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Fire risk delays EW24 logging

Logging of cutblock EW24, behind Sechelt Airport in ts’ukw’um, is on hold until the fire risk posed by dry conditions in the area abates. At a September
Warren Hansen
Warren Hansen on cutblock EW24 in early 2022

Logging of cutblock EW24, behind Sechelt Airport in ts’ukw’um, is on hold until the fire risk posed by dry conditions in the area abates.  

At a Sept. 13 meeting, the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) board of directors approved awarding a logging and road building contract for the cutblock to Triple Tree Logging.  

“We are in extreme fire risk conditions so there won't be anything happening with our planned fall road deactivation [in harvested cutblocks in the Halfmoon Bay area], or EW24 harvesting, until that changes,” SCCF administrator Sara Zieleman stated in an email to Coast Reporter.

More shíshálh Nation input to come

The wait for significant rainfall also provides additional time for SCCF to secure further direction from the shíshálh Nation Land Management Division on review and acceptance of harvesting plans by the Nation’s technical team, as well as hiwus and council.

“We hire the Nation to conduct the archaeology assessment in the block and abide by any recommendations that the Nation gives to us, as part of their due diligence,” SCCF operations manager Warren Hansen said in an interview. After that is received the company does a “block walk” with the contractor before work begins to ensure they understand all the commitments made.

The EW24 cutting permit has been in place since April 6. It was issued following the completion of an initial archaeological assessment and through a joint decision-making process of the Ministry of Forests and the shíshálh Nation. The block had been poised for spring 2022 harvesting, which was delayed, to allow for “a respectful period of time for further archaeological consideration,” according to SCCF’s website.

Further direction from the Nation’s direction could be affected by explorations related to establishing a ts'ukw'um Healing Forest. The David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with the National Healing Forests of Canada, has awarded a grant to hiwus Craigan to develop plans for a Healing Forest project in an area that overlaps the cutblock.  An announcement about that award from the Foundation’s Rewilding Communities program is set to be released by the end of the month.

According to Elphinstone Logging Forest’s Ross Muirhead, who is a spokesperson for hiwus Craigan on the project, “The grant is seed money to get things like a sitting area established along with some information signage talking about traditional uses found north of the ts’ukw’um village site which would include those forests.”

The rewilding program was established by the foundation to conserve the wild spaces and biodiversity that remain in communities and monitor the health of these spaces.

Next steps

Hansen estimated that harvesting EW24 will take about six weeks and with the delayed start will push those activities up against the anticipated November rainy season.

No additional community engagement on the harvesting has been planned.  Zieleman noted that SCCF had reached out to gauge interest in a public “block walk” early in 2022 but did not receive responses.  

The block should yield about $900,000 worth of timber, Hansen stated. The stands are primarily Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock and SCCF has arrangements in place to give local wood processors first chance to buy the products that meet their requirements.

During harvesting, there will be additional logging truck and other traffic on roads in the area. Hansen said plans are in place to keep all roads, including those used to access hiking trails behind the airport open. “There may be times when there might be traffic control when the feller/buncher is working along a road. BC Hydro is requiring us to take out all the trees within 50 to 75 meters along the power line to avoid line damage from blowdown. This area will be replanted,” he said.