The Harrop-Procter Watershed Protection Society

Community members gather to celebrate the "first" load of logs harvested by HP Forest Products.

Community members gather to celebrate the “first” load of logs harvested by HP Forest Products.

The story of the Harrop-Procter Watershed Protection Society is a story of struggle, of community turmoil and restoration. It is a story of determination. As far back as 1976, some residents were concerned about clearcut logging practices and their effect on the peaceful beauty of the West Arm of Kootenay Lake and worked with Bruce Fraser of Selkirk College in a survey. In 1977, Bruce published a report to the Ministry of Forests recommending public co-operation in the Harvesting process. Eight years later, in 1985, the Ministry of Forests (MOF) unilaterally announced a logging plan on nearby Lasca Creek. Shocked at being ignored, people called a public meeting in the Harrop Hall and formed the Harrop-Procter Watershed and Community Protection Committee. This group met with the local MOF office for two years trying to establish mutual respect and planning according to the following principle:

That we can evolve a logging operation that will be a credit to the planning expertise of the MOF and industry, and the wisdom that resides in every community and forms the basis of every democratic society.”

Contradictory to our efforts, a huge clear-cut was opened up directly across from the Harrop ferry landing, and MOF had plans to proceed with the Lasca Creek operation that would have provided access to the neighbouring domestic watershed in Harrop Creek. In Victoria, other government departments began to protect some environmentally sensitive areas, and Harrop-Procter activists took hope in this. Because Lasca Creek represented one of the few remaining unspoiled areas in the southern Columbia eco-system, the area became a focus of stress and confrontation as residents of Harrop and Procter became divided on this issue. It was a long and drawn out process, fraught with confrontation. But in 1995, in an attempt to quell the issue, the BC government created the West Arm Wilderness Park, protecting the Lasca Creek area. The sting to Harrop-Procter residents was that their watersheds were not included in the park. Logging above the villages seemed imminent. Tired, but undaunted, the handful of people who believed in their vision of ecological logging and community co-operation started again and were joined by other residents who were afraid that their watersheds would be sullied. A series of community meetings and a lot of work culminated in HPWPS getting official society status in 1996. The HPWPS immediately applied to the MOF for a community forest license, but was refused. Determined volunteers applied for funding from private philanthropic foundations and conducted community fundraisers. With a morale boost and some financial help, they worked with the Silva Forest Foundation to create an ecosystem-based plan for the entire 11,000 hectares of all watersheds surrounding the Harrop-Procter corridor. Later that year, three directors of the HPWPS board and the regional director (Area E, RDCK) met in Victoria with the Minister of Forests and the regional MLA, Corky Evans, to get support for the Silva Plan. They were not successful. Over the next year, more community education and discussion led to this amendment of HPWPS purposes:

“The development of public forests in the Harrop-Procter area according to site sensitive, ecologically based forestry practices, modeled on Silva Forest Foundation planning process approved by the Harrop-Procter Watershed Protection Society.”

Innovative harvesting practices in one of the first area-based tenures in British Columbia.

Innovative harvesting practices in one of the first area-based tenures in British Columbia.

Innovative harvesting practices in one of the first area-based tenures in British Columbia.

A broad-based publicity campaign was launched, with a door-to-door membership campaign within the Harrop-Procter area. The result was that more than 60 per cent of adult residents of the Harrop-Procter area joined the society. All this resulted in the Minister of Forests inviting the HPWPS to submit a new proposal for a Community Forest Pilot Project. Fresh energy also came in the form of another foundation grant which allowed HPWPS to open an office, employ a coordinator, and hire local professionals to assist with a business and management plan. The final submission of the proposal was 300 pages in length. Highlights of the goals include management of timber, soil, viewscape, fisheries, recreation, tourism, heritage, and botanical forest products. Integral to this management is meaningful community participation. Click here to see the HPWPS proposal. In 1999, the Harrop-Procter Community Co-operative was formed, to concentrate on the actual business of forest operations and economic development. After considerable nail biting, in July of 1999, the local MLA, Corky Evans, announced that after 23 years, Harrop-Procter residents finally had a chance to realize their concept of “model forestry.” The residents have pulled together to give thousands of hours of volunteer labor and financial support to meet the huge challenge ahead. They realize that this is an opportunity to make a difference in community economic development and conservation. Hopefully the story of Harrop-Procter will be an inspiration to other rural communities around the globe.

 

HPWPS was incorporated in 1996.

HPWPS MISSION STATEMENT:

  1. The promotion of the preservation and protection of all watersheds in the community and the assurance of a consistent quantity and quality of water.
  2. The development of public forests in the Harrop-Procter area according to site-sensitive ecologically based forestry practices; modeled on Silva Forest Foundation planning process.
  3. To promote and encourage locally based employment available through the development of public forest lands.
  4. Dedicated to ecosystem research, public education and sustainable rural communities.