BCTS plans to proceed on two Elphinstone cutblocks


Environmentalists are lobbying BC Timber Sales (BCTS) to halt plans to log two cutblocks on Mount Elphinstone’s slopes, but the provincial agency says it is addressing the concerns raised and intends to advertise both blocks this summer.

The cutblocks include 28 hectares of low-elevation second-growth forest near the historic Trailfest Wagonroad above Cliff Gilker Park and 50 hectares of high-elevation old growth to the east in Dakota Bowl, which was advertised last year but failed to attract any bids.

Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) said the last BCTS cutblock near the Trailfest Wagonroad, logged out about two years ago, used the trail as the southern falling boundary, resulting in severe blowdown and causing significant damage to the trail.

“To use a historic trail for a logging road — there’s no respect for pre-existing recreational values,” Muirhead said.

The B.C. Quad Association received funding from the National Trails Coalition in Ottawa to build three bridges over creeks in the area, he said, and the new cutblock would lie within about 200 metres of one of the bridges.

“Why mess around with 20 hectares and spoil a high-use area? Go to Rainy River,” Muirhead said.

BCTS senior forest planner Norm Kempe acknowledged his office had heard “a number of concerns revolving around trail management in the area and riparian management,” and was taking corrective measures.

“At the moment we’re re-engineering it and essentially scaling it back to quite a small footprint,” Kempe said. “We’re pulling back, for instance, the boundaries of all the riparian areas [to take] extra precaution around the creeks, so that we’re not going to experience as much windthrow as we did in the last area. That was a bit of a learning for us.

“Definitely windthrow is a big issue — we recognize that. We’re making efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen on the same scale in this particular timber sale.”

Kempe acknowledged the importance of the Trailfest Wagonroad to the region. “This is a key trail,” he said. “We’re going through a lot of effort to make sure that, at the end of the day, that trail is still usable and intact.”

Muirhead also said BCTS has packaged the Trailfest cutblock with the Dakota Bowl block to lure contractors into taking on Dakota Bowl, which has steep terrain and involves significant — and costly — road building.

BCTS is “dead set on logging that one,” Muirhead said of the Dakota Bowl cutblock. “Contractors probably got cold feet looking at it.”

Kempe, however, said last year’s no-bid sale was at least partly due to delays in planning, and he denied the block was too expensive to log.

“We’ve costed it out as a stand-alone project and the road construction is what we would consider average for a mountain block,” he said.

On the Dakota Bowl cutblock, Kempe said BCTS responded to concerns by ELF and others by sending in experts to study the presence of culturally modified tress, black bear dens and slope stability issues. A Fortis gas line located about one kilometre downslope was deemed not to pose a hazard.

One reason BCTS targets old growth for timber sale, he said, is to provide credible pricing reference points that are used to determine stumpage rates in the province. “To determine values for major licensees, we have to sample both timber profiles.”

Mount Elphinstone represents about 10 per cent of BCTS’s cut on the Sunshine Coast, he said.

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