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Giant yellow cedars at risk on Dakota Ridge: Save our ancient forests

Local conservationists Rick O’Neill (left) and Hans Penner
measure the girth of a giant yellow cedar on Dakota Ridge.

While a woodpecker tapped in the distance, a massive presence stood above the forest floor, a silent giant amidst hundreds of trees never touched by fire.


It was an ancient yellow cedar on Dakota Ridge on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, only about a half-hour walk from the upper parking lot of this popular recreational area. About thirty of us had gathered on a sunny 9/11 to honor twin towers of another kind: two yellow cedars of 1,000+ years, both currently slated to be logged.


These magnificent trees are part of a roughly 20.2-hectare (50-acre) cut block that could soon be little more than stumps. If logged, this yellow cedar will be exported to Asia, used as finishing wood for temples and expensive homes in Japan or China.


It took about a half-hour to walk in, along the forest floor, spongy with moss, past mountain hemlock and clusters of wild blueberries, to reach these rare old cedars. Along the way, local conservationist Hans Penner told us: “This forest hasn’t had a fire since the last ice age. Every tree here is an individual with its own history.”


As a co-founder of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), which organized this guided hike, Penner emphasized the difference that public protest has made so far in the future of these magnificent trees. Last winter, B.C. Timber Sales  put this cut block out for tender, advertising it to interested logging companies.


However, ELF discovered that in addition to these first-growth yellow cedars, the proposed cut block contained culturally modified trees (CMTs). (Local First Nations have used such trees for centuries for stripping off bark to make clothing, hats, baskets, and more.) Any cutblock believed to contain CMTs that predate 1846 or are thought to predate 1846 requires a permit for logging, as per the Heritage Conservation Act.

Hans Penner indicates one of the culturally modified
trees in the cutblock.


When ELF notified B.C. Timber Sales of their discovery, the government body withdrew its advertising before late December last year. It has commissioned a “detailed archaeological assessment” that will examine the scarred trees in this cutblock for their potential to be officially declared CMTs. The auctioning of the timber sale for these hectares has been deferred until B.C. Timber Sales receives the recommendations of the archaeological report.


In the meantime, dozens of local residents have written to the premier, B.C. Timber Sales, and the Ministry of Forests to request that this area be made an ecological preserve (see below for details).


Today, a sign painted with a thunderbird symbol, left by Willard Joe of the Sechelt Indian Band, remains near the first giant yellow cedar as his family symbol and a reminder of the significance of this wood in First Nations traditions.


“We’re looking for a human connection to the past,” said Penner. He and local conservationist Rick O’Neill spread a measuring tape around the biggest ancient yellow cedar in this cut block. It measured 203.8 cm (79.92 inches), reaching two metres or 6.7 feet across.


O’Neill noted that if this ancient forest was logged, leaving perhaps just a half-dozen trees, it would not provide enough habitat for animals. “Even mice travel a mile,” he said, “and amphibians won’t cross a clearcut.”


Penner said: “The living forest has no dollar value.” Our ancient forests are priceless and irreplaceable. We need to protect them. Go up and see these special trees yourself. Write to or phone your local politician.

Take action!

If you would like 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. Request that this forest be made an ecological preserve. 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. Email Elphinstone Logging Focus at loggingfocus@gmail.com and become ELF’s friend on Facebook.

For more information, see my archived blog post “A ‘living museum’ on Mount Elphinstone could be logged” (scroll down and you’ll find it here, under my Environment category).

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September 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm Comment (1)