Every creek, wetland, lake, and swamp is part of the larger whole known as a watershed. Whether you know it or not, we all rely on our watersheds for forestry, fish and wildlife, recreation, and the water itself.
Watersheds are like the arteries and veins of the land base and they support the diversity of life we have today. Without them, the landscape would be very different.
Unfortunately, many of our watersheds are under stress due to the pine beetle epidemic, excess timber harvesting, road building, and of course, last year’s wildfires.
With some of our watersheds having as much as 70 per cent of the timber supply removed, we end up with run-off patterns upslope that flush excessively during spring alternating with drought conditions that contribute to high water temperatures in the summer months. This can be likened to flushing a toilet rather than a slow, steady release of water throughout the summer and fall seasons.
Healthy watersheds need enough mature timber to retain rain water and snow melt, and to release water slowly, more like a sponge than a storm sewer.
If you notice creeks that used to run all season long that now only have water in them seasonally, you have serious problems in your watershed.
Yearly patterns of spring floods and landslides and drought conditions that follow can be an indicator of a watershed that is compromised.
Even clearcut harvesting in small sections of a watershed can have serious consequences. Logging upslope of lakes can cause excess surface run-off carrying nutrients into the waterbody below, leading to fish die-offs, as has happened in the Thompson-Okanagan region.
The situation in California the past year is an extreme example of what can happen when wildfires remove all the vegetation from the landscape.
When timber harvesting is done at an accelerated pace, as has been the case over the last decade and a half, it leads to watershed issues. This has been ongoing province wide, and watersheds are paying the price.
In our modern world, no one player, interest, government, agency, or landowner gets to call all the shots in the watershed.
Today, we recognize that people must compromise, and that watershed alterations add up. Cumulative effects are not necessarily mitigated over the years—not all cutblocks regrow as planned. Not all roads are “deactivated”. Dump sites become exposed and continue to leach. Even worse, competing users can create impacts much larger than isolated, individual impacts. There are many examples—logging, ranching, eroding banks, flood plain development, river training and road washouts, loss of habitat, temperature increases 1,000 km away, and salmon population crashes. Modern watershed management must be collaborative and multi-disciplinary.
If you are concerned about what you see going on in your watershed call your MLA, phone your local resource office, or call the licensees to let them know your concerns.
The Horsefly River was nominated a fisheries sensitive watershed six years ago and the provincial government continues to drag its feet on this issue. It appears that they may delay action until the watershed is completely harvested of timber before implementing any recommendations.
The Horsefly River Roundtable (HRR) has been in existence since 2007 and its goals are to achieve and maintain the health of the Horsefly community watershed through co-ordinated management of resources, respect for all concerns, and co-operative positive action. Operating with a handful of volunteers, the HRR has initiated several restoration projects in the watershed including work on Woodjam Creek, Patenaude Creek, Sucker Creek, Wilmot Creek, and Tisdale Creek, and removal of an old dumpsite on the ban of the Horsefly River.
HRR is planning the Horsefly Salmon Festival on September 15 and 16, 2018.
To volunteer or for more info about the Horsefly River Roundtable, call Bruce Macleod at (250) 620-0012, or see www.horseflyriver.ca.
Brian Englund, Horsefly, BC