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Major Environmental, Labour, and Community Organizations call on Island Timberlands and the BC Government to Halt the Destruction of one of BCs Finest Old-Growth Forests at McLaughlin Ridge

Ancient Forest Alliance Media Release, July 21, 2014

Major Environmental, Labour, and Community Organizations call on Island Timberlands and the BC Government to Halt the Destruction of one of BCs Finest Old-Growth Forests at McLaughlin Ridge
Click for larger image

Recent old-growth logging by Island Timberlands on McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni.
Photo by TJ Watt

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2014

Major Environmental, Labour, and Community Organizations call on Island Timberlands and the BC Government to Halt the Destruction of one of BC’s Finest Old-Growth Forests at McLaughlin Ridge on Vancouver Island

Diverse organizations, including a major forestry workers union, BC’s largest environmental organizations, and community organizations, have signed a statement calling on Island Timberlands to immediately cease and desist from logging the endangered old-growth forests of McLaughlin Ridge, one Canada’s most ecologically significant old-growth forests near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, and for the BC Liberal government show leadership and ensure the forest’s protection – before it’s too late.

See the statement here: http://www.watershedforestalliance.ca/call-to-action-july-21-2014/

Organizations that have signed on include the: Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada (PPWC) union, ForestEthics, Canopy, Greenpeace Canada, Sierra Club of BC, Canadian Parks And Wilderness Society (CPAWS), Wilderness Committee, Island Stance, Alberni Environmental Coalition, Arrowsmith Parks and Land-use Council, Port Alberni Council of Canadians, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Save the Day, & Valhalla Wilderness Society.

“We’re excited that the ecological significance of McLaughlin Ridge and the environmental emergency caused by Island Timberlands’ logging of this magnificent ancient forest has been recognized by so many diverse organizations. This includes the province’s most powerful environmental organizations that have succeeded in protecting significant tracts of ancient forests in BC; local ‘kitchen table’ environmental groups of citizens who hold meetings in their homes, engaged in similar struggles against Island Timberlands in their neck of the woods; one of the largest forestry workers unions in BC; and other important community groups. The company and the BC government really need to heed the call of so many diverse organizations, otherwise the controversy will only continue to grow,” stated Jane Morden, coordinator of the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, which is spearheading the campaign to protect old-growth forests around Port Alberni, including McLaughlin Ridge.

Island Timberland is the second largest private landowner in British Columbia, with over 258,000 hectares of private forest lands in BC. The controversial logging corporation’s rapid cutting of extremely scarce old-growth Douglas-fir forests, high quality ungulate (deer) winter range, and endangered Queen Charlotte goshawk habitat at McLaughlin Ridge risks escalating a wider conflict in the War in the Woods.

See recent photos of the logging at McLaughlin Ridge in early July (media are free to reprint, credit to “TJ Watt” if possible): http://on.fb.me/1qeaXhn

See older photos of the intact forest and earlier logging in 2011 at McLaughlin Ridge (media are free to reprint all photos, credit to “TJ Watt” if possible): http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=10

Conservationists raised the alarm recently when they discovered earlier this month that Island Timberlands has begun a road-building and logging spree into the heart of McLaughlin Ridge. The company had logged a 100 meter wide or greater swath of old-growth trees, traversing almost the entire span of the previously intact section of McLaughlin Ridge’s old-growth forest.

McLaughlin Ridge is part of 78,000 hectares of land that were removed from Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44 on Vancouver Island in 2004, thereby removing the planned environmental policies and/or regulations intended to protect species at risk, old-growth forests, ungulate winter ranges, and to control the rate of cut; as well as those designated to protect riparian areas and restrict raw log exports to protect local mills.

“By all measures, McLaughlin Ridge is of the highest conservation priority – as ungulate winter range, for species at risk, for scarce old-growth Douglas-fir groves, and as part of Port Alberni’s drinking watershed. McLaughlin Ridge was supposed to be protected as part of the agreement to remove the lands from the Tree Farm Licence in 2004, but the BC government and Island Timberlands dropped the ball on the subsequent negotiations. We need Island Timberlands to cease and desist immediately from their old-growth logging operations, and for the BC government to ensure a conservation solution for this endangered ancient forest,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance photographer and campaigner.

“Island Timberlands is a corporation that is constantly wading into controversy – more than any other BC logging company it seems. They are charging forward to log their most contentious, environmentally significant old-growth forests and socially-valued lands, despite the fact that these hot spots constitute a minuscule fraction of their 250,000 hectares of private forest lands in BC. This is a bad business model in this province, and I’d recommend they take a new approach. The current situation will be a lose-lose for everyone. But there are solutions, including some possible creative ones, that can be developed. However, it will require that the company immediately halt its logging operations at McLaughlin Ridge so this whole thing doesn’t become a moot point soon, and for the BC government to show their willingness to be leaders to implement a solution. But time is short and options for McLaughlin Ridge will run out soon if the corporation continues to cut out the heart of its ancient forest,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director.

MORE BACKGROUND INFO

McLaughlin Ridge has been recognized by the provincial government’s own biologists as one of the most important habitats for the red-listed Queen Charlotte Goshawk (an endangered bird of prey) and as one of the finest ungulate wintering ranges for coastal black-tailed deer on Vancouver Island. See: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/battle-revealed-over-use-of-sensitive-island-forest-near-port-alberni-1.10365

The area was originally intended for protection by the provincial government as an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) and Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA), until the province’s plans changed when it removed the lands from Tree Farm Licence 44. The removal of the lands from TFL 44 in 2004 included the stipulation from the BC government that a follow-up agreement be developed between the company and the government to ensure the protection of McLaughlin Ridge and other intended UWR’s and WHA’s - however, both parties failed to pursue the agreement, and the lands are now being logged.

In total, about 2400 hectares of endangered old-growth forests originally intended for protection by the BC government as Ungulate Winter Ranges and Wildlife Habitat Areas in TFL 44 are now endangered. These lands also include Horne Mountain above the world-famous Cathedral Grove, the Cameron Valley Firebreak, Katlum Creek, and other areas – of which, about two-thirds of the total area are estimated to have now been logged. Much of the lands are within the traditional territory of the Hupacasath band. At the current pace of falling, much of McLaughlin Ridge could be logged within a few weeks.

Despite the company’s recent logging incursion into the heart of McLaughlin Ridge, a few hundred hectares of extremely endangered old-growth forests and mature second-growth forests still stand on the slope – for now. This includes major stands of old-growth Douglas-fir trees, the overwhelming majority of which have been logged on BC’s coast.

Over the past several years conservationists have been asking the BC government to purchase and protect endangered private lands – which the government did at Jordan River for example in 2010 at a popular surfing area at risk due to similar circumstances involving the removal of Western Forest Product’s private forest lands from their TFL’s. Ideally, these purchases would occur as part of a larger, dedicated “park acquisition fund” of millions of dollars each year for this purpose. At this urgent time, simply protecting the last few hundred hectares of the old-growth forests that remain at McLaughlin Ridge, Horne Mountain (above Cathedral Grove), Cameron Firebreak, Katlum Creek, etc. would be the immediate priority.

Protecting these areas would protect vital habitat for endangered species and Roosevelt elk, deer, and other wildlife; ensure clean and abundant water for fish and drinking watersheds; protect hiking, hunting, fishing, and recreational areas; and would provide huge potential for eco-tourism ventures in the area.

In addition, forest activists will start looking at options among private land trusts who may take an interest in helping to purchase McLaughlin Ridge and similar lands. Island Timberlands has recently been in conversation with local Cortes Island residents and the Strathcona Regional District about potentially selling some of its contentious forest lands on Cortes: http://www.campbellrivermirror.com/news/262595281.html
 


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