British Columbia's Forest Practices Board finds no clear cause for rancher's claim of water loss, flooding; chairman says salvage logging in Twinflower Creek watershed may have contributed

WILLIAMS LAKE, British Columbia , December 22, 2011 () – Salvage logging in the Twinflower Creek watershed has been identified by the Forests Practices Board as one of a number of contributing factors on waterflows at a nearby ranch, but the report also blames drought and cold weather.

A report issued by the board comes after an investigation into a complaint by Randy Saugstad, a rancher in the Twinflower Creek watershed, who claimed he had experienced an unexpected loss of water when a stream his cattle normally drink from froze in January, and later in the year, on two separate occasions, his pasture land flooded.

Saugstad identified salvage logging of beetle-killed timber as the cause of his problems.

Forest Practices Board chair Al Gorley says unfortunately the report probably doesn’t help Saugstad.

“Logging may have contributed, but there are so many other things going on there that it’s pretty hard to nail down,” Gorley told the Tribune. “For this particular watershed shed, hopefully the study that’s just been announced about water storage assessment will provide some information that will be useful for future management and future decisions.”

Complaints about water have been fairly common since the FPB was created 16 years ago, but Gorley confirms the board has started to get complaints in the last few years in the “beetle” zone.

They tend to be similar, he says, but Saugstad’s complaint was particularly tricky because there isn’t a clear cause and effect, Gorley explains, adding sometimes there’ll be a situation where there was a blocked culvert or something was done wrong, but in this case there isn’t one, which makes it harder to pin down.

In a press release issued by the board Gorley states to some extent forest practices likely influenced the situation, which he says is a pretty “soft” statement.

“Generally what we know is that if you log an area you have some impact on the hydrology. If nothing else the timing of snow melt and the amount of water that was taken up by the trees that were growing there, so forest practices always have some impact.”

Before any additional logging occurs in the Twinflower Watershed the board is basically recommending caution, Gorley says.

“Even though we don’t know that logging caused his problem, it’s better to be careful. If someone is going to go in there and build some more roads and do some more logging they ought to do an assessment. There will be always be uncertainty, but they should do an assessment of what they think that will do to the watershed.”

Saugstad says he received a full copy of the report on Dec. 19 and doesn’t wholly agree with it, especially the comments about cold weather, lack of snow and drought being contributing factors.

“We’ve got weather records from the last six years from a neighbour lady that keeps meticulous records here. Of course they’re not legal records so to speak, but so what if her thermometer is out a degree, at least the range is there. She also kept snow records,” Saugstad says.

Recalling the winter of 2008, Saugstad insists there was a cold snap then and the stream didn’t freeze.

“Then we had it last year and the creek froze. The report says we have too many variables. I don’t know what the variables are, but we had identical weather with different results because the logging hadn’t happened,” Saugstad says, adding he doesn’t know where it will go from here.

“It’s supposed to be results-based forestry. This is a bad result, but I doubt there’s anything going to come of it,” he says, adding he doesn’t have much hope that something will change.

“It’s making us mad out here because it’s all being blamed on beetles. It’s a lot more than the beetles. We’re fed up with this myth being perpetuated,” Saugstad says.

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