TAHSIS - Tahsis Village Council and members of the Tahsis community are joining forces with conservationists to oppose planned logging by Western Forest Products in the McKelvie Watershed, the last unlogged watershed in the Tahsis region, located in Nuu-chah-nulth territory.
The McKelvie Valley, which extends from the village of Tahsis on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island to the base of Mount McKelvie, features endangered ancient forest, rich wildlife habitat, and McKelvie Creek, a salmon spawning ground and the community’s source of drinking water.
“The McKelvie is an exceptionally significant ancient forest given that it is an entire intact valley in a region where virtually all valleys have now been fragmented and tattered by logging” stated Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness. “As such, its value for wildlife, water, fisheries, tourism, recreation, and the climate are exceptional. Most controversies over old-growth logging today involve significant patches and groves of ancient forest, but we’re talking about an entire intact watershed here. The McKelvie also feeds into Tahsis’ drinking aquifer and the watershed itself is the town’s back-up drinking water supply. As such, it is a first-rate conservation priority and an old-growth ‘hotspot’ area that needs an immediate government moratorium on any logging plans”
The McKelvie Creek watershed falls within Western Forest Products’ (WFP) Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 19, which encompasses 190,000 hectares in the vicinity of Nootka Sound, in the territory of the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation. The company plans to begin road-building into the McKelvie valley next year with the aim to commence logging operations in 2020. Western Forest Products also plans to log some of the remaining ancient groves nearby Tahsis and Leiner river valleys over the next 15 years.
Since WFP revealed its plans publicly last year, locals have grown increasingly concerned about the impacts of the proposed logging on Tahsis’ burgeoning tourism industry, increased flood risks, possible sediment run-off into McKelvie Creek, and the loss of rare, intact old-growth forests.
In response, Tahsis Village Council unanimously passed a resolution in June opposing all forms of resource extraction and development in the McKelvie watershed, including all logging activity.
“The Council’s resolution called on Minister Donaldson to remove the McKelvie Creek community watershed from TFL 19 in order to preserve one of the few remaining intact old-growth valleys on Vancouver Island,” stated Randy Taylor, Acting Mayor of the Village of Tahsis.
Concerned Tahsis residents also formed the “McKelvie Matters” advocacy group earlier this year to oppose logging in the watershed. Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC, and Wilderness Committee are working to support both groups to help ensure their pleas are heard by the BC NDP government.
“The plan by Western Forest Products to log our drinking watershed and the steep, unstable hillside above Tahsis puts the health and safety of the people of Tahsis at risk,” stated Martin Davis, biologist, bat caver, and co-founder of the McKelvie Matters advocacy group. “It will destroy groves of huge Douglas-fir, remove much of our remaining regional Marbled Murrelet habitat, damage our premiere hiking trail, and will leave scars directly over town that will take generations to heal.”
“Residents of this community are passionate about protecting their community watershed. Not only is McKelvie Creek the source of our drinking water, it’s also important habitat for bear, elk, deer, cougars, and many bird species,” stated Acting Mayor Taylor.
“Logging the old-growth in the McKelvie Creek watershed is environmentally short-sighted, threatens our community’s drinking water supply, and undermines our economic recovery, which is based on eco- tourism.”
Since Western Forest Products closed the town’s sawmill in 2001, the village of Tahsis has been working to transition to a tourism-based economy by capitalizing on its stunning coastal scenery. Today, the area is renowned for sport fishing, kayaking, diving, hiking, caving, trail bike riding, and wildlife viewing tours.
The town is also adjacent to Nootka Island, home of the 35-kilometre-long Nootka trail, one of BC’s most spectacular trails, featuring old-growth temperate rainforest and a rich history as the site of the first contact between Europeans and First Nations people on Canada’s west coast. The village of Tahsis itself, located in Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations territory, holds historical and cultural importance as the winter home of Chief Maquinna and as a former gateway to a trade route spanning the entire width of Vancouver Island.
The area’s unique natural and cultural heritage is what led Tahsis resident and former New Brunswick NDP MLA and MP candidate, Shawna Gagné, to begin lobbying the BC government earlier this year to protect the McKelvie watershed as a heritage site.
“Heritage is something worth keeping, preserving, and protecting,” stated Gagné. “If heritage buildings, ruins, and pyramids are important to protect, why not our remaining endangered old-growth forests? Once they are logged, they’re gone forever. If we allow this area to be degraded by logging, we not only risk ecological damage, but also the area’s tourism appeal, the historic trails once used by Indigenous peoples, and the over 177 archeological sites already identified in this region.”
This time last year, conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club of BC, and Wilderness Committee presented the BC Forests Minister with a suite of recommendations to protect endangered ancient forests while ensuring a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry. The recommendations included a halt on logging in old-growth forest ‘hotspots’ (endangered, intact valleys like the McKelvie watershed with high conservation and recreational value) and a science-based plan to protect old-growth forests across the province. Despite promising in their 2017 election platform to use the science-based, ecosystem-based management approach of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model for sustainably managing old-growth forests, the NDP government has yet to take any meaningful steps to prevent endangered forest ecosystems from being logged in BC.
“The BC government needs to break from the destructive and unsustainable status quo of old-growth forest liquidation, mill closures, and raw log exports, and start moving towards sustainable solutions,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director. “This starts by putting an immediate halt on logging in large, intact old-growth areas like the McKelvie Valley and in other old-growth forest hotspots in order to start negotiating solutions while there are still significant tracts remaining. So far, the BC government has not been following through on its promise to sustainably manage old-growth forests based on the Ecosystem-Based Management model used in the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, where most of the forests were protected based on science. It’s time for this government to be a sustainable, progressive, and forward-thinking government in terms of forestry.”
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