Joe Rich residents were shocked and frustrated to find large pockets of trees in the area have been clear-cut.
Residents said they were told fire mitigation work was to begin along Philpott Road — the site of a 2017 wildfire — and the hillside along Cardinal Creek Road, which they were told would include select hand logging, not clear-cut logging.
Reg Volk is a Joe Rich resident and he said while the clear-cut logging shocked them, some of the other concerns were how close the work was being done to residences, slope stability, as well as risking the Mission Creek watershed.
“Some residents have said they’re concerned about how the logging is influencing the springs that give water to their well system,” he said.
In a statement, Tolko said the mitigation project in the area is designed to reduce fire fuel continuity by removing dead, diseased or dying trees. And to effectively break fuel continuity, it means leaving areas clearcut, so fires don’t spread further down into the valley and people’s homes.
“We are creating small openings to reduce fire risk,” Tolko communications advisor Chris Downey said.
“Creating fire breaks is important, as is the removal of dead or soon-to-be-dead trees that have been infested with Douglas fir beetles.”
Area resident Sigrie Kendrick said while fire mitigation is important, it’s the cover Tolko, Gorman Brothers and B.C. Timber Sales were using when it was really a cash grab.
“I know that lumber is at an all-time high, but this just seems to be a bold cash grab,” she said.
“We’re concerned… some of us have seen water bubbling up in the middle of Philpott Road and the washout on Highway 33 that happened a few years back was just below that.
That speaks to me that maybe this may be unstable terrain.”
Kendrick echoed what Volk said about watershed concerns as well.
“The water from Okanagan Lake goes to Mission Creek. It’s not just our issue here at Joe Rich; we all share this beautiful valley.
“We all are concerned about our water,” she said.
On May 6, Joe Rich area residents held a town hall meeting, attended by representatives from the three forestry companies, where they were able to ask questions.
Resident Lindsay Siewert asked if there had been studies done regarding slope stability, to which Tolko had responded yes but since those studies are proprietary, the public can’t access them unless they went to a Tolko office to read them there.
Residents said while it’s good the companies did their homework, they want to have access to those studies and for companies to be more transparent with them.
Volk said residents aren’t necessarily against logging in the area, but they want companies to do it safely and with better communication.
“Slope stability can be studied again and again, but the logging companies need to react sensibly to manage it,” he said.
Tolko said it will pause its harvest activities in the area and continue to implement the fire fuel reduction project where safe and in already harvested blocks.
Black Press Media has also reached out to B.C. Timber Sales and Gorman Brothers but have not heard back before publication.