Gibsons Council agreed to request the removal of DL 1313, locally known as the Reed Road forest, from BC Timber Sales (BCTS) timber supply, at its Nov. 16 meeting. The letter to Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development minister Katrine Conroy asks that the area be left as an intact forest to “preserve our watershed and aquifer, essential to our community’s health and wellbeing.”
Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) has also submitted requests to have DL 1313 withdrawn from BCTS’s plans. “The community stands united that this forest should remain in its current condition as a functioning forest - not logged,” ELF wrote in a Nov. 10 email to BCTS and copied to Coast Reporter.
The block had been scheduled to go to auction in 2013 and again in January 2019. BCTS withdrew its latest harvest proposal at the request of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and other groups, committing to further community dialogue.
BCTS started that process in December 2019. In its engagement plan, it forecast that a decision on listing the lot for auction would be made in May 2022.
The process was adjusted in mid-2020 due to complications with public consultation during the COVID-19 pandemic and internal adjustments within the provincial government. An update to the adjusted plan shows that one of 11 specific actions committed to on the file has been taken in the past 18 months.
In response to a request for an update from Coast Reporter, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Nigel McInnis wrote in an email, “This re-engagement process is in early stages. An engagement plan is being produced that will reflect the details of our new operating plan when it is released in the coming months.”
“Further engagement will occur to determine if a timber sale licence can be collaboratively developed with stakeholders in a way that balances landbase values. Should the SCRD submit for a change in land designation for the purposes of a park or for conservation purposes, this would be followed by impact analyses and considerations with respect to other landbase values, including timber harvest.”
Gibsons’ request to have the block withdrawn followed presentations from the Elphinstone Community Association (ECA) to Council and at its Nov. 3 Elphinstone-Gibsons Watershed and Aquifer dialogue. The area has been designated as a community watershed. On Oct. 1, ECA representatives, along with elected officials from Gibsons and the SCRD met with MLA Nicholas Simons to discuss next steps that could be taken to protect the forest.
With road washouts related to recent heavy rains, ELF spokesperson Ross Muirhed is concerned with the impact that logging of areas such as DL1313 will have on the Coast’s infrastructure. Stormwater from Shirley Creek, which runs through that lot washed out Russell Road in 2018. In January 2020, a Whittaker Creek wash out on Lower Road prompted the SCRD to declare a state of emergency.
According to Muirhead, the Nov. 13 to 15 “atmospheric river” weather event coupled with the impacts of forest harvesting resulted in the Clack Creek flooding which damaged Day Road in Roberts Creek, leaving seven properties without road access and prompting the SCRD to activate an emergency operations centre to address that washout and other localized flooding issues.
“Our organization attributes past BCTS’ logging and roadbuilding disturbances in Clack and Gough Creek watersheds as contributing factors to these road washouts. To what degree, it’s impossible to state, however these activities added a risk factor by changing the hydrology in these watersheds that cannot be dismissed,” Muirhead wrote in an email to BCTS on Nov 16.
“Whereas, these recent Gough and Clack washouts have impacted critical infrastructure and that past BCTS cutblocks have occurred in these upstream watersheds, ELF calls for an immediate ban on all planned cutblocks and roadbuilding engineering across both the Elphinstone and Gibsons slopes. These slopes must be now acknowledged as sensitive watersheds located in the inter-urban zone.”