It’s hard to miss.
If you’ve driven to or from Dawson in the last few months, chances are you’ve noticed it: a new cutblock that runs right up to the highway, starting at the parking lot from the newly built Quality Lake Trail.
The trail itself is undamaged by the new cut block, but many consider the block an eyesore. This is concerning to Community Forester Duncan McKellar.
McKeller says the block was planned to meet all the visual requirements, as well as to meet the Community Forest’s uplift for beetle killed trees.
The Community Forest’s focus, he says, has been getting into areas where the pine beetle has done the most damage. There are still some areas worse off than the block beside the highway, he says, but they are going to be extremely difficult to access. All the areas they’ve been focusing on have had more than 30 percent dead trees. “We have an uplift to get out these dead trees,” he says, “so we are targeting the most dead trees first. For the most part, we’ve hit the most damaged stands to get that dead timber out.”
Before cutting the trees, the Community Forest has to run their plan past the visual landscape guidelines.
The area next to the highway, he says, falls, at least in part, in what’s known as a partial retention zone. “You’re not supposed to see more than eight percent of the viewscape modified,” he says.
This is where, he says, it gets a bit complicated. Because the government has also selected places where these viewscapes are measured from. “You can’t view it from an infinite number of spots, so the government has set spots where each of these areas should be modeled from.”
For this block, one of the main viewpoints is from the Quality Creek road. And, from that location, the new cutblock does indeed meet the visual guidelines.
“When you’re driving, you’ll only see it for three or four seconds. If you modeled for every visual from every location, you wouldn’t be logging anywhere in the province,” he says.
Visual impact is something he is well aware of. “For our area, visual landscape constraints make up 26 percent of our landbase. In the broader timber supply area, it’s seven percent. It makes sense. Community Forests being around communities have a lot more visual concerns. We have to be cognizant of that.”
But why not just leave a strip of trees to hide the view from the highway. That too, was considered and ultimately rejected, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the area is heavily comprised of spruce trees, which are highly susceptible to being blow down. And fallen spruce is a breeding ground for spruce beetle, something that is becoming a concern. “We’d probably just have to come and clean that up in a few years, anyway.”
It used to be fairly common to leave these strips, says McKellar, but there are other concerns. “How old the trees, are, how dead the trees are, what species they are…”
And if all they do is leave these strips, eventually, they’ll have to come and harvest the strips, which is financially unfeasible. “You have to try and keep your timber supply in balance.”