Community justice used for logging harm to salmon habitat

McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) and McBride logging contractor Crazy Horse Logging Ltd. have reached an agreement with community representatives to make up for harming fish habitat during logging operations in the winter of 2011/201, according to a press release from MCFC.

According to the press release, “Under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, MCFC developed its Forest Stewardship Plan and detailed site plans following the default provisions of the provincial legislation and best management practices from the Forest Practices Code riparian management guidelines.”

Under these provisions a 100m riparian management zone was planned along the Fraser River with 20 per cent basal area retention (essentially 1 in 5 trees retained) during the logging performed last winter, the release says. The provision was included in the site plan and communicated to the logging contractor, but “despite pre-planning field reconnaissance and ongoing harvesting supervision, trees were logged and branches deposited in drainage areas connecting to the Fraser River resulting in harmful alteration of fish habitat.” The release notes that these drainage areas are connected to the Fraser River and provide important rearing habitat for Chinook salmon.

“Finding ourselves in contravention of Federal Fisheries legislation was a shock to all involved in the project, considering the extensive planning and care that was taken during the operation,” Marc von der Gonna, General Manager of MCFC, was quoted in the press release.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) opted for a Restorative Justice process to deal with the violations. Tom Robbins, Senior Communications Advisor with Fisheries and Oceans Canada says restorative justice is a non-adversarial approach to justice that emphasizes healing in victims, meaningful accountability of offenders, and the involvement of citizens. It takes place outside the court system. It is used by various federal enforcement agencies including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Correctional Services Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Robbins says currently Fisheries and Oceans Canada pursues the majority of offences committed against the Fisheries Act through the traditional criminal justice system. However, when deemed appropriate, Restorative Justice is pursued in the Pacific Region.

He says as well as being cost-effective and time-efficient, the restorative justice process brings offenders face-to-face with those who have been directly harmed by their actions. Offenders must abide by and fulfill the reparations ordered during the process, or risk returning to the court system.

Officers, the accused and the community have an opportunity to be heard, and cases are dealt with in a matter of weeks, not months or years. He says statistics show that, where used appropriately, offenders who engage in the Restorative Justice process show low levels of recidivism.

In a meeting organized by DFO, representatives from MCFC and Crazy Horse Logging Ltd. met with six community members representing the fisheries’ resource interest to determine appropriate reparation. The six community members were a commercial tourism operator, a UNBC researcher, a professional engineer, an outdoorsman, a registered professional forester and a fisheries biologist.
“MCFC and our logging contractor deeply regret the harmful alteration of fish habitat, despite our best intentions and efforts,” said von der Gonna in the press release, adding that they have already conducted all site restoration work recommended by DFO staff and have put in place procedures that will ensure that this will not happen again.

The reparation agreement includes: Hosting and covering all costs associated with putting on a one-day workshop for local loggers and layout crews regarding fish/forestry interactions; hosting and covering all the costs associated with putting on a similar one-day workshop for the youth of McBride; and contributing $5,000 towards the production of a scope of work report with regards to what would be required to rehabilitate Dominion Creek.

McBride resident Bryan Monroe says he was one of several whistle blowers who just asked DFO to look into the damage. Some of damage was on his trap line, and some was on his brother Mike Monroe’s trap line. Monroe says it was he and other concerned residents who brought the matter to the attention of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Crazy Horse Logging Ltd. owner Kevin Taphorn said they are not commenting about the situation, apart from what is in the press release.

The McBride Community Forest is a company solely owned by the Village of McBride. It answers to a board of directors appointed by Council.