Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) operations manager Warren Hansen anticipates roadbuilding at its HM 50 block near Trout Lake will begin next month, with logging to follow before the end of the year. SCCF’s call for bids to do the work closed Sept. 15.
In an interview with Coast Reporter, Hansen could not confirm when SCCF board representatives would meet with staff to approve the award of contracts for harvesting about 7,500 cubic metres of timber and establishing 1.3 kilometers of access roads within that block.
Hansen said that watershed and ecosystem assessment reports for HM 50 have been prepared and that both support proceeding with the work. SCCF board chair Kathleen Suddes told Coast Reporter that the reports will be posted on SCCF’s website (sccf.ca) as soon as possible. This had not been done earlier as the website is being revamped to make it easier to navigate. “We realize we do indeed need to get our documents up and available for public viewing – so it might be a bit ugly, but we will see how much we can get on the ‘old’ site,” said Suddes.
The delay in report posting was among a host of concerns for Coast-based environmental group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF). That group’s spokesperson, Ross Muirhead, said that “until (the watershed and ecosystem assessment) reports are made public and until there is a public forum to discuss the findings of those two reports, HM 50 should not be sent to tender. SCCF is not being transparent in their process… They say they are upholding community forest values of full and open public consent, and they are not meeting that objective.”
Hansen provided Coast Reporter with copies of the reports. The March 1 watershed assessment report was prepared by Statlu Environmental Consulting. In its conclusions, it states that harvesting of the block presents a low likelihood of affecting “the overall hydrology in the watershed.”
The ecosystem assessment report looks at the overall ecology of the site, taking into account wildlife, the types of trees and vegetation in the block and if any of those trees would be classified as old growth under the provincial Land Management Handbook guidelines. HM 50 was one of the first SCCF cutblocks to undergo this type of review. The report was completed by Madrone Environmental Services on Aug. 6. Its conclusion states the block “is not functioning as an Old Growth nor as a Significantly Established plant community, and no species at risk were noted.”
Suddes said she is very proud that SCCF is in the “beginning stages of this movement towards ecosystems-based management… We want to see sustainability, we want to see innovation… It’s not just about forestry, it’s about land management, it is about water, it is about soil, fungus and wildlife.”
ELF’s efforts to obtain a one-year delay of work on HM 50 from SCCF’s sole shareholder, the District of Sechelt, were unsuccessful. In an Aug. 30 letter to council, it asked for the delay citing watershed and fire rating concerns and asking that the objectives of the SCCF’s Forest Stewardship Plan be met as they pertain to that block.
ELF’s request pointed out that logging in the Trout Lake/Milne Creek watershed is problematic in an era of climate change and water shortages. Stating the HM 50 is an “endangered forest ecosystem,” it asserts that if forest cover is disturbed by logging, then groundwater conditions will result in less water entering Trout Lake.
The group raised concerns that after harvesting, opportunities for and the intensity of forest fires in the area will increase. The group also put forward a claim that the long-term recreational and mushroom harvesting values of this forest “far outweigh short-term timber revenues”.
Sechelt council discussed but took no action on ELF’s request at its Sept. 8 meeting. Mayor Darnelda Siegers noted that ELF’s request pertained to SCCF’s operations and were not a matter of council business. Siegers also reviewed a briefing document provided to council by SCCF which responded to the concerns raised by ELF.
Muirhead said his group had not received a response from Sechelt council as of Sept. 14. He said ELF will continue its efforts related to logging on HM 50 “within the public process and it is not planning any legal action or public protests.”