Cherryville residents feeling 'bullied' by B.C. Timber Sales over controversial logging operation

Cherryville residents protested road construction on Cherry Ridge in September 2014.
Image Credit: Facebook/ Cherryville Peaceful Blockade: Stop the Logging on Cherry Ridge

CHERRYVILLE - A North Okanagan Regional District director says his community feels its interests in further studying impacts of a contentious logging operation is being ignored by the provincial government.

Equipment crews rolled into Cherryville Monday to start building a road in the Cherry Ridge area, where B.C. Timber Sales intends to log 190 hectares of forest. Local residents blockaded road construction last month.

Eugene Foisy, the electoral area director for Cherryville, says the community wants to fund its own assessment of the project, but to do that, it needs more time.

“We’re willing to put our money where our mouth is,” Foisy says. “If everything comes up fine (in the study), we won’t have a problem with it.”

But now that B.C. Timber Sales has launched the road construction—contracted out for nearly $500,000—the community feels its plea is falling on deaf ears, Foisy says.

“If (B.C. Timber Sales) spend a portion of it now it will be difficult to talk them out of it... later on,” Foisy says. “Tax dollars are being spent.”

The North Okanagan Regional District board and various municipalities in the region have asked the provincial government to place a moratorium on road construction to give Cherryville time to do its assessment.

“It would take one call from Minister Steve Thomson saying give these folks a chance to do their study,” Foisy says, noting the Minister of Forests has openly stated the province is not getting involved. “I think the province better damn well get involved. This is not a private company, this is a provincial government agency.”

B.C. Timber Sales hired a third party to assess the project but Cherryville residents feel the study was insufficient.

“Some of the wording from the assessment is ‘likely' (and) 'approximately.’ That’s not scientific. It’s a shot in the dark,” Foisy says. “A kindergarten kid could have put that down.”

Residents want a study that will adequately review the risk of landslides and the overall impact on the environment, Foisy says. The hillside already has a history of landslides, and residents are concerned about that risk becoming greater.

“If it triggers a slide again and plugs the creek, it will of course break loose eventually and we’ll have a rush of water into the community,” Foisy says.

Steve Thomson was unavailable for an interview, however the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations emailed a statement to Infonews.ca stating it believes the assessments conducted by B.C. Timber Sales were thorough and complete.

“(It) has completed third-party professional assessments on terrain stability and hydrology, and has had the road professionally designed. B.C. Timber Sales is satisfied that these plans are appropriate to address all of the values,” the ministry said.

The Ministry says B.C. Timber Sales has offered to meet with area residents to discuss their specific concerns, or future plans for the area.

“If the community is unsatisfied and wants to complete other assessments to evaluate their own interests, then they can do those assessments.”

Residents feel frustrated, disappointed and bullied, Foisy says, but they aren’t giving up.

“They’re not prepared to just walk away,” he says. “This is right in our back yard and the community is very concerned.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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