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.