The Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) came under scrutiny last week after local government officials learned that spacing work had taken place in the Chapman Creek watershed.
The spacing project, which was completed late last fall, came to light during a Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) joint watershed committee meeting on March 1.
“It’s an issue in the fact that we hadn’t been informed,” SCRD chair Garry Nohr said after the meeting. “I think we made it very clear to SCCF that’s the way it was.”
Nohr said SCCF officials at the meeting said they did not believe consultation with the SCRD was required before the work commenced.
“Their interpretation was that it was not new logging,” he said. “We’ll have a protocol coming forward with the community forest and get these things sorted out.”
The environmental group Elphinstone Logging Focus sharply criticized the spacing project, calling it a betrayal of the community in light of a March 14, 2008 letter from former Sechelt Community Projects Inc. chairman and president Len Pakulak.
“This letter confirms that the spacing contract for work planned in the Chapman Creek area has been permanently terminated,” Pakulak wrote in the letter, addressed to John Bebbington, after residents publicly opposed the project.
But SCCF operations manager Dave Lasser said the letter merely pointed out the 2008 contract had been terminated, not that the remaining spacing work would never be carried out.
Lasser said the bulk of the spacing for the 36.5-hectare cutblock had been done in 2008 and last fall SCCF completed the last 5.5 hectares.
“It was still overstocked and there were some indications of root rot in the block, so we were looking at those issues,” Lasser said. “You always plant more trees than you will actually need for a full cutblock. If all goes well, you’ll have too many trees and you go in and thin them.”
The strategic thinning of regrowth areas, he noted, is an important part of forestry management and “the fastest way to hydrologically recover the watershed.”
The cutblock, Lasser said, had been logged and replanted in the early 1990s by the company Interfor.
Lasser said SCCF notified the Sechelt Indian Band last June about the spacing project, but learned only on March 6 that the Band had responded in September, opposing the planned cutting.
He said the Band faxed its objection on Sept. 5, but the SCCF office did not have a fax machine at the time, and so the response was not received.
“We did not know they objected,” he said.
The Band sent SCCF a copy of its original letter of response after the consultation issue was raised during the March 1 joint watershed committee meeting.
Chapman Creek is the main source of drinking water on the Coast, supplying most residents from West Howe Sound to Secret Cove, except for about two-thirds of the Town of Gibsons, which draws water from the Gibsons aquifer.