May 9, 2019
A controversial plan to log old-growth forests near Juan de Fuca Provincial Park has been postponed for a second time.
The Ministry of Forests confirmed Wednesday that B.C. Timber Sales has pulled its advertisements for the auction of 109 hectares of forest in seven cutblocks — including two that come within 50 metres of the park.
It’s the second time the government agency has delayed the sale following a public outcry from conservationists, businesses and others.
Forests Minister Doug Donaldson initially said the auction deadline was being pushed back two weeks to May 10 to give officials time to investigate concerns raised by environmental groups.
This time, the ministry said B.C. Timber Sales “is no longer advertising the timber sale in order to engage with a local stakeholder who was inadvertently missed during the initial referral process.”
Donaldson was unavailable for an interview Wednesday and the ministry did not identify the stakeholder.
But Jon Cash, co-owner of Soule Creek Lodge, said he received an email from B.C. Timber Sales Wednesday morning saying the sale had been “postponed/removed to allow for additional engagement with Soule Creek Lodge.”
The lodge is located near the proposed clearcuts and Cash has complained that noise from chainsaws and road blasting will devastate his business.
B.C. Timber Sales said in the email that it hopes “to find reasonable grounds to move forward with this timber sale in the near future with refinements that hopefully meet your interests.”
Cash called the response “not terribly encouraging” and urged the government to clarify its plans.
“I think the political blowback has been significant enough that they’re trying to defuse it a bit until they can figure out how to deal with it,” he said.
Cash added that it’s unfair of the government to blame the delay on him when thousands of others oppose logging in the area.
“It’s hardly me that’s standing in the way,” he said.
Environmental groups have launched a campaign to protect the forests, arguing that the massive trees represent a major tourist attraction and a buffer against the impacts of climate change and species loss.
The Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce says clear-cutting the forests would do irreparable harm to tourism in a region that has branded itself Canada’s Tall Tree Capital.
Chamber president Dan Hager took it as positive sign that B.C. Timber Sales appears to have delayed the sale indefinitely. “At the very worst, what we’ve done is we’ve bought some time.”
Now, groups can bolster their economic and environmental arguments for saving the trees in case the government tries to revive its plans, he said.
“I mean, the arguments we can make that this is a dumb idea just go on.”
The Ancient Forest Alliance attributed the latest delay to the ongoing public backlash.
“I can’t speak to the length of the postponement, but it would seem that with the amount of people who are paying attention to this topic and [who] are staunchly opposed to it, it would be hard to see it going forward,” said TJ Watt, an alliance campaigner and photographer.
“I would say at least the battle has been won, but we’ll see where it goes from here.
“Ideally, we would see those regions protected, either through an old-growth management area or, in a perfect world, the expansion of the provincial park.”
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