Environmental trailblazers launch innovative projects

🕔Sep 22, 2005

With so many environmental conflicts in today’s news, it would be easy to conclude that problems are insurmountable—or that action by individuals doesn’t make a difference. But far away from the latest headline-dominating “war in the woods,” ordinary citizens in B.C.’s northwest are quietly plugging away at plenty of progressive environmental initiatives right now.

In the Bulkley Valley, ranchers and dairy farmers have been meeting regularly with Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries staff as the Upper Skeena Agriculture-Environment Focus Group. Co-ordinated by Community Futures Development Corporation of Nadina, the group is charging ahead in environmental stewardship by implementing improved management practices that benefit the environment and ensure the long-term viability of local farms. Their projects aren’t showy or particularly complicated, but nonetheless deliver clear benefits for human, animal and ecosystem health.

For example, farmers are taking action to protect our drinking water, their cattle and fish habitat by installing cattle watering troughs to help keep cattle out of creeks. They’re constructing feedlots away from creeks to prevent cow manure from reaching our waterways. They’re also addressing stream bank erosion, which can destroy fish spawning beds, by constructing cattle crossings of streams and planting vegetation along stream banks to stabilize them.

Watershed health is also the focus of an ongoing community-led process underway in Smithers. Locals are well aware that the Morice River, sourced in the rugged mountain ranges south of Houston, is one of the most important producers of salmon and steelhead in northwest British Columbia. Fish born in the Morice are vital to First Nation, commercial and sport fisheries.

That’s why a broad range of watershed interests—including First Nations, provincial and federal gov-

ernment, forest industry and community representatives—have come together to develop the Morice Watershed-based Fish Sustainability Plan.

Since late 2001, they’ve been outlining steps to protect and conserve fish stocks, fish habitat and water quality in the Morice River drainage. Expected to be complete by December 2004, the plan will identify priority projects to restore damaged fish habitat, increase understanding of the river basin, monitor trends in watershed health, and improve current resource management practices.

Greg Tamblyn, the CFDC Nadina Watershed Stewardship Co-ordinator who is leading the process, contrasts the planning process with Land Resource Management Plans—which aim to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders.

“This is a fish-first process: we’re all planning for strong, healthy fish populations in the Morice watershed,” he explains, adding that he’s been very encouraged by the level of interest in conserving fish habitat.

Tamblyn is also the project manager for an ambitious project underway in Houston: planning for an Energy Centre of the North.

Conceived by CFDC Nadina and the Houston-based Skills, Training and Sustainable Homes Society, the centre is still in the planning stages. But its proponents envision a Houston facility which together with satellite sites in neighbouring communities, will help residential, business, institutional and industrial clients find ways to increase their energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption and pollution, explore renewable energy options and create energy sources of their own. It will do this through training programs, conservation initiatives and energy planning

In a process co-ordinated by CFDC, interested people from Smithers, Telkwa, Houston and Burns Lake are meeting weekly to flesh out the concept. A business plan for the centre is expected to be complete by the end of December 2004.

Another regional environmental initiative centers on our least visible but arguably most vital resource: air. Episodes of poor air quality, which results from combination of weather patterns, natural topography, and a high concentration of wood burning, cause health and economic concerns for local businesses and residents alike.

To address this, a broad range of community and business interests formed the Bulkley Valley-Lakes District Airshed Management Partnership (BVLDAMP) a year ago. Their goal: to develop a five-year airshed management strategy.

The Bulkley Valley-Lakes District Community Action Plan for Clean Air was the result. Completed in June, the plan is now available at all local government offices and libraries in the Bulkley Valley and can be downloaded from BVLD Airshed Management Plan website.

The document underwent its first annual review in mid-September, and several amendments to it will be made as a result. New working groups are being formed now to tackle industrial emission sources, educational initiatives (grass burning, backyard burning, wood stove operations, general health and air quality issues), and alternative energy, and the BVLDAMP is now looking for motivated community members to be a part of the ongoing implementation and monitoring of this landmark five-year strategy.

One part of the Community Action Plan for Clean Air is the Skeena and Bulkley Valley-Lakes District (BVLD) Wood Stove Exchange Program. In addition, public education on good burning practices through Burn-It-Smart workshops in Terrace, Smithers, Burns Lake, and Houston, the program offered financial incentives for replacing old technology stoves. From August 15 to September 15, 2004, residents from Burns Lake to Terrace took the bait—and traded in their old, smoky wood stoves for discounts on high efficiency, clean-burning appliances.

The project, which was sponsored by the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection and the BC Lung Association, has wrapped up and is being evaluated now. But keep an eye out for it in future years—if considered successful, the project may well be repeated.

Another initiative, Zero Waste North, shows Bulkley Valley residents take their trash pretty seriously.

“Recycling has been a way of life for local residents on many levels for decades—reusing, repairing, and ‘making do’ were done without a second thought,” says Laurie Gallant, principal of Footprint Environmental Strategies in Smithers.

“With the introduction of disposable products and over-packaged items, recycling has taken on new meaning and new services in the North have become a priority.”

To highlight information about locally available recycling options, Footprint Environmental constructed Zero Waste North, a comprehensive website which describes recycling options in communities throughout B.C.’s northwest for everything from garden waste and glass to motor oil and car batteries. In addition to a downloadable newsletter, the website also offers comprehensive information resources on energy conservation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and environmentally-friendly business opportunities.

Gallant is particularly impressed by the recycling effort in Smithers and Telkwa. Between Smithers’ new recycling centre on Tatlow Road, the Smithers/Telkwa transfer station and many more facilities, recycling opportunities in Smithers exceed those in most Highway 16 communities.

“As a result of hard work by many volunteers and a few paid workers, we now have options that can easily reduce business and household garbage in half,” says Gallant.

Look for the “zero waste” options in your own community by contacting your local government office, visiting the Zero Waste North website , or calling the BC Recycling Hotline at 1-800-667-4321. We’d love to write about innovative environmental initiatives in your community. If there’s a project you think we should know about, send details to editorial@northword.ca, or phone 250-847-4600.

Find out more— or get involved

Upper Skeena Agriculture-Environment Focus Group
Tel: Greg Tamblyn, 250.847.1389, e-mail greg.tamblyn@cfdcnadina.ca

Morice Watershed-based Fish Sustainability Plan
Tel: Greg Tamblyn, 250.847.1389, visit http://www.cfdcnadina.ca/html/environment/watershed.html

Energy Centre of the North
Visit http://www.cfdcnadina.ca/html/environment/energycentre/

Bulkley Valley- Lakes District Airshed Management Partnership
Tel: Footprint Environmental, 250.847.1670, visit http://www.bvldamp.ca

Skeena and Bulkley Valley-Lakes District (BVLD) Wood Stove Exchange Program

Zero Waste North