ELF blocks logging in watershed

Chapman Creek

Demonstrators from Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) have, once again, taken to the barricades.

ELF members and supporters turned back contractors for AJB Investments, preventing them from getting to work in the Chapman Creek watershed early on the morning of Feb. 12. They’ve returned to the site every day since.

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The protest was triggered by a revelation in a Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) staff report for the Feb. 11 infrastructure services committee meeting.

The report said AJB notified the SCRD by email on Jan. 25 that it planned to start logging on the company’s private managed forest land. The work on cutblock DR7, on the east side of Chapman Creek above the Sechelt Airport, started on Feb. 2. 

The report went on to say, “Tree falling is in progress above the upper bench and road building is progressing in stages, as needed. Only roughly 60 metres of new road is in place, with no sedimentation control measures as of yet. Some sediment in run-off, but location is significant distance from Chapman Creek and downstream tributary is running clear.”

ELF’s Hans Penner confronted SCRD directors during the public question period at the meeting.

“The regional district has sat quietly here while they [Surespan] went, knowingly this time, into the watershed to start logging,” Penner said during a testy exchange with committee chair Mark Lebbell, director for Area D. “I think the community has not been well served by the regional board. I think it’s shocking, considering everybody here knows what the history of the Chapman Creek watershed is.”

Lebbell responded that the SCRD is looking at options, along with the Sechelt Indian Band (through the joint watershed management committee), and that SCRD staff are monitoring the situation. 

Area B director and SCRD chair Garry Nohr added, “I’ve been around for a while on this one and we have got very close with AJB about having a protocol. It went south because of a problem we had. We’re going to try to do that again so we have a proper relationship with them to make sure the ground is covered. And your question to us – are we going to remove them? We do not have the right to do so.”

“So I guess you’re going to leave it up to the citizens again, then?” Penner shot back, adding that he’s “severely disappointed in this board.”

The blockade started early the following morning.

A statement from ELF said: “A peaceful protest has been erected on a Forest Service Road (FSR) leading into the Chapman Creek drinking watershed to prevent clear-cut logging from proceeding … [and] to stop fallers contracted by Surespan (a company affiliated with AJB) from stripping away more of the forests that provide many environmental services to a watershed that supply drinking water to our communities. They did this out of a real concern that further roadbuilding and logging will cause long-term damage to the Chapman drinking water.”

The ELF statement also claimed that allowing logging on DR7, or the company’s other main cutblock, CH1, ignores concerns raised by a 2014 Managed Forest Council report on earlier logging in the Chapman watershed, and the group wants the SCRD to take emergency action and request an immediate halt to the logging and road building.

“The Sunshine Coast needs the same standard of protection that Metro Vancouver drinking watersheds are afforded – full protection from logging, locked gates, de-activation of old roads, ban on firearm shooting, hunting, and dog walking,” it said.

AJB managing director Mark Rogers told Coast Reporter that crews are working in other parts of the property for now. “We intend to continue work up there, and maintain our legal use of the property,” he said. 

Rogers also said AJB has been communicating with ELF through the group’s lawyer, but as of early this week they were not pursuing an injunction to have the blockade removed.

ELF’s Ross Muirhead said those discussions haven’t resulted in any changes in their position, but ELF is making it clear they want to have their lawyer present in court if AJB does file an injunction request.

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