By Clare Ogilvie
Community residents and members of the N’Quatqua First Nation are holding a gathering where they plan to demand a review of B.C. forest practices.
The move follows the setting up of a protest camp near the site of a planned logging cut block in the Blackwater Creek Area, about 85 kilometres north of Whistler.
“(The gathering) will be a show of hands,” said Shirley Pietla who has been speaking out about logging in the area since 1991. “People will be able to come and see what we are talking about.
“We are not against logging, but there are certain areas that really need to be left alone, and this is one of them. Enough is enough.”
The weekend camping gathering will start at 4 p.m. June 15 and go until noon on June 17. It will be held at Blackwater Lake and is an alcohol- and drug-free event.
At issue for the protesters is a 31-hectare piece of land, 17 hectares of which is slated to be logged. The area is home to one of the best local pine mushroom patches and has been used for generations by the N’Quatqua as a traditional place to gather plants and medicinal herbs.
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.
Though the N’Quatqua chief and council have reached some agreements with B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS), the government arm created to develop Crown timber for auction, it has never supported logging in cut block #BL002.
“We want to state that the N’Quatqua chief and council’s position has always been and remains that we do not support any logging in and around the Blackwater pine mushroom area and that is something we have always stated,” said councillor Rebecca Barley.
“The N’Quatqua has always had a concern. BCTS did address some of the concerns but not all of them.
“We are not anti-logging but the value attached to the mushroom ground is far greater than any harvest could ever be.”
Barley said there have been a number of meetings over the years and the band’s official position has always been clear.
“There really weren’t a lot of measures taken to accommodate (our concerns),” she said. “I do think there are serious issues with the process.
“Right from the onset we have been actively pushing for them not to go in there.”
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.
BCTS has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the N’Quatqua agreeing not to develop any new blocks, other than those already approved, within the band’s area of interest until the results of the sustainability study are reviewed.