Trail users in Sproat Lake say that the issue of logging on recreational lands is much larger than just one trail.
The day after logging began on the Holy Cow trail, above Stirling Arm Drive near Sproat Lake, trail users and community supporters gathered along the trail on March 23 to wrap their favourite trees in blankets. Mosaic Forest Management agreed to pause logging while members of the public were in the trail system, but logging has since restarted.
Jennifer Holland, who lives just a few minutes away from the trail, says she has been using it as an extension of her backyard.
“I moved here from the Lower Mainland about three years ago, and didn’t know to ask who owned the forest,” she said.
The trail is located on private land. At the beginning of the month, Mosaic Forest Management gave notice of intent to begin harvesting activities on the seven-hectare cut block that surrounds the Holy Cow Trail, which is located above Stirling Arm Drive.
“We understand that it’s private land,” Holland said. “But there’s no public land in this area.”
Holland says that neighbours have an emotional connection to the trail, but they are also concerned about the impact to the local ecosystem. There are streams in the trail system that connect to the local source of drinking water. Holland is also concerned about the risk of fire when the deadfall becomes tinder dry, with homes only a few hundred metres away. Over time, she said, the cutblocks will also affect the overall well-being of the forest.
“These are temperate rainforests,” said Holland. “They need the moisture and the shade that a full standing forest gives. I don’t know what it’s going to look like in 10 years.”
Mosaic has indicated the company is going to preserve the integrity of the trail. A harvesting map from Mosaic shows a buffer of trees will be left along the road, which includes part of the Holy Cow Trail.
“Our professional foresters, biologists and planners have designed the area taking into consideration recreation, fisheries, wildlife, water quality, hydrology, visuals and other values,” Mosaic said in a notice to trail users.
Holland says an organization has been set up with the long-term objective of fundraising to purchase the land from Mosaic.
“We need time to be able to get that fundraising mechanism in place,” she said. “What we’re hoping for is a deferral on the logging plans for two years.”
Holland acknowledged that there has been more public engagement with the Holy Cow Trail than with previous Mosaic cutblocks in the area.
But the issue, she said, is much larger than just the Holy Cow Trail.
“This issue is happening across Vancouver Island, in all of the areas that are privately managed forest land,” she said. “What we’re repeatedly getting from the regional district and the provincial government is that Mosaic has followed all of their obligations and our hands are tied. That’s why we’re here.”
Hollans says she wants to see more oversight and control from the provincial government, as well as local and regional governments, when it comes to logging on private land that impacts residents.
“We understand that they have investors and an economic need to continue their business,” she said. “But we just ask that that be balanced with local community values, especially when there isn’t an alternative.”