Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.

FOREST INK: Grassroots involvement in communities can bring needed changes

Jim Hilton pens a column for the Quesnel Cariboo Observer on Forestry each week

Maude Barlow has a new book (2019) entitled “Whose Water is it Anyway?” that describes the Blue Communities Project started in Canada and now growing throughout the world where there are three primary concerns.

Access to clean, drinkable water is a basic human right, that municipal and community water be held in public hands and the single use plastic water bottles will not be available in public spaces.

The author describes the struggles many communities have with corporations who look at water as a commodity to make money with. One of the most extreme examples is in the Guelph area of Ont., where Nestle was pumping over 4 million gallons a day from wells with expired permits and were paying only $3.71 per million litres while charging up to $2 per bottle.

In the meantime, 90 per cent of First Nations communities downstream from those wells have no running water in their homes.

The author also spends some time on the impact climate change will have on future water resources, with Brazil being a prime example.

Deforestation was implicated in leading to the droughts of 2014 -2017 because moisture carried in airborne currents (called “flying rivers”) was no longer sufficient to bring needed rain.

The importance of forests in the terrestrial water cycle was nicely displayed on one of the signs along the new trail around the Flat Rock block of the Williams Lake Community Forest.

My wife and I took advantage of a recent sunny day to enjoy the new bridge, fire pit and bench located on the grassy area next to the main pond along with the information signs throughout the hiking trail.

The return section allows a good look at how forests can be thinned to create a fire break, and retain big old trees in a park-like atmosphere with excellent visibility.

What I really appreciated was the Caribo-Chilcotin style of the trail including a reasonable quantity of cow pies, animal tracks and enough woody debris to remind you that this was not a manicured Stanley park trail.

READ MORE: 3 km of trails now open near Quesnel’s airport

This type of project along with Maude Barlow’s discussion of the importance of grass roots involvement in water conservation reminded me of some forest landscape planning pilot projects mentioned in my latest articles about old growth.

One of the papers suggested detailed assessments of old growth conditions should be done at the community level in conjunction with local experts including First Nations to ensure sufficient context is available to support management decisions.

The Tla’amin Nation, one of five Coast Salish Nations whose traditional territories cover the Sunshine Coast Timber Supply Area, are currently collaborating on a forest landscape planning pilot project with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

The intent of this project is to provide working examples of government-to-government partnerships around the management of forests to inform changes to provincial forestry regulation. A short video helps describe the project by including presentations from the various participants.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forest organizations.

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