An audit by the Forest Practices Board, B.C.'s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, found that legal requirements to conserve soils and protect water quality on the Crown land in the Kiskatinaw river basin were met.
"This audit was a bit unique in that it included several different industries and companies operating on the same land base, and in particular, in a watershed that provides drinking water to a major community," explained Board Chair Al Gorley.
The Forest Practices Board examined Louisiana-Pacific Canada for forestry practices and Encana, Shell and Apache for oil and gas practices. It also looked at range practices of the Bear Mountain Grazing Association and three individuals with range tenures.
"While the board traditionally audits forestry and range activities, we also recognize that oil and gas companies carry out the same types of harvesting and road activities and can impact forest values," said Gorley.
"We chose to include forest clearing and road construction for wells and pipelines to see how well legislative requirements were met. However, our audit was limited to the requirements of provincial forestry legislation, such as preventing sediment from entering streams. We did not have authority to look at other issues like water usage, which would fall under the provincial Water Act."
The audit found that all operators met legal requirements, but suggested improvement needed in some cattle grazing sites that were causing localized disturbance.
"It is natural for cattle to congregate around water sources, however intense use can cause erosion of stream banks, which can then lead to sediment in the water," explained Gorley.
"There can also be a risk of contamination to drinking water. In this case, our auditors felt that the effects on the river overall are likely to be minimal. Nonetheless, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risk. Depending on the specific circumstances, ranchers may erect fences to keep cattle out of sensitive areas, or they may place salt or provide alternate water sources away from streams."
Otherwise, Gorley said his auditors were pleased to find a high level of compliance with soil conservation requirements and practices to protect water quality in the area.