Regional News: Wilks defends regional forestry practices

Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP David Wilks is standing up for the logging industry

Kootenay-Columbia Conservative MP David Wilks is standing up for the logging industry in the Columbia Valley, amidst environmental concerns from organizations across the province.

Wilks spoke in the House of Commons in Ottawa last week to respond to NDP critics who had presented concerns about the impact of forestry on the ecological preservations of animals, plants and trees in B.C.

“According to negative nattering by some, in the interior of B.C. and in Kootenay-Columbia in particular, there is not much good news for the environment,” Wilks told The Valley Echo. “Forest practices are unfairly decried and the loggers bear the brunt of the criticism, which is why I spoke up for them nationally.”

The Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association (ILMA) is a coalition of 14 logging companies based in 13 communities across the southern interior of B.C. According to Wilks, those companies are the mainstay of the economy in the Columbia Valley.

“Most of these companies are small and many are family-owned,” Wilks said. “All are the cornerstones of their communities. Caring for the environment is front and centre.”

Wilks was adamant that concerns from opposition politicians about the disregard for environmental regulations by logging companies that are instead solely focused on profit are grossly over-exaggerated.

“All of the ILMA members meet or exceed existing forestry regulations,” Wilks said. “It is not just part of gaining social licence, it is the way they think business should be done.”

Tim Ryan, Chair of the B.C. Forest Practices Board, an independent watchdog for logging operations across the province, somewhat agrees with Wilks.

Ryan said that in the last five years, companies in the Columbia Valley have been fairly successful in respecting environmental regulations.

“We find that companies meet the forest laws,” Ryan said. “There are, however, a couple areas that need improvement.”

One of the major causes for concern from the Forest Practices Board is fire safety. The board has completed several audits in the last two years and has found that some companies in the valley have not been prepared in the case of wildfires.

“By prepared, I mean having the proper pumps, hand tools, tanks and taking the necessary caution to do daily assessments,” Ryan said.

Another concern is the damage left by the implementation of forestry roads. Ryan said unsafe building conditions can lead to the eradication of many plants and trees.

“This demonstrates that we have got to remain diligent and focused with respect to meeting the laws and regulations that the government has laid out,” Ryan said.

Ryan said that while environmental regulations are typically met by companies in the valley and across the province, the strength of those regulations may be a growing problem.

“We are hearing from the public that some of the forestry laws adhered to out there are not effective or stringent enough, so we need to test those things,” Ryan concluded