BC Timber Sales (BCTS) has delayed the logging of 68 hectares of old-growth forest in Dakota Bowl on Mount Elphinstone, after flagging one of the five cutblocks for its “unique ecological/cultural attributes.”
But while the focus is on the 15-hectare Roberts Creek headwaters forest (DK045), the timber sale for the remaining four blocks could still take place next year or sooner, BCTS planning forester Norm Kempe confirmed in an interview this week.
“We expect to have all the information here by the end of the month, and we’ll review it then,” Kempe said. “It’s deferred, but we haven’t taken it off the plan.”
In July, Sunshine Coast environmental groups called on the province’s timber sales division to halt the proposed sale, citing the age of the trees, the biodiversity contained within the forest, and the area’s proximity and accessibility to the public.
BCTS responded by sending in three experts in late August — an ecologist, an archeologist and a pathologist — to provide analysis on the cutblocks, Kempe said.
The Roberts Creek headwaters forest, which had been previously deferred about 18 months ago, was singled out for its culturally modified trees and high number of Pacific yews, said Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), which lobbied BCTS for the review, together with the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association.
“They may just decide to keep DK045 in a natural state and look at logging the other blocks,” Muirhead said.
ELF, however, has identified two cutblocks as prime habitat for black bears and is hiring a wildlife biologist from Artemis Wildlife Consultants to study the area for two days at the end of the month and conduct a professional survey of den sites.
“The goal is to identify as many active and potential bear den sites in blocks 042 and 044 and then share this information with BC Timber Sales,” Muirhead said.
Based on the dozens of den sites that have been spotted, the group is already calling for the cutblocks to be designated as a wildlife habitat area (WHA).
“Currently, bear den sites do not have legislative protection under the Forest and Range Practices Act. We hope to get the first WHA on the Sunshine Coast established for black bears,” he said.
Muirhead said ELF was pleased by BCTS’s decision to defer the timber sale.
“Definitely delaying the cutting of a forest before you know what all the natural features are is sound planning, for sure,” he said.
Meanwhile, a total of 38 form letters have been sent to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) expressing concern over “the ongoing stall tactics being used to delay the bid process for the five cutblocks” in Dakota Bowl.
“This process has dragged on for two-and-a-half years and has involved countless hours of community consultation funded by our tax dollars. It’s time to acknowledge that some people will never be happy,” the letter said.
Commenting on the letter at the Sept. 12 planning and development committee meeting, District of Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers said it was “nice to hear from the other side of the fence.”
“Yes, it’s good to hear from all sides,” Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar said, “but it’s important not to discount concerns from people who are out there in the bush. Sometimes people do bring things forward that do have validity.”