Rare Lowland Old-Growth Forest at Risk – Road-building and Logging Surveys Underway at Echo Lake, the World’s Largest Night-Roosting Site for Bald Eagles, east of Vancouver

Published: July 7, 2016
Posted in: Media Release
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Road-building is scheduled to begin this week and preliminary logging surveys of the old-growth redcedars are underway by Echo Lake, an extremely rare, lowland old-growth forest about 2 hours east of Vancouver between Mission and Agassiz. Echo Lake is part of the drinking watershed for local people, is home to the largest night-roosting site for bald eagles on Earth, and harbours much wildlife including bears, cougars, bobcats, wintering black-tailed deer, osprey, numerous bats, and various Species at Risk. Local landowners and conservationists are redoubling efforts to convince the BC government to protect the endangered north and west sides of the lake.

Mission, BC – Local landowners and conservation groups are dismayed at road-building and old-growth logging plans that are underway in a community watershed at Echo Lake, an extremely rare and endangered, lowland old-growth forest between Mission and Agassiz, famous for its monumental cedars and Douglas-firs, wildlife, and hundreds of roosting bald eagles during the fall salmon run (see the Vancouver Sun http://www.vancouversun.com/Province+urged+protect+Harrison+eagles/7371025/story.html).

Landowners Stephen and Susan Ben-Oliel, who own a private land parcel on one side of the lake, and who draw their drinking water there, were informed on Monday by consultants hired by C&H Forest Products that the logging company is planning to begin construction this week of a 1400 metre long logging road in their Community Watershed. The planned road on Crown lands leads to stands of old-growth redcedars and Douglas-firs on the northwest side of Echo Lake. The couple have also discovered a series of recently flagged and spray-painted old redcedars alongside the main trail by Echo Lake in preparation for logging. Over a thousand people have now hiked the trail around Echo Lake since 2013, when the Ancient Forest Alliance began organizing guided tours through the area.

Last year, Forest Minister Steve Thomson stated that there were no logging plans for Echo Lake – See Global TV at: http://globalnews.ca/news/1906359/clear-cutting-threatens-echo-lake-eagle-colony/

However, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource operations recently approved C&H Forest Products’ road building plans, although they have not approved any cutting plans at this time. Conservationists are concerned that once major sections of road are constructed, the company will be in a strengthened position to obtain approval for their logging plans in order to recuperate their costs. C&H Forest Products have a Woodlot Licence on the unprotected north and west sides of Echo Lake, while a 55 hectare Old-Growth Management Area protects the south side of the lake.

“Judging by their flagging tape and the route of their planned logging road, it appears the licensee intends to log the spectacular stands of monumental old-growth redcedars by Echo Lake – which is sort of like shooting a herd of endangered rhinos, as giant redcedars like these are almost all gone in this region,” stated landowner Stephen Ben-Oliel. “The company has informally stated that they might leave some of the individual old-growth Douglas-firs and maples, but their assurances lack detail, leave out the old-growth cedars, are purely verbal, and are not backed up by any legally-binding government regulations or laws. In addition, the risks posed by road-building and logging in the community watershed where where we and other families draw our drinking water from are also a cause for alarm.”

“Echo Lake is a globally significant area that should be a no-brainer for full government protection, especially considering how small it is, a hundred or so hectares in total size. It’s the world’s largest night-roosting site for bald eagles – that alone should make full protection of the forests in the ‘bowl’ surrounding the lake a given, not even factoring in its importance for much more biodiversity,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “We need the BC government in this election year to step forward and protect all of Echo Lake’s old-growth and mature forests on Crown lands.”

See the media release from 2013: https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=565

See spectacular images of Echo Lake Ancient Forests at: https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/photos.php?gID=20

See a Youtube Clip at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPstV14oZ6s&feature=youtu.be

See various news media articles about Echo Lake from the Vancouver Sun, Globe and Mail, Global TV etc. at the bottom of the campaign page at: www.ProtectEchoLake.com

“The BC government needs to work with the local Woodlot Licensee, First Nations, the adjacent private land owners like myself, and conservationists to ensure the area’s legal protection. This could entail shifting the Woodlot License boundaries into an area of second-growth forest with an equivalent timber value and then expanding the Old-Growth Management Area around all of Echo Lake,” stated Susan Ben-Oliel.

More Background Info

Echo Lake is the largest night-roosting site for bald eagles on Earth, where as many as 700 bald eagles roost in the ancient Douglas-fir and cedar trees around the lake at night during the fall salmon runs. Along the nearby Chehalis and Harrison Rivers, as many as 10,000 bald eagles come to eat the spawning salmon during some years, making the area home to the largest bald eagle/ raptor concentration on Earth.

In 2013 after a campaign by local landowners and the Ancient Forest Alliance, the BC government protected 55 hectares of the old-growth forests on the Crown lands on the south side of Echo Lake in an Old-Growth Management Area (OGMA). However, they left out a similar amount of old-growth and mature forests from the OGMA on the north and west sides of the lake within a Woodlot Licence where the ancient trees can still be logged.

The area is in the traditional, unceded territory of the Sts’ailes First Nation band, who run the Sasquatch EcoLodge and whose members run eagle watching tours nearby.

Several biological surveys or “bioblitzes” have been organized by the Ancient Forest Alliance that have helped to inventory the area’s large diversity of flora and fauna. Many species at risk such as various species of bats, frogs, snails, dragonflies, and mosses have been found by biologists and naturalists. The data has been submitted to the BC Ministry of Environment’s Wildlife Species Inventory. 174 species of plant, 55 vertebrate, 153 invertebrate, and 38 fungi species were found during the two days of the 2014 bioblitz, while the 2015 bioblitz data is still being compiled. See the 2014 bioblitz media release at: https://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=868

The Ancient Forest Alliance is also calling for a larger provincial plan to protect the remaining endangered old-growth forests across BC while ensuring sustainable second-growth forestry jobs.

In the Lower Mainland, about 80% or more of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged, including about 95% of the high productivity, valley bottom ancient forests where the largest trees grow and most biodiversity is found. See before and after maps for BC’s southern coast (Southwest Mainland and Vancouver Island) at: http://ancientforestalliance.org/old-growth-maps.php

“How many jurisdictions on Earth still have trees that grow as wide as living rooms and as tall as downtown skyscrapers? What we have here is something exceptional on the planet. Our ancient forests make British Columbia truly special – while we still have them,” stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “More than ever we need the BC government to have the wisdom to protect our incredibly rare and endangered old-growth forests like at Echo Lake”.

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