Open letter to Don Kayne, CEO Canfor
I am writing to you on behalf of the Wells Gray World Heritage Committee, a small but active group dedicated to furthering the candidacy of British Columbia’s fourth largest wilderness park for designation as a World Heritage Site.
We commend you on your recent letter to the Vancouver Sun (16 July 2012), in which you caution the B.C. government to think carefully before opening up protected areas to logging. In the same letter, you go on to assert that Canfor will not support actions that overturn landscape objectives set through public planning processes unless there is full public consultation and support. We will not support actions that impact parks or critical habitat for species at risk.
Unfortunately, these assertions are difficult to reconcile with actions currently being taken by one of your planners at Canfor’s Vavenby mill. It is our position that efforts by this individual to establish several large cut blocks near Wells Gray Provincial Park bring Canfor into conflict with two of your stated commitments, that is, to public process and species at risk.
In 1996 the B.C. Ministry of Forests entered into a mediated, consensus-driven public process with the residents of Upper Clearwater. The end product of this three-year process was a document entitled Guiding Principles for the Management of Land Resources in the Upper Clearwater Valley.
The intent of the Guiding Principles is clear: in exchange for community endorsement of three woodlots (1,350 ha.) in Upper Clearwater, valley residents are entitled to expect that logging on crown land within their viewscape will henceforth be restricted to small, discrete incursions for removal of insect- or beetle-killed trees.
Apparently in light of subsequent events around the Mountain Pine Beetle, MoF has lately taken the position that the Guiding Principles endorse massive salvage logging in our valley. This is not true.
You will be aware that British Columbia’s dwindling Mountain Caribou herds are now designated as threatened in Canada, and that B.C. has accepted provincial, national and international responsibility for their recovery. Different from moose and deer, which benefit from young forests, Mountain Caribou need old growth.
Forestry planners are accorded tremendous power to affect downstream outcomes. To take a literal example, earlier decisions to clear cut on the same slopes targeted by your Vavenby planner are largely responsible for five major flash floods between 1997 and 2001, each marked by a bridge washout and subsequent road closure lasting up to a week. The downstream cost to B.C. taxpayers has been in the order of $7,000,000 for bridge replacement alone.
According to latest figures, proximity to Wells Gray Park injects more than $20 million into the community of Clearwater each year. The Wells Gray World Heritage Committee joins me in calling upon Canfor to urge closer alignment between your Vavenby planner’s proposal and the needs of valley residents, Mountain Caribou, and a thriving wilderness tourism industry.
At the same time, we also call upon the honourable Terry Lake, Minister of Environment and MLA for Kamloops-North Thompson, to establish a moratorium on industrial timber extraction within the Upper Clearwater viewscape until such time as a comprehensive, province-wide discussion on its best and highest use can be undertaken.
In closing it seems appropriate to draw attention to a few of the positive initiatives now underway in our valley. One of these is a collaborative effort by Upper Clearwater residents and the Land Conservancy of British Columbia to create a wildlife corridor linking the two southern arms of Wells Gray.
Another is the Wells Gray TRU Wilderness Centre now being constructed by Thompson Rivers University, and intended to promote learning and research about forest ecosystems. Both of these projects offer considerable scope for partnerships with forward-thinking companies like the one you recently portrayed in the Vancouver Sun.
Spokesperson, Wells Gray World Heritage Committee
Editor’s note: This letter was edited for length.