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A “living museum” on Mount Elphinstone could be logged


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:

  • W. Blake Fougère, Resource Stewardship Officer, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Sunshine Coast District, 7077 Duncan Street Powell River, B.C. V8A 1W1, Phone 604-485-0728 Fax 604-485-0799;Blake.Fougere@gov.bc.ca
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: forests.deputyministersoffice@gov.bc.ca
  • 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


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January 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm
  • September 6, 2011 at 5:15 pmBill

    Hi Heather…just thought I’d share with you the impact that your article on Dakota Ridge Ancient Forests had on me.

    I really enjoyed your article. It was the very, very first information I read on these Ancient Forests. Back in early April or late March, we had just finished a day of skiing; in fact, I think this was the last day of the season. Just after leaving the parking lot at the Dakota Ridge Recreation Area, I saw the ‘Save the Dakota Ridge Ancient Forests’ banner, approximately 200 metres down from the ski area. Later, I found your blog information through searching on Google. Prior to reading your article, I had no idea what a Dakota Ridge Ancient Forest was 😉 nor had I any idea that these forests were just minutes from the ski area.

    After researching further, I jumped in with both feet and joined Elphinstone Logging Focus to save these Ancient Forests. You can check out our new website at http://www.loggingfocus.org for full information both on the intro slider page and on the campaign page: http://www.loggingfocus.org/campaigns/save-dakota-ridge-ancient-forests/

    So it’s because of you that I’m even involved at all. Thank you.

    To me, it just makes sense on so many different levels to save these Ancient Forests for posterity. Not the least of which is eco-tourism and the thousands from the Lower Mainland and worldwide who will come to the Sunshine Coast to view these living monuments. Do you think the SCRD, the Dakota Ridge Recreation Commission, and Sunshine Coast Tourism and Bed and Breakfast Association etc. might see the benefits? I hope so.

    The SCRD/Dakota Ridge Recreation Commission has hired a private business consultant to create a business plan for the area and has held public information meetings on how they can improve the area and increase revenue. Well, I hope they take notice of the recommendation to include this area for snowshoe trails through these forests. That’s another no
    -brainer for revenue possibilities. Even if they don’t collect revenue directly for snowshoe access or snowshoe-guided walks, the spin offs here from other directly or indirectly related areas are real. It’s time to start thinking outside of the “logging clearcut box.” Let’s get what the rest of the world already knows, but we seem to be missing: These Ancient Forests have far more long-term value standing than as just another clearcut scar.

    Eco-tourism is surpassing logging revenue in certain areas and it will do nothing but continue to grow from year to year.

    We have recently found what we believe to be some of the oldest Ancient Yellow Cedar trees on the Sunshine Coast in these forests; we are calling the pair the “Giant Twins.” The Giant Twin is approximately 2 and 1/4 meters in diameter. It surpasses the diameter size of the oldest-living yellow cedar tree on record (1,834 years old), found on the Caren Range (a cross-section of which resides at the Iris Griffith Centre on Highway 101 near Garden Bay on the Sunshine Coast). These trees, because of the 900+ metre altitude, are not as big in diameter, for example, as the ‘Avatar Grove’: coastal big trees recently found by the Ancient Forest Alliance on Vancouver Island at Port Renfrew, but they could be two to three times older. (The BC Government has since protected the Avatar Grove.)

    Needless to say, I’m excited and committed to saving these forests. I encourage others to join us in saving these magnificent living monuments.

    Thank you, again, for your article, Heather, and for getting me started. It’s all your fault 😉

  • February 12, 2011 at 5:29 amArtificial Grass

    I’m afraid that the trees might be logged. I hope it won’t happen.

  • January 23, 2011 at 9:53 pmDuane Burnett

    I remember getting threatened by a Park Ranger up the Tetradedron one day, because I brought my dog Tundra with me. He told me I wasn’t welcome with my dog and he would fine me hundreds of dollars if we went on a gentle hike. I flipped out and asked him how my dog on a hike in his precious park versus clear cutting Chapman Creek watershed made sense. His reply, that’s not my department. You loose respect for authority. RIP Tundra Jan 27th, 2010.

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