A local cross-country ski enthusiast says logging around her favourite trail is prompting her to get more active to protect her recreation experience.
Ashley Pendree says she made the decision after recently skiing around the Wensley Creek ski trails south of town.
“It felt like I’m recreating in a clear-cut,” said Pendree. “I’m not enjoying the activity anymore.”
Pendree, who says she used the recreation trail about 30 times this year biking and skiing, was dismayed a few weeks ago when she went out for her first ski of the season.
“Visually it has been very altered,” she says. “There’s a couple of portions that are at least 100 metres of clear-cut, it just feels very industrial.
“It just brings a lot of the serenity and peacefulness out of the recreation experience.”
The general manager for the Nakusp and Area Community Forest, Hugh Watt, says there is logging going on by the community-owned forest company along the trails. He says about six cutblocks of forest, totalling about 20 hectares, are being harvested. The work began last year and will continue into next, he says.
“The cutblocks are small relative to industrial standards and contain reserves of trees within,” Watt wrote in an email to Arrow Lakes News. “There are buffers of standing timber along the trails in most areas. There are about 500 metres of the trail length where the cutblock boundaries are close to or on the trail. This includes some areas that have not been harvested yet.”
He says the longest opening will still have trees bordering the trails. Watt said NACFOR has tried to be sensitive to concerns about the impact to the trails that harvesting may have and has kept cutting areas small, maintained wildlife trees and patches, and plans are in place for replanting. He says how a person views the work is really a “matter of opinion.”
“People do get used to a particular landscape, especially if they are regular users of the area,” he says. “Some people like to have small and different viewscapes opened up, rather than having a “green tunnel”. Some people prefer a more static condition over time. There is a large component of taste and opinion in these things.”
Watt points out that forests are dynamic things, and even without cutting, fires, disease and weather can all impact the visual look of a forest.
He also points out that NACFOR’s work tries to co-ordinate with local trail users, and the company has been able to expand recreational facilities through careful planning in several areas in the region.
“A few examples are trails that have been constructed and maintained at Galena Bay (by the ferry landing), Jack Rabbit Trail in the Wensley area, and a new trail system below Scalping Knife mountain along the lakeshore, approximately 15 km south of Nakusp,” he said. “We think that trails and forest management can be complementary if done well, so we are trying to integrate both.”
The head of Nakusp’s cross country ski association — who is also the president of NACFOR — says they have no problems with the company’s harvesting plans or methods in the Wensley Creek area.
“We want logging along there,” Kathy Smith said. “The trails are getting overgrown and the snow isn’t hitting the ground. So I’ve been in discussion with NACFOR from the ski club’s point of view about taking logs along the trails to open them up.”
Smith added that the area is due for maintenance after first being developed more than 30 years ago.
“A lot of trees that were left have overgrown the trails,” she said. “To open it up it makes it easier to set track, and makes the skiing better because the snow’s down on the ground, instead of melting in the trees and raining down on the trails.”
NACFOR cuts about 500 logging-truck loads of lumber a year, bringing about $1.5 million into the local economy in direct jobs and spinoffs. When people like Pendree raise concerns, Watt says the community-based forest take them into account.
The challenge, he says, is to use the forest to generate economy in a sustainable fashion while tending to the environmental and “social license” aspects of a community forest.
“There are many multi-faceted and complex issues faced in the day-to-day management of our local community forest,” he said. “And many perspectives to look at these questions through.”
For her part, Pendree, who’s active year-round in the backcountry, says she plans to get more involved to watch over the forest she loves.
“I’m going to join the cross-country ski society to become better informed, to talk more about advocacy and how recreational users can be part of the decision-making process, potentially.”
People can find out more about NACFOR’s work at www.nakuspcommunityforest.com.