Province rejects ELF’s elk argument

Mount Elphinstone

The new NDP government and officials with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRO) appear to have rejected Elphinstone Logging Focus’s (ELF) latest arguments against allowing logging on the Wilson Creek cut block EW28, also known as the Chanterelle Forest.

The Sunshine Coast Community Forest is reviewing bids for harvesting and road building on EW28 as well as a second cutblock in Wilson Creek and one in the Halfmoon Bay area.

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ELF contends EW28 is a key part of the area being put forward as a possible expansion to Mt. Elphinstone Provincial Park. It’s also in a zone the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan (OCP) says should be considered for “enhanced ecological protection.” ELF wants harvesting of that block put on hold, despite provincial approval and the OK from the shíshálh Nation.

Just before the Community Forest confirmed EW28 was part of its harvest plans for the next five years, ELF released a study by biologist Wayne McCrory, which said the area was an important habitat for Roosevelt elk.

In a letter, forwarded to Coast Reporter and others, FLNRO’s director of resource management for the south coast says the ministry has reviewed that report.

Scott Barrett said the ministry has no evidence to suggest Roosevelt elk are suffering from lack of winter range on the Sunshine Coast, and that there is currently “no legal requirement for forest licensees to specifically address elk winter range or habitat requirements in their Forest Stewardship Plans.”

In a Nov. 27 update for supporters, ELF said, “Our local MLA, Nicholas Simons, met with Minister of Environment George Heyman and Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson last Thursday in Victoria, and the outcome was not favourable. The ministers did not support the deferral of the block to allow time for the new government to consider the Mt. Elphinstone Park expansion proposal.”

ELF is now urging its supporters to contact the ministers of forests and environment to deliver “a clear message of our own.”

Simons said the ministers didn’t reject future land use planning or park expansion and he’s optimistic.

Mark Lebbell, Roberts Creek’s director at the Sunshine Coast Regional District, has also weighed in through a post on his blog. He notes what he calls a long history of overharvesting in the Wilson Creek watershed, while pointing to the Community Forest as having shown better stewardship than other companies.

He also said a recent meeting between the Community Forest and the Roberts Creek OCP Committee “was constructive and moved us down the path of mutual understanding.”

Lebbell ended by “encouraging those who are working in the woods, and those who choose to exercise their democratic rights to express their opinion, to do so in a manner that is safe for all, minimizes ecological impact to the extent possible within their various mandates, and recognizes that we are members of the same community.”

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