An open house about proposed logging in the Horsefly Lake area attracted around 90 people Saturday, May 28, who shared their concerns, many of them expressing the desire to see logging done in a better way.
Three Tolko Industries Ltd. foresters with maps, google images and computers were stationed around the Horsefly community hall to answer questions from the public in advance of the company making any final plans for harvesting in the area.
Concerns ranged from fears that logging will happen close to Horsefly Lake, that there will be large clear-cuts, that fire hazards have not been cleared after previous logging or that trucks are travelling at high speeds through the area and using roads that are not made for heavy traffic.
Brian Englund, president of the Horsefly River Roundtable, who helped organize the meeting, was not sure how many people would attend and said he was impressed with the turnout.
“At 10 o’clock there were people lined up outside the door waiting. It’s nice to see people coming out because it’s everybody’s resources.”
Companies have been logging in the area for a long time and nobody has paid attention to what is going on, he added.
“Not that there is anything wrong with logging per say but I think they can do a better job and unless there are more eyeballs out paying attention it puts the onus on the companies and the contractors to pay attention to what is going on. That’s the big thing,” he said.
Seeing the good turnout and the opportunity for dialogue and the healthy discussions that were going on during the four-hour event, Brian added it was a step in the right direction.
“There should be changes. I think they build way more roads than they should. It’s ridiculous. They need to scale some of this back.”
Tolko forester Rob Van Buskirk said Horsefly Lake is classified as a B class lake, which means it has more rules on how companies operate around it.
“We have a couple of objectives that are important which are the visuals and managing around the water courses and everything.”
He also said there has been a history of disturbances around the lake such as logging, beetles and more recently Loopers (moths) who killed lots of hemlock trees.
Drawing a circle around the map indicating the southwest end of the lake he said there was a big fire there in 1960 and said in the Prairie Creek area when the mountain pine beetle came through it killed 50-year-old trees.
There is a lot of environmental remediation that has to be done in the Prairie Creek area, such as putting in proper drainage and fish passable structures, he added.
Monika Schlaepfer-Gysi, with her daughter Kim Harty and husband Jake run the Double C Ranch and Cariboo Country Inn on Horsefly Lake, which has been in the family for 30 years.
“We are not against logging, but it has to be done right,” Schlaepfer-Gysi said. “Horsefly Lake is so special.”
The family submitted a two-page letter outlining their concerns about logging activities on the 8500 Road next to the ranch, proposed logging on Millar Road and near the lake, and past logging activity. The letter was also addressed to the ministries of forests, agriculture, environment and transportation.
Tolko’s woodlands operation supervisor Jenna Swanson received a copy of the letter, gave them her phone number and told them she would follow up and appreciated their “eyes and ears” on the ground.
Helen Englund with the Horsefly River Roundtable has been researching the watershed, logging activities and gathering input from people who have concerns that she will forward to Tolko and the ministry of forests.
As people arrived they were given a questionnaire compiled by the roundtable to complete which asked about silviculture, amount of road building, road use, wildfire risks, waste and debris, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat in the watershed, property values, recreational values, biodiversity, old growth management and local job opportunities.
“This is the first preliminary start so now that we’ve put the word out people have voiced their concerns. I’m going to collect the information and I’m going to send it to forestry, so not only Tolko knows about it, and I will keep in contact with them both as Tolko progresses with its planning,” Helen said.
Helen is also compiling information about how much timber has been cut in the Horsefly watershed and will submit her findings to the chief forester, Premier John Horgan and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“This is a fishery sensitive watershed,” she added.
Helen also plans to start researching the Quesnel Lake area looking at past logging in the area and future harvesting plans.