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RMOW fires back at logging concerns



The Resort Municipality of Whistler is on the defensive over allegations that it's looking to log old growth forests in and around the community.

A full-page ad taken out by Allan Crawford of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures in last week's issues of the Pique and the Question appeals to the municipality to cancel its "outrageous" plans to cut down trees in the Cheakamus Community Forest.

The ad accuses the Community Forest of seeking to cut "beautiful old growth trees" in areas of up to five hectares in size - the size of eight to 10 football fields, according to Crawford. He goes on to say that living trees are priceless, creating the "great energy" people experience in Whistler, that they filter water and make air breathable.

The RMOW countered these accusations on a media tour of the community forest last week. Environmental Stewardship Manager Heather Beresford and forestry consultant Peter Ackhurst showed local media sites in the Kadenwood, Callaghan and Cheakamus areas where the community forest expects to manage logging activities.

The Cheakamus Community Forest is a tenure that the RMOW shares with the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations, with all of them acting as equal partners. It's a tenure that sees them manage over 30,000 hectares of Crown forestland with a right to harvest about 20,000 cubic metres out of it each year. It has contracted Richmond Plywood Ltd. to carry out logging activities on its behalf.

The Community Forest already commenced logging activity in Kadenwood, where it has been thinning trees and clearing away forest fuels and underbrush in preparation for a fire season that some provincial authorities believe could come close to the risk that southwestern B.C. faced last summer.

Beresford said the central aim of the community forest is to manage logging in a responsible manner instead of leaving a forest tenure up to a private company, which she said could end up logging in openings of up to 25 hectares, whereas the Cheakamus Community Forest can log in openings of up to five hectares.

"When they went through this process - it's called spatial analysis - for the land base of the community forest, (the Province) looked at how many trees there are, how fast they grow, they calculated that this land base could handle 33,000 to 36,000 cubic metres of cut every year," she said.

"Through the negotiations by the community forest, with the Ministry of Forests, we successfully negotiated that down to 20,000 cubic metres per year.

"So the point is, if it were not in the community forest's control, and in a private company, that private company could be harvesting up to 33,000 (or) 36,000 cubic metres of wood per year on this same land base, with extremely limited input from the community of Whistler."

Beresford went on to explain that at the height of B.C.'s logging days, between the 1950s and 1980s, ecosystems in Whistler were put into "deficit" because they were logged so intensely. She estimated that about 1,000 hectares per year were affected by harvesting and under the community forest it will be closer to 40 hectares per year.

Ackhurst explained that the whole Whistler valley was logged at that time. The company that used to hold tenures in Whistler was once Pacific Logging but Western Forest Products later acquired the tenure. Their tenure is just ending now and the Cheakamus Community Forest will take over stewardship of the forest thereafter.