opens it up to extraction of wood in protected areas, he added.
Coun. Sue Zacharias said the resolution specifies the extraction of diseased trees while Coun. Scott Nelson said it is important to be proactive.
“We need to remove diseased trees to enhance the long-term objective of a healthy forest,” Nelson said. “If there’s one thing we learned with the mountain pine beetle infestation was how it raved and roamed from Tweedsmuir Park across the province of B.C. to wreak absolute havoc in our communities as we tried to get in front of it.”
Being ahead of the curve is crucial which is why the city is taking a proactive approach, Nelson added.
Cobb said 12 per cent of the forest is in parks and the remaining 88 per cent can be heavily impacted by forest management decisions within the parks.
“Our forests are clearly changing as a result of climate change as seen by our continued forest pest outbreaks province-wide,” he said.
“We need to have a forest management strategy for the entire forests, not just outside of the parks as the impact inside the park is just too big for our economy.”
Coun. Laurie Walters was absent from the meeting.