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Ridgemont residents raise concerns about logging

Concerns include loss of life, major injury, financial ruin, hardship for homeowners, and more.
Mary Shier spoke on behalf of a group of Fernie residents at a council meeting on September 24, outlining several concerns about logging proposed in the Ridgemont area. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

Fear of increased landslide risk and possible loss of life resulting from logging near a residential area has spurred a group of Fernie residents into action.

On Monday, September 24, the Concerned Citizens for Ridgemont presented to council their views on the proposed timber harvesting above the Ridgemont subdivision, pegged for the winter of 2018/19.

Mary Shier spoke on behalf of the group and outlined several concerns of local citizens.

The council gallery was full and very well attended.

Some of the main concerns highlighted included:

- The application of an average number of stems and the extent to which the project will leave many areas bare

- Development of road across steep slope of riverine deposits is high risk

- Proximity to residents’ homes increases likelihood of injury or damage

- Soil instability

- Logging results in loss of natural anchors and increase in excess moisture

- Runoff, debris flows and landslides

- Major risk to health and safety of residents

- Probability of damage to property and homes

- Post-activity conditions - impacts to viewscapes and recreation values

- Quiet enjoyment of property

“In summary, we are very concerned about loss of life, major injury, financial ruin, hardship for homeowners, damage to major infrastructure,” said Shier.

She also asked the question: who is libel should damage occur?

Shier requested the City perform a third party review of the geotechnical study submitted with the Hazard Lands Development Permit and consider the testimony of residents.

They stressed that they did not want this permit pushed through in a hurry. She also asked for a one-year time delay of the project in order to research and review all aspects of sustainability of the overall plan proposed by VAST in July of 2018.

In summary, Shier said that she and the citizens she represents recognize the need for harvesting and that there are benefits of this for the community.

However, she reminded council that landslides and damage to homes has occurred previously in this area, and that in the past the community worked with other proponents and the City to achieve a workable and safe solution.

“We want to make it clear that we are not anti-logging, we are not anti-development, but we are concerned citizens and we would like to be partners in a win-win solution,” said Shier.

Mayor Mary Giuliano thanked Shier for her presentation and engaged in a lengthy response. She explained that she, and Manager of Planning Bruce Lennox met with VAST Resources recently.

“Keeping in mind that this is still privately-owned land and the owners do have all the rights to do what they want, I believe that with all the conversations, including the walkabout that our planner had with VAST Resources last week… I think there’s a certain amount of understanding of how strongly the people of Fernie feel against what they have planned,” she said.

“I think they are definitely understanding that they need to make some changes, I strongly encouraged them to adjust their forestry plan.”

Giuliano said she shared some of the concerns raised by the group.

“… what they want to log is just abhorrent to me, I can’t even think about that,” she said.

“How it’s going to affect our wildlife, our tourism, with all the trails.”

“I have asked them to please, when they do log, responsibly, to leave trees like larch and Douglas fir that have roots and wouldn’t cause some of the terrible things that could happen.”

Giuliano explained that the City of Fernie has been working behind the scenes and added that she was happy to see so many citizens at the council meeting.

“That carries power, it really does,” she said.

“And I think that when they hear that there are so many involved and so many fighting back, that perhaps we will get some really good results.”

More to come.

Phil McLachlan

About the Author: Phil McLachlan

Phil McLachlan is the editor at the Penticton Western News. He served as the reporter, and eventually editor of The Free Press newspaper in Fernie.
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