British Columbia: Outrage of almost bankrupt loggers cutting costs by logging last big trees closest to town

Cash-strapped forestry companies are aiming their chainsaws at patches of old-growth trees in easily accessible areas as they struggle to keep costs down while harvesting high-value timber. The decision is leading to increased clashes with communities as companies log in areas close to towns, which have often been left alone for generations and therefore used as recreational areas.

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“The old growth stands are more and more marginal or more and more
controversial,” said Ken Wu of Western Canada Wilderness Committee. In
Gold River, 90 kilometres west of Campbell River, a fight is brewing
over a plan by Western Forest Products to log old-growth stands
adjacent to the town in areas that have long been used for hiking and
biking.

“We had stayed away from there, but they are mature trees and
this is the time,” he said, noting that many forestry companies are in
survival mode as mills shut down and markets dry up around the world.
A similar situation is unfolding near Parksville, where Island
Timberlands is logging near the boundary of Englishman River Falls
Provincial Park.

Many residents were outraged when the company decided
to heli-log a small island in the Englishman River, a source of
drinking water, and then logged along the park boundary. The company
owns both parcels of land. Rick Jeffery, chief executive officer of
Coast Forest Products Association, said that in this “impaired”
market, companies have to keep costs down. Yet, environmental groups
and those who have used the forest for recreation say the companies
are being short-sighted.

“The companies are just doing whatever they can to get out the cream of the crop,” said Maurita Prato of the Dogwood Initiative. “They are ignoring the fact that these are high-biodiversity areas which people love and use. Because of the economic situation it’s a quick in-and-out scenario, but it’s not a long-term strategy either economically or environmentally.”

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Comments (3)

TerryMarch 12th, 2009 at 9:48 am

They will destroy the last good forest and natural beauty around local communities and then go bankrupt anyway. BC must regulate them and stop the logging of old growth areas near towns.

Details from Gold RiverMarch 14th, 2009 at 11:45 pm

In the old-growth forests around Gold River, hiking trails criss-cross the woods, bike trails include jumps built by a local bike club and the lakes are a favourite gathering place.

Which is why the village is shocked that the forest land, owned by Western Forest Products, is slated for logging this year.

“Scout Lake is literally our village’s backyard,” said Kate Ney, a Gold River resident who is helping to lead efforts to save the forest.

More than 40 people who turned up at a recent Gold River council meeting, including loggers, were unanimous in opposition, Ney said.

With the shrinking forestry industry, Gold River is trying to diversify its economy and is looking at wilderness tourism as one area of expansion.

“People pick mushrooms, walk their dogs and do geo-caching in that area. It is habitat for elk, range for deer and home to bears and cougars,” Ney said. Geo-caching is a kind of treasure hunt using GPS.

Surveying tape was discovered near Scout Lake about 10 days ago and, since then, tape has also been found at Antler Lake, another area of old-growth.

Antler Lake, which is between Gold River and Tsaxana, the Mowachaht-Muchalaht reserve, has hiking and mountain-bike trails that were built by volunteers with funds from Forest Renewal B.C., Ney said.

“These two areas comprise the last remaining old-growth around our community. Our kids here know what real forest looks like,” she said.

The area was part of 28,283 hectares of private land that the province allowed Western Forest Products to pull out of tree farm licences on Vancouver Island in 2007.

No solid logging plans have yet been completed for the two areas, said Mark Kenny, the company’s West Island regional manager, who will meet with council March 13 and attend a town hall meeting March 17.

“We have nothing to hide,” he said. Kenny walked one of the trails recently and said it should be possible to retain it, along with a buffer zone and possible enhancements.

“I think it’s probable that everyone can co-exist, unless they don’t want to see any logging at all on blocks of timber we own,” he said.

Rick Sawbert, who has worked as a logger for 14 years in the Gold River area, helped build some of the trails and is hoping to persuade the company not to log the area.

“We have a lot of wood which can be accessed around here. It would be a shame to see Antler or Scout Lake go,” he said. “We are asking them to spare this chunk of land.”

Sawbert knows the trees are valuable and easily accessible, but is encouraged the company is willing to negotiate.

“In reality, they could just come in an level it, so anything they can give us will be gratefully appreciated,” he said.

Meanwhile, a review of Island Timberlands’ heli-logging operation on an island in the Englishman River, released this week by the Private Managed Forest Land Council, concluded the heli-logging was low impact and did not affect fish habitat or water quality.

The logging caused community outrage and Parksville council unanimously passed a resolution opposing any logging beside the river.

But Stuart McPherson, executive director of the council, wrote in his report that there has been little disturbance to the forest floor or the riverbanks.

The growing number of communities dealing with logging issues is one reason Western Canada Wilderness Committee is making preservation of old-growth an issue for the upcoming provincial election.

A new petition, open only to B.C. voters, will ask for concrete timelines to phase out old-growth logging on B.C.’s south coast.

“We aim to get between 30,000 and 100,000 people to sign by May 12, which will represent a sizable part of B.C.’s electorate,” said WCWC campaign director Ken Wu, pointing out that forestry issues have swayed previous elections.

Everyone who signs the petition will be contacted before the election and given an update on the stances of the major political parties, he said.

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richard cotterMarch 16th, 2009 at 7:59 am

every year or so these companies claim they are going broke so they have to log the last big timber. They have been doing this since i was a child . iam no spring chicken

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