By Steve Hubrecht

Radium mill operators outline Bill 23 as a threat to business

The provincial government’s new old growth deferral process made plenty of headlines across B.C. last week, after Canfor President and Chief Administrative Officer, Don Kayne, called for a rethink of the strategy.

The deferral process was announced in November, and puts a halt on all logging activity in 11 areas of B.C. containing large tracts of old growth forest. Much of the attention has been focused on key areas of Vancouver Island entailed in the process — specifically Fairy Creek and Clayoquot Sound. This comes as no surprise — for much of the past two years Fairy Creek has been the scene of ongoing logging protests and showdowns between blockading protestors and the RCMP, constituting the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Almost 30 years ago, logging protests and showdowns of a similar size and duration occurred in Clayoquot Sound. Prior to Fairy Creek, the Clayoquot Sound protests were the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada, and were dubbed ‘the War in the Woods’. The Fairy Creek protests have since been termed ‘the War in the Woods 2.0’.

But the deferral process is not confined to the coast, and two of the 11 old growth deferral areas covered in it are right here in the Columbia Valley: the Crystalline Creek watershed, which lies northwest of Spillimacheen, and Stockdale Creek, just to the north of Lake of the Hanging Glacier. The Crystalline Creek old growth deferral area encompasses more than 9,500 hectares, including 921 hectares of old growth, along a tributary of the south fork of the Spillimacheen River. The government cites it as  “an intact watershed with wetland complexes and old and mature forests.” The Stockdale Creek old growth deferral area sprawls over 11,500 hectares, including 1,000 hectares of old growth, with the government emphasizing it as “old and mature forests in an intact watershed, (and) an important wildlife corridor with high-value grizzly bear habitat” as the reason for including it as a deferral area.

The deferral process follows on the heels of pending legislation — Bill 23 — announced by the provincial government in October that proposed changes to B.C. Forest and Range Practices Act. In the announcement, the government touted the changes as putting the environment and the public first.

But Canfor sees things differently. The forestry corporation operates the local Radium sawmill, and has told Radium councillors that the old growth deferral process could have a considerable negative impact on the mill.

The Pioneer tried to reach Canfor for direct comment, but was unsuccessful in the very short time available prior to press time (owing to a much truncated Christmas printing schedule).

At the Wednesday, Dec. 15 Radium council meeting, however, several Radium councillors did discuss a recent information meeting they had with local Canfor representatives.

“They are taking this bill seriously. It’s a real threat to their business. It’s a real threat to the communities that rely on them (Canfor),” said Radium mayor Clara Reinhardt, adding that the corporation is asking for “sober second thoughts.”

“They agree with the goal (of better sustainability and protecting old growth forests), but think that this may not be the best way to do it,” relayed councillor Mike Grey. Reinhardt added that Canfor representatives had conveyed that they feel some areas that should perhaps be left out of the deferral process are in fact part of it, while other areas of old growth that ought to be included are not being included. Canfor representatives, explained Reinhardt, had given the example of a stand of old growth up the Palliser River. This spot is not part of the old growth deferral process, but the Canfor representative felt maybe it should be, explained Reinhardt, as it has been studied and found to be home to a super-rare species of fungus or lichen that is found only there in the Palliser and in the Yukon, as well as another brand new species of fungus or lichen found nowhere else.

Reinhardt said that from what she gathered, the coastal regions covered in the old growth deferral process are getting the most media attention “but the biggest economic impact is in the interior (of B.C.), here in the Kootenays. It’s serious.”

Councillor Todd Logan expressed concern and added that “Canfor is an integral part of our community.”