Wildfire mitigation logging has some in Joe Rich upset

Logging upsets residents

Residents of Joe Rich are upset about recent logging activity in the rural community east of Kelowna.

Machinery has been at work this week along Philpott Road. A large forest fire burned in the vicinity in 2017 and the Ministry of Forests tells Castanet the work is being undertaken as a part of wildfire mitigation.

But the Joe Rich Forestry, Trails, and Watershed Sustainability Committee is now raising concerns about slope stability in the area as well as the logging’s impact on the Mission Creek watershed.

“Logging the Joe Rich Valley could potentially have disastrous effects on the water supply to Okanagan Lake, affecting up to 30,000+ residents. This is not just a Joe Rich issue. We are all residents of the Central Okanagan. Ultimately, we all drink from the same stream: Mission Creek,” said a news release issued by the group.

The drinking water concerns are similar to ones that have been raised by some Peachland residents for years, although an audit of logging in that watershed found it had no impact on the quality of water in Peachland Creek.

The Joe Rich residents are also questioning the size of the cutblocks that have been harvested as a part of this week’s wildfire mitigation work being carried out by Tolko.

“Does 'fire mitigation' really require every tree to be taken, even those right next to the road. Is it really in everyone’s best interest to log to the last tree standing? We think not,” said the group.

Last year’s landslide that closed Highway 33 for multiple days is also fresh in the memory of residents. The slide happened below the 2017 fire site, which had been salvage logged, a practice questioned by academics.

The group wants a moratorium on all logging operations in the Mission Creek watershed. That is something some in Peachland have also long been calling for to no avail. With 54 community watersheds in the Okanagan, the forest industry says they are impossible to avoid.

A Tolko manager told Peachland council last year every community the forest sector interacts with asks them to log a neighbour's watershed rather than its own.

The Joe Rich Forestry, Trails, and Watershed Sustainability has set up a Zoom discussion on the issue for May 20 at 6:30 p.m. with John Davies, RPF, wildfire management specialist with the Frontline Operations Group. Details here.

The Ministry of Forests deferred comment on the situation to the BC Wildfire Service, which did not respond to request for comment by deadline.

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