By Clare Ogilvie
Protesters are gathered near Birkenhead Provincial Park to try and stop a logging operation.
N’Quatqua elder, 64-year-old Laureen Jack is hoping for a peaceful protest as band members and non-natives in the community try and protect a 31-hectare piece of land, about 85 kilometres north of Whistler.
They claim it has been used for thousands of years to harvest medicinal plants, rare pine mushrooms and animals.
“People are marching to save this piece of land because this is very important land for our people here in N’Quatqua,” said Jack, who has lived in the area all her life.
“For thousands and thousands of years our people have thrived using this land that keeps us alive. We go there to harvest food. It supplies us with many of our needs.”
One of the top concerns is how the logging will impact a patch of pine mushrooms. Though there are several, Jack said the one in cutblock #002 is popular because it has an easy slope to walk on and is near the road.
It is estimated that the mushrooms bring in up to $100,000 to the area.
“If this is cut off a lot of people will be starving here,” said Jack. “That is what sustains our population in this area.”
The highly prized pine mushroom can take up to 80 years to grow when it finds perfect conditions, so it is likely that logging will mean the end of mushroom harvesting in the area for at least 100 years.
“It is so heartbreaking to see all this happening just for a handful of money and for just a handful of people to benefit from it,” said Jack.
According to a Ministry of Forests and Range fact sheet, logging within high yield mushroom sites in the block will account for approximately 0.5 per cent of the production potential. Out of the 31 hectares only about 17 hectares will actually be logged; the rest is either in reserve, under retention, or part of a wildlife tree patch.
Though N’Quatqua members make up some of the protesters B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) has reached a working agreement with the N’Quatqua Band that acknowledges limited harvesting within the provincially recognized Blackwater Pine Mushroom Management Area (BPMMA).
No one from the band would comment on the protest or the logging agreement.
In the long-term, BCTS, the Squamish Forest District, and the N’Quatqua Band have agreed to participate in a joint sustainability study that addresses N’Quatqua interests within the BPMMA.