A conservation group is urging the province to stop logging old growth cut blocks north of Revelstoke.
“We need action — as we speak we are losing some of the best old growth we have left,” said Wildsight conservation specialist Eddie Petryshen.
BC Timber Sales (BCTS) — the province’s timber agency — has auctioned off 120 hectares of old growth forest in the Bigmouth Creek, approximately 120 km north of Revelstoke.
The province confirmed timber harvesting has started in the area.
While the Fairy Creek protests have gained international spotlight, little attention has been given to logging in Interior B.C.’s temperate rainforest, home to at-risk species like mountain caribou.
The province last year deferred logging 11 of 14 cutblocks in the neighbouring Argonaut Creek, beside Bigmouth Creek, until new caribou herd plans are released, which is not expected until 2023.
The ministry of forests said it observed eight caribou this winter during a census in the Argonaut Creek and Bigmouth area.
“If this government is serious about honouring their commitments towards protecting caribou habitat and old growth, the province must immediately defer BCTS logging in endangered old growth and caribou habitat in the Inland Temperate Rainforest,” said Petryshen.
The provincial government defines trees on the coast that are 250 years old to be old growth, for the Revelstoke region it’s 140 years.
After months of protest, Premier John Horgan paused logging nearly 200,000 hectares of old growth forest for two years in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island to develop resource management plans with local Indigenous people.
Wildsight said the four remaining cutblocks in the Argonaut valley should also be deferred by the province to protect habitat for caribou.
Some logging road sections in Bigmouth Creek valley have already been deactivated by planting trees, de-compacting the road bed and mounding to make travel difficult for people and predators of caribou, such as wolves. Approximately 10 km of road has been deactivated and another 10 km is planned to help protect caribou, according to the province.
Wolves are one of the main predators of the endangered animal.
The Revelstoke Community Forestry Corporation, which is owned by the city, is another agency that harvests old growth forests north of Revelstoke, but south of Argonaut Creek and the Bigmouth area. The province just renewed the company’s annual allowable cut for the next 10 years at 90,000 cubic metres of timber, which is approximately 2,200 truck loads of wood.
One of Premier John Horgan’s fall campaign promises was to protect more old growth forests and transform the forest industry to be more sustainable.
The province said it plans to identify additional areas to defer logging in old growth forests where irreversible biodiversity loss is at stake.
“This work will take time – as it must be done in consultation with First Nations listening to how they want to manage their land,” said the ministry of forests in an email response.
While B.C. is home to 57 million hectares of forests, an independent study published last year found that less than one per cent of it is intact old growth.
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