Robson Valley Land and Resource Management Plan

2.3.2.2 RMZ SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES

MORKILL RMZ D Total area: 116,812 hectares

Morkill RMZ D

General Description

This extensive zone contains the entire Morkill River drainage upstream from kilometre 12 on the mainline Forest Service Road (FSR) with the exception of Renshaw Creek, the upper reaches of Forgetmenot Creek and the main Morkill upstream from Renshaw Creek which are in RMZ F. The Morkill River has three significant tributaries: Cushing Creek, Hellroaring Creek and Forgetmenot Creek. The RMZ includes the upper reaches of Fleet Creek and East Twin Creek that flow to the southwest and empty directly into the Fraser River. This RMZ covers an area of 116,812 hectares, or 8.1 % of the total plan area. The topography is mountainous and heavily forested with extensive areas of alpine tundra. The Morkill River has a geological history of forming a series of lakes due to ice damming and landslides. The lacustrine soils in the area have very high sensitivity ratings for both erosion and mass wasting. There is a distinctive lack of small rock and gravel in the area, but large outcroppings of bedrock are frequent. The area is generally wet with moderate to high rainfall and snowpack which makes road building in this drainage slow and difficult.

Biogeoclimatic Zones and Forest Cover

The majority of the Morkill River Resource Management Zone is within the Northern Park Ranges ecosection. The northwest corner of the zone from Eight Mile Creek to Wallop (Garrett) Creek is situated in the Hart Ranges ecosection, which is more extensively represented in the Prince George Forest District to the north. This area in the Hart Ranges has a biogeoclimatic subzone labeled ESSF wk2/wc3, which is unique to the Robson Valley Forest District. The remaining higher elevations in the greater management area are in the ESSF mm1 biogeoclimatic subzone, which is common throughout the plan area. The lower elevations of the Morkill River downstream from its confluence with Cushing Creek are dominated by the ICH wk3 subzone, which has low amounts of natural disturbance.

Much of the forested area is Engelmann spruce and alpine fir. The valley bottom and lower slopes are

dominated by western red cedar and mountain hemlock. Fire history is notable on the south-facing slopes of Forgetmenot Mountain near the Morkill River, in the upper Morkill near Renshaw Creek and throughout the wide valley of Forgetmenot Creek. There are significant old growth values in the lower Morkill River to Mount Bagg in the south, to the mouth of Cushing Creek in the east and to Wallop Creek in the north.

Wildlife and Fishery Values

This resource management zone is known for its outstanding wildlife values. Extensive areas are rated high for caribou habitat. Most high habitat areas are above the 1,500 metre elevation in the Wallop, Forgetmenot, Morkill River, Hellroaring and the East Twin. Small areas of medium caribou habitat exist in Wallop Creek, upper Forgetmenot Creek and upper Hellroaring Creek. A caribou corridor connects the Wallop high habitat with the Mt. Bagg/Hellroaring high habitat. Two other corridors exist: one in the upper half of Cushing Creek and the other in the Fleet and East Twin areas. This RMZ is used year-around by a local population of mountain caribou and is frequented in the summer months by the woodland caribou from the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The majority of the forested area in this resource zone is rated high for grizzly habitat. The alpine areas in the RMZ are ranked medium or low for grizzly. The wide Morkill valley bottom downstream from Hellroaring Creek is known as important winter range for moose, elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. There is a prime goat area identified in the higher elevations of Twelve Mile Creek and along the north boundary toward Wallop Creek. There is a volcanic area in the upper Forgetmenot that provides habitat for elk, moose and bighorn sheep.

The Morkill River system is highly rated for fisheries value. Chinook salmon and fresh-water fish species are present in the main Morkill River up to the Morkill Falls which creates a natural barrier. The salmon use the lower reaches of Forgetmenot Creek for spawning as well. An inventory of fish populations in the Morkill River above the falls has been conducted. No information has been recorded for the upper reaches of Fleet Creek and East Twin Creek.

Resource Development

Logging first began in the winter of 1988-89. Zeidler Forest Industries Ltd. and Slocan Forest Products Ltd. are both actively logging in the Morkill River drainages. Minor timber volumes have been logged from both Hellroaring Creek and Forgetmenot Creek under the Ministry of Forests’ Small Business Forest Enterprise Program. There is scattered evidence of spruce bark beetle throughout the susceptible stands. Some road construction has been completed on the Morkill mainline FSR, on the Forgetmenot mainline and through most of Hellroaring Creek and Cushing Creek.

There is mining potential for base or precious metals in the upper portions of East Twin Creek and Fleet Creek. This same potential exists along a band that runs from the south side of Hellroaring Creek across the Morkill River as far west as the zone boundary in the headwaters of Eight Mile Creek. The upper Forgetmenot Creek north of Ptomaine Creek has gypsum potential as well as showings of phosphate and zinc. There has been no active mining in this zone.

There is good potential for grazing in low elevation portions of this zone; however, no grazing tenures have been issued at the present time. There are both guiding and trapping tenures issued for this zone and the tenure holders maintain a high level of activity on a seasonal basis.

Recreation

Before the Fraser River bridge was built in 1988 and road access began, the recreational use in the area was primarily restricted to extended packhorse trips to the Forgetmenot or jet-boating on the lower reaches of the Morkill. Some hiking and horseback riding took place in Eight Mile Creek. With road access, there has been an increase in sport fishing, canoeing and kayaking. The hunting regulations contain a vehicular restriction for the entire Morkill drainage. Most hunters use horses, although some walk or bicycle. The Save The Cedar League has located a forested interpretive trail near 12 kilometre on the Morkill River. The heliskiing tenure is held by Crescent Spur Helicopter Holidays and extensive skiing and hiking activity occur in the vicinities of Mt. Rider, Eight Mile Creek, Twelve Mile Creek and Wallop Creek. Three areas with good potential for commercial back-country recreation have been identified. One is in the headwaters of East Twin Creek, one is in the upper elevations between Cushing Creek and the Upper Morkill and the last is between the Upper Morkill and the Forgetmenot/Ptomaine area. There is some snowmobiling potential in the area and use is slowly increasing with better road access. The Morkill Falls at 34 kilometre are exceptional, although access for safe viewing is not yet established. There are smaller waterfalls on the Forgetmenot, the Hellroaring and Twelve Mile Creek.

Culture

There are no aboriginal sites indicated in this resource management zone. The historical trails up the Morkill River and Forgetmenot Creek were likely established by aboriginal use in the fur-trading days. An archaeological overview assessment conducted in 1995 has shown moderate potential in the Morkill drainage up to the Hellroaring Creek. This potential is mostly confined to the valley bottom. To this date, the rest of the valley bottom has unproven potential.

CUSHING CREEK SUBZONE

This subzone was created to reflect the high diversity of wildlife in this area, especially the relative high concentration of grizzlies. It begins at the confluence of Cushing Creek and the Morkill River and includes the whole Cushing Creek drainage. The valley is very straight and has extensive rock slide and avalanche chutes along the south side of the creek. High populations of grizzly bears, moose and wolves have been frequently observed in this valley.

MORKILL RMZ D

RMZ CATEGORY: General

MANAGEMENT INTENT: Manage as a General RMZ with integration of fisheries, wildlife, timber, subsurface resources and tourism values. This RMZ is also recognized for its high grizzly bear values. Manage the Cushing Creek subzone as a sensitive grizzly bear area.

For additional information on commercial recreation, mining, public recreation, timber and tourism, see Section 2.3.2.1 Common Objectives and Strategies for General RMZs, p. 75.

Also see Section 2.2 Overall Goals, Values, Objectives and Strategies, p. 17.

VALUE

OBJECTIVE

STRATEGY

FISHERIES

Protect or restore the structural, functional and biological diversity of stream and riparian habitat

  • Assess and restore any degraded riparian habitat in the lower Morkill River (use of revegetation, bank stabilization and other improvements)
  • Watershed assessment will be conducted to provide recommendations for future forest development (DFO considers this a priority watershed)
  • Assess road networks in upper East Twin drainage and address existing erosion and drainage problems by restoring natural drainage patterns through road maintenance or de-activation activities where necessary

OLD GROWTH

Manage for the maintenance of old growth stands and their attributes

  • Should resource development and/or access occur within old growth forests in the lower Morkill, more detailed planning levels must consider conservation values and the sensitive nature of these areas
  • The distribution and levels of old growth forests will be established through biodiversity emphasis objectives for each landscape unit. Direction from this land use plan will be considered when final biodiversity emphasis objectives are established by government

RANGE

Manage for high wildlife and biodiversity values

· No new cattle grazing tenures in this RMZ

SPECIAL FEATURES

Manage and maintain unique areas

  • Consideration should be given to creating a plan area guide/map to identify recreation opportunities and special features
  • Establish a map notation or other designation to surround these sites:

c) #1 Morkill Falls

d) #2 Forgetmenot Falls

e) #3 12 Mile Creek Falls

f) #4 Hellroaring Falls

TIMBER

Optimize timber growth consistent with resource value objectives

  • This RMZ is a prime candidate as a landscape unit planning initiative

WILDLIFE

Maintain and where necessary, enhance wildlife and habitat to ensure healthy populations, genetic variability and distribution

  • Through the Commercial Recreation Policy, any commercial recreation use will minimize conflicts with grizzly and caribou
  • Ensure mineral exploration and/or small mine development minimizes disturbance and is sensitive to grizzly, caribou and ungulate habitat
  • For proposed large mine developments, grizzly, caribou and ungulate habitat objectives will be addressed by the Environmental Assessment process
  • In Caribou Medium, 33% of the timber volume can be removed every 80 years. Therefore rotation could be as high as 240 years. Green-up is considered to be 3 metres which is reached in approximately 27 years
  • Caribou High Habitat areas will see limited (if any) commercial logging in future (see p. 14). Sensitive timber extraction in the future may be considered pending further research and review of management strategies in Caribou Medium Habitat with local public input
  • In areas identified as Caribou Corridor, maintain a minimum of 30% of the timber as 100+ years of age in a continuous, windfirm corridor. No more than 20% of the area may be in a non-green-up condition at any time. Timber extraction guidelines may be reconsidered in the future pending further research
  • Promote vegetation management strategies that maintain the quality and quantity of browse species (e.g., willow and red osier dogwood, Saskatoons, hazel nuts) during stand management activities
  • Maintain critical habitat attributes by establishing guidelines for areas where winter range is identified.
  • RMZ to remain a non-motorized hunting area

CUSHING CREEK SUBZONE

Maintain or enhance habitat and/or increase numbers, genetic variability and distribution of grizzly bears

  • Cushing Creek - gate main road to prevent motorized access to protect grizzlies and habitat
  • Ensure the public is informed through proper signing at the gate
  • Ensure guide-outfitters are consulted on grizzly bear management strategies
  • Motorized access beyond the gate will be allowed to government authorized (licences, permits etc.) users for land and resource use and management activities
  • Gates must be strategically located to prevent detours from developing