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B.C. forest watchdog sounds alarm over impact of resource industries on Crown land

VANCOUVER – The provincial forests watchdog, in a report released Friday, said it has growing concerns over the cumulative effects of resource use on Crown lands, which are not being added up.

The Forest Practices Board report said the land base is being affected by users from the forest industry, to mining, oil and gas, and wind power installations, yet there is no comprehensive oversight being applied by Victoria.

Cumulative effects assessments are only carried out for major projects, such a pipelines, but are rarely done for other activities, the board states. In a case study on the Kiskatinaw River watershed, which is upstream from Dawson Creek’s water intake, the board found that there are more than 1,200 licensed activities on the land, yet the impact of all those activities on the land base, and the threshold over which the land can no longer support the activities, remains unknown.

The study found that in the study area: the water turbidity threshold for the city’s water supply is frequently exceeded; there is no data on the threshold of user impacts on caribou habitat and no science-based information about the limits of soil loss.

The board said the province needs to develop mechanisms to gauge the kind and amount of human activity that can or should take place on the land.

“In B.C., the current methods for cumulative effects assessment are largely ineffective in contributing to the management of those effects,” the report states.

“Because there is no requirement to do cumulative effect assessments on the totality of resource development, the overall effect remains unknown.”

The board makes a number of recommendations, such as developing a broad, strategic direction for values on the land and setting priorities for competing values.

The new ministry of natural resource operations is a step in the right direction, the board states “but what seems to be missing is a well-structured, transparent process for deciding what to do and specifying how to do it.”