Forest Practices Board Investigation Finds Maintenance Problems on Publicly Travelled Forest Service Roads
Victoria – The Forest Practices Board today released the results of its investigation into a complaint about road maintenance on Hillcrest Forest Service Road near Lake Cowichan. A resident complained that road maintenance was inadequate, resulting in unsafe conditions for those living on the road.
The investigation found that MacMillan Bloedel did not comply with Code requirements. This occurred because other companies using the road failed to conduct surface maintenance in accordance with their agreements with MacMillan Bloedel. MacMillan Bloedel was responsible for ensuring the maintenance was done, as part of its road permit from the forest district.
The South Island Forest District did comply with Code requirements. District staff issued instructions which led to surface maintenance on Hillcrest Road, and the district fixed structural problems. The resident who filed the complaint was satisfied that this work addressed the problems he was concerned about.
“This investigation was about a specific problem on Hillcrest Road that was fixed, but it revealed a larger issue about maintenance of forest service roads around the province,” said Keith Moore, Board Chair.
The Forest Practices Code requires that forest service roads be maintained to a standard that ensures that they are safe for industrial traffic. There is no requirement to ensure that forest service roads which provide access to parks, recreational areas and residences are safe and passable for public traffic. Funding for maintenance has also been dramatically reduced in recent years.
The report concludes that the government needs to ensure that adequate maintenance is provided on publicly travelled forest service roads. The Board recommends that government consider several options to ensure that publicly travelled forest service are maintained for the safety of all users.
These options include:
identifying forest service roads that should be maintained at a level that ensures the safety of all users,
providing for equitable sharing of the cost of maintaining such roads,
ensuring that local government consider access maintenance requirements in land use zoning so that builders and developers anticipate that access and access maintenance are not guaranteed if currently provided by a forest service road, and
ensuring that a process for identifying the responsibility for access road maintenance is initiated at the time of the establishment of parks.
Hillcrest Road provides access to several timber sales under the Small Business Forest Enterprise Program. It is used by MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. and several other companies to access logging operations on private land. Pacific Forest Products is one of the most active users. The road also provides access to four residences, the Chemainus River Provincial Park and is a popular route for trail bikes and recreational four-wheel drive vehicles. Like many older forest service roads on Vancouver Island, it has deteriorated significantly over many years.
As is common practice on many forest service roads, the Ministry of Forests delegated responsibility for surface maintenance to the “primary user”, MacMillan Bloedel, even though the company had not been active on the road for many years. MacMillan Bloedel in turn made contractual arrangements with the other holders of road use permits. Under these contracts, “secondary users” agreed to maintain the road during the period of use, but did not do so.
Created in 1995, the Forest Practices Board is BC’s independent watchdog for sound forest practices. The Board provides British Columbians with objective and independent assessments of the state of forest planning and practices in the province, compliance with the Code, and the achievement of its intent. The Board’s main roles are: auditing forest practices, undertaking investigations in response to public complaints, undertaking special investigations of any Code related forestry issues, participating in administrative reviews and appeals and providing reports on Board activities, findings and recommendations.
April 20, 1999