Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

What does a TRUE community forest mean? Not stumps and short-sightedness

Seeing first-growth trees in a forest marked with a red dot or blue number, surrounded by flagging tape, is a stark reminder of how different eyes view what I’ll call “wild wood.”


I had this unwelcome reminder last Sunday while hiking through part of the Wilson Creek forest on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast. Along with about 15 others, informally guided by members of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), I saw first-hand towering coastal Douglas firs, giant Sitka spruce, and other trees – part of 19 hectares that could be logged by early next year.


The red dots on sporadic trees indicated ones that would be saved, not logged. These “lucky” trees would be left to stand, unprotected from strong winds, in open patches of stumps. The blue numbers on trees, painted by timber cruisers, showed that these “lucky” trees had been chosen as samples of the entire forest slated for logging; the cruisers would make calculations, based on this tiny patch, and extrapolate the data as representative of the whole.


These human-created visuals, bright-coloured stains on an otherwise earthy palette, reminded me of those who see this forest as an untapped resource, ready for harvest, not as a haven for blue grouse, black bear, the red-legged frog, ravens, cougars, and salmon downstream in Wilson Creek. During the several hours our group spent in this silent, woodsy haven, we heard the playful call and response of multiple ravens. Some of us saw a teensy grey-green frog, about an inch long, hopping on the forest floor. The ground beneath us felt spongy and light, the result of multi-years of decayed trees and undergrowth.


Across British Columbia, maturing, old-growth coastal Douglas-fir forests, like the one we were in, are identified as “at risk.” Their ecosystems are threatened province-wide. That’s why ELF is demanding the stop to any logging plans in this region; instead, they want to make this forest a key parcel in the proposed 1,500-hectare Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park expansion.


This issue is not sappy, “tree-hugger” sentiment; it’s a wise and practical response to forest management. Sadly, only three per cent of old-growth coastal Douglas firs across British Columbia are protected. The area designated as Wilson Creek Forest serves as an important connector between two existing Old Growth Management Areas (OGMAs). The current Wilson Creek watershed, already heavily logged, needs all existing intact forests to be left in their natural state, to heal the hydrological damage.


“There are some prize Douglas firs in here,” said ELF member Ross Muirhead, while standing in front of one particularly large fir about 1.5 kilometres in from the trail head. “Once this forest is gone, it’s gone.”


During our hike, I saw the disturbing damage already caused by erosion along the banks above Wilson Creek. A long swathe of cliffs is exposed clay. Any logging, even with a buffer zone next to the creek, would destabilize the nearby earth, causing further erosion and the risk of silt contaminating and even damming a portion of the creek.


Does your local politician put profit over conservation?


Within months, all of this beauty could be gone. With a local election approaching, it’s time to make your local politicians accountable for their stance on forest protection and logging. Do they put profit over conservation? The Elphinstone Logging Focus extended an invitation to Sechelt council to come out and see the local forests at risk; councillor Alice Janisch is the only one who appeared. That’s no surprise – the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, a local logging operation, is wholly owned by the District of Sechelt.


Find out what a true community forest means. It’s one that remains a forest, which has long-term value to a community by staying intact and providing an ongoing role as habitat, soil and water stabilizer, and keeping carbon sequestered. It’s not an expanse of stumps.  


Go to the ELF website, open “Wilson Creek Forest Campaign,” read it, then take action. Your email will got to Sechelt Council and Community Forests. The trees and the animals they provide homes for can’t talk – but you can. You can make a difference.



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October 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm Comment (1)