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Logging in ts’ukw’um planned for this spring

ELF lobbies to stop Ministry approval of SCCF’s cutting permit application

Plans to log an 11.7-hectare site within a five-minute drive of residential areas of ts’ukw’um (Wilson Creek) are in the works.

Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) has called for industry bids for harvesting of cutblock EW24, north of Sechelt airport on Forest Service Road 7375. The tender process closes April 4. Along with harvesting of 6,300 cubic metres of timber, the work to be completed includes activation of 600 metres of road in the Husdon Creek area.  

Operations Manager for SCCF, Warren Hansen told Coast Reporter that he plans to apply to the Ministry of Forests for a cutting permit for the work as soon as endorsement of that step in the process is received from shíshálh Nation council.  Hansen anticipates the request will be considered by the council at its first meeting in April.  The Nation previously endorsed SCCF’s 2021-2025 operating plans at the local consultation level and through a joint review process with the province.  In that document, EW24 was identified for selective harvesting this year using ground-based logging and a retention system.   Retention plans indicate that single trees or groups of five to seven trees will be retained on 56 per cent of the cutblock. 

Should a cutting permit be approved, Hansen said logging activities at the site should take three to four weeks to be completed. He said SCCF’s schedule has been planned to have the work completed before the end of May. That timing avoids having logging trucks on Highway 101 during peak holiday travel months. It also means harvesting would be concluded before summer conditions and the increased potential for forest fires arrive on the Coast.

ELF opposes plan

 On March 27, local forest conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) issued a press release opposing the plan to log in the cutblock. The group is copying its correspondence related to the block to the province’s Forest Practices Board to show that it has attempted to resolve issues of concern with SCCF.

“Based on our site visits to EW24 and review of its ecological assessment, we are stating that SCCF is planning on logging an old-growth forest,” ELF spokesperson Ross Muirhead wrote.  

The release states that EW24 is part of the disappearing Coastal Western Hemlock very dry maritime 1 (CWHxm1) forest classification.  It estimates that less than one per cent of this type of forest remains in its original condition throughout the lower Sunshine Coast. ELF maintains that the provincial government’s Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel recommends that any older forest with less than 10 per cent of its original old-growth remaining, should be recruited to become tomorrow’s old-growth. 

“This objective is not yet legislated so it’s up to professional foresters to take matters into their own hands, which can result in their ignoring the science,” the statement reads.

Elk habitat

ELF refers to the block as the Elk Refuge Forest. Its role as elk habitat is a concern for the group.  

Elk is a blue listed species meaning it is vulnerable to habitat loss, “A risk that would increase if EW24 gets logged,” Hans Penner of ELF said in the release. “SCCF agrees that this is an old forest, but because it’s located in a heavily logged out landscape, they feel it would become a ‘small postage stamp’ disconnected from other protected areas, so log it. This is twisted logic because if you have one of the last and best examples of an old forest in a depleted landscape, good planning says you do everything to protect it and then find connectivity. Our maps show that connectivity does in fact exist for this forest to the east and west.”

An ecosystem assessment and block development summary report have been prepared on EW24 for SCCF. Those background reports are publicly available on its website.  

The planning documents include provisions for wildlife tree retention areas, special management zones related to the nearby infrastructure, which include the airport and BC Hydro transmission lines, and a reforestation plan.

Replanting would be in 2023

Timing for post-harvest replanting would be finalized with SCCF’s silviculture contractor.  If logging proceeds this spring, Hansen said those activities will likely be planned for early 2023.  He said that the site may need time to recover to optimal planting conditions should summer 2022 bring the warmer than normal weather and drought-like conditions experienced on the Coast last year. 

Another feature of the reforestation plan is de-stumping treatment for root rot management. On a site visit on March 28, Hansen pointed out a number of living and downed trees in EW24 that show signs of root rot infestation.  SCCF’s plans call for all douglas fir stumps to be removed and exposed to the sun to mitigate future concentrations of the disease after harvesting is completed.

Archaeological considerations

A preliminary archaeological field reconnaissance was completed by consulting firm InSitu on the site in 2021. It determined no additional measures related to protection of artifacts were recommended. 

ELF challenges that assessment in their release.  It states, “The Elk Refuge Forest appears to contain several suspected First Nations archaeological sites that should be confirmed before the area is razed.”

On March 29, hiwus Calvin Craigan, a hereditary chief of the shíshálh Nation, visited the site with ELF representatives. He followed up on that visit with a letter to the Ministry of Forests requesting that the province not allow the SCCF to award contracts for logging the site until further consultation is completed. 

Of particular interest to ELF and Craigan are instrument mounts found on the site. Muirhead said that these mounts consist of a metal post sunk into the ground, with wires, plastic tubing, and a small wooden platform that probably supported an electrode to record data.  The data recording devices on the 12 installations on the cutblock have been removed. Muirhead’s assessment is that these mounts were part of a previous study on the site related to determining if artifacts exist on the site beneath the forest floor surface.      

When asked about other SCCF activities planned for 2022, Hansen told Coast Reporter that logging of lands adjacent to the airport on behalf of the property owner the District of Sechelt has not proceeded or been scheduled. “The ball is in the District’s court” to move that project forward, Hansen said. 

He also noted that plans to harvest cutblock HM70 in the Trout Lake area near Halfmoon Bay is on hold pending development of further hydrology and site drainage planning.