Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) has launched a campaign to save a proposed BC Timber Sales (BCTS) cutblock at the end of Reed Road, just outside Gibsons.
The 30-hectare forest, designated lot 1313, lies within a watershed reserve that was established in the 1940s to protect long-term water flows to down-slope residents who are on wells, said Ross Muirhead of ELF.
"People in the area are still on wells, so the situation hasn't changed," Muirhead said. "People are dependent on consistent water flows."
The forest has never been logged and regenerated naturally after fires in the 1800s.
The block is also "of immense interest," Muirhead said, because it consists almost entirely of Douglas fir, which has been identified as a province-wide endangered ecosystem. Nothing comparable exists at that elevation on Elphinstone, while "higher up you get into western hemlock." A similar stand lying west of the cutblock on private land has been largely logged out.
Two-thirds of the cutblock falls on Crown land outside the BCTS chart area, likely due to its watershed reserve status, Muirhead said.
"Don't tamper with it. It's still serving a function for people on the wells and it's an inter-urban forest," he said. "It's 10 minutes from the mall in Gibsons, so it's got a high recreational value."
BCTS planning forester Norm Kempe said the cutblock had been discussed last year with the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and Town of Gibsons, when BCTS "signaled our intent" by including the cutblock in its operational plan.
"We're in the very preliminary stages here of examining the area and coming up with a plan. I think in June we'll have the plan ready," Kempe said.
BCTS has surveyed the block and hired Madrone Environmental Services to conduct a hydrology study, which could be completed by the end of March. The technical information will be shared with the SCRD, Town of Gibsons, Sechelt and Squamish First Nations, community groups and nearby residents.
"The intent is to go and knock on the doors of the immediate neighbours. That's all to come yet. There's nothing imminent," Kempe said.
He said BCTS is "fairly confident" the hydrology study will support logging, though it might recommend placing restrictions on when logging would occur, road construction and stream setbacks.
"It would also provide an opinion on whether the activity would represent a risk to well water," he said.
The block's watershed reserve designation, he added, "is under the Land Act and doesn't preclude forestry activities." The designation "is intended to act as a filter," he said, ensuring that any proposed activities in the area are compatible with maintaining water quality for human consumption.
As for the high presence of Douglas fir, Kempe noted the area is not within the coastal Douglas fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic ecosystem.
"The CDF is the ecosystem of concern due to urban expansion along coastal B.C.," he said. "BCTS has committed to not harvesting within the CDF."
If the plan does proceed, Kempe said he doesn't expect logging would start until 2016.
Muirhead said ELF is planning to organize public walks through the forest as part of its awareness campaign.
"We're trying to get the information out now so that the decision-makers are aware of it," he said.
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