Dear Editor,

I very much wanted to comment on the Forest Service’s betrayal of the Government’s most recent promises of old growth forest and biodiversity protection (see current article in the Tyee by Ben Parfit, Secret Map Shows BC Playing a Shell Game with Old Growth:

However, after reading this weeks Goat (March 7), I thought instead I might say something about recreational backcountry trailhead access. The front page story is about the McKale Forest Service Road (Renshaw snowmobile access) being closed by the Forest Service, due to concerns about a bridge that is no longer certifiable as safe for use.

A little less than a year ago, we (Ozalenka Alpine Club and Fraser Headwaters Alliance, backed up by the BC Backcountry Horsemen) came to the McBride Village Council and asked for a solution to potential loss of old logging roads that serve as access to backcountry recreational use.

The particular ones of concern at that time were the South Dore FSR and the East Twin FSR. But we also pointed out that the McKale and Teare Mountain Roads were also at risk by the same process of BCFS Engineering condemnation. Our suggestion was that the McBride Village’s wholly owned McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) take over the area roads that were of the most concern, in partnership with the local clubs. This plan would have required substantial funding to restore/ rehabilitate bridges and roads, some of which would need to be found from sources outside the normal village or community forest revenue streams.

Last Fall the South Dore FSR was granted a temporary reprieve- the Forest Service backed off, perhaps due to an online petition to keep it open. On the other hand, the East Twin FSR was completely demolished, bridges pulled and massive cross ditches created. The East Twin was the main access to the East Twin – Chalco Trail, a 45 section of the National Hiking

Trail, with about 30 Km of gorgeous alpine hiking. This road was officially a Forest Service Road, but was on Community Forest land. Discussions had been occurring between the community forest, the forest service, Fraser Headwaters Alliance and Recreation Sites and Trails to keep the road for several years. But in the end all failed. To rebuild the road now and replace bridges will be extremely expensive. The current condition strands recently built infrastructure on the trail that cost well over $100K. It is notable that one of the McBride Councilors actively participated in the decommissioning of the East Twin FSR.

At any rate, to the best of my knowledge, the Village did not instruct the Community Forest to take on responsibility for any roads not directly related to their logging activities, nor did MCFC do so on their own. This despite the original mission of the MCFC was to include recreation, tourism and community in its mandate, not logging exclusively. It’s really too bad, as this seems to be the perfect entity to hold a license on these roads. Of course significant fundraising and cooperation between recreation groups, MCFC and Council would be required. MCFC is perfectly situated to hire contractors, engineers, and foresters, and hold liability insurance for these roads. Now the lack of anticipation and action by the MCFC and Village have severed the connection to the alpine for the Renshaw bound sledders as well. While I am not personally a big fan of the large influx of Alberta snowmobilers every winter, the local community derives significant economy from it, which is now threatened.

We can’t keep all old forestry roads open, nor should we, due to wildlife and ecological concerns. But I think it’s time for MCFC and Village Council to reconsider who should take responsibility for roads that access key backcountry trails and sites. A renewed commitment from both would be the first step in a process that would then need to have the various clubs come together with the Forest Service, MCFC, Rec Sites and Trails and Tourism to select which roads are the most important, what their benefits and risks are and how to fund their maintenance.

Roy Howard,

Dunster, B.C.