The question whether or not Canfor should continue with its plans to log the Clearwater Valley north of Spahats Creek can be framed around three issues – all of them deserving open public discussion.
The first of these involves the fate of Wells Gray’s declining Mountain Caribou, which will hardly benefit from logging immediately adjacent to the park. The second has to do with a signed government commitment to the people of Upper Clearwater that no further industrial-scale logging would take place here. The third issue involves the future of Clearwater, and is my subject here.
Let me be clear right off the mark that Canfor isn’t wrong to pursue its fibre-based agenda. That’s what logging companies do. And besides, logging the Clearwater Valley will unquestionably bring some revenue into our community and may, who knows, keep the Vavenby mill up and running a little bit longer.
And yet the 300+ members of the Wells Gray Action Committee aren’t wrong either. They believe that Clearwater has much more to gain from leaving the Clearwater Valley intact than from cashing in on its trees. They point out that our proximity to Wells Gray Park earns us $20+ in tourism dollars annually – and that it’s our wilderness setting, not our clearcut logging, that draws in the visitors.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that wilderness is dwindling worldwide; and that wilderness hotspots like Wells Gray can only become more valued over time. Maintaining our wilderness link to the park thus preserves options for the future. One of these, by the way, is Wells Gray’s likely upcoming designation as a UNESCO Geopark.
Nobody would claim that tourism alone can sustain our town. What we need are a full range of economic drivers. Surely our best possible future would include a medley of forestry, mining, education and tourism. But all must be made to work in tandem, on equal footing.
Consider the following thought experiment: If Canfor really needs to log the Clearwater Valley to keep its Vavenby mill running, then clearly this mill isn’t viable; so why sever our economic link to the park to prop it up? And if on the other hand logging the Clearwater Valley isn’t necessary, then clearly Canfor should turn its attention elsewhere. There’s simply too much at stake to do otherwise.
Clearwater is now at a major cross-road. Decisions made in the coming weeks or months promise to reverberate in our community for decades to come. Now is the time to call for a moratorium on logging in the Clearwater Valley until all social, environmental, and economic ramifications have been taken into account through open public discussion.
Unfortunately, open public discussion is something that neither Canfor nor the BC Forest Service seems to want. Nor for that matter does BC Timber Sales – the government agency responsible for the many clearcuts that have lately begun to scar the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley, with more and bigger clearcuts still to come; see page A11.
So what to be done? Let’s call upon our MLA to intercede for us. To all appearances Terry Lake has a soft spot for Clearwater. If prompted, he’d surely do what needs doing to help us achieve a viable future on all cylinders. For that to happen, however, he’d need to know loud and clear what we want: a strong economic link to Wells Gray – one that starts at Spahats, just ten minutes up the road.
Nobody will do this for us. Clearwater has a long and distinguished history of advocacy. Perhaps it’s time once again to pick up the pen.
Editor’s Note: Canfor has been invited to write a guest editorial in response to this one by Trevor Goward.