In September 2018, the Forest Practices Board audited range planning and practices on five agreements for grazing in the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District. The range tenures are located between Cranbrook and Golden, and near Fernie, BC. The audit involved assessing compliance with the Forest and Range Practices Act, including the required content of range use plans and whether agreement holders met practice requirements such as protection of riparian areas, upland areas, licensed waterworks and maintenance of range developments.

The audit identified two areas requiring improvement related to the grazing schedules.

In 2008, a Forest Practices Board complaint investigation found that cattle and elk were over-grazing rangelands in the East Kootenay and the Board recommended that government reduce forage use. A follow-up investigation by the Board in 2015 reported that actions undertaken by government since 2008 had successfully reduced elk populations and grazing allocations for cattle amidst ongoing efforts to restore areas of grassland and open forest lost to forest ingrowth and encroachment. This special report evaluates the effectiveness of actions implemented by government and others to increase the area and quality of rangelands in the East Kootenay. While progress is being made through the collaborative efforts of government and a dedicated group of stakeholders, a number of issues threaten the sustainability of rangelands over the longer term. These include ongoing encroachment and ingrowth of forests, spread of invasive plants, site disturbance due to industrial activities and off-road recreational vehicles and localized over-grazing by cattle and elk.

In July 2016 the Forest Practices Board audited Canadian Forest Products Limited’s (Canfor) Tree Farm Licence 14 in the Rocky Mountain Natural Resource District. Tree Farm Licence 14 is located south of Golden and northwest of Invermere in the East Kootenays.

Canfor’s operational planning, timber harvesting, road construction and maintenance, silviculture, and fire protection activities complied in all significant respects with the requirements of the Forest and Range Practices Act, the Wildfire Act and related regulations. The audit noted that Canfor’s fire hazard assessment procedures need improvement.

The Rocky Mountain Trench is rich in ecological diversity. It is the low-elevation grassland and open forest ecosystems that support the greatest biological diversity and the greatest concentration of forage use, and human settlement and development. Maintaining a healthy grassland ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain Trench is important, but challenging.

In 2008, the Board published the complaint investigation report Wildlife and Cattle Grazing in the East Kootenay. The report addressed concerns that: forest in-growth on grasslands had caused forage supply to decline; elk and deer numbers had been allowed to increase causing forage to be overgrazed; and individual ranchers had to reduce the number and duration of cattle grazing on Crown lands. The report recommended that the Ministry of Forests and Range and the Ministry of Environment direct reductions of forage use to achieve a positive and continuing trend in grassland ecosystem condition.

Government responded in March 2011 and outlined actions they had taken to address the recommendations from the 2008 report. This report examines progress by government to implement those actions.

The Board conducted a limited scope compliance audit of BC Hydro’s OLTCs L48655, L48700, L48750 and L48751, in which all fire protection activities carried out between January 1, 2011, and June 5, 2013, were included. These activities and associated planning were assessed for compliance with the Wildfire Act and related regulations.

In 2005, when government established the original Revelstoke Higher Level Plan Order (RHLPO), it included a provision that it might review the order, should subsequent recovery efforts for caribou adversely affect timber supply. Hence, a 2011 amendment was intended to recover a volume of harvestable timber to compensate for that set aside in 2009 to protect caribou habitat. This investigation determined that the amendment, without altering the area reserved for caribou, reduced and re-arranged the amounts, location and security of old and mature forest required to be protected for biodiversity conservation. Ultimately, though less old and mature forest is now protected, the reduced amount is not substantive relative to the original RHLPO, provided forests that are currently considered inoperable remain unharvested.

This audit examined the activities of the BC Timber Sales (BCTS) program and the timber sale licence (TSL) holders in the Rocky Mountain District. Numerous natural resources support a wide range of interests in the district—including recreation, wildlife, trapping, guide-outfitting, fish and tourism—creating challenges for BCTS and timber sale licensees that carry out forestry activities in the area.

As part of the Forest Practices Boardʹs 2010 compliance audit program, the Board randomly selected the Rocky Mountain Forest District as the location for a full‐scope compliance audit. Within the district, the Board selected FL A19040, held by Tembec Industries Inc., for audit.

The primary operating areas are scattered throughout the Cranbrook Timber Supply Area, around the cities of Cranbrook, Kimberley and Fernie, and the communities of Sparwood and Elkford.

The Board’s audit fieldwork took place from July 5 to 9, 2010.

In British Columbia, use of Crown range is regulated by the Range Act and the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The Range Act provides the authority to grant range agreements, including permits and licences. These agreements include things like the tenure area and the amount of forage that can be consumed by livestock on Crown land. Similar to the former Forest Practices Code, FRPA provides the necessary authority for government to manage the Crown land resource. This includes authority to require the agreement holder to prepare a range plan and follow practice requirements.

The investigation found that the current framework for range planning under FRPA is not working well for agreement holders, MFR range staff or for management of the range resource. First, there is widespread uncertainty about what the objectives for range mean and what is required to achieve them. Second, agreement holders are expected to write measurable and enforceable plans, yet may not have the necessary qualifications and experience to do so. Finally, the preparation and approval of RUPs is a time consuming and challenging task for agreement holders and the MFR, and it is not clear if range planning is achieving any measurable benefit in managing the range resource.

The owner of a private campground on Lake Koocanusa submitted a complaint to the Forest Practices Board on August 22, 2008. The complainant had concerns with a campfire ban, imposed on July 28, 2008, covering parts of the Rocky Mountain Forest District and the Lake Koocanusa area, which is southeast of Cranbrook, BC.