It has been brough to the attention of BLCF that some community organizations, (user groups), are unhappy with the bridge removals that have taken place on Mercury Road.

Please be advised of the following factual information;

Burns Lake Community Forest is a strong advocate for recreational use and has been providing in-kind and financial support to all organizations that have requested it to promote recreational uses within the Burns Lake Community Forest. We will continue to provide this support and be strong advocates for development of recreational opportunities. BLCF must also ensure that this support must be cognisant of the tenure rights, obligations and liabilities contemplated by legislation and must be in line with our stewardship and land management objectives.

Access management is an integral component of our tenure management obligation. We are responsible to ensure our active road networks are safe and maintained. Access is not a right, but rather a privilege. For BLCF, access is generally a liability. This is especially important for roads that are used by the general public, organized recreational groups and/or businesses that offer services in recreation.

Roads that are not considered active industrial roads, and may have been classified as ‘wilderness roads’, must still be managed and maintained, or deactivated to ensure minimizing community forest liability. In many cases, this is easily managed by water bars, cross ditching and signage. In some cases, more extreme access management is required such as full road rehabilitation, and or access structure (bridge & culvert removal). Industrial roads and access structures can be a safety and/or environmental liability. Access management DOES NOT always mean that the access is restricted. It only means that access has been managed or limited to specific type of use to minimize the risk or perceived risk of liability while fully ensuring land management objectives have been met.

BLCF has made commitments to develop and maintain an Access Management Plan. This plan is a broad landscape level focus that must take into consideration the impacts of roads on watersheds, roads with wildlife movement, roads within First Nations cultural areas, roads within trapper and guide outfitter rights, and as well, must ensure that the roads can support recreational use. BLCF’s Access Management Plan has a decision chart that helps support the process of decision making to the extent of deciding whether a road and/or structure on that road will be maintained or deactivated. The Access Management Plan is in ‘DRAFT’ stage as we fully expect that implementation and full utilization will require continuous improvement, engagement and communication. This plan is available for anyone interested in reviewing and providing feedback.

Unfortunately, this year has been a very difficult time to meet and discuss proceedings of most plans. However, BLCF has been extensively communicating our efforts in operational planning and access management and offers many avenues for communication and engagement. Burns Lake Community Forest hosts annual public open houses with a BBQ, has an Annual General meeting at the Village of Burns Lake, has hosted a specific community engagement platform, and continues to maintain social media platforms on Facebook and provides further information and feedback loop on our website www.blcomfor.com. User groups are actively encouraged to attend our meetings and I have personally offered to attend user group meetings to provide information of the activities and plans being actioned within the community forest area base tenure. Groups are also encouraged to schedule time for one on one discussions if they so wish. As we, (BLCF), are committed to provide information and keep the public informed and engaged, it is equally the responsibility of each user group and members of the public to engage BLCF when they may expect that BLCF activities may be of interest to them, and/or expect a perceived impact to their group members or activities. We can be reached via email at info@blcomfor.com, via phone at 250-692-7724 or by coming to see us at our Community Forest office located at 153 Francois Lake Drive (across from the old Grapevine Pub).

It is important to emphasize that the reason for pulling the Mercury Roads bridges was for SAFETY. The three Mercury bridges were deemed “UNSAFE” by professional Engineers’ reports. These reports are open for public review at the Community Forest Office if anyone is interested in seeing them.

There are many areas in the Community Forest that have access-maintained road networks. Attempts at limiting vehicular activity by others means within the Community Forest has resulted in concrete block barriers being dragged along the road, gate locks cut with battery operated cut off saws, bridge panels stacked up and re-positioned to provide access and cutting and bucking of logs to create an access corridor. As a result, in order to ensure safety and limit liability, BLCF had no choice but to remove all structures on the Mercury Road entirely. The stream banks were protected with rock to ensure that the fish habitat was not disturbed as a result of bridge removal.

The intent to remove the structures resulting in limited vehicular access activity has been on the schedule since early 2019. The plans for removal was communicated with one of the main regular user groups as well as Site and Trails BC -Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural development, in late 2019 and then again, approximately one month prior to removal. The road itself is still fully accessible via mountain bike, foot traffic, snowshoes and snowmobile.

Roads within BLCF are under road tenure to K1A licence for Burns Lake Community Forest. Any intent to construct or modify access must be approved by the tenure holder and structures must meet engineered safety specification. If your organization has interest in maintaining or creating access via an existing road tenure under licence to Burns Lake Community Forest, please contact our office for more details and how we can support your project.

Frank Varga
General Manager
Burns Lake Community Forest Ltd.
Comfor Management Services Ltd.