Island Timberlands to log contentious old-growth forests on Vancouver Island

photo by TJ Watt
Island Timberlands is moving to log some of their most contentious old-growth forest lands near Port Alberni, including “Juniper Ridge”, a formerly protected Ungulate Winter Range, and Labour Day Lake, the headwaters of Cathedral Grove’s Cameron River.

Juniper Ridge is an increasingly rare tract of old-growth forest filled with endangered old-growth Douglas-fir trees, sensitive ecosystems of brittle reindeer lichens growing on open rocky outcrops, and an abundance of juniper shrubs. The roughly 20-hectare area is a one hour drive from the town of Port Alberni and is located between Ash and Turnbull Lakes. 
“The old-growth forest and lichen-covered rocky outcrops on Juniper Ridge are endangered and sensitive ecosystems largely growing on extremely thin soils. It would take many centuries for the old-growth forest to fully recover here after logging. Unfortunately, with the trend of harvesting smaller sized trees with shorter logging rotations, these old growth Douglas- fir ecosystems will never have the chance to return,” Watershed-Forest Alliance coordinator Jane Morden said in a news release. 
“This forest is heavily used by wintering deer, and was intended to be preserved for this purpose.  This area is also a popular recreation destination for locals and tourists going hiking, fishing and boating.”
The Watershed-Forest Alliance,  with support  from  Alberni-Pacific Rim  MLA Scott Fraser, has reportedly met with and have asked Island Timberlands to stay out of all previously designated Ungulate Winter Range and Wildlife Habitat Areas.

The land was largely deregulated in 2004 due to its removal from Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 44. A subsequent agreement between the former licencee and the BC government was supposed to have resulted in the continued protection of these lands, but has not been pursued. Instead the company has chosen to simply log these high conservation value forests.  Of the original 2400 hectares of designated lands, only about 900 hectares remain unlogged which amounts to just over 1 per cent of the total 74,000 hectares removed from TFL 44.  
Recent logging that began in early June also threatens the old-growth subalpine forests at Labour Day Lake, but a popular recreation destination not far from Port Alberni. 

The Ancient Forest Alliance has called on the provincial government to establish a BC Park Acquisition Fund of at least $40 million per year, raising $400 million over 10 years, to purchase old-growth forests and other endangered ecosystems on private lands across the province, such as Juniper Ridge and Labour Day Lake.
The fund would be similar to the park acquisition funds of various regional districts in BC which are augmented by the fundraising efforts of private citizens and land trusts.
Island Timberlands also plans or has been logging numerous other contentious forests, including:
- The south side of Mt. Horne on the mountain above the world-famous Cathedral Grove
- McLaughlin Ridge, a prime old-growth deer winter range and important habitat for the endangered Queen Charlotte Goshawk.  With trees similar in size to Cathedral grove, McLaughlin Ridge helps to protect the China Creek Watershed which is the source of drinking water for the city of Port Alberni.
- Cameron Valley Firebreak, a rare valley bottom-to-mountain top old-growth forest that the company has already logged large swaths of.
- The west side of Father and Son Lake, a popular fishing area for local Port Alberni residents.
- Pearl Lake, near Strathcona Provincial Park.
- Stillwater Bluffs near Powell River.
- Day Road Forest near Roberts Creek.
- Old-growth and mature forests on Cortes Island.
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