Pine beetle threatens tourism wilderness assets

After valuable trails destroyed, guest ranch owners want more forestry consultation

Tourists want to ride horses through pristine forest, not clearcuts. Tourism operators say their businesses are being affected in the rush to cut pine beetle ravaged forests

In the midst of intensive logging of B.C.'s Interior forests affected by the pine beetle infestation, tourism businesses are scrambling to protect the trails and views that make up their product.

Over the past few years, operators of guest ranches in the Cariboo-Chilcotin have been caught off guard by the speed and amount of logging in the lands they have tenured access to. The area is the epicentre of the pine beetle infestation.

The owner of Free Rein Guest Ranch in Bridge Lake is on the hook for around $100,000 to replace destroyed trails.

"Logging happened all around [the owner's] tenure area and all her horse trails were cut. … In terms of trying to sell a product to people from the States or overseas, she just all of a sudden had nowhere to go," said Evan Loveless, executive director of the Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C.

Tourism operators pay royalties to the province to use Crown land, but their rights to the land don't trump those of forestry or oil and gas companies.

"There's a lot of language in (the Forest and Range Practices Act) that says that forest licensees should consult with other operators and they should do this and they should do that, but it's very grey," said Loveless.

It's the responsibility of the tourism operators to get in touch with forestry companies to let the companies know how and where they're using the land, said Pat Byrne, district manager for the 100 Mile House Forest District.

Being able to communicate with forestry companies before the logging starts makes all the difference, according to Amy Thacker, CEO of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association.

When the manager of Tyax Wilderness Resort and Spa noticed the beginnings of logging activity right across the lake from the ranch, he started making calls. It took help from Thacker's organization and the district manager of the forest district to get results.

"[Tyax] actually got to sit down with the logging company that had that [cut] block and make a plan on where to place temporary roads, where to log it, how to plan all of it so that it wouldn't impact the viewscape from the lodge," said Thacker.

Thacker, Loveless and Byrne all say they're working to improve communication lines between tourism operators and logging companies. •

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