Today’s Poll

Visual quality objectives for cutovers get overhauled

Colin Payne
By Colin Payne
April 6th, 2014

The regulations governing the shape, size and location of cutovers in scenic areas of the West Kootenay were recently changed in an effort to “rebalance” scenic values with other resource values and issues – resulting in additions and subtractions to lands managed for visual quality.

Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs) put in place by the provincial Ministry of Forests set out the levels development or alteration to a scenic area that is acceptable by the public and have been in place for about 25 years.

The Nelson Daily contacted the Kootenay Lake Forest District to discuss the rationale for the recent changes to the local VQOs, but was directed to the provincial Public Affairs Bureau, which responded with an e-mail containing general information about the VQOs and no comment.

According to the information provided, changes to the VQOs put in place on March 7 this year are the culmination of an extensive process including public consultation that began in 2009 and will provide direction to forest agreement holders regarding the appropriate scale and design of harvest practices in scenic areas.

The changes were made because the previous legal version of the Visual Landscape Inventory (of which the VQOs are a part) for the Kootenay Lake Timber Supply Area was not consistent with provincial standards, and the changes aimed at rebalancing VQOs with other resource values and issue.

In terms of what actually changed, according to information from the province, an additional 8,673 hectares of scenic areas in the region will be managed for visual quality and adjustments to visual quality ratings on stretches of land in the area.

While 80 percent of VQO land in the area (173,602 hectares) will stay the same,  11 percent (24,019 hectares) will become more restrictive; while 9 percent (20,515 hectares) will become less restrictive.

Process concerns RDCK directors

Representatives from the Regional District of Central Kootenay involved in the discussions expressed many concerns with the changes initially proposed to the VQOs, but said for the most part their concerns were addressed.
That being said, some concerns still remain after the process is over – one of which involved the process itself.

RDCK Area E Director, Ramona Faust says the public process was inadequate in many respects, including web resources that were difficult for the public to access and a comment period that happened around the end of the school year when most people didn’t even know it was happening.

“The process was not well-timed nor (was there a) fulsome outreach process,” Faust said, adding that there were also remaining concerns about the compliance and enforcement standards for the VQO standards.

“There’ is not a lot of follow-up to see if visual quality objectives are being met and the spot check that was done showed a lower level of compliance than might be acceptable to the public.”

Slope stability not considered

RDCK Area D director, Andy Shadrack says one issue that came up which was not addressed was adding slope stability considerations to the VQO process.

“The issue I raised and a number of us (did) was that if VQOs are changed, they must be changed in line so they don’t increase or decrease the level of water retention,” Shadrack said.

“Last June we had 100 mm of rain in and around Kaslo and since 1991 there have only been five or seven years when the rain for the whole month of June has exceeded that. We had several creeks blown out. We don’t want to reduce the levels of forest cover and increase the chances of landslides like the one in Johnson’s Landing.”

 “You can’t look at visual quality objectives without looking at hydrology values because of our changing climate,” he said, noting he felt he didn’t get a clear response from officials about his concern.

Categories: General

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