Arrow Lakes News
The Western Toad was the hot topic at the NACFOR open house held on the evening of May 27. The usually sleepy event held at the Selkirk College campus in Nakusp was unusually filled with people and passionate discussion. Advocates concerned for the well-being of the blue-listed Western Toad had come to the open house to express their concerns to NACFOR about the harvesting planned to take place this year on the slopes south of Summit Lake.
Citizens concerned about the impact of the planned logging spoke with NACFOR board members and employees, questioning the decision to log the seven blocks that are five to seven hectares in size. Discussion was heated but civil and carried on until closing time.
One pro-toad citizen brought up the example of the disastrous results of prescribing Thalidomide to expectant mothers when its then unknown side-effect caused limb deformities in babies. What would the impact of logging near the toad migration area be?
We don’t know, answered Kathy Smith, NACFOR board member, it’s true. But she was confident the community forestry company was making the best decision it could.
The problem is, there is no good data about the impact of logging on the Western Toad, which toad advocates point to as a reason to stop and take a closer look and the loggers take as no reason not to proceed with caution.
When asked if they would consider delaying the cut in the area until more research was done, Smith responded, “But until when?” The harvest in the Summit Lake region has already been delayed one year. In that year, some changes to how the cut would take place were made in order to reduce the potential impact on the toads. Smith said she didn’t see the benefit of waiting another year.
In order to reduce the impact of its work, NACFOR is planning to log the blocks during the toads’ non-migratory periods, preferably in winter when toad hibernaculums (where they hibernate) will be protected, and to log blocks smaller in size than what forestry companies have normally cut.
“Previous to the NACFOR Community Forest Agreement (CFA), this area had a disturbance history from both wildfire and logging,” a NACFOR brochure about logging in the Western Toad habitat near Summit Lake states. But the booklet also cites the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) report that says although the toads are “relatively tolerant” of logging, the long-term effects of forest harvesting are “unclear.”
And that’s the consensus for both NACFOR and toad advocates: the effects are just not known. For NACFOR, it’s a signal they can proceed with caution, while for those trying to preserve the habitat it’s an indication to wait and do more to find out.
Smith said she was keen to find out more, to track data about toad populations and what effect logging may have had on them. It’s a long-term view, though, she cautions, because populations do fluctuate from year to year for so many reasons. The NACFOR volunteer said she would be interested in taking it to the board and seeing what could be done to find the measurables in their approach to forestry.
And although NACFOR spokespeople say they have heard the toad advocates and changed how they will proceed, it was clear they were remaining firm: they will be submitting a cutting permit application this summer. But NACFOR’s Frances Swan and Kathy Smith both said they really appreciated the level of engagement and open discussion at the open house.
NACFOR has other news than just talking toad. They’ve been busy granting money since they realized a profit in 2012. In 2013, the board shouldered the responsibility for disbursing the funds and developed an application process. Although they didn’t advertise, contacting groups that had approached them for funding and word of mouth resulted in 18 applications for funding. Seven of the 18 received the $52,462 available legacy funds.
This year, Nakusp council, who is also the sole shareholder in NACFOR, has the responsibility of determining which applicants will receive funding. However, the process is on hold until the new CAO arrives this month. This has not prevented council from approving a request from Paul Peterson, Director of Area K, for $10,000 of the NACFOR legacy funds to repair a bridge at the Fauquier Golf Course. Nakusp Mayor Karen Hamling noted a proper procedure for the disbursement of the funds is not yet in place and another councillor stated developing a procedure was a high priority.