Egmont logging plans cause concern

Areas near Skookumchuck and Suncoaster Trail could be harvested this fall

Plans in the works for 10 new cutblocks to be harvested this year in the Egmont area have sparked concern that BC Timber Sales (BCTS) hasn’t given enough notice to the community, contravening communications protocol.

“I’m quite concerned with the timeframe and lack of community consultation and presentations,” said Pender Harbour/Egmont director Leonard Lee at the SCRD’s June 27 corporate and administrative services committee meeting, where BCTS’s harvest plans were discussed.

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“They seem to have abandoned the communication protocol in the rush to harvest cutblocks.”

Directors receive BCTS five-year operating plans annually and provide comment, as part of a communication protocol with the organization that was signed in 2014.

This year’s plan, spanning from 2019 to 2023, covers about 1,000 hectares of forest, divided into 65 cutblocks, 35 of which are new. The majority of those new additions – about two-dozen – are located in the Egmont area. The area contains creeks and critical habitats for the western painted turtle and marbled murrelet, among other species, according to a staff report. 

Some of the cutblocks straddle about 1.5 kilometres of the Suncoaster Trail between Pender Harbour and Halfmoon Bay. Others would see trees felled near Skookumchuck Provincial Park, with three cutblocks – EGG10, 11 and 12 – in close proximity to or cutting across the access trail to the park. Those particular blocks are anticipated to be harvested in 2021.

Usually, new cutblocks are added toward the end of the five-year plan, since it takes several years to design and engineer cutblocks and to give a chance for public feedback. But this year, several of those new additions are slated to be cut as early as this fall, with cutblocks being laid out this summer, a timeline that, according to a staff report, “does not appear to be aligned with the spirit of the communication protocol.”

To deal with the short notice, Lee asked for community consultation prior to cutblock design. “Ten of them are proposed for 2019, and it’s a surprise,” he said. “The last time they logged in Egmont the local community was consulted.”

At least one of the cutblocks interfering with the Suncoaster Trail is scheduled to be harvested this fall, with the staff report suggesting “there is urgency in requesting that BCTS develop a trail protection strategy with SCRD.”

The cutblocks proposed for the Egmont area are in partnership with tsain-ko, a shíshálh Nation corporation.

In addition to asking for community consultation, directors also voted to include a request that the SCRD and BCTS create a trail protection strategy for the Skookumchuck and Suncoaster trails before cutblocks are designed and that public safety measures be taken.

Directors also raised concerns about logging in areas designated as community watersheds, including one cutblock located in the Dakota Creek Watershed. The staff report indicated that several individual properties that aren’t part of a community drinking watershed could nonetheless be affected because they rely on groundwater near proposed logging sites.

Gibsons director Bill Beamish asked that the SCRD emphasize to the forestry ministry that there should be zero risks to water supply and quality in community drinking watersheds.

Directors are also seeking to “dialogue” with the ministry of forests about tracking the cumulative effects of forestry on the Coast, protecting water supply and planning to protect ecology. The decision was made this year to share the referral with the forestry ministry as well.

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