Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski says proposed changes to the federal Fisheries Act could have an effect on logging controversies at Ymir and Cottonwood Lake.

Stetski says Bill C-68 would improve protection of fish habitat. The bill passed third reading in the House of Commons and has been referred to a senate committee.

“The Conservatives took the habitat section completely out of the act when they were in government,” he says. “There were a couple of other pieces of legislation where from my perspective, from an environmental perspective, they did a lot of damage.”

Stetski notes forestry is usually a provincial issue, but the federal government has jurisdiction over fisheries: “So if there are concerns in Ymir and other local issues around logging and that logging potentially affects fish or fish habitat, it becomes a fed fish issue.”

Stetski says he has asked whether Fisheries and Oceans has received a request for review from BC Timber Sales for the work planned for the Ymir watershed, but hasn’t received an answer yet.

Stetski also says he hasn’t given up on re-establishing a federal fisheries presence in the area. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans used to have an office in Nelson with a handful of staff, but it closed in 2012.

“Every chance I get in Ottawa, I lobby to establish some sort of fed fish presence back here in the Kootenays,” he says. “There’s a lot of head nodding, but I haven’t seen any action, so we’ll continue to push on it.”