A Vanderhoof rancher contends that mining exploration is displacing his cows from his designated area of the forest.
Wayne Daul lives on a large cattle spread more than an hour south of Vanderhoof, in the remote backcountry of Mount Davidson. For years, it has been an area of interest for mining explorers but in the past two years that activity has accelerated due to rich underground deposits. He says it is clashing with the welfare of his cattle.
The main mining company operating in the area, NewGold, said they talked with Daul but could see no sign that their activities was harming the cattle.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations devotes large tracts of public forest across the province for feeding livestock. Range territories are leased by farmers who let their livestock - usually cattle or sheep - graze the grasses and other greenery. This allows the farmers to grow hay on their private lands, or save up money, to provide a food supply for the animals closer to home in the winter. The staff at the Vanderhoof range office know Daul and understand his concerns but they do not share his negative assessment of his designated range.
"We recognize that a recent upturn in mineral exploration has had some impact on Wayne Dauls ranching operations; however Crown range licenses do not entitle the holder to exclusive use of the land and the area in question has a long history of resource extraction," said ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke. "As the bulk of this impact relates to resource traffic driving through Mr. Dauls range tenures, companies using these roads have been asked to slow down and exercise caution. Signs have also been installed to advise drivers that cattle may be grazing in the area and exploration companies have been asked to contact Mr. Daul to discuss the co-ordination of range activities and mining exploration."
Daul said the traffic has been so busy that his cattle are stressed and they aren't eating properly.
"Between the dust, the speed of the vehicles and zero visibility, our cows dont have a chance to eat where they are used to eating," he said. "If that isnt bad enough, Independence Gold, who is partly owned by NewGold, is now redeveloping an abandoned logging camp less than a mile from our private land on the same road and right in the middle of our range land. This means the cattle are pushed out of their grazing land and one of their favorite spots for bedding down at night."
He has resorted to bringing the cattle back to his private lands, but that means whatever they eat now was supposed to grow into hay for winter so he faces the prospect of having to buy hay at considerable expense.
Clarke said this wasn't a necessary course of action, based on the observations of Vanderhoof staff.
"In keeping with standard ministry practice, ministry staff have inspected Mr. Dauls range tenure and have found there is adequate forage for his livestock," he said. "There have not been any changes due to mining exploration or other government-approved activities that would prevent Mr. Daul from accessing his range land."
Daul said he wouldn't likely entertain any alternative range offers. While many ranchers truck their cattle hours from the home ranch out to forestry rangelands, and check on those herds only a few times per summer, Daul said he prefers to "check them every day."
Clarke said the ministry would continue to encourage and even help facilitate dialogue between Daul and any of the mining companies working in the area, so all sides get their needs met.
"Adapting to new resource activities often takes time and it is ultimately up to the client to determine if they want their range tenures to continue," Clarke said.
Daul said the ultimate responsibility belonged, in his eyes, with the mining companies.
"Why dont they just compensate us or buy us out at fair market value and avoid all the conflict?," he said.