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Perry Ridge protectors win respite from loggers

At this time, [BC Timber Sales] does not have further plans on Perry Ridge for 5-7 years other than the active TSL being harvested currently. Submitted photo

There’ll be no logging on the east side of Perry Ridge in the Slocan Valley until the mid-2020s, people opposed to forest operations in the area have been told.

“At this time, [BC Timber Sales] does not have further plans on Perry Ridge for 5-7 years other than the active TSL being harvested currently,” writes Tara DeCourcy, Woodlands Manager of the Kootenay Business Area.

“Barring an outbreak of a forest pest, we will not proceed with further development for at least 5 years.”

DeCourcy made the statement in a February letter to Marilyn Burgoon, the head of the Perry Ridge Water Users Association.  While Burgoon was pleased with the decision, she said it was far from the protection they’re seeking for the slopes behind her Slocan Valley home.

 “I’ve been at this 30 years, and I’ve been through their planning tables, they will only do what they are legislated to do,” she says. “So nothing surprises me until we have legislation.”

Burgoon and the Perry Ridge Water Users Association have been at loggerheads with BC Forestry since 1983. The group, which Burgoon estimates represents about 130 households, has been lobbying, researching, launching petitions, and filing lawsuits to protect the  highlands. In 1997 about 400 protesters blockaded a forestry road to halt work. 

The group maintains that the drainage, slopes and soil conditions on the mountain not only make forestry uneconomical, but dangerous by creating landslide hazards for people who live in the valley below.

“As far as we’re concerned our homes are the value and our lives are the value… the people who are put at risk get to accept the risk,” she says. “It’s not the Ministry of Forests that is being put at risk. It’s the residents of Perry Ridge being put at risk.  And we don’t accept the extra risk.”

Burgoon says her organization will use the hiatus to research and develop their arguments against further logging development.

“We want the best studies done before they go anywhere up on the Ridge and certainly precipitation data- they’re basing their decisions on no data,” she says. “We think they can do a better job before they go back up here in 5-7 years and maybe between now and then we’ll continue to fundraise and update our information. “

She says her group is also going to press the ministry to do further studies on Perry Ridge and area.

 “We think it’s negligent to proceed onto Perry Ridge and do any further damage and any road building or cutting without that data to give us assurance they know what they are doing and what the value of these forests are,” she says.

Forestry officials maintain their research is solid.

“While I understand from your letter that you do not deem our assessments to be adequate,” DeCourcy writes in her letter, “all of our assessment work has been completed and peer reviewed by Professional hydrologists and geoscientists, and meets the standards required of Professional Geoscientists, Engineers and Hydrologists.”

But Burgoon’s group maintains that a cost benefit analysis done nearly 20 years ago shows there’s more value for the habitat as recreation and living space.

“We’re going to start promoting tourism, the value of the forests on both sides of the valley, and river use,” she says. “We have something very precious in the valley, we have these uncut valley walls, when you float down the river, when you bike on the rails to trails, you feel the value of what we have left here.”

She says the ultimate aim of her organization is to have the Perry Ridge area designated protected habitat.

“We don’t have enough wilderness areas in the West Kootenays, in and around our homes and certainly around our watershed is important, and that’s what we’ll be working towards for the next 5-7 years,” she says.