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Valley residents stand up for old growth forest on Russel Creek Road, call for logging moratorium

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
October 6th, 2022

The fight to stop logging from occurring in another old-growth stand of forest in the region has begun, with a local group calling for a moratorium on logging in that region.

On Sept. 29 Slocan Valley residents gathered on Russel Creek Road to protest the planned logging by Interfor and R and A logging in the Russel Creek watershed, which contains trees as old as 1,000 years old.

At the time, the residents asked the logging company employees to  “come back once they have consulted with local environmental organizations and informed consent by the Autonomous Sinixt.”

In the meantime, Last Stand West Kootenay (LSWC) has called upon the province to look at the matter and consider the section of forest set to be logged, said LSWC member Ernest Smuga.

“The community is asking for an immediate moratorium on logging in the area until Interfor demonstrates how it is planning to honor these deferral areas, ground proof current data in surrounding cut blocks, and protect old growth in Russel Creek,” he said in a press release.

Interfor and R and A Logging could not be reached for comment.

The day had many layers of meaning, said LSWC member Meghan Beatty.

“It is disturbing that we are celebrating a Truth and Reconciliation day as a holiday, while ignoring requests from indigenous groups to defer logging in Russel Creek and in other old growth areas,” she said. “We need to start listening and respecting these demands if we are to go forward in right relations with people and this land.”

According to LSWC, Interfor and R and A logging have begun work in a series of blocks around priority old growth deferral areas in Russel Creek.

Those areas and the forest nearby contain class nine old growth forest, with trees upward of 500 to 1,000 years old.

The LSWC noted that three trees were identified as qualifying for the University of B.C. big tree registry.

“With more to be discovered as the area becomes better known,” said Beatty.

However, the block now being logged was not part of the aerial mapping from the province, but still contained trees considered old growth by government standards (200 to 250 years old).

Righting a wrong

The current system is broken, said LSWC member Matthew Perry.

He said less than 20 per cent of old growth management in the Kootenay region actually contains old growth.

“We have been incredibly slow in applying deferral areas and have no way of protecting zones that have been missed by aerial mapping,” he said.

“Deferrals are also being carried out in a way that creates fragmented patches instead of providing adequate buffer zones that keep those forests healthy.”

The province has not upheld public opinion in the matter, said LSWC member Ernest Smuga in a press release. The province’s guidelines and laws need to reflect how important the old growth forests are for survival and to fight climate change, he said.

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