Saturday, September 22, 2012


Markers stir fears of Walbran logging

The Vancouver Island old-growth forest that, over the decades, has sparked bitter confrontations over logging is again in the spotlight after survey tape was found near a grove of massive western red cedars.

Members of the Ancient Forest Alliance found the tape in the Upper Walbran Valley, near Castle Grove, which contains the Castle Giant, a western red cedar with a five-metre diameter. The tree is listed in the provincial big tree registry as one of the widest in Canada.

“Castle Grove is ground zero for the ancient forest movement on southern Vancouver Island, both historically and today,” said Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “To try and log it is insanity — it will only escalate the war in the woods to a whole new level,” he said.

The logging tape, marked “falling boundary,” is less than 50 metres from the Castle Giant, said Alliance campaigner TJ Watt who discovered the tape.

However, the Forests Ministry said in an emailed response to questions that no activity is planned in Castle Grove, although some logging is planned in the area further south.

“The area in question could be partly protected by the park, an old-growth management area and ungulate winter range,”

the email said. “Ministry staff were not able to confirm without better mapping information from AFA.”

Teal Jones Group of Surrey holds the licence for the area, but spokesman John Pichugin said that he could not say whether the company has applied for a cutting licence in the area until he has seen a map.

Wu, who took part in the 1991 protests that resulted in the lower half of the Walbran Valley and the Upper Carmanah Valley being added to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park in 1995, said it is time the province came up with its promised “legal tool” to protect B.C.’s largest trees and monumental groves.

“Of all places, Castle Grove is the place where such a legal designation would make most sense. Otherwise the B.C. Liberals’ rhetoric has been as empty as a clearcut,” Wu said.

The e-mailed response from the ministry said there are legal mechanisms to provide protection to unique or special trees and all British Columbians finding special trees are encouraged to register them on the Big Trees Registry.

“The ministry continues to look at other ways that may provide stronger pro-active protection,” it said.

After the lower half of the Walbran, consisting of about 5,500 hectares, was included in the park, environmentalist continued to push for protection of the valley’s remaining 7,500 hectares.

In 2003 more protests erupted over logging in the area that resulted in the arrest of elderly environmental activist Betty Krawczyk.

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