The provincial government is rejecting an environmental watchdog’s claim that a north Island logging firm is effectively engaging in “covert” logging of an old growth forest on the northwest coast.
And it plans to take no action at this time in response to a Sierra Club request that the operation be put on hold until Lemare Lake Logging shares its plan for harvesting in the East Creek area adjacent Brooks Peninsula.
Provincial laws require that such plans be made available to anyone who asks and Sierra Club campaigner Mark Worthing said logging site plans are routinely requested and routinely provided by most logging firms, often by email.
“It’s pretty regular. Most of the bigger outfits just post their plans online,” he said.
That’s why he was surprised when an initial inquiry to see the East Creek plan in December was met with what he described as suspicion and a five-month song-and-dance of corporate requests for credentials, Sierra Club requests for MLA and ministry intervention, refusals to provide documents by email or fax, unreturned messages, cancelled appointments and inflexibility in scheduling a meeting.
“And (they) flat out refused to provide plans when a concerned community member arrived at the office asking to see site plans,” Worthing said.
Lemare general manager Eric Dutcyvich said by email that he was unavailable for an interview with Black Press but added readers can be assured the firm is doing everything by the book.
“As is our standard practice, we are following all of the forest stewardship guidelines and regulations that govern our operations. This includes giving the public the opportunity to view our site plans within a reasonable time,” he said.
An emailed statement from the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations communications department indicated ministry staff have been in contact with the firm about these concerns.
“It is the ministry’s understanding that Lemare Lake Logging has made the site plans available,” the email states. “We are under the impression that Sierra Club and Lemare Lake Logging had scheduled a meeting.”
According to the ministry, it has never investigated a complaint regarding access to site plans. Making plans available is considered important and refusal to comply can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
“Logging is occurring on Crown land, therefore the public has a right to know how those public lands are being managed,” the email reads.
But Worthing said the Sierra Club is still waiting.
“How many months would you attempt to acquire plans from a company you were legally entitled to before you gave up?” he said. “I’m quite busy, and don't have time to pester and pester a company that is in non-compliance. In my opinion, that's the government's job.”
He said the Sierra Club requested the plans after a visit to the area. East Creek is part of what the club describes as the largest remaining ancient rainforest on northern Vancouver Island. The club is actively lobbying to protect the Island’s remaining old growth from what it considers lack of proper stewardship.
The ministry states inspectors have made more than 10 visits to the site and discovered a few non-compliance issues regarding roads and timber marking that have been addressed by the licensee.
“It seems like they know they'll get something less than a slap on the wrist while they buy themselves more time to log like there is no tomorrow in East Creek,” Worthing said. “I expect better behaviour from companies logging crown-land ancient rainforest, and governments meant to regulate that.”
A formal complaint has been filed with the BC Forest Practices Board.