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Ancient trees, historic sites at risk in Roberts Creek Headwaters Forest

Ancient trees, historic sites at risk in Roberts Creek Headwaters Forest

Elphinstone Logging Focus member and local resident Hans Penner stands amongst one of many dense patches of pacific yew trees found within the endangered. Photos  T. J. Watt


Group calls for new ecological reserve to protect a rare stand of Pacific Yew, the threatened Marbled Murrelet seabird and First Nations archaeological sites.

Local environmental groups are calling on the BC government to establish an ecological reserve on approximately 15 hectares of endangered old-growth forest located on public (Crown) land at the headwaters of Roberts Creek. BC Timber Sales (BCTS) has applied to log DK045, the mid elevation old-growth yellow-cedar forest, located about seven kilometres northeast of Roberts Creek village. The group contends the forest’s proximity to Highway 101 makes it a high potential eco-tourism destination. With the sale of the block delayed until March, 2014 as BCTS awaits the results of an ecological and cultural survey by Ministry of Forest researchers.

“The proposed cutblocks, located between two designated Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHAs) created to protect threatened Marbled Murrelets, would split this habitat in half,” stated Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), a Sunshine Coast forest protection group. “BCTS Planners must acknowledge that connectivity of existing WHAs is an important land-use objective and protect it either as a WHA extension or better still as an ecological reserve.”

The cutblock, located on Squamish First Nation traditional territory, falls within the area known as the Roberts Creek Headwaters Ancient Forest. The cutblock was first put up for sale in 2010. In July, 2012 after receiving photos from ELF members of what appeared to be culturally modified trees (CMT) within the block, the Archaeological Branch of BC requested the sale be halted. Professional archaeologists Jim Stafford and John Maxwell, contracted by ELF, visited the site in 2013 and confirmed the existence of 17 CMTs within the block. After the Archaeological Branch mapped out seven protected Archaeological Sites within the proposed cutblock, BCTS then applied for, and was granted, a ‘site alteration permit’ to cut down the CMTs.

Subsequently, ELF identified an exceptional stand of over 350 old-growth dependent Pacific Yew trees growing near the bases of yellow cedars. Gary Fletcher, of the Friends of Ecological Reserves, visited the site and nominated the Roberts Creek Headwaters Ancient Forest to the government as an Ecological Reserve to highlight this outstanding example of the old-growth dependent Pacific Yew.

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner and photographer T.J. Watt states “This forest is regionally important to the Sunshine Coast. The BC government must set aside this forest and stop all logging of rare, endangered old-growth forests across the Province.”

Old-growth forests are vital for supporting endangered species, unique biodiversity, tourism, recreation, the climate, clean water, wild salmon, and First Nations cultures.


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  1. Hooray for Hans Penner. I wish him success in efforts to protect a stand of rare trees as well as its inhabitants. Our poor old world is taking a beating these days and needs all the protectors possible. We can’t leave it all up to First Nations.

  2. I certainly hope that rare grove of old-growth Alaska Yellowcedar, the culturally-modified trees, and all other groves of ancient trees are preserved in perpetuity on the Sunshine Coast! I and many other out-of-area tourists will be forever grateful! D. Lloyd, Portland, Oregon

    • Having just taken the opportunity to walk and gps a significant portion of this forest, I support all efforts to save these lands and sanction all efforts to extent Ephinstone Park.

      All foresters must assume some degree of responsibility for this planets climate change.

      Let’s save what remains.

      Al Jenkins

  3. Hello
    Since these articles are being printed regarding the Roberts Creek Headwaters forest, I have been trying to find out where there is any evidence that Pacific Yew are Old Growth dependent.. Blatent affirmations are being printed but no evidence of this has ever been offered (to my knowledge) . Having worked in forestry on the coast for over 35 years and having discovered hundreds if not thousands of Pacific Yew growing nicely in second and third growth stands, I find this affirmation puzzling. Perhaps you could encourage your submitters to provide some factual evidence that supports these broad sweeping affirmations included in their articles.
    I have yet to hear what kind of CMT’s they are either. Were they pre – or post contact? Were the trees altered with a stone adze (significant) or an axe (less significant), or did someone just pull some bark off the tree with their hands? The important part is that he CMT’s were identified and the opportunity for mapping their whereabouts was there so the historical aspect of the find would be preserved by the mapping. Harvesting is not usually precluded by alterations made post-contact.
    Motherhood and emotional statements made in articles such as these are not helpful in identifying true issues supported by fact that need to be examined. The group submitting has a history of embellishing and taking artistic license to support their cause. As the publisher, I believe that if you are going to let them write their own articles, there should be some scientific accountability to support their allegations.

    • Hi Paul,
      I just did a quick Google search for information about the Pacific Yew. Botany textbooks, articles in industry journals and other sources agree that the Pacific Yew is an extremely slow-growing tree found PRIMARILY in old growth forests. Probably because it is so very slow-growing, it doesn’t get the chance to properly mature in secondary and tertiary forests being harvested on a 35-50 year cycle. To that extent, then, the Pacific Yew does depend on the protection afforded old growth forests to allow it to mature. Formerly known as a ‘trash’ tree, Pacific Yew’s bark is now considered a prime source for a cancer-fighting compound being used in treatment of breast cancer. It’s worth preserving, wherever it grows.

      I’m sure the authors of the Ancient Trees article will be responding to your queries in more depth. Thank you for writing.

      Heather Jeal, Editor
      The Local

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