Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Proposed clearcuts threaten high-use Day Road forest

A woman riding English saddle on a sleek, tall horse stops on a forest path and waits for our group of about 20 to enter the woods before she proceeds. We’re making her horse nervous. Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) has invited us here, into the Day Road forest in Roberts Creek, B.C., to see what could soon be gone due to logging.


This heavily used recreational area, part of Island Timberlands’ (IT) private forest, is the northern section of a 120-hectare (300-parcel) parcel already logged by IT. Part of district lot 2674, it is an important wildlife corridor, containing patches of old forest, a network of high-value trails and a gorgeous waterfall. I am amazed at how serene and pristine the forest entrance and the woods itself look and feel, only a few kilometres north of Highway 101.

Some might argue that since this is private land, Island Timberlands has a right to do what it wants with this piece of forest. But Elphinstone Logging Focus sees it as part of a community legacy, an opportunity for sustainable, rather than clearcut logging. This informal conservation group is calling on Island Timberlands to donate this parcel to the Crown, to be added to an expanded Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park.


“You can see in one section where it was selectively logged in the early nineties,” says ELF president Ross Muirhead. “There’s a lush underground of salal, the hydrology is controlled. It looks like a European eco-forest.”

Muirhead, who has spent years lobbying passionately to stop clearcut logging on Mount Elphinstone, emphasizes that if IT chooses to log in the Day Road forest, he would like to see the parcel, as a compromise,  selectively logged, leaving old-growth timber, and only the trees that are ready for harvesting taken. He emphasizes that the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan calls for selective logging, but no clearcuts.

Island Timberlands’ plans to clearcut the Day Road forest contravene a community agreement made with MacMillan Bloedel, who previously held the timber licence to this parcel, says Muirhead. Following a roadblock in March 1997, MacMillan Bloedel agreed to a selective harvesting plan. Logging was done off the main trail network so that the forest maintained a balance between cut areas and intact forest.

We stop and admire a tall red cedar, which has a series of high scrape marks caused by cougar claws. It’s the animals’ marking tree, the same one used repeatedly.


With the waterfall as their backdrop, a visiting couple poses for a photo on a high point on the steep trail. We discover that they were married in this exact spot roughly a year ago; they have returned, from off-coast, to revisit the beauty. An activist woman in our group tears up when recounting how much this forest means to people; she sees this couple’s anniversary gesture as a poignant symbol of that.

Our group ends up at the “knitted trees” (I had thought it meant intertwined tree trunks), where community members have decorated trees with colourful yarn-bombing. (For more on yarn-bombing and its origins, see my archived blog post “Woolly public art: better than tea-cosies” I decide that I like this form of human demarcation, admittedly quirky and funky, a lot more than clearcut destruction.


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May 7, 2012 at 9:25 am Comments (0)

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 Comments (3)