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Community forest logging plans on hold

Canadian Snowmobile to work with CCF over next year to develop plan



Stakeholders in the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) have placed logging plans on hold in a tenure belonging to Canadian Snowmobile Adventures (CSA) after the company's part-owner raised concerns about logging in old growth areas.

The CCF has agreed to work with Canadian Snowmobile over the next year, to strike up a joint plan on how the land in Crawford's tenure in the Callaghan valley will be developed.

The decision was reached during a July meeting at the CCF field office. Present at the meeting was CSA part-owner Allan Crawford and his representatives - Dave Williamson of Cascade Environmental Resource Group and Vern Shanoss, a native spiritual advisor - as well as Heather Beresford, manager of environmental stewardship for the RMOW and Cheakamus Community Forest spokesperson Peter Ackhurst.

"It was an honest and open meeting," Crawford said. "At least it shows progress to me. While I fundamentally disagree with their logging plans, at least they are open enough to try to come up with some solutions."

According to the official agreement, there will be no harvesting in 2010. Opportunities for logging in 2011 will be reviewed as the joint plan develops. Crawford - who also runs snowshoe, dogsled and all-terrain adventure tours in his tenure - will do field reconnaissance to lay out trail routes and other recreation nodes. The CCF will work out potential harvesting areas and the two plans will be compared "over the next year to finalize one joint and mutually agreeable plan and submit to MOFR (B.C. Ministry of Forestry and Range) by July 2012."

Both Crawford and Beresford said they don't know what this plan will look like but Beresford said there will be logging in the Callaghan Valley "at some point in the future," so it's important for the CCF to talk openly with all stakeholders in the area to work out any kinks in that process.

"This is what the community forest is all about, to be able to work with our community stakeholders and put our community values first and have input from the people here," she said.

There are many issues and values in the CCF mix besides land planning and development - First Nations' values, recreational opportunities, watershed protection, aesthetics - that need to be addressed and worked through.

"We would like to use the Canadian Snowmobile agreement as a model for how we're going to be working with the stakeholders," said Beresford.

The CCF, a tenure of over 30,000 hectares of land managed in a partnership between the RMOW and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, has a license to harvest 20,000 cubic metres per year.  There are other tenures in the area that run businesses and Beresford said no one has exclusivity over any area.

The tenure is on Crown land and under a management plan approved by the B.C. Forest Service, the CCF has to cut 20,000 cubic metres a year for five years. The CCF reasons it is better for them to manage the forest than to grant a tenure to a private company and risk major clearcuts.

None of the other businesses with tenures, primarily tour operators, have approached the CCF with concerns about logging.

Crawford said that he was aware of the CCF's right to log when he signed his 30-year tenure three years ago. Still, he took out four full-page ads in local newspapers that pleaded with officials to "PLEASE cancel your outrageous plans to cut down trees."

"I just thought that the logging in Whistler was over with," he said, adding that he assumed that everyone agreed that old growth trees are "just too valuable."

The CCF board of directors approached him once the ads had run and agreed to a meeting. Beresford said there had been some "tension" over the last month between Crawford and the community forest people over the ad campaigns, but they extended a "cooperative hand" in an effort to find a mutually agreeable way to go about each other's business, whether it be snowmobiling or logging.

"We all need to work together," Beresford said. "Nobody's going away, we all have these long-term licenses and we all live here. Let's make it work."

Logging is nothing new in Whistler - the valley had a number of saw mills in the middle of the last century - but Sara Jennings, president of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) is concerned that not enough people recognize the detrimental effects harvesting old growth forests may have on their daily lives.

"Once people start to see it in an area that they use or near somewhere they are on a regular basis, they'll say 'Hey, what's going on here?' It's better for them to get involved beforehand."

She said that while AWARE does not yet have an official position on the CCF (AWARE recently elected a new board and discussions on their position will be forthcoming), they are opposed to the logging of old growth forest, and that open communication between all sides is vital.

The CCF has been clearing hazardous underbrush in the Kadenwood area over the last month in anticipation of fire season.