Cheakamus Community Forest plans revealed

Old growth trees continue to be harvested in Callaghan, Brandywine Creek and Wedge Creek areas

The community needs to be concerned about the long-term impact of logging in old growth areas like the Callaghan and Brandywine, said Claire Ruddy, executive director of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

Ruddy was one of about 20 people at the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) open house last Thursday (Feb. 5) at the Whistler Library where officials shared plans for timber harvesting in Whistler and surrounding areas for 2015.

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“I think people are still concerned about whether we, as a tourist community, should be logging small areas of old forest when on a global scale these older forests are becoming rarer and rarer,” said Ruddy.  “If we’ve logged large portions of old trees to meet our quotas, what’s the opportunity cost for that in the future?”

Ruddy pointed to an AWARE project funded by the Community Foundation of Whistler that found Whistler’s oldest living tree on record, a 1,300 year-old yellow cedar, uphill from the ski jump at Whistler Olympic Park and downhill from a previous cut block. “These CCF open houses are very often about the plan for the next year,” she said. “I think as a community the question we should be asking ourselves is where we want to be in 50 years.”

CCF operations manager Tom Cole presented a summary of the 2014 harvest, as well as details of where the CCF plans to log its annual allowable cut of 20,000 cubic metres in the community-managed forest, which was established by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations in 2009.  

Just over 22,000 cubic metres was logged in 2014, with around 14,000 cubic metres coming from the Callaghan Valley, equating to 19.2 hectares in 11 openings. Many trees in the Callaghan, Brandywine Creek and Wedge Creek areas are old growth, meaning they’re more than 250 years old, but CCF said it’s seen less public pressure over the last year regarding the logging of old growth forest.

“(Last year) was a year where we’ve harvested a number of different areas and it really wasn’t contentious,” said Cole. “So much of what we do is small opening and dispersed retention, which is trying to meet the (desired) visual. People now realize it is pretty light on the landscape and are accepting that this tenure is way better than the historical approach.”

Another issue that has garnered mixed feedback is whether or not to decommission the roads that are constructed in order to meet the annual allowable cut every year. Commercial and public recreation interests see forestry roads as an asset allowing increased access to Crown Land, but any roads left behind become the responsibility of the CCF to maintain.

“There’s a cost,” said Cole. “It’s not a great cost, but it’s a liability aspect of it. Someone needs to go out and make sure that the road is safe for the public to use. Road management is a huge thing that we’ve just started to get into.”

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