A recent Forest Practices Branch (FPB) report on its investigations into how well forest licensees mitigate breaches in natural range barriers highlights ongoing problems with disputes and correspondence between mutual tenure holders.
Particular areas of concern are assessment and implementation, stemming from poor communication and disagreements between range users (cattlemen) and forest licensees (forestry companies) about where and when mitigation is required, the report states.
Locally, this has been a huge issue for South Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association members on their tenured rangelands for years, according to SCCA president Peter Bonter who says he “agrees 100 per cent” with the FPB findings.
“We all seem to be working on different pages, and that is what the report brings out. There is such a lack of communication, both intentionally and otherwise.”
If forest companies have logging prescriptions with generic or ambiguous wording, it leaves a wide window of opportunity for dissension and argument between tenure holders on the same land base, he explains.
Under the Forest and Range Practices Act, if forestry operations will impact a natural range barrier,
the forest licensee must plan and implement measures to effectively mitigate this breach.
Sometimes breaches are mitigated by creating brush fencing barriers, which Bonter describes as a “big, hazardous pile of logs and debris” built up by loggers.
Bonter adds SCCA has “no problem” with brush fencing in areas where they really are appropriate, but it is struggling with a couple of ongoing communication issues between the tenure holders.
For the ranchers, one is convincing everyone involved that traditional post-and-wire fences are “much better and safer” in controlling animals, and don’t pose such a wildfire risk, he explains.
Bonter says the other is a standing agreement that ranchers will maintain fencing, which the cattlemen don’t see as referring to brush fences.
“They seem to think that a rancher is still going to maintain that fence. And that problem has not been resolved.”
He notes SCCA is a proactive organization that has met with timber companies and ministry personnel on these and other issues important to the local ranchers.
“We have done everything that has been prescribed for us and beyond, and not once have we been able to get a good solution for ‘what do we do now with our fences’.”
Noting this is a “very serious” issue reaching far beyond barrier breaches, Bonter says the association has worked long and hard toward finding a resolution with “zero results.”
The SCCA has clarified its stance in writing to ministry staff and timber companies, he adds.
“Our position is that every barrier breach and remedy [for it] is evaluated on its own intrinsic values and that every [time] a brush fence seems the only solution possible, that will be arrived at under consensus with SCCA, and that all other avenues will be exhausted.
“This is how we will do business in the South Cariboo and we cannot accept anything but.”
Finding a solution to barrier breaches, fencing responsibilities and other issues on shared tenure lands is “absolutely paramount,” he adds.
“All it takes is just some good, open and respectful communication.”
On the side of the forest licensees, Interfor and Norbord lumber companies state they have no comment on this issue, and no response was received to requests for comment from West Fraser.
Download the full Mitigation of Forestry Impacts to Natural Range Barriers report with findings and recommendations at www.bcfpb.ca.