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Uncertainty still surrounds old-growth forests of Enterprise Creek: ad hoc negotiating team

The dispute started in December 2021 when Interfor tried to begin logging a stand of old growth forest south of Silverton, drawing a blockade of Slocan Valley residents who felt the proposed cut “was detrimental to this fragile ecosystem.” — submitted photo

The future of the old-growth forest of Enterprise Creek is still uncertain.

Although no official deferral has been announced for the area, Interfor Corporation has agreed to bring a team — which includes Last Stand West Kootenay, the Autonomous Sinixt and the Valhalla Wilderness Society — on a walk through the area before commencing logging, noted a press release from the ad hoc negotiating team.

Although that sentiment also applies to Russel Creek and Koch Creek, both of which contain old growth forest deferral zones, it is worrisome that logging of the old-growth areas is still a consideration, said Valhalla Wilderness Society director, Craig Pettitt.

“It’s concerning that they are still considering logging this old growth spruce forest in Enterprise Creek containing 300-year-old trees ... especially when the fires from last year burned up forest all around that watershed,” he said. “This will affect water quality and creek channel stability.”

Members of the negotiating team were hopeful gathering more data would encourage Interfor to “further reflect on the complexities of the area and the impacts” of continued logging of the old growth forest.

It wasn’t as if the community has asked Interfor to completely stop logging, said Matt Perry, forest consultant for Last Stand West Kootenay.

“The people simply want the Old Growth Strategic Review recommendations to be implemented and for a more considerate approach while dealing with fragile ecosystems such as these,” said Perry.

The dispute started in December 2021 when Interfor tried to begin logging a stand of old growth forest south of Silverton, drawing a blockade of Slocan Valley residents who felt the proposed cut “was detrimental to this fragile ecosystem.”

As well, the community suspected the logging was potentially in violation of existing land use agreements.

“The Kootenay Boundary Land Use Plan established old forest retention targets, and these are not currently being met by government and industry,” noted the press release.

On March 29 the ad hoc group met with Interfor and Tara DeCourcy, district manager for the Selkirk Region with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), to discuss the situation.

This was the second meeting with Interfor since the Enterprise Creek blockade, where people, led by Autonomous Sinixt matriarch Marilyn James, prevented loggers from cutting old growth forest in Enterprise Creek.

Policy failure

The Old Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) report identified how current policies have failed, said Dr. Rachel Holt, a local ecologist and member of the province’s Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel.

“Many people are trying to move innovative policies forward, but, unfortunately, there are also a lot of folks dragging their heels and denying there is even a problem,” she said.

Interfor would not commit to providing the group with any information on how planned logging operations would comply with industry best practices and how it would carry out the government’s suggested deferral areas.

Interfor also refused to engage with the Autonomous Sinixt as anything more than a stakeholder group — both FLNRO and Interfor representatives denied the obligations they had under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) to consult with Autonomous Sinixt as Indigenous peoples and aboriginal rights holders under the Constitution Act of Canada.