Both the Province and City of Fernie have admitted they are powerless to stop a forestry company clearing vast tracts of land in the Elk Valley.
As a private company operating on private lands, CanWel has the ability to log their lands as they choose.
The company must follow timber marking requirements, as well as those outlined in the Water Sustainability Act, Drinking Water Protection Act, Heritage Conservation Act, federal Species at Risk Act and the federal Fisheries Act.
However, these do not consider community needs or connectivity for wildlife, according to conservation group Wildsight.
LOOK BACK: Fernie to host logging meeting on Feb. 7
A spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said when it comes to private lands registered as managed forest lands, the Managed Forest Council is responsible for conducting audits to ensure that companies are in compliance with their policies and procedures.
The Ministry will review the effectiveness of the private managed forest land framework this spring
“The Province wants to ensure that the private managed forest land regime is meeting key public values and is addressing concerns raised by the public regarding access, watershed planning, slope stability, and riparian area management,” said the spokesperson.
However, it may be too late for thousands of hectares of forests being cleared by CanWel in the Elk Valley.
Concerned community groups recently presented to Fernie council but Mayor Ange Qualizza admits there is little she or the City can do.
“The City of Fernie does not have any authority over the land in which CanWel is currently harvesting as it is outside of our municipal boundary,” she said.
“We do however recognize the economic significance of that area for Fernie.
“We have noticed in the past few years of (predecessor) Jemi Fibre and CanWel working in our region, a change in impact for our community.”
Qualizza said the City supports a push from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) for local governments to have more say on logging in their communities.
At its Annual General Meeting in September, the UBCM passed two resolutions calling on the provincial government to tighten regulations on private land logging.
It proposes to amend the Private Managed Forest Land Act to bring it in line with regulations and forestry practices on Crown land.
According to Qualizza, years earlier the UBCM’s Community and Economic Development Committee conducted a forestry survey to gather information on communication and consultation practices between forest tenure holders and local governments, and the impact of forestry decisions upon communities.
She said CanWel has presented to council several times over the past two years to discuss their operations and plans in the Elk Valley.
The City also has a transportation agreement with the company, which stipulates it must use River Road Extension to haul timber when conditions are safe to do so, or agreed upon City routes.
“The City of Fernie supports UBCM and their continued efforts to ensure local governments have an opportunity for input on harvesting plans close to communities through the Forest Policy Decision-Making process,” she said.
UPDATE: About 175 people attended a public forum on logging hosted by Wildsight at the Best Western Plus Fernie Mountain Lodge on Thursday night. A CanWel representative was among those who presented at the event.
A full report on the meeting will be published in the February 14 edition of The Free Press with an online update coming soon.