Helicopter logging takes place on a steep ridge of Mt. Arrowsmith in the past few months. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Alberni Valley residents to march for watershed protection

Forest March takes place on Saturday, April 6

BY MIKE YOUDS

Organizers hope to rally Alberni Valley residents around valley watershed protection by staging a march through the city on Saturday, April 6.

Forest March is part of a provincewide initiative of Forest March B.C., a grass-roots campaign to put pressure on the provincial government to reform forest legislation.

The march begins at 10 a.m. at the South Island Natural Resource District office, 4885 Cherry Creek Rd. and proceeds to the Johnston Road constituency office of MLA Scott Fraser.

“Our big concern here is watersheds,” said Edna Cox of Save Our Valley Alliance, a local group that formed in reaction to a flood event in the Beaufort Range in 2006.

The extent of logging on privately held forest land surrounding the city puts at risk drinking water quality throughout the valley, Cox said.

“If that water quality deteriorates sufficiently, we will require a water treatment plant,” she added. Water filtration plants can be costly. Nanaimo’s South Fork water treatment plant had a price-tag of $72.5 million. “The best way to protect watersheds is to protect the forest cover, but we have no ability to do that.”

A watershed advisory committee, which used to allow local input into decisions affecting Port Alberni’s water supply, was abandoned. Cox and others want to see something similar.

“What we want is more ability for the citizens to have a say,” she said.

Other forest marches are planned in Cowichan, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Vernon, Peachland, Nelson and Grand Forks as well as on Salt Spring Island. Forest March B.C. said residents are asking for legislation on ecosystem restoration and sustainable forestry as well as watershed protection and meaningful community consultation.

The Alberni Valley group is affiliated with Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition. Watershed issues prevail across the Island amid broader concerns stemming from logging practices.

“We need to manage our forests differently to lessen the amount of spring flooding, to reduce the degree of drought, to protect our watersheds and the life within them, and to mitigate the effects of climate change, development and unsustainable logging practices,” said June Ross, coalition chair.

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