As the blockades of Fairy Creek brought ancient logging back to the forefront of British Columbians’ concerns, Whistler’s managers Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) face a long-standing dilemma.
“The big burning question is: does the community forest still want to tackle these old stands? said Simon Murray, director of CCF.
This is by no means a new question for the CCF, which has not cut down old-growth forests since 2018 and has sought to move away from them for years, in part due to the lack of remaining commercially viable trees, as well. as recognition of Whistler’s status as a tourist destination for millions of visitors per year.
“[Whistler is] the number 1 tourist destination in British Columbia, and we are very sensitive to the fact that this is not the kind of place where you want to see large-scale industrial forestry take place, ”said Murray.
“As we know very well, this is an extremely sensitive area and the recreational values are much higher than any timber values out there, so we have to keep that in mind.”
On Thursday June 10, the council will vote on the future of old logging at the CCF. But the complete stop of the commercial harvest of old wood would present several economic obstacles. Managed by the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations, the CCF currently has a maximum allowable annual cut of approximately 20,000 cubic meters, as set by the province.
“We just can’t find that amount of volume just anywhere,” Murray said.
Murray therefore launched two ideas, which would both require the support of the board of directors and the province: to reduce the authorized annual cut of the CCF to 15,000 m3 and to lower the minimum age limit of second-growth trees that can be exploited by CCF’s 70-50 year carbon credit program.
Since 2015, CCF has entered into an agreement with Victoria to sell carbon offsets, independently verified credits for net greenhouse gas reductions that are used to offset buyer’s emissions. Making an average of about $ 100,000 a year, Murray said, the CCF is only allowed to sequester carbon from trees that are 70 to 250 years old.
“A lot of logging took place in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, which left us with a lot of young forests, but the middle-aged forest, 70 to 100 years old, we just don’t have. not, ”Murray said, estimating that about 10 percent of the trees remaining in the CCF would qualify for the carbon credit program.
But the continued harvest of young second-growth forests would bring its own ecological challenges, said Claire Ruddy, executive director of the Whistler Area Residents’ Association for the environment.
“You end up eating away at your future old forest,” she said, noting how, once felled, old forest never returns to its original state.
“These are also tree species,” she added. “These trees that are 50, 70, 90 years old are planted trees. They were therefore planted to have maximum value from a forestry point of view, and these forests are not made up of the same species that the forest would originally and naturally.
Without old shoots to retain moisture and help regulate a forest’s climate, the risk of forest fires also increases, Ruddy explained.
“The secondary seedling has a lot of scale fuel, it has a crown at the same height, and it’s the easiest substance for the fire to spread and pace. We don’t just want to recreate these conditions 50 years from now, ”she said.
Many of the ancient trees that remain in the CCF “are not necessarily very valuable,” said Murray, given their size and species, which reinforces Ruddy’s view that the ecological and recreational potential of the forest is its real economic engine.
“In Sea to Sky, we have many opportunities to derive economic value from our forest in ways that do not involve logging,” she said. “Old growth forests are generally becoming scarce and increasingly scarce over time, so having an old growth forest standing across the sea to the sky gives us opportunities to create new business models with things like foraging tours. , interpretation and learning opportunities. ”
The CCF has plans to record old growth this summer for the first time in three years, but the continuation of the project largely depends on Thursday’s board vote. Currently, 11,440 m3 of hemlock, balsam and yellow cedar are planned to be harvested from an area of 17.4 hectares of Callaghan Creek starting in July.
Prick sent a list of questions to the Lil’wat Nation, but was not answered at press time.