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B.C. forests watchdog report: Tolko followed rules, but could have done more

CANADA (From news reports) -- The province's independent watchdog for forest practices says Tolko Industries Ltd. could have done more to assess the potential impacts of its tree harvesting over the past few years between two North Okanagan communities.

On Friday, the Forest Practices Board (FPB) issued a news release after investigating a complaint by a group called the Silver Hills Watershed Watch.

According to the FPB, Silver Hills complained that Tolko's forest harvesting between Lumby and Cherryville increased water flows, contributed to four landslides and introduced sediment into streams that supply drinking water.

"The investigation found that Tolko's activities met all legal requirements," said Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board. "Tolko completed terrain stability assessments for its harvest blocks.

"However, it did not complete a watershed assessment, which we believe would have provided a better picture of the risks created by harvesting and might have led to different practices."

Kriese continued, saying "watershed assessments are not legally required, but are a good practice where forestry activities pose a risk to resource values."

The FPB said Tolko harvested one cutblock in 2015, then 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 residents' drinking water.

"Other contributing factors were the natural geology of the area, which is prone to landslides, high precipitation and snowpack levels, and wildfire impacts to natural vegetation and soils," said the FPB.

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.

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