ELF looks to Sechelt council to halt logging after court lifts injunction

Community Forest

Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is once again asking councillors in Sechelt to step in and halt logging in part of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) after a B.C. Supreme Court injunction was lifted on Monday.

Justice Lisa Warren granted a temporary injunction Dec. 22 after ELF brought forward a petition claiming the Community Forest, and its operating company Sechelt Community Projects, didn’t properly consult with the community and stakeholders before tendering contracts to cut EW28.

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EW28, often called the Chanterelle Forest, is one of three blocks SCCF plans to harvest over the next two years.

Justice Warren agreed to extend the injunction on Jan. 2, saying in her decision that “there is a serious issue to be determined with respect to whether the [cutting permit] ought to be quashed as a result of the dearth of community consultation at the site plan or cutting permit application stage.”

The extension came with a condition, however.  ELF members listed as petitioners had to “file undertakings as to damages and proof acceptable to SCPI [SCCF’s operating company] of their ability to pay” by Jan. 15.

In its response to ELF’s court petition, SCCF estimated the loss from being unable to go forward with the logging would “exceed $250,000, and that number will only grow significantly every day the operations are stalled.”

SCCF lawyers also defended the public engagement efforts, and said the shíshálh Nation “continues to express its support for the work.”

ELF’s Ross Muirhead said this week that the figure required by the courts as security for the injunction to remain in place was $216,000, which group members were not prepared to meet.

ELF’s lawyers argued to the court that the loss estimates were exaggerated and “damages provided by SCPI are unreasonable and designed to exaggerate the costs of the injunction in an effort to prevent the petitioners from being able to provide an undertaking and to move this case forward.”

In a Jan. 16 letter addressed Sechelt mayor and council, ELF says, “The District of Sechelt, as sole shareholder of the SCCF, is partly responsible for the lack of public consultation that is now the subject of the judicial review. To compensate for this lack of oversight on the owner’s part, the right and proper thing for council to do at this stage is to intervene and direct SCCF to defer logging until the judicial review is heard and determined.”

Justice Warren is expected to hear arguments around the issues raised in ELF’s original petition over two days beginning March 5.

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