The Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) has outlined its logging plans for 2014, and old-growth trees make up the majority of the proposed cut for the year.
According to the logging plan summary, a total of 27,696m3 of forest could be logged this year, above the 20,000m3 annual allowable cut recommended by the provincial Ministry of Forests. Two run-of-river projects near the Wedgemount River are responsible for almost 7,000m3 of the proposed harvest, said CCF operations forester Tom Cole, adding that the projects are pending — one by Wedgewood Estates and one by the Lil'wat Nation.
Just over 23,000m3 of forest was logged in 2013, but due to poor market conditions, only around 7,000m3 was harvested the year before.
Cole said that while the proposed harvest level is higher than the annual target, the likelihood of all the projects coming to fruition is slim.
"The market's fairly strong but some of the decisions will be subject to the open house, board approval, and now I have to go find some money at the mill to build roads, so it's contingent on a number of factors," he said. "We just have to get approval, get contractors, get rates and figure out whether there's an advantage to doing all of (the projects), or just some of them."
Of the total proposed harvest, nearly 19,000m3 is made up of old-growth forest, classified by the province as any tree over 250 years old. In accordance with the province's Old Growth Management Area (OGMA) program, the CCF launched its Old Growth Forest Protection Plan last year to identify and register old-growth areas for protection. The project is expected for delivery in the coming weeks, according to RMOW manager of environmental stewardship Heather Beresford.
Members of the environmental community in Whistler have raised issue with the process to preclude certain old-growth areas from logging, including Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) executive director Claire Ruddy, who would like to see a more targeted approach to demarcating old-growth trees that goes beyond the provincial classification standard.
"While the forestry standard is to associate anything over 250 years old as old growth, here we know that we have trees that are much, much older than that," she said, suggesting the implementation of a classification system that identifies and protects trees at different age levels, over 600, 800 and 1,000 years old, for example.
AWARE's director has also been critical of the specific areas identified for protection by the CCF, saying that some of them sit outside CCF boundaries, are located in close proximity to sensitive riparian areas where logging is prohibited, or are simply inoperable, and are unlikely to ever have been logged anyway.
"What has been done in other areas of the province, so we're now doing it here as well, is actually looking at setting those (old-growth) areas within the landscape unit, and the landscape unit is bigger than the boundaries of the CCF, so they've actually been able to move a number of those Old Growth Management Areas to the outskirts or outside of the CCF boundaries," she said. "That's something we were a little bit disappointed with, because it's a net loss really."