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Old-Growth Logging of Forest Lands Formerly Intended for Protection on Vancouver Island Threatens Deer Winter Range and Endangered Goshawk Habitat

Island Timberlands asked to halt old-growth logging on McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni until land can be purchased for protection

Ancient Forest Alliance, November 7, 2011

Old-Growth Logging of Forest Lands Formerly Intended for Protection on Vancouver Island Threatens Deer Winter Range and Endangered Goshawk Habitat
Columbia Blacktail Deer

Conservationists are calling on the BC government to protect a 500 hectare tract of old-growth forest near Port Alberni that biologists have classified as both critical habitat for wintering deer and nesting endangered Queen Charlotte goshawks. Conservationists would like the BC government to purchase the forest on private land on McLaughlin Ridge from Island Timberlands.

See new photos of the endangered McLaughlin Ridge at:

See a new Youtube clip about McLaughlin Ridge at:

The land was formerly intended for protection as an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) for black-tailed deer and as a Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) for the endangered goshawk until 2004 when the BC Liberal government removed 88,000 hectares of land now owned by Island Timberlands from their Tree Farm Licenses (TFL’s), thus removing most existing environmental protections and exempting the area from other planned protections on those lands. Island Timberlands began logging the 500 hectare tract of old-growth forest a year ago, clearcutting 100 hectares or more from both sides of the Grove, while about 400 hectares of the core area still remains – for now.

“McLaughlin Ridge is a provincially-significant site and easily the most important deer winter range and goshawk habitat on southern Vancouver Island – to let the whole thing get logged would be a travesty,” stated Jane Morden, coordinator of the Port Alberni-based Friends of McLaughlin Ridge. “We will be asking Island Timberlands to show good will to the community by putting their logging plans for McLaughlin Ridge on hold until funds are put forward to protect this critical old-growth habitat.”

“Here’s another major example of the serious havoc wreaked by the BC government’s TFL-removal scheme. The BC government created this mess by largely deregulating these forest lands - now they need to clean it up by protecting the old-growth forests, deer winter range, and endangered species habitat previously protected or intended for protection, including purchasing McLaughlin Ridge for protection,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder.

The removal of Weyerhaeuser’s private forest lands (later sold to Island Timberlands) from TFL’s 44 and 39 in 2004 also led to the removal of numerous environmental protections and exempted the area from other planned environmental protections on 88,000 hectares of deregulated land on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Haida Gwaii. This included thousands of hectares of planned protection for endangered species (Wildlife Habitat Areas), deer and elk winter habitat (Ungulate Winter Ranges), and old-growth forests (Old-Growth Management Areas), as well as riparian forest protections for salmon and trout, controls on the rate of logging, prohibitions against real estate development, and provincial restrictions on raw log exports.

McLaughlin Ridge is considered by government biologists to be one of the most ecologically significant sites in BC of extremely high conservation value. It is a south-facing (ie. warmer, sunnier) stand of extremely rare old-growth coastal Douglas firs - 99% of which have been logged – and hemlocks covered in lichens that serve as food for deer in times of heavy winter snowfalls and provides them shelter against the elements. Vancouver Island’s black-tailed deer population declined from over 200,000 animals in 1980, to an estimated 55,000 animals by the turn of this century in large part due to the destruction of their mid-elevation old-growth wintering habitat.

“Take note these are not deer that live at sea level where there is rarely snow or urban deer that feed on your flowers and garden veggies. These are high altitude deer populations that live in mountainous regions of Vancouver Island where there is a massive amount of snow in winter – like over 10 feet deep in places - and no veggie gardens to eat,” stated Wu. “The deer rely on old-growth forests like McLaughlin Ridge for winter shelter and lichens for food, which are lacking in the clearcuts and second-growth stands. Fewer deer mean less food for wolves, cougars, bears, First Nations, and non-First Nations hunters.”

The Queen Charlotte goshawk subspecies found on Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii is a bird of prey that is “red”-listed (ie. endangered) by the provincial government. The McLaughlin Ridge is considered to be one of the finest sites for nesting and foraging Queen Charlotte goshawks left. Queen Charlotte goshawks live in coastal old-growth and mature forests, feeding on squirrels and birds. Only a few hundred nesting pairs are known to exist. Several nests have been found on McLaughlin Ridge in years past. Canada’s inadequate Species At Risk Act (SARA) requires that the provincial government develop a recovery plan to rebuild the populations of endangered species, which the province has not completed yet for the Queen Charlotte goshawk. An effective recovery plan should surely require the protection of the goshawk’s most important old-growth habitat, including the McLaughlin Ridge.

The original logging rights on public (Crown) lands on Vancouver Island were granted to logging companies for free earlier last century on condition that the companies include their private forest lands within the regulatory designation known as Tree Farm Licenses in order to control the rate of cut, ensure wood went to local mills, and ensure environmental standards. Allowing companies to keep their Crown land logging rights while removing their private lands from the TFL’s (thus allowing them to log forests previously protected or intended for protection, to export raw logs, and to sell-off forest lands to developers) has been considered by many to be a breach of the public interest.

The Hupacasath First Nation band in Port Alberni won a Supreme Court ruling in 2008 stating that the provincial government failed to consult and accommodate their interests in allowing the removal of 77,000 hectares of TFL 44 lands. The band is currently in negotiations with the BC government to seek redress for this failure.

“99% of the coastal old-growth Douglas firs have already been logged on Vancouver Island – it should be a no-brainer now that no more should be logged,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder and photographer. “Why are we being forced to fight over the last 1% still? This is nuts!”

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