A Forest Practices Board investigation of a complaint by two trappers has concluded that the population of fisher – a fur-bearing mammal that is a species at risk in B.C. – is at a high risk of decline or local elimination in the Nazko region, west of Quesnel.
The Nazko area experienced widespread tree mortality from mountain pine beetles, which resulted in extensive salvage harvesting in the complainants’ trapping area between 2002 and 2017. The trappers complained to the board that logging significantly impacted habitat for fishers and other fur-bearing mammals.
“Our investigation found that government did not take steps to ensure protection of fisher habitat,” said Kevin Kriese, board chair, in a news release. “While licensees did make some efforts to protect habitat when designing individual cutblocks, these efforts were insufficient given the unprecedented scale of salvage logging across the landscape.”
Additionally, the area was extensively damaged by forest fires in 2017.
“The board is concerned that unplanned salvage of fire-damaged stands could make a grave situation even worse,” said Kriese. “We are recommending that government take steps to address fisher habitat needs and work to restore the local population over time.”
The board also recommends that for any large-scale salvage logging operations in future, government ensures that harvesting is co-ordinated between the various forest companies, addresses habitat needs of species at risk and is monitored to ensure it is properly implemented and effective.
Fisher habitat consists of older forest stands with lots of large trees, snags and coarse woody debris. Fishers prefer landscapes with large areas of connected forest and avoid non-forested openings. Areas of mostly-dead timber may still provide habitat for fishers. Impacts to fisher habitat in the Nazko area will also have implications for other species with similar habitat needs.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates public complaints about forest and range practices on public lands and appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.