More than 100 Apex Property Owners Association members gathered Saturday to meet with a Weyerhaueser representative to air their concerns about the future of tree harvesting in the recreational area.
Apex Property Owners Association chair Jeff Brown said one of the main problems is the professional reliance model that he believes is a conflict of interest.
“People are already concerned about the logging taking place, yet the industry considers it reasonable. You put a volunteer board versus paid professionals to work this out and there is a different end game,” said Brown. “We have never said we are opposed to harvesting, we just want appropriate harvesting practices in this area.”
Brown explained that forestry plans should be different for Apex where recreation and tourism collide with timber harvesting land base. At this stage he said it is a political issue because companies like Weyerhaueser are doing nothing illegal and following the regulations, but those regulations need to be modified to fit the recreational site.
The property owners have their annual general meeting on March 21 (3:30 p.m. at the village) and Brown hopes they can decide on how much of an active voice they want to take with the provincial government. Brown also said he heard rumours of getting all licence holders in a sit down meeting with the government in May, but nothing has been confirmed. Many of the owners at the meeting agreed the problem lies with the provincial regulations.
“It seems to me the problem is the recreation area has already been devalued. This is crown land. This our land and it is your land. We have to get back to the issue that we all have a stake in this property and it is being vandalized,” said Michael Brydon, who is a director on the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board, but explained he was speaking only as a property owner at the meeting. “The problem is there is a real economic impact here and you have a conflicting interest in this area.”
Brian Drobe, planning forester, Weyerhaeuser Company, said roughly 90 per cent of the operating area belongs to the company, but the matter gets confused because other license holders are allowed to operate within it including the Lower Similkameen Indian Band and the Penticton Indian Band. A total of 35 to 40 per cent of the area is in reserves, non-productive species and will never be harvested. Of the 60 per cent that can be logged, a quarter of the whole area has been harvested and re-planted.
“There is a great deal of frustration on both sides and there is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Drobe. “These things are clearcuts, but they are not clearcuts for forever and a day … they become new forest, they do grow and they will become forests another day. To suggest that our interests aren’t sustainable is ridiculous.”
Drobe added they are above industry standards in re-planting, every two years rather than the seven that is regulation. He said he feels much of the information does not make it past the volunteer forestry committee to the public.
While some residents voiced that they were completely against any type of logging in the area, others reminded that a block of harvested area saved the resort from a wildfire in the summer.
“I can’t tell you how scared I was with that fire. It was deemed beyond resources by the fire fighters. I was looking at the 60 kilometre winds and thinking it was going to be right here in a couple hours. But I was told the cutblock would save us. It hit that fresh cutblock and self-imploded,” Apex Mountain Resort manager James Shalman told the group of property owners. “That fire could have wiped out the whole resort. I mean talk about land values going down. We have to look at the big picture here. I am not arguing for or against, but there are many different points to think about here.”