A man with connections to the North Thompson Valley has gone on to take important jobs at the provincial level and is now the chair of B.C.’s Forest Practices Board. The work he did while here, while it has been updated, is still an important standard in land use planning.
Kevin Kriese grew up in Kelowna and Salmon Arm but liked to spend his summers visiting Clearwater to stay with his grandparents, Herman and Elsie Kriese. Herman worked for many years as a millwright at Clearwater Timber Products’ Camp Two sawmill.
“Clearwater was a great place to visit as a teenager,” he recalled. “You could hang out at the river and get into trouble.” After he graduated from high school he studied forestry and, in particular, integrated resource management.
It was a time of controversy in the woods, he recalled. One of the controversies in the early 1990s was a proposal by Weyerhaeuser to log in people’s watersheds in the East Blackpool area.
“That was the job that brought me to Clearwater,” he said. Much of the area of contention is now part of Wells Gray Community Forest but back then it took a good deal of discussion to develop an integrated management plan that everyone could live with.
His next project was coordinating the Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP) for the Kamloops Timber Supply Area (what were then the Clearwater and Kamloops forest districts and now largely contained in the Thompson Forest District).
His supervisor at the time, Max Tanner, expected they would need three workshops to develop the plan.
In fact, the process took about 50 meetings and more than three years.
“We hadn’t done anything like it before,” explained Kriese.
He said that one of the bigger debates in the lower North Thompson was trying to figure out protected areas with so many cattle tenures.
“A major part of the solution was to allow grazing to continue and that opened up room to protect places like Skull Mountain and Lac Du Bois,” he said. “Those low elevation forests and grasslands are some of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in the region and so protecting some of them was a major accomplishment.”
The plan went into effect in 1995 and, while it has been amended since then, is still the primary document used in land use planning for the region.
After the LRMP was finalized Kriese went to Smithers to take up a new position.
“It was hard to leave Clearwater but Smithers is a pretty great town too,” he said. He gradually worked his way up the forest ministry’s bureaucracy until he spent eight years as assistant deputy minister.
Two years ago he became chair of the Forest Practices Board of B.C.
“It’s a super cool job,” he said.
“Working for the ministry was fantastic and I have deep respect for the people who work there. However, there is a lot of pressure to deliver and not a lot of time to think. Here at the board we have more time to examine the processes more deeply. I really enjoy that.”
He still lives in Smithers but occasionally makes the trip back to Clearwater.
“It’s one of the places that we really enjoy visiting,” he said.
“I have a lot of respect for Kevin Kriese,” commented Carman Smith, former woods manager with Gilbert Smith Forest Products in Barriere.
He felt that having someone with experience in the forest industry and with connections to the North Thompson Valley is one reason why the Kamloops LRMP has stood the test of time.
“I think Kevin did a good job and we were lucky to have him in the North Thompson. He was able to solve a lot of problems through interacting with people. He got along with the operators and he got along with the opposition – the greens,” Smith said.