Forest Service Roads in the Campbell River district are going to come under scrutiny this fall. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

Forest Practice Board to audit Campbell River-area forest service roads this year

Okanagan-Shuswap and Dawson Creek also to be audited

The Campbell River Natural Resource District was selected to undergo forest service road audit this fall by the B.C. Forest Practices Board.

This year, three areas were chosen to be audited by the board. They will be looking at the Campbell River, Okanagan-Shuswap and Dawson Creek districts.

The Forest Practices board has two branches: an audit branch and a complaint branch. The complaint branch responds to complaints from the public and initiates investigations based on the feedback they receive. The audit branch chooses its areas randomly, and is not driven by complaints or past practices.

RELATED: ‘Who’s keeping an eye on Vancouver Island’s forests?’

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According to Chris Mosher, the director of audits for the board, the auditors look at things like structural integrity, drainage structures and safety mechanisms that are put in place on the many forest service roads in the province. They usually go to eight to ten areas in the province, looking at a handful of licensees, as well as bigger entities like B.C. Timber Sales and even some ranges in the province. However, this year they are doing things a bit differently.

“When we do an audit we would be in their vehicle or they would be in our vehicle and we’re talking about their operations as we drive along to look at the site,” Mosher said. “Of course, with COVID that’s going to be different with all the proper safety protocols. If the district staff comes with us they’d have to be in a separate vehicle, that kind of thing.”

This year, only three areas were chosen, and Mosher and his team will be looking at the government-run infrastructure in the districts.

“Usually we have a large array of license sizes and types: everything from woodlots to large licensees, and this year with COVID and the initial audits, I wanted to focus on government itself. I knew they hadn’t been as impacted as a small licensee might’ve been,” he said. “We may have some [roads] that are active, but the majority are going to be under the wilderness status. It’s a small sliver of what we look at overall and it’s something that we don’t look at all that often, so with COVID making things a bit weird and different this year, we thought it would be a good thing to look at these things.”

The auditors will be doing research and mapping for the first part of the process, before going into the field later in the year. They are planning to get to the Campbell River district in October.

“We’re not going to be out there for a while yet, and that’s barring a flare up of COVID,” he said. “If there’s more of a lock down then we’ll have to postpone the audit until next field season.”

The main focus, Mosher said, was on the environmental impacts of the forest service roads. Since these roads this year are wilderness-status, they are typically unused and can fall into disrepair. The audit team will be ensuring that roads are not causing sedimentation in fish-bearing streams or any other similar issues.

“If we find that there’s an area that’s in non-compliance with the legislation, what we do is we publicly report our audit findings at the end of every audit,” he said. “We would go through all of our processes and allow the district an opportunity to provide additional information if they have any. If it is found to be non-compliant, we would publicly report that.

“The board has no ability to fine or levy penalties. That’s the compliance and enforcement branch within the ministry. They could look at our findings and do their own investigation and look into it from a penalty aspect,” he added.

All of the boards audit reports dating back to 1995 can be found on their website.

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