Predator management, timber supply, and human-caused fires were some of the discussions local stakeholders had with Steve Thomson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations when he visited the Cariboo-Chilcotin last week.

Accompanied by Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, Thomson met with representatives of Williams Lake City Council, Cariboo Regional District, West Fraser, Tolko and local union representatives. He traveled to Redstone to meet with ranchers, and was also meeting with stakeholders in Lac La Hache and 100 Mile House.

Thomson said the top topics have been current drought conditions, predator management, wildfires, fishing and fibre supply in the forest industry.

“It’s very important for us to get out in the communities and engage with them directly,” Thomson said. “Looking at maps and reading reports is fine, but this is the best way to stay connected.”

He added that another goal is to continue working with industry, communities and First Nations to mitigate the impact of the pine beetle infestation.

“A major focus right now is policy to get full use of fibre. We’re still leaving too much in the bush,” he explained. “We expect the Forest Fibre Report to be out early September.

“We’re also working through ongoing partnerships and relationships with First Nation in terms of the certainty of land base for all operations.”

Rancher issues with predators are also a main concern.

“We have taken some steps to help with predator control, such as adjusted bag limits and seasons around wolves and we have a compensation program in place but we know that’s not the way to approach it,” Thomson said. “Compensation is short-term and it doesn’t cover losses: we need to look at other tools.”

He said that the top issue now is forest fires. “Our B.C. wildfire fighters have faced tremendous challenges and we owe them a big thank you,” Thomson said.

“We want to reduce the number of human-caused fires. Natural causes are bad enough, but 30 to 40 per cent of our fires are cause by people. We’re looking at current recommendations for increasing fines for human-caused fires.”

Another concern is the landslide issue at Pioneer Ridge; MLA Donna Barnett said that she is currently in meetings on the topic.

Thomson said he is aware of the problem. “We waiting for more information and more local assessment,” Thomson said.