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B.C. suspends sale of ancient forest on Sunshine Coast identified as hot spot for bear dens

Vancouver Sun - Larry Pynn, September 23, 2015

B.C. suspends sale of ancient forest on Sunshine Coast identified as hot spot for bear dens
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A black bear den in a cedar tree in Dakota Valley on the Sunshine Coast.

Environmentalists who blocked construction of a forestry road on the Sunshine Coast for more than five weeks have won a temporary victory in their bid to stop logging of an old-growth forest identified as a prime spot for black bear dens.

B.C. Timber Sales won’t put the forest up for sale as planned on Oct. 1 and instead is “going to consider its options over the winter,” said Vivian Thomas, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. The road builder, K & D Contracting, “had other jobs, so moved (their) equipment out,” she added. RCMP attended the logging site but no one obtained a court injunction to end the blockade.

“When there’s a blockade and you can’t get past it and you’re sitting there, you have to move,” said Doug Grant, a manager with K & D in Campbell River. “It cost about six weeks of productivity.” The company had barged in its heavy equipment.

A July 2014 report by consulting biologist Wayne McCrory found “very high-quality old-growth den habitat” in the Dakota Valley near Sechelt. Based on field work within two of four cutblocks proposed for sale, he extrapolated that logging of the overall 64 hectares would impact about 32 active bear dens.

The dens he investigated were within the trunk or cavity of cedar trees at elevations of 700 to 920 metres. Three-quarters of the best old-growth den habitat has already been logged in the area, McCrory observed, adding it is important to protect what little remains.

Ross Muirhead and Hans Penner, environmental campaigners with Elphinstone Logging Focus, said in an interview that they hope suspension of the sale will give the province time to consider the ecological and cultural values of the Dakota Valley — and not just timber values.

“Any delay in issuing the cutblock is good news,” Muirhead said. “It gives both sides more time to study the other features.”

Research commissioned by the province showed one old-growth yellow cedar to be 1,100 years old — a date calculated only after cutting the tree and others down rather than using less-invasive core samples, Penner said. “We find that appalling, an outrage. They killed the trees to count their age.”

Thomas said a few trees were cut to better determine if they were culturally modified, suggesting the “decay and healing” were more likely the result of “biogeoclimatic conditions.”

Thomas said BCTS discovered two cedar trees that appeared to have been recently used by bears as dens just outside the boundary of a cutblock and excluded them from the planned harvest area. She noted that black bear populations in B.C. are healthy and not a conservation concern and that nearby Tetrahedron Provincial Park provides an abundance of bear habitat.

Penner noted that a study of the logging site by consulting archeologist Jim Stafford found 33 trees thought to be culturally modified, suggesting long-term aboriginal use such as stripping off cedar bark. The province disputes the claim. Cultural modified trees that pre-date 1846 are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act.

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/suspends+sale+ancient+forest+sunshine+coast+identified+spot+bear+dens/11385733/story.html?__lsa=fa03-0d9c


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