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tree fight

There's a war brewing in the woods of B.C. and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee has fired off the first salvo. The rain early this week cooled the danger of forest fire in the Elaho River area where the WCWC has undertaken one of its biggest save-the-trees campaigns to date as they pursue their dream of creating the 260,000 hectare Randy Stoltmann Wilderness Area. But the rain didn't cool off the heat in the stop work order Paul Kuster, district manager of the Squamish Forest District, sent the Wilderness Committee regarding the illegal trail building they are doing in the area. The new Forest Practices Code became law June 15 and Kuster says section 102(1) of the Code applies to the construction of recreational trails on Crown Land. According to Kuster, a cease and desist order must be issued to anyone contravening the guidelines set forth in the Code. Paul George, founder of the WCWC says they are not building a trail, only flagging a route and clearing brush for the safety of hikers in the area — hikers the WCWC is inviting to take part in what they call "Wilderness vs. Logging in the Stoltmann Wilderness" in a press release. As loggers and environmentalists draw up their battle plans and the Forest Service tries to figure out where it fits in, the battleground has already been set by the WCWC as they plan on hosting a Clearcut Campout Aug. 5-7. The purpose: to show people the beauty of the Stoltmann Wilderness area, including the recently discovered Elaho Giant — the third largest Douglas Fir in B.C. The problem is the battleground the WCWC has delineated has little chance of ever becoming protected under existing provincial guidelines. Premier Mike Harcourt and Forest Minister Andrew Petter have been gallivanting around the province unveiling new parks and protected areas. But when Harcourt and Petter announced the new Pinecone Lake-Burke Mountain Park last month they also unveiled how much land has been protected in the Lower Mainland. The Lower Mainland region is a 4.2 million hectare area made up of the Chilliwack, Squamish and Sunshine Coast Forest Districts. The Protected Areas Strategy aims at protecting 13 per cent of the land in each region. With the announcement of the Pinecone-Burke Lake Park, 440,000 hectares or 10.5 per cent of land in the region has been protected. That leaves only 105,000 hectares left to reach 13 per cent. The proposed Stoltmann Wilderness area is 260,000 hectares. Harcourt also announced last month that additional protected areas will be chosen from cabinet-approved study areas. The Stoltmann Wilderness area has not been approved by cabinet. Joe Foy, campaign director with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, says the Forest Practices Code has to apply to everyone, even the WCWC.

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