ELF urges Sechelt council to save ‘Chanterelle Forest’

Environment

Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is urging District of Sechelt council to “rein in” the Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) and save a proposed cutblock in the Wilson Creek watershed that ELF has dubbed the Chanterelle Forest.

Located on the west side of Wilson Creek and designated EW28 in the SCCF work plan, the surveyed cutblock was brought to ELF’s attention by an organic farmer on Field Road who supplements his income by harvesting wild mushrooms, ELF’s Ross Muirhead told council Feb. 18.

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“There’s a lot of different ecological reasons that this area is particularly robust in summer and winter chanterelles and pine mushrooms,” Muirhead said.

The farmer currently sells winter chanterelles directly to high-end restaurants in Vancouver and knows at least four or five other pickers who also harvest in the area.

Muirhead said ELF is hoping the new council, as sole shareholder of SCCF, will consider non-timber values from wildcrafting, mushrooming and recreation within SCCF’s holdings.

“They’re very valuable. Besides just logging, there’s a lot of other values associated with them,” he said.

Having walked EW28 the previous weekend with ELF members, Coun. Noel Muller said it was important to go out and see the block.

“It’s a nice little forest, quite close to the shopping area on Field Road, and I came out of that afternoon with kind of a new understanding of what the recreational potential of upper Wilson Creek may be,” Muller said. “I liken the area … to Cliff Gilker in feel and so I’m beginning to think along those terms when I think about that area.”

SCCF chair and president Glen Bonderud said Monday that EW28 — which spans about 19 hectares — is in the company’s work plan “for maybe next year or the year after. It depends on markets to a certain degree.”

Bonderud said SCCF staff dispute ELF’s claim that EW28 is an age class 7 forest, pegging it instead at age class 4, and he dismissed the comparison with Cliff Gilker Park.

“Cliff Gilker’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

In a letter to council following the Feb. 18 meeting, Muirhead said ELF would reveal further reasons for opposing the plan to log EW28 with the release of a major research paper this month. The paper will critique the Horel Engineering report that gave the green light to more clear-cut logging in the Wilson Creek drainage.

The Horel report, he said, does not include the impact of forest and vegetation loss from EW28 or the five other cutblocks that SCCF has on its books.

In the letter, Muirhead said ELF has about 1,500 followers and they “urge this council to roll up your sleeves and rein in the clear-cut logging of natural forests that’s ongoing up and down the Coast in SCCF’s tenure areas.”

Bonderud said ELF should be lobbying in Victoria instead.

“That’s where the authority lies. That’s where the licence came from,” he said, pointing to the direct local benefits from SCCF’s activities.

“Now we’re making a reasonable amount of money, we’re putting it into the Legacy Fund and it’s going back to the community the way it should be.”

Last year, SCCF paid out $500,000 as an extraordinary dividend to the District, with $200,000 going to Sechelt Innovations Ltd. and $300,000 to the Legacy Fund for community projects.

Bonderud said he is expecting SCCF to provide “another good cheque” to the District this year from the proceeds of logging above Trout Lake in Halfmoon Bay.

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