A war in the woods?

A potential war in the woods might be brewing after the news this week that B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) intends to proceed with auctioning off a controversial cutblock in Mount Elphinstone.

We understand BCTS's position is they wish to provide local employment opportunities, and they are mandated to generate provincial revenue. However, given not only the public outcry, but the local government concern over possible logging in this cutblock, is it not prudent for BCTS to take a step back and delay the sale until more discussion and consultation with Coast residents and politicians can take place?

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BCTS did refer its operating plan for Mount Elphinstone to area stakeholders, including the Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) for review and comment, but it appears to many that the comments sent back to BCTS from ELF and the SCRD have fallen on deaf ears.

There are several points of contention regarding this cutblock legitimate concerns that don't seem to matter much to BCTS.

We all remember Columbia National Investments (CNI) that came into our community six years ago and clearcut 160 hectares on the lower slopes of Mount Elphinstone for a proposed housing development. When that development went south and CNI was run out of town, they left an ugly mess.

The new cutblock, said to be 28.9 hectares but actually larger (39.6) since patches will be left, is adjacent to the CNI cut and will expand the size of the Coast's largest clearcut.

This worries groups like ELF because the exposed perimeters of the forest become vulnerable to trees getting damaged from weather and ripped from the soil. Soil in the area is already weak due to high ash content. ELF worries about risk of soil erosion.

This is also a heavily used recreational area with a high tourism potential potential the Coast needs to capitalize on.

If this cutblock is harvested, it would remove the northern region of the proposal to expand Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park. Local MLA Nicholas Simons went on record recently saying he wanted to trumpet that issue and push for the park, as it would protect a unique ecosystem and old growth. There is nothing like it at lower elevations right now. And the area is home to bear, deer, blue grouse and other species.

This area is one of the many jewels on the Coast. And while we recognize the need for logging and the employment it creates employment that is always needed, especially here on the Coast is there not a way to still log but to do so in an environmental way and not in this area?

It's what the community wants to see, so why doesn't BCTS see it that way?

Editor's note: It has come to our attention that Nicholas Simons is not pushing for a park, rather a broader discussion with all concerned groups regarding logging on Mount Elphinstone.

Nicholas clarified his comments in a recent news story and also on his website at http://www.nicholassimons.ca/.

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