Whistler children write letters to save trees

Dr. Monika Rempel starts campaign to urge officials to use B.C.'s resources 'wisely and sparingly'

It's as good an argument as any to save old-growth trees in Whistler from the chopping block: "They are a cover if we need to go to the bathroom."

The humorous rationale came from local resident Abigail Unruh, age 8, in a letter addressed to B.C. Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell about the planned logging in the Whistler area through the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF).

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"Dear Minister Pat Bell," she writes, "Please do not cut the trees down. They give us oxegen (sic) and if you don't cut them down they can be old history. They make plants grow like other trees, and mushrooms."

Unruh's is one of five such letters, hand written by local children, submitted to the minister, Whistler's mayor and council, and officials with the CCF this week. Local emergency physician Dr. Monika Rempel encouraged the kids in the Bible class that she teaches to write the letters.

"I found that quite upsetting," Rempel said of learning of the CCF's proposed logging of old-growth trees in the Callaghan Valley. "I wasn't really sure how I could make my voice known. I thought I could write some letters."

Rempel said the kids are learning about initiative this month in the Bible class, so she thought writing letters about the community forest would fit in. She and her five students, ages 4 to 8, spent time talking about what forests are good for. After making a list, they talked about all the things that logging is good for, and then all the ways logging is not so good, she said.

Rempel said she wanted to be objective in her approach and recognize that most people in Whistler live in wood houses and write on paper. To simply say logging is bad would be unfair, she said.

The idea that trees can provide cover if you're out hiking and have to go to the bathroom came about through the discussion, she said with a laugh. After the list-writing exercise, the children were able to craft their own letters and include whatever they wanted, Rempel added.

Julianna Reimer, 4, simply writes: "We need the old trees near Whistler to breathe. Please do not cut them down."

Jordane Way, 7, writes: "Please don't cut down old trees. You can cut young trees but don't cut really old tree (sic) thank you."

In the letter that accompanies the children's compositions, Rempel also asks Bell not to log the old trees in the CCF. "Instead harvest younger or replanted trees elsewhere in the province," she writes.

On Tuesday (Oct. 19), Rempel told The Question that local forests serve many purposes, not just providing wood products. They provide habitat and are important for environmental quality and tourism. It "seems bizarre" that anyone would consider jeopardizing Whistler's main industry, she said.

"We need to be very careful about what we do with the resources that we have," Rempel said.

In her letter, Rempel writes: "We all enjoy using wood and wood products and many people in our province gain employment from this resource, but let us use it wisely and sparingly."

Meanwhile, officials with the CCF submitted the latest version of the Forest Stewardship Plan to the district forest manager on Monday (Oct. 18), forester Tom Cole wrote in an email to The Question. The plans to start logging in mid-September have been delayed pending the approval of the stewardship plan and receipt of the cutting permits.

A total of 100,000 cubic metres of wood is required to be harvested in the region over the next three-plus years under the community forest agreement with the Province.

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