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SOURCE: The Narwhal

DATE: June 5, 2020

SNIP: A new plan plotting the course of the logging industry on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast over the next five years has placed a treasured forest, home to some of Canada’s oldest trees and an unofficial bear sanctuary, on the chopping block.

The logging plan for the Elphinstone area, released by BC Timber Sales in late March, includes an abnormally high number of cutblocks for auction for the planning period, according to local conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus.

“We haven’t seen this many blocks in a five-year period before,” said Ross Muirhead, a forest campaigner with Elphinstone Logging Focus, which counted an unprecedented 29 blocks slated for clearcut logging from 2020 to 2024.

Because of the area’s sensitivity, BC Timber Sales has usually limited logging to about one block a year.

Muirhead is calling on the B.C. government to cancel 63 hectares of cutblocks slated for auction on Dakota Ridge, a roadless high-altitude forest west of Port Mellon, where he believes Canada’s oldest tree may be located.

Some of the oldest trees in Canada grow in the 3,361-hectare Dakota watershed, with tree coring showing one yellow cedar is 1,036 years old, Muirhead said.

Last fall in the Dakota area, Muirhead and his colleagues measured a tree that was too big to be cored because boring instruments aren’t made long enough.

“This tree is wider than the oldest recorded tree in Canada,” Muirhead said.

Elphinstone Logging Focus unofficially named the forest on Dakota Ridge the Dakota bowl bear sanctuary after the first black bear den study on the Sunshine Coast, in 2015, found an unusually high number of dens in the area.

The ancient yellow cedars in the Dakota bear sanctuary are the best trees for bear dens as they tend to rot out at the base, providing well-hidden locations, and, as the trees grow in the snow zone, there is insulation for hibernating bears, Muirhead said.

Dakota Ridge is still intact and without formal hiking trails, Muirhead said.

“I am of the opinion that black bear den activity may be concentrated on Dakota Ridge not just due to old-growth structural availability, but due to the extensive loss of similar habitat in the surrounding region from clearcut logging,” wrote Wayne McCrory, author of the 2015 study.

Black bears rely on old-growth trees as second-growth forests are cut before the trees reach the necessary size for denning, so lack of denning space could affect the population, the board report noted.

More than 140,000 hectares of old-growth forests are logged each year in B.C. An independent report released Thursday found that the majority of British Columbia’s productive old-growth forests are gone, and the majority of the old growth remaining is slated to be logged.

“We know some of these trees are older than 1,000 years. This is a legacy. There is a global responsibility to protect trees like this,” Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner said.