Environment

The New Roaring Twenties

Even large trees snapped like toothpicks during the New Year’s Eve snowstorm, photo by Jim Cooperman

The arrival of the new decade that finally has a familiar ring provides an opportunity to reflect on the previous one, make predictions about the upcoming one, as well as compare it to its namesake, the Roaring Twenties. No doubt it will be as roaring as the last one, but more likely the roar will not be coming from the wild dance parties, instead it will emanate from wildfires, intense storms, rising social upheavals and yet more wars.

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Climate change – think globally, act locally

My speech to the Climate Strike rally, held Friday Sept. 20th in Salmon Arm in front of the city hall:

There is no doubt we are immersed in a climate crisis, as already we are experiencing the impacts – floods, fires, storms and rising temperatures. Due to the still rising CO2 levels and the activated feedback loops including the release of methane, recent predictions are suggesting that there could be 5 to 6 degree rise in temperature by the end of this century. The big questions for us now are what could we expect to happen where we live, what can we do to protect ourselves and what can we do to make a difference.

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Proposed logging poses extreme risks to local watershed

While this recently logged block poses few risks, logging proposed on the opposite hillside does

Across the province, watersheds are under assault by forestry operations as timber supplies dwindle and logging companies move into hillsides above communities. Excessive clearcutting in the upper watersheds above Grand Forks directly contributed to massive flooding in the community last spring, logging above Peachland resulted in excessive siltation in their drinking water thus forcing the community to build a 55-million dollar water treatment infrastructure and here in the Shuswap there have been countless landslides and debris torrents caused in part by logging and roadbuilding that have resulted in millions of dollars in damage and loss of life.

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The Final Liquidation – a B.C. forest emergency

Datlamen watershed clearcut, photo by Garth Lenz

Despite the election of what we often thought would be a more environmentally friendly government, British Columbia’s public forests continue to be disappearing at an alarming rate, with inadequate stewardship for all values including fish and wildlife habitat, community water supply protection, and recreation. Although these forests belong to the people of B.C. and to future generations, they are being managed primarily to benefit a few large corporations. Urgent reforms are needed to meet the needs of present and future generations and yet to date, little has been done.

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Adams River salmon run collapse due to overfishing

A seine boat hauls in part of the record catch in 2010

The results are in for the iconic Adams River salmon run that show a very disturbing, sharp decline in spawning numbers. On February 8th, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO is still the acronym) released the near final estimate for the 2018 late Fraser River run that shows only 535,564 sockeye returned to spawn in the Adams, far short of the predicted return and just 34 percent of the average return for this dominant cycle. It was the lowest on record.

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What happened to this year’s salmon run?

The familiar adage, ‘the only thing constant is change’ certainly applies this year to the Adams River. For many visitors the question was, “where are all the salmon?” as viewing opportunities were limited because the river changed course, and the channel that runs by the new viewing platform was reduced in flow so that only dozens of fish could be seen. Overall, despite earlier predictions of millions, the final number could be lower than the 707,000 that returned in the 2014 brood year.
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Restoration is Reconciliation

This massive slide on the Fifth Creek above the Anstey River occurred in 1990

Watershed restoration is the focus of a conference in Kamloops from November 13 to 14 at Thompson Rivers University. This meeting is to prepare for a new initiative that is slated to bring many millions of dollars to the Province for rehabilitating watersheds and forests impacted by fires, floods and damaging land use practices. The last time significant funds were invested in restoration was from 1994 until 2002 through Forest Renewal.
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Coping with the new normal

Whew! With the fall rains now here, the Shuswap has made it through another summer without a massive wildfire, unlike most other regions of the province. Although we did not have to cope with a raging fire threatening communities, we did endure many days of thick, unhealthy smoke, which wafted as far to the east as Saskatchewan. Given the rapidly warming climate, it is inevitable that local interface forests will burn again and yet efforts to decrease fire hazards around communities continue to be unachievable.
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Adapt or face the consequences

 

Given the winter we are experiencing, it seems odd to be concerned about climate change. Yet, despite the high snow pack and cold temperatures, this winter is still far warmer than the average Shuswap winters of the past. Meanwhile, arctic temperatures are currently averaging 15 to 20 degrees above normal, which confirms the science of climate change that explains how extremes will appear more frequently closer to the poles.

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Determining how many trees can be logged

There is an important public consultation underway about our region’s forests that few people know about and even fewer people will participate in and for those that do, it is unlikely their input will make any difference to the decision. At stake is the amount of timber that forest companies will be able to log over the next ten years in the Okanagan Timber Supply Area (TSA), which includes most of the Shuswap watershed. Continue reading