New study shows more than half the landbase in Peace disturbed by industrial activity

Trent Ernst, Editor
 
If you were able to tie all the roads and pipelines and seismic lines in Peace together like string, and then stretch them out, you could wrap the earth with a bow like a Christmas present. Twice. 
 
A major report commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation highlights the escalation and cumulative effects of industrial land use in the Peace Region of BC. The report was prepared by Global Forest Watch Canada.
 
If you include a 500 m buffer around the roads, over 65 percent of the Peace region has been disturbed by industrial activity. If you only count the land that is directly impacted, 20.2 percent of the land has been disturbed. 
 
The Peace Region, as defined in the study, covers 56,118 square kilometers, and contains portions of five watersheds. Just under 10 percent of that area (5,097 sq km) has been logged or is scheduled to be logged. 
 
Other facts to come out of the study include:
 
•There is an average of 1.2 km of road for every 1 square km of area.
•Only 30% is intact forest landscape. The BC average is over 60%.
•Only 4.2% of study area is protected.
 
These numbers don’t include the proposed Site C dam, but according to the study, “when the ‘Preliminary Impact Lines and Preferred Highway 29 Realignments Maps’ from BC Hydro are added to the picture, it gets much worse. The ‘Stability Impact Line’ is over 2 km away from the existing river channel in places. These impacted lands will have a Statutory-Right-of-Way (SRoW) placed on it. The SRoW gives Hydro the right to flood, inundate, erode, cause to slough, deposit debris upon, etc. No residences or permanent buildings are allowed to be built on it. The “landowner” has very few rights left on that land. This is proposed to happen in one of the most scenic and ecologically unique valleys in northern BC.”
 
Rather than study the effect of one industry, the study takes a holistic approach, showing the cumulative effects of industrial activity in this region.
 
“The Site C dam would be much more than another industrial impact,” says Ken Boon, who farms at Bear Flat on the Peace River with his wife Arlene. Ken is the third generation to own the farm. “It would destroy homes, heritage, wildlife habitat and the only Class 1 farmland north of Quesnel,” says Boon.
 
The study also looks at the impact of industry on caribou. Forty years of satellite imagery was analyzed, to track development in the Peace Region. According to Environment Canada’s management thresholds, land that has seen less than a 35 percent disturbance is generally self-sustaining. Above 45 percent, the range is generally not self sustaining. 
 
“Three of the ten caribou herd ranges that are all or partly within the study area are more than 50% ‘disturbed’ (when buffered by 500 m) by a combination of roads, mines, settlements, pipelines, wellsites and other industrial and infrastructure activities,” says the study, including the Quintette herd. The Chinchaga herd is most at risk, according to these stats, as 85 percent of their herd range (within the Peace) is impacted by human disturbance. This is followed by the Kennedy Siding herd, with 55.2 percent of their range disturbed and the Quintette herd, at 50.1 percent. 
 
The Quintette herd is perplexing to some experts, including Dr. Dale Seip who has been studying the Quintette herd for ten years. The herd is considered stable because, unlike other herds, they have adapted to their environment and no longer head down to the low elevation areas (the most disturbed part of their range due to oil and gas industry) for food, specifically boreal lichen. This has allowed their population to remain stable, for now.