An old-growth red cedar tree on the banks of the McKelvie Creek. Photo, Ramsey Dyer

Environmentalists want old growth on west coast of Island protected

Forest company says it has delayed plans a year to listen to local concerns

Environmentalists are hoping to halt proposed logging of old-growth forest slated for the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.

Recently, the Ancient Forest Alliance enlisted the support of the local council from Tahsis in efforts to protect the McKelvie Valley.

The valley extends from Tahsis to the base of Mount McKelvie. According to the news release from the Ancient Forest Alliance, the area features endangered ancient forest, rich wildlife habitat and McKelvie Creek, which serves as a salmon spawning ground and source of drinking water for the community.

“The McKelvie is an exceptionally significant ancient forest given that it is an entire intact valley in a region where virtually all valleys have now been fragmented and tattered by logging” Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness said in the release.

“As such, its value for wildlife, water, fisheries, tourism, recreation, and the climate are exceptional. Most controversies over old-growth logging today involve significant patches and groves of ancient forest, but we’re talking about an entire intact watershed here.”

The McKelvie Creek watershed lies within Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 19, the licence for which was acquired by Western Forest Products’ (WFP) predecessor in December 1997. According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the TFL covers 170,713 hectares, with 138,350 hectares considered productive forest and 75,958, or about 55 per cent, available for timber harvesting. In addition, the ministry says more than 23,000 hectares are designated as old growth management areas or wildlife habitat areas.

The Ancient Forest Alliance says the McKelvie watershed, which is 2,170 hectares, is the last regional stronghold for the threatened marbled murrelet sea bird population, while McKelvie Creek provides a habitat for fish such as chum and coho salmon, cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden. They are concerned proposed road-building and logging in TFL 19 will increase runoff and increase the severity of debris slides and flooding, which could affect species’ habitat as well as water quality. In response, the Tahsis Village Council passed a resolution in June opposing all forms of resource extraction, including logging.

In response, WFP says it relies on industry-leading forest management standards and employs professional foresters and other qualified professionals, such as biologists, hydrologists and geoscientists, to develop and implement plans that meet or exceed the B.C. government standards.

“Our professionals develop forest stewardship plans that show how we are meeting the objectives set by the government for old growth preservation, soils, timber, wildlife, water, fish, biodiversity, visual landscapes and First Nations cultural heritage resources,” WFP Senior Communications Director Babita Khunkhun told the Mirror in an email.

The company also says it voluntarily submits to having all of its forest tenures independently certified to internationally recognized standards for sustainable forest management.

As far as why WFP is harvesting old growth, Khunkhun continued, saying, “Wood is a renewable resource and the most sustainable building material on the planet. Vast areas of forests are retained, including old growth management areas and other types of reserves. In addition, Western has policies in place, including a big tree protection policy, to ensure we maintain unique features across the land base.”

The company said it has consulted with the Tahsis council this past year and will continue to engage with them on this issue, adding it has delayed plans for at least a year to provide more time to better understand local concerns and consider these as part of forest management in the McKelvie Valley.

 

An old-growth Douglas fir tree on the slopes of the McKelvie Valley. Photo by Martin Davis

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