Canfor’s plans do not protect tourism

I hope to offer our community a greater understanding of the issues involving current and planned logging in the Clearwater River Valley

Editor, The Times:

I am writing in response to Peter Baird’s letter to the editor in the March 9 issue (“Viewpoints on logging ned to consider both sides”).

I do not expect Mr. Baird’s attention but I do hope to offer members of our community a greater understanding of the issues involving Canfor’s current and planned logging in the Clearwater River Valley, also known as the “Gateway to Wells Gray Park.”

Mr. Baird said in his letter he “… firmly believes that Canfor can have a sustainable forest sector that provides jobs while protecting environmental values and coexisting with other economic sectors like tourism.”

Most members of the community would totally agree with this statement; I do as well.

In the upper Clearwater Valley Canfor had the opportunity to show the community what could be accomplished by an enlightened forestry company making harvesting plans that also protect other values. What they have chosen to do, for the most part, is to log the gateway to Wells Gray Park the same way they log the rest of their tenure, and that is with timber values first and foremost.

Canfor did commission three reports, one for the mountain caribou, one for slope stability, and one to address the hydrological issues.

Canfor’s hydrology report is one page (double-sided). This report leaves many unanswered questions for the community members, who have more than 40 water licenses that are affected by poor water quality and floods, as well as road washouts that have resulted time and again from the logging on the upper slopes of the Clearwater Valley.

The caribou report has many assertions that other experts disagree with. If Canfor really cared about the fate of the caribou, they would make those reports public and accessible to other experts and come up with a plan to harvest that would help with caribou recovery. But they have not.

To access the reports, you must go to the Canfor office and sit with someone in attendance so you cannot photograph them. These are not the actions of a company that is “trying to protect environmental values,” as Mr. Baird states in his letter.

Peter Baird states that Canfor wants to coexist with the tourism sector. There are many people in Clearwater who benefit from tourism and the sustainability of an industry that now injects almost $30 million a year into our community (projected from 2012 figures at the industry’s rate of growth) and provides 123 person years of employment (from the District of Clearwater’s website).

To see how Canfor (and the Ministry of Forests) is coexisting with tourism, visit the spot that best represents our wilderness brand, the Shaden Viewpoint. Local tourism operators call it “the million dollar view.”

Just beyond Spahats Falls, the Shaden is visited by tens of thousands of people a year. Canfor has already logged a large clear-cut right in the middle of this iconic photo opportunity.

A drive up the valley will reveal the viewscapes above the river starting to resemble the rest of B.C., which takes our tag line, “The Canada You Imagined” and throws it out the window.

Could these cuts have been engineered to be less visible? Were there other methods of logging to help diminish the impact? One would think so, but they weren’t employed here, and the tourism industry is left with large clear-cuts in our most scenic corridor.

This is the same industrial logging that Canfor has practiced in the rest of its tenure. The visual quality objectives that members of the tourism industry asked for were not used.

It seems obvious that the road into Wells Gray Park should have been a scenic corridor – if Canfor had cared about helping to support Clearwater’s second most important industry we would not be seeing large, obvious clear-cuts all the way up the Clearwater valley – with more to come.

Canfor has plans to continue to clear-cut up the west (and most visible) side of the valley.

Canfor is logging a block on the Wells Gray road at the turnoff to the Trophy Mountain Road this May. When this is done, Canfor will continue to cut its way up the road to the Trophy Mountain Meadows at the height of the very short flower season. Logging trucks and equipment will be sharing the road with thousands of tourists.

In an age of immediate communication and digital reviews the damage to our reputation will be incalculable. This can be termed as “coexisting,” but it is so casually dismissive of the needs of the tourism industry it is shocking.

I hope that some of you realize that Peter Baird’s statement that “some members of the community will remain opposed to all forest sectors activity regardless of the efforts made to employ best practices using expert guidance’s” is divisive and misleading.

What the many letters and conversations to both Canfor and the Ministry of Forests have been asking for are logging plans that show respect for the other values that make our community the amazing place that it is. Our belief has always been that it was possible to have both.

For many years we had hoped that Canfor could modify its harvesting techniques in a manner that put some other very important values first in what happens to be a very small portion of their tenure. To my great personal disappointment, they have chosen not to do so.

Tay Briggs, RPF

Manager, Wells Gray Park Information Centre