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Logging complaint leads to recommendations for change

Forest Practices Board

After investigating a complaint about logging on the Sunshine Coast, the Forest Practices Board (FPB) is making recommendations that could lead to changes to the way plant species are protected.

The complaint was filed in August 2016 by Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), as the group was trying to stop logging in a BC Timber Sales (BCTS) cutblock on Mount Elphinstone known as A87125, part of the area known by many locals as the Twist and Shout Forest.

ELF’s complaint was based on concerns that logging would remove stands of trees that included the at-risk plant communities western hemlock, flat moss plant community, and the western red cedar, sword fern plant community.

In a report released late last week the FPB, an independent watchdog that reports to the provincial government, found that those plant communities were present in the logging area, but that BCTS did nothing wrong in the way it managed the cutblock.

The report also concludes, however, that the plant communities ELF raised concerns about are not adequately protected by current legislation or BCTS and government policies.

“These plant communities are not designated under FRPA (Forests and Range Practices Act) and therefore are not protected from logging,” the report says. “While government has established OGMAs (Old Growth Management Areas) to protect representative ecosystems in the landscape unit, it has not assessed whether the at-risk plant communities occur within these OGMAs and it has not provided guidance to forest licensees on how to conserve at-risk plant communities in the absence of legal requirements.”

The FPB said the plant communities within A87125 were “not considered for protection because there was no direction from government and because the stands were younger than 250 years old.”

The FPB made recommendations calling for the government to “provide legal objectives or guidance for managing the amount and distribution of these plant communities in the Timber Supply Areas” and “update the list of plant communities in the Identified Wildlife Management Strategy.”

A third recommendation says BCTS “should revise its protocol to include consideration of younger occurrences of plant communities.”

The province and BCTS have until June 30 to respond the recommendations.

The protests over logging in block A87125 were among the most contentious in recent years and led to arrests, and a lawsuit against some ELF members by the logging contractor, Peninsula Logging Limited, that is still before the courts.