Report highlights threats to rangeland in the East Kootenay

A report recently issued by the provincial Forest Practices Board identified several major threats to rangeland in the East Kootenay region.

Sarah Kloos

Special to the Valley Echo

A report recently issued by the provincial Forest Practices Board identified several major threats to rangeland in the East Kootenay region.

The report examined the actions implemented by government and others to improve rangeland in the East Kootenays and found progress is being made. The board, however, did identify a number of issues that threaten this progress and the sustainability of rangelands over the longer term, including forest ingrowth into previously restored rangelands; spread of invasive plants, which displace plants suitable for grazing; and site disturbance from industrial activities and off-road recreational vehicles.

Local ranchers here in the Columbia Valley agreed with the assessment, but added that there is another major threat here predators.

“Forest in-growth is is big issue, and noxious weeds are running wild, but there’s also the predator issue. I had 23 calves out of my 300 cows gone to predators,” Brian McKersie, president of the Windermere District Farmer’s Institute told the Echo.

“This report highlights challenges that are complex and difficult; challenges that will require time, financial commitments, and long-term co-operation by government, forestry and ranching industries, hunters, and recreational users of these lands,” said board chair Tim Ryan. “In some cases, the solutions may require compromises in land use.”

“At the same time, we are pleased to see that government is demonstrating leadership in its management of East Kootenay rangelands,” Ryan said. “Government staff are actively working to address rangeland issues in collaboration with a dedicated group of stakeholders, and the board encourages continued support for their efforts.”

In recent years, government and stakeholders reduced the number of cattle permitted to graze on public rangeland. They also reduced the elk population through hunting, and removed forest in-growth to restore the original grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Trench.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s reports its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board can investigate and report on current forestry and range issues and make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

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