A threatened yellow cedar on Dakota Ridge
— photos by Michael Maser
It’s one thing to seek protection of old-growth forest for the purely theoretical and practical sake of conservation and sustainability. It’s another to stand beneath centuries-old cedars or Douglas firs and absorb their size and wonder in your heart and gut, witnessing the canopy and life they provide for so many creatures, big and small. At such times, it’s hard to imagine an ancient forest without all of its trees and flora and fauna that thrive in symbiosis, from a creek to the nurse logs to the mushrooms to the moss to the birds and so on.
I still remember, decades ago, standing amidst the vast array of stumps of old-growth trees in the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, B.C., feeling sickened by the gutted, clearcut landscape. Right next to it stood a thriving forest of cedars and firs. I stared at both of these side-by-side scenes, which represented the opposite extremes of devastation and vibrant life, and wondered: How could anyone witness this loss of ancient life, so close to an abundant forest, and not think that something was out of kilter?
A friend of mine recently went up to the forest on Mount Elphinstone near Dakota Ridge recreation area on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, where ancient yellow cedars are slated for logging, and shared these comments:
“I was astounded with what I discovered. Just 300-400 metres from the access road (quite nearby to the D-Ridge parking lot & warming hut) is a forest unlike any I’ve seen anywhere — and I’ve explored plenty of forests. It’s a high-elevation Old-Growth remnant (i.e. an island) about 45 hectares in size, chock-a-block with veteran yellow cedar and hemlock trees, many of which are easily 400-1000 years of age. I’ve never seen such a dense old growth forest.
“But that’s only part of it — by rough estimate, at least a couple dozen of the veteran Yellow Cedar trees still living here are ‘culturally-modified’ – that is, they bear signs of having had bark removed (“modified”) several hundred years ago by ancestors of the Sechelt Indian Band. It is like a living museum.
“Clearly this site is incredibly precious — for its cultural, biological, and educational values as well as a carbon sink (old growth coastal forests store huge amounts of carbon).
“And … this small, remnant forest is all ringed with orange flagging tape as a proposed ‘elimination’ logging site for BC Timber Sales, which is the logging company owned and operated by the provincial government. Log it and in a few short weeks, it’s gone forever. At rock-bottom prices for lumber and pulp. Save it and we will have an educational site more valuable than Stanley Park or Cathedral Grove (which lack the culturally modified trees).”
I recently wrote to various B.C. government ministers, requesting that this rare parcel of forest (it’s 44 hectares or 110 acres, known as Block A84612) be spared from logging. I received a letter, dated January 12, from Tom Jensen, Assistant Deputy Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands. He explained the various regulations that pertained to this cutblock, stating that this “landscape unit . . .is considered available to timber development opportunities.” He said that this cutblock does not affect class 1, 2 or 3 marbled murrelet (species at risk) nesting habitat and that “significant old growth ecosystems on the Sunshine Coast are protected in parkland.” By that reasoning, anything that is not parkland is fair game for logging, right?
The minister added that any cutblock believed to contain Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs) that predate 1846 or are thought to predate 1846 requires a permit for logging, as per the Heritage Conservation Act. B.C. Timber Sales has commissioned a “detailed archaeological assessment” that will examine the scarred trees in this cutblock for their potential to be CMTs. Therefore, the auctioning of the timber sale for these hectares has been deferred until B.C. Timber Sales receives the recommendations of the archaeological report.
Since then, 24 CMTs have been identified and tagged in this cutblock, including “taper peels” (long strips of cedar bark removed), notched planks, and test-holes.
Meanwhile, the Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) Group states that an estimated, less-than-two-per-cent of original, old-growth forests remains after a century of logging in the Mt. Elphinstone Forest Service map area.
“Old-growth forests provide ongoing environmental, recreational, and cultural services that need to be recognized as key economic contributors,” says ELF’s Ross Muirhead. ”Short-term logging revenues pale in comparison, especially in light of the fact that BC Timber Sales has been losing money for several years. ”
Muirhead notes that new ways of assigning values to intact forests (I’m not sure what he means by that) show that forests actually generate up to $7,000 per hectare in services. That means that a 44-hectare forest provides $294,000 in yearly services to our community.
” We are not prepared to sit back and see our remaining old-growth forests that support bio-diversity be plundered,” says Muirhead.
If you would like to take action to preserve old-growth forest on Mount Elphinstone, please contact the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands and B.C. Timber Sales, quoting Block A84612. Ask, or demand, that they place the cutblock and all remaining old-growth on Mt. Elphinstone under a moratorium until permanent protection is granted. Call and/or write to:
Mr. Fougère is a key Ministry individual who has considerable sway in choosing the immediate stoppage of logging in Dakota Ridge and regarding the Elphinstone Park Expansion Campaigns. He is seeking public input NOW. Please write, call or email him about the urgent need to protect our Sunshine Coast from further logging. He’ll present this feedback for the B.C. Government’s Timber Supply Review, which will start soon. With this public input, the B.C. Government will plan its future logging of the Sunshine Coast.
Please feel free to write to any of the following too, and cc: Mr. Fougère on the correspondence:
- Dana Hayden, Deputy Minister of Forests, Mines and Lands, Victoria Ph (250) 356-5012, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Copy to: Mike Falkiner, Executive Director, Field Operations, BCTS Tel: 250-387-8309, email: Forests.ExecutiveDivisionOffice@gov.bc.ca
- and cc to: Norm Kemp, Planning Forester, BCTS Campbell River Ph. (250) 286-9359, email: Norm.Kempe@gems7.gov.bc.ca
For more information contact: Ross Muirhead 604-740-5654, or Hans Penner 604-886-5730. See them on Facebook by searching for Elphinstone Logging Focus