Last night Bruce Barker and Robert Sadée from the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association (GBCTA) briefed invited trail user groups on their mitigation negotiations with Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS). Bruce and Robert are volunteers working on our behalf under tight timelines and numerous constraints to mitigate the effects of logging on the trail system. We owe them an enormous vote of thanks.
They emphasized that they are not for or against logging. They are not addressing environmental or watershed issues. They are not questioning Fire Smart’s expertise in protecting the community. They are focused strictly on mitigating the effects of the proposed logging on recreational ski, snowshoe and all season trails. The logging plans are part of SRD’s fire containment strategy for the west Bragg Creek area.
Time is a major constraint. SLS has to submit their operational plan to SRD on April 1st. They need a decision by around the end of April so they can begin operations. The political vacuum as a result of provincial elections will virtually eliminate any political input, leaving approval in the hands of the bureaucrats.
GBCTA submitted a long list of mitigation requests to SLS and have had several day-long meetings and field trips to discus the mitigation proposal.
Among the proposals were requests to leave a 100 m buffer alongside trails in many of the cut blocks. When SRD Fire Smart ran their Prometheus wildland fire growth simulation model using the modified cut block data, they found that in many cases the smaller cut block and extra burnable timber greatly reduced the time it would take a fire started in the forest reserve to reach the community of Bragg Creek. There would not be sufficient time to evacuate residents and start fighting the fire before it reached the community.
While there was discussion about the effectiveness of the model and the Fire Smart program, the GBCTA has no alternative but to accept these conclusions, and to work within these constraints to minimize the damage to recreational trails.
The two sides are progressing through the list of requested mitigations, agreeing to some, discarding others. Bruce and Robert are having some success on leaving timber buffers in some areas along trails where parts of the area cannot be logged for various reasons. Of particular concern is damage to trails by downhill skidding of logs and by runoff from logged areas above sections of trail. Sun and wind exposure on ski trails is another grave concern.
GBCTA are not going to succeed in negotiating all the mitigations they asked for. SLS wants to harvest as much timber as they can from the areas they are allowed to cut. They are also firm when it comes to operational efficiency and safety.
Bruce and Robert asked for the meeting’s advice on what kind of stance they should take in signing off on the negotiations. Should they dig in their heels, refuse to sign off and let SRD make the final decision on which mitigations should go ahead, or should they accept the agreed-to mitigations and abandon the others? They explained the risk of each choice.
Some people were in favour of refusing to sign off, making SRD arbitrate (which according to the stakeholder agreement they are required to do). Others suggested signing off, while formally listing areas of concern not agreed to, and making sure these areas are given extra attention during logging.
This is a complicated, frustrating process that as far as we know has never been done before in an area with so many trails. Undoubtably it will serve as a model for future logging/trail user negotiations.
That’s where were at. It’s only a few days to April 1st!