North Okanagan residents are calling for the protection of the Mount Rose Swanson area from logging that’s scheduled to take place before the end of 2021.
Located within the Okanagan timber supply area, Armstrong’s Mount Rose Swanson is earmarked for a total of 28.3 hectares of logging next winter season, according to the Ministry of Forests.
“Rose Swanson has not contributed to the annual allowable cut in many years. Timber harvesting must be spread out between all operating areas in the Okanagan TSA to ensure that all areas of designated public land contribute to the AAC,” said Tyler Hooper, Ministry of Forests spokesperson, in an email to the Morning Star.
The Rose Swanson area was designated as a sensitive area by the Vernon Forest District in 1997, a designation that is still in place. The objectives behind creating the sensitive area included maintaining and enhancing the trail network for recreational use and protecting the visual quality of the area.
According to Hooper, the ministry’s chief forester determines the annual allowable cut (AAC) for all public lands in B.C. The AAC is the rate of timber harvest determined for an area under the Forest Act.
A planned timber auction is slated for the fall of 2021 for the Mount Rose Swanson area, Hooper said. Harvesting using non-clear cut systems will likely begin early winter 2021 and may be completed by the end of that season.
Word of BC Timber Sales’ intention to auction the lands has irked a number of local residents, who have launched an online petition to spare the mountain from the axe. The petition has been signed by more than 21,000 people in two weeks as of Jan. 20.
BC Timber Sales has initiated public consultation for the Rose Swanson area with its Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP) established in 2014. FSPs require all forest development activities to be approved by the B.C. government and are available for public review and comment prior to that approval. The Okanagan current five-year FSP can be found here. Public comments are being accepted until March 18, and can be submitted online.
However, if you ask residents who have aligned themselves with the Save Rose Swanson From Logging group, accessible public consultation has been either non-existent or lacking in explanations as to Rose Swanson’s ‘sensitive’ status.
“The sensitive area was designated as a consequence of public and stakeholder input,” one unnamed advocate said in a letter to the Ministry of Forests’ Okanagan district manager. “It was not a hollow designation. It crystalized actual values and protections sought by the public.”
“There is simply no way that any person who spends time in our Interior forests can escape being struck speechless by the beauty and the existence of the ancient trees growing since before B.C. entered Confederation,” continues the letter by a resident of Armstrong since 1992, when the issue of protecting the mountain from logging first led to the creation of the sensitive area.
As it stands, the logging development has been split up into 10 small cut blocks ranging from 0.5 to 7.5 hectares in size.
The ministry says recreation trails will be protected, but the planned logging will contribute to a four per cent impact to the Rose Swanson sensitive area. The exact location of the cut blocks is not currently known, but Hooper says a map of the logging areas will be made available online in the coming weeks.
“Referral letters were sent out to First Nations and stakeholders, including citizens with adjacent private land parcels,” Hooper said. “Multiple meetings were held with the Township of Spallumcheen, private citizens who’ve requested field trips, and the Armstrong Trail Society,” Hooper said. “BCTS has and continues to consult with First Nations on all harvest proposals.”