The 177 residents of the Box Mountain area are in a tight situation, worrying about protecting their homes from wildfires and safeguarding their source of water.
NACFOR is proposing a wildfire risk reduction project for Unit 6 and 7 of the Nakusp wildfire break, which encompasses Box Mountain.
Residents of the area are concerned that disturbing the forest in their backyards will put their well water at risk.
“We don’t want conflict with other people, we just want a water system that we can turn on the tap,” said Ed Evans, resident of the area and spokesperson for the Protectors of Box Mountain Watershed group.
The wildfire prevention work would include selectively logging the forest in order to reduce the density of the canopy, removing small and leaning trees that could provide a path for fire from the ground to the treetops and cleaning up the forest floor.
“I think when people see a big blob on a map they just assume it is a big logging block, that is just not the case,” said Hugh Watt, manager of NACFOR, at the village council meeting on March 22.
These measures are prescribed to decrease the intensity of a potential wildfire as well as create a defendable area around the village. Priority areas were identified in the Community Wildfire Reduction Plan, which was created in 2017.
Watt anticipates small equipment will be required in order to better fit between trees, some of which doesn’t exist.
“We will have to step back in time a little bit,” he said.
Evans and the rest of the Box Mountain residents are also concerned about the roads that would be built to access the forest, potential traffic in the area and the lack of public consultation.
Watt said, now that a plan has been created, feedback from the community will be incorporated, though he did address some of the concerns brought up by the Box Mountain group in his presentation to council.
Professionals such as geologists and hydrologists will be consulted prior to any logging happening.
Evans said the residents will likely hire their own hydrologist in order to verify the results. If the project moves forward, Watt said he envisions from two to five loads of fibre being brought down per day and work that complies with the regional district bylaw around noise, hours of work and season road restrictions.
He also said protocols and rules can be developed to ensure school kids are safe when using the bus as well.
“I’m not saying we have all of the answers, but we are doing our best to think about it and put ourselves in the shoes of the people asking the questions,” he said. “We are definitely open to talking and figuring this stuff out.”
While the watershed protection group is not against logging and would like to see their homes protected from wildfires, they want the work to be done by hand instead of a machine to minimize disturbance, Evans said.