More than 80 people gathered at Echo Centre Monday for a meeting hosted by the Watershed-Forest Alliance in its quest to protect an old-growth forest at McLaughlin Ridge and in the China Creek Watershed.
Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser and retired government scientist Doug Janz were guest speakers at the event.
The pair were resolute: that the forest range needs to be protected with enhanced regulations.
“McLaughlin Ridge is critical winter range for deer and elk. Weyerhaeuser and Mac Blo saw this and left it untouched,” Fraser said. “The area is a unique system for many different species.”
Fraser retraced the history of the issue.
McLaughlin Ridge was removed from a tree farm licence in 2004 by then-owners Weyerhaeuser and is now considered privately managed forest land.
Provincial officials wanted critical winter habitat protected for two years and a committee would subsequently decide the form of protection.
The province and Island Timberlands disagreed on critical issues and the company ceased meeting in 2009. Harvesting plans were not science-based, government biologists said. “We asked Island Timberlands not to go into McLaughlin but at the end of the day it was their land,” Fraser said.
Groups have a bit of breathing room as logging has thus far occurred only in the lower areas and not on the upper ridge. And logging isn’t expected to start again until next spring, Watershed-Forest Alliance chair Jane Morden said.
The group will continue talks with Island Timberlands about stalling logging in the area.
The group doesn’t have a beef with the company, Morden said. “Island Timberlands has the legal right to do what it’s doing,” Morden said. “But the government erred in not following through with its intent to pursue winter ungulate ranges.”