Skip to content

ELF sees risks in proposed Joe Smith Creek logging

Cutblocks identified as TA 0521 near Joe Smith Creek are on BC Timber Sale’s proposed “auction block” list for this year. A community meeting to discuss updated South Elphinstone area forest harvest plans, including that cutblock, is to be arranged by March.
ELF's Hans Penner amid the trees in the proposed Joe Smith Creek cutblock.

Two cutblocks identified as TA 0521 near Joe Smith Creek are on BC Timber Sale’s (BCTS) proposed “auction block” list for this year. Located on the slopes above the residential areas and the Highway 101 corridor between Roberts Creek and Gibsons, they are BCTS’s only lower Sunshine Coast cutblocks scheduled for sale in 2023.  

In a Jan. 3 press release, Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) called for cancellation of that sale. It states that logging the area “threatens local water security, infrastructure such as culverts and roads, and undermines the resilience and livability of our communities.” ELF, a Coast-based non-profit environmental group focusing on forestry issues refers to the area that includes the cutblock as the Elphinstone Water Protection Forest and asserts that it should be “kept intact to safeguard hydrological function.” 

“BCTS is ignoring past evidence that changing forest conditions above community infrastructure…  clearcut logging and roadbuilding will contribute to peak flow conditions resulting in risks and hazards,” an ELF report that accompanied its release stated. ELF spokesperson Ross Muirhead told Coast Reporter an early draft of the report was shared with BCTS last year but that no response comments have been provided. As of publication time, BC Timber Sales had not responded to Coast Reporter's request for comment.

Public meeting to come

A virtual or in-person community meeting to discuss updated South Elphinstone area forest harvest plans (including those for TA 0521) is to be arranged by March. BCTS made that commitment in a Nov. 22 press release, which also stated that an area hydrologic assessment is to be released this month.

Muirhead said he would like to see that meeting happen as soon as possible and with proper public notification. In his view, BCTS should attend the event with staff, maps and its hydrologic consultant ready to answer questions from the public. “That would be a good first step towards transparency and full public input and involvement,” he stated.   

BCTS’s Dec. 20 sales schedule indicates that harvesting rights for TA 0521 are to be offered for sale as early as July. According to that document, the cutblock covers 23.8 hectares with an estimated 29,000 cubic metres of harvestable product. That volume is just under ten per cent of the timber BCTS has proposed be offered for sale in 2023 in its Sunshine Coast area, which also includes the qathet Regional District. 

TA 0521’s eastern portion borders cutblock DL 1313, locally known as the Reed Road forest, which is in same BCTS plan area. In 2019, that organization withdrew a timber harvest proposal for that property pending further dialogue with the community and First Nations on amended harvesting plans.

SCRD explores DL 1313 tenure

ELF’s position is that neither DL 1313 nor TA 0521 should be logged given their proximity to Coast residential developments. In its release it states, “There’s been little to no public outreach by BCTS with property owners who are dependent on secure groundwater and surface water flows from the above slope for their domestic water supply. There are 35 water use permits on creeks originating below TA 0521.” It also points out that other area properties are on wells fed by groundwater flows and those supplies could be at risk if the area is logged.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) notified BCTS in July of last year that it planned to apply to the province for tenure over DL 1313. A request from staff for up to $21,500 was included in 2023 pre- budget documents to cover the costs of making that application. The first round of 2023 budget debates slated for later this month.

Members of the previous SCRD Board met with Minister Josie Osbourne at the 2022 Union of BC Municipalities convention last fall to discuss importance of conservation of District Lot 1313 for aquifer protection, storm water and biodiversity. SCRD communications manager Aidan Buckley told Coast Reporter by email that "Minister Osbourne indicated that concerns around storm water management would be passed on to the Ministry of Forests".

That Board had heard concerns expressed by area residents about the need to maintain a buffer between working forest and residential uses, reduce the negative impacts upslope logging could have on neighbouring properties as well as to protect the area’s aquifer and infrastructure such as Reed Road, which was damaged by flooding during a rainstorm in late 2018. 

TA 0521 hydrology and other concerns

ELF’s report includes maps showing previously logged areas that the group identified as “contributing to ongoing surface runoff” issues for downslope areas and infrastructure.

Muirhead explained that “the rule of thumb is when you change the conditions of a forest site from being vegetated to being open ground, you will see three to four times as much surface run off. The question is how can they (logging contractors) manage that increase in runoff without causing downstream hazards. The forest should be considered part of the community infrastructure. We have to recognized that the intact forest provides services like stable stream flows.”

ELF forecasts that flows from Joe Smith and Molyneaux Creeks would increased if the area is harvested.  Both of those watercourses have Highway 101 crossings and Muirhead stated that raises safety concerns for that primary piece of the Coast’s transportation network as well as for Lower Road in Roberts Creek. The report also noted that a logging road proposed to enable the harvesting would cross multiple small seasonal streams not shown on BCTS maps. ELF expressed concerns about the lack of riparian protection areas around those water courses and stated “it’s necessary to fully protect these small riparian zones due to increased frequency and intensity of atmospheric river events.”

During atmospheric river weather conditions on the Coast in November 2021, areas downstream of a recently logged cutblock AN 12 near Burnett Creek in Sechelt were damaged by stormwater flows. In response to a Ministry of Forests report on that incident, ELF’s assessment was that, "The Sunshine Coast Forest District [along with all other provincial forest districts] fail to employ available hydrological formulas to fully understand water runoff volumes generated by logging and road building”.

Another objection to TA 0521 logging raised by ELF stressed its view that mature trees within old-growth forest conditions in local areas of the Coastal Western Hemlock dry maritime zone (CWH xm1) should be fully protected. It purported that the cutblock’s current landscape “has future old-growth for generations.”

Protection of black bear habitat is also raised an issue by ELF. “BCTS does not employ Ecosystem Based Management or consult with First Nation knowledge-keepers, thus many critical features are missing in their assessments (of TA 0521),” its report stated.