Seventy residents crowded into Frank West Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 10 for a meeting organized by SCRD Area E Director Lorne Lewis about District Lot 1313 (also known as the “Reed Forest Reserve”), a 56-hectare (140-acre) cutblock on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone.
Lewis said he was making a call to action “because we have to get out there and convince the provincial government that there is considerable interest in saving this property from being logged.”
The forested lot lies at the west end of Reed Road on the boundary of Area E (Elphinstone) and D (Roberts Creek). Logging of the lot has been deferred several times, but BC Timber Sales is slated to auction the cutblock this spring.
Lewis said that the SCRD has been negotiating with the province and the Squamish Nation, but discussions are in camera so he could not report on their progress. The area is identified as a park in the Area E Official Community Plan, but is not a dedicated regional or provincial park. It was also formerly designated as a “watershed reserve”, but according to local conservationist Dan Bouman, the province maintains that “logging is compatible with drinking water protection.”
Bouman and George Smith spoke to the ecological value of the “extremely productive” second growth Douglas fir forest, while residents living directly downslope of the property aired their concerns about runoff, erosion, and well water quality.
Neighbour Rick Andrews, who had lived adjacent to the property for 40 years, described DL 1313 as a “very wet hillside.”
“If we see that thing logged we’re going to have real water problems on that hillside. We’re going to see a million bucks in damage to property.”
Jo-Anne Conway, who lives directly below the lot, said she already has water problems. “Already we have had a lot of flooding issues on our property, nearly losing our driveway, losing part of our property from the water coming down,” said Conway. “My big concern is that there’s going to be a lot of property damage done as a result of flooding. ”
Another local resident, Vern Giesbrecht, pointed to recent landslides in California, resulting from heavy rains on hillsides denuded of vegetation.
Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) launched a campaign to protect the area in 2014, and built a trail into the lot from the end of Reed Road.
According to a Jan. 11 statement from ELF: “ELF is speculating that the SCRD is not prepared to pay the assessed value of the property to the province, and now they expect the public to rally against BCTS and the province to have the area saved.”
ELF would like the SCRD to buy the property from the province, but the value of the timber alone is estimated at over $2 million.
Interviewed later, Lorne Lewis said his ideal outcome would be: “If the province sold it to us for a dollar and said we could manage it in our regional park system, and then we work with the Squamish [Nation] to … meet their cultural expectations as well as ours.”
Residents are organizing a letter writing campaign to the province, the SCRD, and the media. Downslope neighbours are also organizing to file an injunction if BCTS auctions off the logging rights.