Whistler is about to begin its logging venture and some old growth trees could face the wrath of a chainsaw, the mayor conceded this week.
Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed spoke to Pique in response to a letter to the editor in last week's paper. In it Allan Crawford of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures opined that the municipality, as a partner in the Cheakamus Community Forest, would be logging "irreplaceable old growth forest."
Though he didn't say whether or not it would be replaceable, Melamed admitted that some old growth forest could be logged.
"No matter who owns a forest tenure, there was logging that was going to happen in the Callaghan," he said. "So we are now the licensees, as opposed to Western Forest Products who held the license before and the small business branch of the B.C. Forest Service who would have done the logging."
The Resort Municipality of Whistler is a partner in the Cheakamus Community Forest with the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations. Together they've signed a joint community forest agreement with the provincial government that gives them tenure over 30,000 hectares of Crown forest land. They also have the legal obligation to log 20,000 cubic metres each year.
The tenure itself encompasses the Callaghan and Brandywine Valleys, Wedge Mountain, 16, 19 and 21 Mile Valleys and the Cheakamus Valley. Richmond Plywood Ltd. has been contracted to do the actual logging and will share revenues with the municipality and the First Nations.
Crawford said in an interview that he's mainly worried about logging on a section of Sproatt Mountain where he owns a recreational tenure as part-owner of Canadian Snowmobile Adventures. The company uses it for activities such as snowshoeing, dog sledding and ATV tours.
The company, he said, planned to put a trail for non-motorized recreation on Sproatt this summer. Logging activities could compromise construction of the trails.
"We're curious why they want to log these trees because logs have very little value right now," Crawford said. "The logging, forestry industry is suffering and the other thing is that it's a very rocky mountainside so it doesn't even grow very good lumber.
"It's bad timing, poor grade, it's much better to keep that as tourism in a tourism town than try to make money selling pulp in a poor economy. It's ridiculous, I don't even know why they're trying."
Melamed reiterated that the community forest can only see 20,000 cubic metres logged in a single year. That's a small number, he says, compared to the previous annual allowable cut of 100,000 cubic metres that was in place while he sat on Whistler's Forest and Wildlands Advisory Committee.
"It's been reduced and adjusted over time," he said. "We have to have a bit of perspective. The reality is Whistler's been heavily logged over time. ...Richmond has agreed to put together a logging plan, we need to generate some revenue to manage the community forest."
Melamed went on to say that logging is expected to commence this summer, but he couldn't confirm the date.
Meanwhile Peter Ackhurst, a spokesman for the Cheakamus Community Forest, said the majority of the trees in its tenure are old growth, but that just means they've never been logged.
"It's not necessarily the giant cedars and Douglas Firs that everybody thinks," he said. "Old growth just means that it's never been cut before. Many people's image of what an old growth forest is, or the big, big trees, that's not necessarily true."
Ackhurst said 12,000 of the 30,000 hectares in the Community Forest are old growth trees. He said there are four different areas to be logged and one of them is where Crawford operates his business.
He said Crawford learned of the logging intentions at a meeting last week of all the outdoor recreation operators in the area. Ackhurst said the intention of the meeting was to reach out and exchange information.
"We showed them where the forest stewardship plan is, where the harevesting plan was," he said. "He went out the back door and wrote his article."