Babine River Foundation

The Problem & Solution

The Problem: Maintaining the Resource Values of the Babine

Contrary to previous government commitments, resource values in the watershed surrounding the Park are being incrementally degraded. The February 2002 decision to approve and complete the Nichyeskwa connector (through known grizzly bear habitat) and the intent for a future bridge crossing of the Shelagyote River (known bull trout spawning grounds) are examples of how additional logging roads and bridges are making the Babine River corridor more vulnerable to negative environmental and economic impacts.

Environmental degradation includes up to a 50% loss of grizzly populations, and serious loss of wild salmon, steelhead and bull trout habitat. Tourism will be seriously impacted because the values, attributes and the high quality fishery and other wilderness values of the Park will disappear. At a minimum, a 2 km wide no log zone on either side of the River is needed to protect and serve as a buffer for these values, and additional measures must be implemented where this buffer is inadequate.

Solution

1. Changing the Special Management Zone (SMZ) to a River Stewardship Zone

Rezoning the existing SMZ or reclassifying the land under the existing Forest Practices Code, such as a Sensitive Area (Section 5), is proposed for creating a River Stewardship Zone (RSZ). No further logging or additional roads would be permitted within 2 km of the River. Restoration of past cuts and existing roads would be required. This would increase the protection of the economic and other wilderness resource values of the River by establishing an insulating buffer – called the RSZ.

Consequences: This new zone will reduce the vulnerability of the Babine River and increase its capacity to sustain the world famous steelhead fishery and other wilderness values. It would help protect the wilderness tourism economic contribution of $650,000 and the GDP of $4.5 million. The 1.5% reduction of the Timber Supply Area rate of cut could be a potential reduction of $150,000 in annual stumpage revenues in the short term, however this loss will decline to less than $70,000 annually once the long-term harvest level is reached. In reality a variance of +/- 10% variance in periodic cut levels is permitted so little or no real reduction in stumpage revenues may occur. No compensation to forest licensees will be required, as the RSZ will remain in the Provincial Forest.

2. Expanding the Area of Protection: River Stewardship Zone Plus a new SMZ

With the old SMZ transformed into a logging-free buffer, a new SMZ could then be added with continued logging access and harvest. This new SMZ would extend 1 km beyond the RSZ on both sides of the River. Furthermore, any proposed bridge crossings of the Shelagyote or any other tributary of the mainstem Babine would require a full vulnerability assessment, and would be closely reviewed in terms of siting, operating season and access control.

Consequences: A new SMZ would result in an additional potential short-term reduction of $95,000 in net logging stumpage because of access control and partial cutting costs but this loss would fall to only $51,000 per year once the long-term harvest level is reached. In the meantime wilderness tourism values of $4.5 million and $650,000 in government revenues would continue.

3. Public/Private Watershed Partnership and Stewardship

Our intent is to establish a public and private alliance of Government and local stakeholders, including First Nations, the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board, the Babine River Foundation and other relevant tourism operators and logging companies in the region to optimize and sustain all resource values in the Babine River Corridor. Monitoring and research responsibilities could be shared by the various partners.

Consequences: Experience elsewhere (for example, in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State) has shown that new ways of improving resource stewardship can be extremely cost effective, can maintain environmental integrity, can balance competing economic interests more equitably, and ultimately, can optimize net economic and social benefits to the public and the Province.

Advantages for the Babine River Corridor would include: (1) more effective environmental standards and maintenance of economic benefits, and (2) a possible pilot project to test and improve the effectiveness of MSRM planning and the new results based Forest Practices Code.

Implementation

The consequences to the Government, the B.C. public and the stakeholders of the implementation of our three interrelated solutions are straightforward. It is imperative to find new ways for British Columbians to optimize and sustain all resource benefits over the long-term.

This 3 part solution will increase protection for the commercial tourism industry, with reduced risk to these values, at the least cost to all stakeholders. Our solution offers an opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of public/private partnerships by building trust amongst the stakeholders in the stewardship of crown natural resources. It is our view that the Foundation, together with the Government and other stakeholders as partners, can lead by example and demonstrate that increased protection and buffering of the Babine River will contribute to the solid economic success and long-term economic development for all users in the entire Babine River Watershed.