The toad that divided the town

Protest at Summit Lake over logging on toad habitat

Residents have taken a stand against Nakusp and Area Community Forest (NACFOR), a local logging company, in its decision tolog an area of forest which is part of the habitat for the Western Toad.

They have set up an blockade at the bottom of NACFOR’s logging road.

The toads are currently on British Columbia’s Yellow List, and are considered a species of conservation concern.

“It’s very, very distressing. This is a small community, we all know each other, and it’s a terrible thing to ask them to turn the NACFOR people back, it’s very upsetting and disturbing for us,” said Janet Spicer. “No one should think we have a sense of glee,it’s quite the reverse, but these little creatures, they’re so fragile, they’re so vulnerable.”

The Western Toad is a large toad species, between 5.6 and 13 cm long, native to western North America. There are two known subspecies, the Boral Toad, and the California Toad. Their diet consists largely of bees, beetles, ants, and arachnids.

In 2012, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada listed the western toad as a species of special concern. The report cites the toads are relatively tolerant of logging, but it’s unclear what the long-term effect of forest harvesting might be on population dynamics.

NACFOR was granted a Community Forest Agreement (CFA) by the provincial government. This was done as a way of diversifying the forest industry, and put some of the rights to manage forests back into local hands. Some of the area around Summit Lake is part of this license area.

NACFOR is always faced with issues whenever they log.

“In this particular case it’s not just toads,” said Hugh Watt of NACFOR. “We consulted with grizzly bear experts, hydrologists; there are domestic water issues that we had to study. We had to use some geotechnical engineers to have a look at the roads and the cut blocks that we proposed, and [we] also engaged with some amphibian biologists to help us with that.”

He said there is only a certain amount of land that is available for forestry, and the company has to be efficient with that landbase.

“Whether we believe it or not, we all depend on the forest in some manner, whether it’s economic, social, etc,” he said.

NACFOR originally applied for their CFA in 2005, and it was granted in 2008. However, in 2010, toad research began to reveal between the toad terrestrial habitats in the NACFOR chart area and their breeding ground along the shore of the lake.

According to a study done by Wayne McCrory of McCrory Wildlife Services Ltd., NACFOR, guidelines to minimize the impact onthe Western Toad might have some merit and value in areas that have a less concentrated activity of the toads. They have considerable gaps in how effective they might be in regard to long-term protection of hibernation habitat.

As an example, he states there is little to no information on the hibernation habitat of the up to one million toads that migrate into NACFOR’s chart area every fall. He also states they have no idea of the extent and cumulative impact of past roading and logging, along with private land development has had on the toads and their habitats on the south side of the charts.

It’s not just locals who are concerned with what’s happening at Summit Lake. The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) has shown concern with what’s going on.

“We look at endangered species, and fight for habitat protection,” said Craig Pettitt of the VWS. “We’ve monitored endangered species throughout this region for quite a number of years, and here, we’ve got a provincially significant population of Western Toads. They’re identified by the Federal Special at Risk Act of being on their list of species of concern.”

While the protesters have garnered support within the community, they have also garnered ire.

Some question where the protesters were when logging was taking place near Box Lake, which is also a habitat for the toads.

One thing is for certain in all of this this is not the last time we’ll be hearing about the Western Toad.