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Island Timberlands Begins Logging Old-Growth in Area Formerly Intended as Protected Elk Winter Range in the Cameron Valley near Port Alberni

Island Timberlands has begun logging earlier this week in an area formerly intended for protection as Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer winter range in the Cameron Valley “Firebreak” on Vancouver Island.

Ancient Forest Alliance Media Release, April 27, 2012

Island Timberlands Begins Logging Old-Growth in Area Formerly Intended as Protected Elk Winter Range in the Cameron Valley near Port Alberni
Click for larger image

Local Port Alberni resident and Watershed-Forest Alliance coordinator Jane Morden (red shirt) hikes amongst some of the giant old-growth Douglas-fir trees found in the endangered Cameron Valley Firebreak.
Photo by TJ Watt

Media Release

April 27, 2012

Island Timberlands Begins Logging Old-Growth in Area Formerly Intended as Protected Old-Growth Elk Winter Range in the Cameron Valley near Port Alberni

Port Alberni, BC - Island Timberlands has begun logging an area formerly intended for protection as Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer winter range earlier this week in the Cameron Valley “Firebreak” on Vancouver Island. The Cameron Valley Firebreak is an extremely rare, 150 hectare section of old-growth forest that spans the distance from the valley bottom to mountain top that is a 30 minute drive from the town of Port Alberni and lies several kilometres upstream from the world-famous Cathedral Grove.

See beautiful new photos of the imminently endangered Cameron Valley Firebreak Forest and the beginnings of the logging incursion by Island Timberlands at: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=17

Local activists with the Port Alberni-based Watershed-Forest Alliance and the Victoria-based Ancient Forest Alliance were dismayed to come across a logging crew on Monday that had begun to fall along the edge of the grove, including scores of huge and extremely rare old-growth Douglas fir trees. In the grove are also large numbers of Culturally Modified Trees stripped for their cedar bark.

The forest was formerly planned for protection by the provincial government as an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) for Roosevelt elk and black-tailed deer until the land was largely deregulated in 2004 due to its removal from Tree Farm License 44. Conservationists are calling on Island Timberlands to halt their logging of the grove until funds can be secured for the purchase of Island Timberlands’ high conservation value forests, including the Cameron Valley Firebreak.

"This old growth forest that stretches from mountain top to valley bottom is of monumental importance to deer and elk and is incredibly beautiful to wander through. The loss of any of this precious wildlife habitat seems unjustifiable for the amount of job hours it will create," stated Jane Morden, coordinator of the Watershed-Forest Alliance based in Port Alberni.

Island Timberlands employs few people in Port Alberni and is one of BC’s largest exporters of raw logs to foreign mills.

In 2004 the BC Liberal government removed 88,000 hectares of Weyerhaeuser’s forest lands, now owned by Island Timberlands, from their Tree Farm Licenses (TFL’s), thus removing many existing environmental protections as well as provincial restrictions on raw log exports on those lands, and not implementing other planned protections - including intended Ungulate Winter Ranges (UWR’s) in areas such as the Cameron Valley.

The Cameron Valley Firebreak is clearly an exceptional place. The grove is just jam-packed with elk sign and ancient coastal Douglas Firs, 99% of which have already been logged. Who can argue against the fact that these extremely scarce ancient coastal Douglas fir forests should be protected?” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder and photographer. “Why are we still being forced to fight over the last 1%? Once it’s gone it’s gone and we could be just days away from that being the case.”

The Cameron Valley Firebreak was left unlogged for decades by previous companies who owned the land to slow the spread of forest fires moving through the parched clearcuts and tree plantations. Fires would be stifled by the giant, water-saturated fallen logs and woody debris kept cool and moist in the shade, underneath the canopy of the ancient forest.

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 allowed their adjacent private forest lands to be placed into regulatory designations known as Tree Farm Licenses (TFL’s), in order to control the rate of cut, ensure their logs went to local mills, and to ensure environmental standards on those private lands. In recent times the companies (Weyerhaeuser in 2004 and Western Forest Products in 2006) greatly benefitted from the removal of their private lands from their TFL’s as it allowed them to log previously protected forests, to export raw logs, and to sell-off forest lands to developers – but meanwhile were still allowed to retain their Crown land logging rights (despite no longer upholding the conditions of the original agreement on their private lands). This failure to uphold the original agreement is considered by many to be a breach of the public interest. Weyerhaeuser has since moved off the coast, with the company’s former private lands now owned by Island Timberlands and its Crown land logging rights held by Western Forest Products.

The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the provincial government to establish a BC Park Acquisition Fund of at least $40 million per year, raising $400 million over 10 years, to purchase old-growth forests and other endangered ecosystems on private lands across the province, such as the Cameron Valley Firebreak. The fund would be similar to the park acquisition funds of various regional districts in BC which are augmented by the fundraising efforts of private citizens and land trusts.

“Christy Clark’s BC Liberal government must step forward with a funding solution, a BC Park Acquisition Fund similar to those of many regional districts, to purchase old-growth forests and endangered ecosystems on private lands for protection - particularly Island Timberlands’ contentious lands,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance co-founder. “At the same time, Island Timberlands absolutely must put the brakes on their plans to log the last old-growth stands like the Cameron Valley Firebreak until those lands can be purchased for protection.”

The Ancient Forest Alliance and local conservationists are calling for the protection of old-growth forests, sustainable logging of second-growth forests, and an end to the export of raw logs to foreign mills in order to ensure a guaranteed log supply for BC mills. The provincial government’s new BC Forest Strategy emphasizes the export of BC wood products - in large part BC raw logs - to China.
 


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