By Cindy Filipenko
The logging of a 31 hectare parcel at Blackwater Creek is jeopardizing what opponents say is a fragile ecosystems.
More than 50 people, both First Nations and non-native, gathered April 3 at the N’Quatqua Community hall for a community forum to discuss how to protect this traditional gathering territory at the gateway to Birkenhead Provincial Park.
“This movement is not anti-logging, it’s not political, it’s needful,” said group spokesperson Shirley Pietla.
According to Pietla, despite long standing opposition to logging the area, B.C. Timber Sales has sold the first of potentially six cut blocks in the area. During consultation with BCTS in February before the sale, the St’at’imc people and non-native residents reiterated their concerns. A press release alleges that the buyer was never fully apprised of the land’s history.
The preservationists believe that any logging in the region will have a devastating impact on wildlife, frog migration, pine and white chanterelle mushrooms, bog cranberries, huckleberries, and other medicinal plants and herbs indigenous to the area.
Pietla has lived in D’Arcy for the past 41 years and has witnessed the importance of the region, both as a training ground for elders to pass down traditional ways to First Nations youth and as an economic driver.
“We’re a small community. We have no business up here. I consider (mushrooming) the lifeblood of the community,” said the mushroom stand owner. “Many native people are poor, this can mean the difference between getting a snow tire, putting a turkey on the table or a few presents under the tree.”
The highly prized pine mushroom, a Japanese delicacy, takes between 60 and 80 years to regenerate in an undisturbed forest. Logging this parcel could mean the end of pine mushroom gathering for at least 100 years.
In addition to being a traditional St’at’imc gathering territory, the land is also popular with recreational users. The self-described “peaceful protestors” are looking for those individuals to come forth with support for preservation of the Blackwater Creek lands. They are asking supporters to sign a petition requesting that the government outlaw all future logging and development in the Blackwater area and to have it designated a protected environment.
Pietla, the widow of a logger, is sympathetic to the logging company now at the centre of the dispute.
“I feel sorry for the poor logger caught in the middle,” she stated, pointing out that the conflict surrounding the land is nothing new.
“This all started in 1991. The government stayed away from the area for a long time. A lot of those people I dealt with are retired. Now we have another group to deal with.
“They have all of B.C. to log — we’re saying just leave this area alone.”