Cutting to the core

Bark beetles have spread to Mount Macpherson and another round of clear-cutting will occur at the popular trail network

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A new round of logging is slated for Mount Macpherson. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

It was months ago when I last wandered aimlessly in the lush forests of lower Mount Macpherson and yet here, in a small meeting room illuminated by the light of a digital projector, my memory of the towering trees comes streaming back. The foreboding pink flagging tape that I found, laid out in deadly straight lines, makes sense now. Macpherson will be clear-cut again — this time to deal with a rapidly-growing infestation of Douglas fir bark beetles.

“Under the Forest Health Strategy for the district, all licensees … are obligated to deal with forest pests,” said Practices Forester Rob Mohr, speaking on behalf of BC Timber Sales at a recent Revelstoke City Council meeting.

Over the last year, the BCTS has been monitoring beetle activity in a three-hectare patch of forest that contains sections of the Berm Donor and Super Happy Fun trails, and its conclusions are that the area should be harvested before the trees die and timber value is lost. The prescribed plan is to set pheromone traps this spring to concentrate the beetles within this patch, and to clear-cut and replant a total of six hectares next winter — the smallest area that is economically viable for a forestry contractor.

“We don’t have a lot of viable options here. And unfortunately due to the challenging terrain and the beetle type, we can’t leave a trail corridor this time like we did around TNT,” explains Rob Mohr.

This is not a new story in a province that has seen roughly 18 million hectares of forest affected by Mountain Pine Beetle, a close relative of the Fir beetle. It’s also not a new story for the Revelstoke Cycling Association, the group responsible for building and maintaining much of the trail infrastructure in the area. Boulder Mountain has seen large infestations of the same beetle and, according to some RCA members, clear-cutting has had detrimental effects on the volunteer-built trails there.

While the plan to clear-cut fir beetle affected trees on Mount Macpherson will undoubtedly be unwelcome news to some trail users, this is unlikely to be a recurring event in the area due to the wide diversity of tree species there. However, it is a working forest and periodic commercial logging is planned to continue on the lower flanks of the mountain for the next 40 to 50 years.

Keith McNab, president of the RCA, has worked closely with the Recreational Sites and Trails division of the Ministry of Forests, the provincial office that oversees the BCTS, and he has an optimistic perspective on the issue.

“Because the Macpherson area is a working forest, as opposed to being park land, we have much better access to build recreational infrastructure.” says McNab.

Still, some people feel that the steady growth in outdoor tourism in Revelstoke justifies shifting focus from forestry to trail expansion and improvement in the areas immediately adjacent to town. Local bike shops and tourism-based businesses have seen a steady increase in mountain biker visits in recent years and they want to keep that momentum going.

“In the last four years, mountain bike tourism has gone through the roof,” says Andrew Danyluk, who opened Tantrum Ride Co. bike shop in 2016. “We support everything the RCA is doing to improve and expand the trail network and, despite the logging, we’re optimistic about the future of mountain biking in Revy.”

The RCA does have plans for trail expansion on Macpherson, Frisby Ridge, and Mount Cartier, and they’re hoping that membership numbers and volunteer turnout this summer will be enough to support these projects.

“RCA membership is not only important to provide working capital for building trails, it also gives local cyclists a stronger unified voice when addressing land management issues at the local and provincial level, and it gives the RCA a stronger voice when applying for funding to build and maintain trails,” Keith points out.

When the RCA meeting adjourns, I head out into the serene silence of a cold snowy evening. In the midst of winter, it’s hard to imagine that, soon enough, the heat of summer will be upon us and we’ll be digging and pedaling amongst those towering trees. But as I walk home I realize that a summer spent without those towering tress, is almost unimaginable.

This article first appeared in the April/May issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

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Bryce Borlick is a world traveler, outdoor enthusiast, and urban refugee whom you’re most likely to find wandering the mountains in search of nothing in particular. With an unruly interest in sustainability and permaculture, he may be the only person in Revelstoke dreaming of one day doing burnouts in an electric F-250 towing a tiny house.