Key Issues

Poor Forest Practices

Logging is one of the biggest factors leading to the loss of salmon habitat in B.C.

Logging impacts include increased erosion, increased sedimentation and higher summer water temperatures.

Loss of streamside trees can negatively alter waterflows and lead to streambank erosion. Important nutrients are lost and the food supply for fish is reduced.

Landslides and debris torrents can flatten the riffles and pools that salmon need for protection and for safe passage. Yet logging on steep slopes has increased in recent years with 45 percent of all proposed logging slated for unstable or potentially unstable terrain. Landslides have completely destroyed all usable salmon habitat in some stream systems.

The now-axed provincial Forest Practices Code required some streamside no-harvest zones, but the standards were half or less than that provided by the U.S. Forest Service, or recommended by scientists. Small streams under 1.5 metres had no streamside buffers at all, despite being important salmon producers. An audit by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund in 1996, for example, showed that 83 percent of all streams surveyed were clearcut right to the streambank.

Other activities related to logging - road and bridge construction, log storage and herbicide spraying - have let to further habitat degradation. Compliance with the Code was poor and enforcement actions by the province have been minimal.

Despite these shortcomings, the provincial government has not moved to strengthen forest practice standards, but instead has moved backwards to a "results-based" regulation called the Forest and Range Act that environmental groups say gives forest companies too many loopholes and eliminates public oversight. Salmon stream protection will be significantly reduced and there will likely be more clearcutting in streamside zones.