B.C. forestry company followed rules but could have done more to prevent landslides, says independent watchdog

·2 min read
One of the landslides around Silver Hills that occurred in May 2020, near Lumby, B.C. An investigation has found Tolko Forest Industries not to be responsible for the landslides, but that the company could have done more to mitigate it. (Kevin Kraise/Submitted - image credit)
One of the landslides around Silver Hills that occurred in May 2020, near Lumby, B.C. An investigation has found Tolko Forest Industries not to be responsible for the landslides, but that the company could have done more to mitigate it. (Kevin Kraise/Submitted - image credit)

An investigation by B.C.'s independent watchdog for forestry management practices has found that Tolko Forest Industries were not responsible for landslides in Vernon, B.C. in 2020, but that the company could have done more to help mitigate the situation.

Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board, says a complaint had been made by a group called Silver Hills Watershed Watch, who were concerned about Tolko's timber harvesting operations between Lumby — in the northern Okanagan Valley, east of the city of Vernon — and Cherryville, further east.

"They were concerned that Tolko had damaged range failure, had caused a landslide and had caused sedimentation to affect their water quality," Kriese told CBC News.

Tolko harvested one cutblock in 2015, and salvage-harvested a second cutblock following a wildfire in 2018. In May 2020, four landslides occurred below the harvested areas, affecting McPherson Creek, which supplies drinking water.

Kriese says when the board received the complaint, it launched an investigation and conducted a field assessment to find out what had happened in the area.

"There were landslides not right near the logging, but downstream," he said. "And what we found was Tolko had complied with the [Forest and Range Practices Act] and they had undertaken site level assessments."

He says the company also had a forest stewardship plan in place and conducted terrain stability assessments in the area, but it could have done additional assessments to help determine the potential impact of their harvesting activities.

The investigation found a number of different factors, he adds, including high precipitation and snow levels that contributed to the multiple landslides in May.

Company 'pleased' with decision

In a statement, a spokesperson for Tolko said they were "pleased" that the board found they had met all requirements in the case.

The company is based in Vernon, where the landslides occurred in 2020. They said they are not planning to appeal the decision, and no further actions are planned.

"The board's report confirms that our professionals implemented the appropriate level of assessments in this area with regards to this complaint," the spokesperson said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting