Three presentations were made during the Community Forest meeting held at the Riverside Centre on Saturday, April 13. Numerous individuals representing the communities of Area H attended the afternoon session.
RDOS Area H director Brad Hope chaired the meeting and introduced guest speakers, Rob Smylie, Rob Marshall, Timberlands division of Weyerhaeuser and Heather Larratt of Larratt Aquatic Consulting.
Smylie presented the pet oxygen mask kits from Wag’N O2 Fur Life®, that he had introduced in the community of Princeton two weeks earlier. It was unanimously agreed by the group that each of the communities would like to have access to the life saving masks for pets. Smylie assured them that he would continue his fundraising efforts in order to supply all the interested areas with the $170 kits.
Hope and Marshall explained the Community Forest, an equal partnership between the RDOS, Upper Similkameen Indian Band and the Town of Princeton.
The Vermilion Forks Community Forest Corporation (VFCFC) has an industry partner – Weyerhaeuser, which manages the timber operations of approximately 11,000 hectares of forest lands surrounding Princeton. The product harvested and sold by the corporation results in funding for the partners to distribute back into their communities.
A discussion held in regards to sharing of funds throughout the communities resulted in the decision to form a committee to represent all of the communities. For the time being, those present chose to apply funding towards the Osprey and Erris Volunteer Fire Departments.
Both departments have been actively fundraising, just not able to yet reach their goals to finish the fire halls. They will receive a benefit of $15,000 each.
Heather Larratt, (R.P. Bio) of Larratt Aquatic Consulting came to educate the group on the threats of aquatic invasive species (AIS).
Larratt says the biggest threats are the Zebra and Quagga mussels, New Zealand Mud snails, Didymo (Rock Snot) and the Spiny Water Flea. These species are a threat to plants and animals of B.C., with the freshwater ecosystems being especially vulnerable. These AIS tolerate different environments, adapting rapidly, they reproduce rapidly and can be transported via boats and gear.
Outside of taking over beaches, the mussels can cause major damage by clogging water intakes, pumps, and water distribution systems.
“Once they get in, you can’t get them out,” said Larratt.
To further explain her statement Larratt explained the predicament of the Great Lakes.
Within a period of four years, mussels spread throughout all of the Great Lakes. Costs just to manage the infestation from the year 2000 to 2010 was 5 billion dollars.
In December of 2012 it became illegal to transport AIS in B.C. Failure to clean mussels off boats or equipment could result in a fine of up to $100,000.
Public education is key in taking a proactive approach to protecting B.C. from AIS. Larratt suggests a “clean, drain and dry” approach for all boating/sporting equipment when moving from one body of water to another.
An extensive report on AIS and prevention has been prepared for the Okanagan Basin Water Board by Larratt Aquatic Consulting and is available at http://www.obwb.ca/fileadmin/docs/2013_obwb_ais_report.pdf