More than 100 hectares of old-growth forest near Port Renfrew will get a reprieve from logging, at least temporarily.
B.C. Forests Ministry confirmed the seven cutblocks up for auction through the government’s logging agency B.C. Timber Sales was scheduled to close this Friday, but an outcry by the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, the Ancient Forest Alliance and other groups led to a reconsideration.
“[B.C. Timber Sales] is postponing this timber sale to engage with a local stakeholder inadvertently missed during the initial referral process,” said Dawn Makarowski, a ministry spokesperson.
And while this is a long way from a long-term government commitment not to log the area, the news is viewed as a victory by opponents of old-growth logging.
“We welcome this news and we thank [Premier] John Horgan for listening to the business community and others in Port Renfrew. He’s to be credited for standing up for sustainable eco-tourism jobs and for seeing that these forests have more value when left standing,” said Andrea Inness, a forest campaigner with the Ancient Forest Alliance.
The original plan was to auction the cutblocks of old-growth forest, logging 55,346 cubic metres of trees – about 1,300 loaded logging trucks – out of an area that has been trying to re-brand itself as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada.
Some of the cutblocks were metres away from the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park boundary near Port Renfrew.
The plan raised the ire of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and left eco-tourism operators befuddled by the government’s actions.
“We have been working hard through John Horgan’s office to present him with a bulletproof argument to prevent this from happening,” said Dan Hagar of the chamber of commerce.
“It’s not a long-term commitment, but the truth is that if this ever goes forward, it will cause a real shitstorm of public outcry. I think they know that.”
Hagar said the cancellation of the auction has a negative aspect, too.
“We had a meeting of the chamber last night and four of our 15-member board are from the Pacheedaht First Nation. They operate a sawmill and for them there’s a short-term economic impact,” Hagar said.
“I think everyone realizes the long-term benefits of leaving the trees standing are better for everyone, including the Pacheedaht, and they’ll certainly have our support to transition to a tourist-based economy.”
The Ancient Forest Alliance has called on the government to implement a science-based plan to protect old-growth forest and acknowledge the economic importance of the logging industry to First Nations.
“There is tremendous economic potential in leaving old-growth forests intact and First Nations should absolutely be a part of that economic activity. The tourism boom in Port Renfrew is a testament to the economic value of standing trees,” Innes said.