Location: Central Vancouver Island (near Port Alberni)
Size: 500 hectares
Public/Private Land: Private (owned by Island Timberlands)
First Nations Territory: Hupacasath
Photo Gallery: www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos/mclaughlin-ridge/
Conservationists are calling on the BC government to protect a 500 hectare tract of ancient Douglas fir 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 protect the old-growth forest on private land on McLaughlin Ridge by purchasing it from Island Timberlands.
The land was formerly protected 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 environmental protections on those lands. Island Timberlands began logging the 500 hectare tract of old-growth forest (how long 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, the Cameron Valley Firebreak, and Mount Horne were all intended to be protected as Ungulate Winter Ranges for wintering deer and/or elk until negotiations between the B.C. government and Island Timberlands fell apart, subsequent to the lands’ removal in 2004 from their Tree Farm Licence (TFL). These lands, along with another 78,000 hectares, were once regulated to stronger public standards within their TFL’s – their removal thereby deregulated most of the environmental laws that otherwise would have protected the scenery, riparian zones for water quality and wild salmon, deer and elk winter ranges, endangered species habitats, and many old-growth stands, as well as restrictions on raw log exports.
The Port Alberni city council has also passed a resolution calling for the protection of McLaughlin Ridge, located in the city’s China Creek drinking watershed, and has met with Island Timberlands over the past year seeking a conservation solution. During the same period, Island Timberlands seems to have taken pause at McLaughlin Ridge and has indicated that they are open to potential buyers – for now.
In a move that could bolster the local momentum, 16 major conservation and recreation organizations, including the Port Alberni Watershed Forest Alliance and the Ancient Forest Alliance, signed a statement in January calling on the B.C. Liberal government to establish a $40 million/year Natural Lands Acquisition Fund that would help to purchase and protect private lands of high environmental value – for example, McLaughlin Ridge and Mount Horne by Port Alberni.