Environmentalists work to protection of McLaughlin Ridge

Island Tides

Reprint from Volume 26 Number 15 August 7, 2014

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 stop logging the endangered
old-growth forests of McLaughlin Ridge, one of Canada’s most
ecologically significant old-growth forests near Port Alberni on
Vancouver Island, and for the BC Liberal government to show
leadership and ensure the forest’s protection—before it’s too late.
‘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. 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 Timberland’s rapid cutting of extremely scarce oldgrowth
Douglas fir forests, destruction of high quality ungulate
(deer) winter range, and endangered Queen Charlotte goshawk
habitat at McLaughlin Ridge caused conservationists to raise the
alarm recently when they discovered, in early July, that Island
Timberlands has begun road-building and logging into the heart of
McLaughlin Ridge. The company had logged a 100m-wide swath of
old-growth trees, almost the entire span of the previously intact
section of McLaughlin Ridge’s old-growth forest.
‘We’re excited that the ecological significance of McLaughlin
Ridge and the emergency caused by Island Timberlands’ logging of
this magnificent ancient forest has been recognized by so many
diverse organizations,’ 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. ‘They include the province’s most
powerful environmental organizations which have succeeded in
protecting significant tracts of ancient forests in BC; local ‘kitchen
table’ citizens groups who engaged in struggles in their neck of the
woods; and one of the largest forestry workers unions in BC. 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,’ she concludes.
‘Island Timberland is the second largest private landowner in
British Columbia, with over 258,000 hectares of private forest lands
in BC. 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 private forest lands in BC,’ says Ken Wu, Ancient
Forest Alliance executive director, ‘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. 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.’
McLaughlin Ridge was originally intended for protection by the
provincial government as an Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) and
Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA) when it was removed from Tree Farm
Licence 44. The removal of the lands in 2004 included the
stipulation from the BC government that a follow-up agreement be
developed between Island Timberlands and the government to
ensure the protection of McLaughlin Ridge and other intended
UWR’s and WHA’s—neither party pursued the agreement.
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.
Preserving McLaughlin Ridge
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 oldgrowth 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 in 2010 at Jordan River, for
example, at a popular surfing area at risk due to similar
circumstances involving the removal of Western Forest Product’s
private forest lands from its 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 time, simply protecting the last few hundred hectares of
the old-growth forests that remain at McLaughlin Ridge, Horne
Mountain, Cameron Firebreak, Katlum Creek and others is the
immediate priority.
Protecting these areas would protect vital habitat for endangered
species and Roosevelt elk, deer, and other wildlife. It would ensure
clean and abundant water for fish and drinking watersheds; protect
hiking, hunting, fishing, and recreational areas; and provide huge
potential for eco-tourism ventures in the area.
Forest activists are looking at options among private land trusts
who may take an interest in helping to purchase McLaughlin Ridge
and similar lands for protection. 0

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