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Groups fear fragile B.C. area logged

24 Hours - Jeremy Nuttall, July 21, 2014

Groups fear fragile B.C. area logged
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Photo by Reuters.

Several groups are worried a fragile area of Vancouver Island is being logged.

Environmental groups and labour organizations on Vancouver Island are demanding the province lend protection to a section of forest being logged near Port Alberni — except the company in question denies it’s logging fragile areas.

McLaughlin Ridge sits about one hour southeast of Port Alberni in a 78,000-hectare parcel, including a swath being logged by Island Timberlands.

Environmental groups are concerned habitat used by deer and elk in winter is being compromised.

TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance said part of the area is valuable ungulate winter habitat, and the province was supposed to follow up with an agreement to protect parts of it after a 2004 decision to open it up to logging.

“They failed to pursue that agreement, so now Island Timberlands has moved ahead with logging these areas,” Watt said.

Meanwhile, local MLA Scott Fraser of the BC NDP said the government has ignored its own scientists, who recommended the ungulate habitat not be logged.

The land was removed from the Timber Forest License under Weyerhaeuser, and eventually acquired by Island Timberlands but, said Fraser, Victoria signed nothing more than an agreement recognizing the land was important.

“They made a big deal of signing a memorandum of understand assuring that those key values would be protected and then they didn’t do it,” he said.

But Island Timberlands said the land it has already logged is not in the area marked as ungulate territory.

“There are specific areas mapped and discussed at length across McLaughlin Ridge noted as good winter habitat for deer and elk during heavy snowfalls,” said Morgan Kennah of Island Timberlands.

“We are currently not harvesting within these mapped areas,” Kennah said. “We have no immediate plans to harvest within these areas at this time.”

The Ministry of Forests said as far as it’s concerned the land is private, adding it was told by Island Timberlands the sensitive area is not being logged.

Watt said he finds the claims they are not in the ungulate areas “questionable.”

Among those asking the government to protect the region are the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada and Valhalla Wilderness Society.

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