City crews did their best to keep up with the heavy snowfall Tuesday evening, Feb. 6. Angie Mindus photo

YEAR IN REVIEW: February

The Williams Lake Indian Band got down to work logging areas devastated by the 2017 wildfires

WLIB harvesting timber in 2017 wildfire areas

Feb 1

The Williams Lake Indian Band got down to work logging areas devastated by the 2017 wildfires.

“We estimate about 80 per cent of our timber was impacted by the fires,” the band’s economic development officer Kirk Dressler said. “With the on-reserve portion we are targeting timber that’s burned, and almost all of our Incremental Treaty Agreement land burned. We have a wildfire map that we went over with our consultant and it’s quite disturbing to look at.”

Band Coun. Willie Sellars said there is a sense of urgency to remove the timber while it is still viable.

“Unfortunately the value of the timber is already diminished because the only salvageable wood there is the fir,” he explained. “It seemed to hold up, it was scoured, but the pine and deciduous is pretty worthless.”

For its salvage logging plan, the band hired an engineering services company as a consultant — Stantec — to help develop a recovery plan around environmental and geotechnical issues that resulted because of the wildfires.

“In reality we need to harvest the burned timber, but we are mindful that the combined activity of what happened, the soil from the fires and removing those dead trees, could potentially impact drainage, erosion and heritage and wildlife resources,” Dressler said. “We need to be in a position to understand those thoroughly and be able to mitigate them ideally prior to spring freshet.”

“We are self-governing, in terms of land management, of our reserve lands so we don’t have to request a federal approval process and can authorize our own permits on reserve land. It is in our woodlot so it does have some implications for our woodlot management.”

The band is also continues to negotiate its Incremental Treaty Agreement (ITA) with the province and once that is complete, will log some of the burned out areas on land involved with the ITA.

In recent years, the band has partnered with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on a four-laning project, and there are concerns the wildfire damage will impact drainage for the project.

The Ministry of The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development confirmed that by Jan. 12, cutting permits and authorizations for timber salvage specific to wildfires for about 464,000 cubic metres in the Williams Lake timber supply area have been issued.

Some of the work has focused on the 4,500 to 5,000 kilometres of fireguard with the Cariboo Fire Centre.

Winter storm packs a wallop

Feb 6 and Feb 7

Cariboo residents braced themselves for a winter storm that brought as much as 50 centimetres of snow, possibly more in Quesnel, over 48 hours.

Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for the BC Interior, including Quesnel, Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, as well as a highway alert for Highway 97 from Clinton to 100 Mile House via Begbie Summit.

The storm stalled over the Interior Feb 7 dumping another 15 to 25 centimetres during the day and into the evening Wednesday.

The storm warning even prompted the North District RCMP to issue their own travel advisory for the second time in as many days.

“If you don’t need to be out in these types of conditions, perhaps consider changing or postponing your travel plans,” stated Cpl. Capt. Madonna Saunderson in a release.

Developer pitches cattle for wildfire hazard reduction

Feb. 15

Williams Lake developer Luigi Mandarino applied for a three-year temporary use permit to use grazing cattle as a way to reduce wildfire hazards in his neighbourhood.

The permit was to allow cattle to graze on several lots of open land at the end of Westridge Drive.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and suggesting it for years,” Mandarino told the Tribune, noting the cattle that would graze there belong to Chimney Creek Stafford Ranch owner Bill Stafford.

City council received Mandarino’s application for the temporary permit at its Feb. 6 regular meeting.

Coun. Scott Nelson commended Mandarino for the incentive, calling it “Cariboo ingenuity at its best.”

Councillor Craig Smith echoed Nelson saying it was a great idea, but his one concern was noise levels.

“I’ve worked on a ranch so I know how loud cows can be. How close is the closest home?” Smith asked.

Mandarino said “100 metres.”

Council unanimously approved moving the application forward for public feedback and directed staff to issue notices of the application to property owners and tenants within a 100-metre radius of the subject property.

A month later city council approved the grazing permit in one of the city’s upscale neighbourhoods, despite opposition from residents.

Foster Way resident Anne Wilson said she was offended by the suggestion the grazing will mitigate wildfire risks.

“If we’re that concerned about wildfires why aren’t they putting cows in Boitanio Park?” She asked council.

It’s not the grass she’s worried about, she said, noting she is more concerned about broken down machinery and large debris piles on the property.

BCSPCA seizes 46 dogs near Williams Lake

Feb. 26

The BCSPCA seized 46 mistreated dogs from a half-acre property north of Williams Lake on Highway 97.

“They cannot be touched, they are very under socialized and [we had concerns about] lack of proper shelter and veterinary care. It’s pretty devastating for these dogs,” said Lorie Chortyk, BCSPCA general manager of community relations, noting the dogs are being given anti-anxiety medication just to be able to feed them.

“At this point, one of the animals may have to be euthanized because even with the medication they are in such critical distress. These dogs are basically terrified.”

Chortyk said on Feb 22, the BCSPCA went to the property and rescued 46 dogs, consisting of American Eskimo, Husky, Border Collie and Samoyed-cross breeds.

“They were found under sheds and things like that, and basically left to fend for themselves.”

The dogs — ranging from puppies to adults and older dogs — are “extremely” fearful of humans, Chortyk said, noting they basically cannot be touched.

When the BCSPCA went in, it looked like the dogs were being fed by someone tossing food out for them, Chortyk said.

Since seized, the animals received veterinary care in Kelowna, Penticton and Quesnel at the BCSPCA.

The BCSPCA recommended charges to Crown Counsel.

A truckload of homemade dog beds headed south the following Monday morning from Williams Lake destined for BC SPCA shelters in Kelowna and Penticton where all but two of the 46 dogs seized were being cared for.

“It’s all about the dogs,” said McLeese Lake resident Gale Lamothe, who doesn’t live too far down the highway from where the animals were seized. “I didn’t even think about it. I just said, ‘you know, we have just got to get something happening here.’ The dogs need it.”

The accused in the case later lost his appeal to have 10 of those animals returned.

In the matter between Terry Baker and the BC SPCA, the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, which reviews appeals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, stated Baker would be unable to prevent his dogs from returning to a situation of distress if they were returned to him. The panel gave its reasons in a 35-page written decision dated April 16. He is scheduled to appear in Williams Lake Provincial Court on the matter on March 18, 2019.

Lulua elected as Xeni Gwet’in Chief

Feb 28

Xeni Gwet’in First Nation west of Williams Lake has a new chief.

Jimmy Lulua, 33, received more than 50 per cent of the votes in Wednesday’s band election, garnering a total of 112.

His contenders, outgoing chief Roger William received 43 votes, former chief and present councillor Marilyn Baptiste received 40 votes, Chris William received 13 and Cameron Lulua had eight votes.

Speaking from the band office Wednesday afternoon Lulua told the Tribune his win feels “surreal.”

“It’s like a blessing,” he said. “You think about this kind of day when you grow up watching leadership. Nemiah Valley is a statement in itself. So many good leaders have come out of here and every one of them has been a true leader. The people know how to pick the right person.”

Outgoing Chief Roger William, who has been on the band council since 1988, and led the community to the historic Supreme Court of Canada rights and title win in 2014, congratulated Lulua and described him as a strong young role model who will work hard for the community.

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