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History of Forestry in the Region 

Forestry has played a significant and often controversial role in British Columbia’s economic and social history, and the Lardeau Valley has too been shaped by this rich history. The forest industry in the Lardeau Valley has waxed and waned. The area is considered part of the Interior Wet Belt of British Columbia, meaning trees are quick growing and forests host a diverse selection of tree species. However, the terrain of the Lardeau Valley is also steep and broken. And with significant precipitation and snowfall, this can also mean a shorter work season, with special consideration required for road building and runoff mitigation.

The timber industry in the Lardeau Valley began in the late 19th to the early 20th century when the area experienced a boom in mining. The mining industry demanded timbers and supplies for its growing infrastructural needs, as well as increasing industrial access to the Valley. The completion of the railway connecting Gerrard, on the South end of Trout lake and the Lardeau Valley in 1904 allowed the establishment of a large logging and saw milling complex. At its peak, this complex employed 800 people, significantly influencing the culture and development of the Lardeau Valley. However, intricately connected to the demand of the local mining industry, the timber industry faded as the mining boom ended, resulting in the closure of the mill in 1922.

In the mid twentieth century, as mechanization replaced horses, the railway was converted to road, and a road connecting Lardeau Valley to Kaslo was built. In 1948, woodlot licensing, a system unique to BC, was also introduced. It consists of small, area based tenures that allowed logging of Crown land by individuals or groups, in exchange for sustainably managing the forest for which those individuals or groups became responsible. In the 1960s, Kootenay Forest Products came to the Lardeau Valley and began logging on large private parcels and crown tenure, and there was once again an upsurge in the local forest industry. Logs were boomed in Lardeau and milled in Nelson. Spruce in particular was harvested near Duncan Lake and Howser Creek for a plywood plant in Nelson. By 1980, Kootenay Forest Products had declined and the Nelson milled closed. Meadow Creek Cedar was established in 1989, and became the largest employer in the Lardeau Valley.

As the forestry industry developed in the Lardeau Valley, so did the desire to conserve and protect our forests and resources. In 1974, the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy was established as a BC provincial park. It was expanded in 1995, and is one of Southeastern BC’s largest intact ecosystems, measuring 200 000 ha. The Conservancy protects glaciers, peaks, alpine meadows, wilderness, and habitat, as well as the headwaters of several large streams and rivers which flow into Kootenay Lake and the Columbia River. The 1990s saw increased regulation and legislation in the Forestry industry, alongside increased pressure to create parks and protected wildlife space.

In 2005, Meadow Creek Cedar was sold, and mismanagement of the business began. In 2011, Meadow Creek residents filed complaints against Meadow Creek Cedar. Investigation ensued, and found Meadow Creek Cedar’s practices to be unsound, with unacceptable environmental and management risk, particularly related to road management, failing to comply with reforestation requirements, and creating risk to local fish habitat. In 2012, the Ministry of Forest, Land and Natural Resources suspected Meadow Creek Cedar’s license and fined the company $42,000. Although there are other woodlots, and mills in the Lardeau Valley, the closure of Meadow Creek Cedar had significant impact on the economic and social landscape of the Lardeau Valley.

In 2016, Cooper Creek Cedar announced intention to log Argenta. That same year Mt. Willet Wilderness Forever was formed by community members to propose expansion of Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to include the Argenta face. Community meetings and meeting with Cooper Creek Cedar ensued, as did protests and demonstrations of opposition. In 2022, Last Stand West Kootenays protest took place between Argenta and Johnson’s Landing, in opposition to the proposed logging. In May, protestors were arrested and logging commenced. 

In February 2023 Cooper Creek Cedar was investigated and fined by BC Forest Practices Board for failing to comply to Visual Quality Objectives for their logging between Salisbury and Bulmers Creeks on the Argenta Face.

Timeline Forestry in the Lardeau Valley

late 19th / early 20th century
Mining boom in the Lardeau Valley, which contributed to growth in local timber industry

Railway between Gerrard and Lardeau Valley was completed and enabled industry expansion. 

Mining industry declined, so did the local timber industry. Mill closed.

First woodlot licences in BC were introduced, called “farm woodlots”

Railway was converted to road; roads constructed connecting Lardeau Valley to Kaslo

Kootenay Forest Products began logging on large private land parcels and crown tenure. Upsurge of logging activity. Logs boomed in Lardeau and milled in Nelson

1964 – 1967
onstruction and completion of Duncan Dam, which expanded Duncan Lake and flooded community of Duncan

Purcell Wilderness Conservancy was established as BC provincial park

Modern woodlot license system was introduced; allowed farmers access to crown timber to supplement income

Kootenay Forest Products declined and the Nelson mill was closed

Meadow Creek Cedar was founded; became largest employer in Lardeau Valley

Increased regulation and legislation, alongside park and wildlife space creation put added pressure on forest industry.

urcell Wilderness Conservancy expanded. One of Southeastern BC’s largest intact ecosystems

Meadow Creek Cedar was sold 

Meadow Creek residents filed complaints of unacceptable practices against Meadow Creek Cedar. Investigation ensued.

Meadow Creek Cedar was fined $42 000 and operation license was suspended

Cooper Creek Cedar announced intention to log Argenta face in 2017

Mt. Willet Wilderness Forever, in opposition, was formed that same year by community members and propose expansion of Purcell Wilderness Conservancy to include Argenta Face

Last Stand West Kootenays protest took place between Argent and Johnson’s Landing.

Protestors were arrested and logging commenced. 

Boards by George sawmill closed operation and sold off inventory and equipment.  Only one small sawmill remains in the area.