Last Stand Canyon

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Checking in on Canada’s wild spotted owl forest

by Joe Foy

I stared intently at the muddy road trying to decipher the layers of tracks.  Was one or more of those tire treads made by a logging truck? 

I was heading up the Spuzzum Creek logging road in the Fraser Canyon to follow up on reports of logging in spotted owl habitat. I had maps and coordinates – but I needed to see what was happening with my own eyes. It wasn’t long before I found what I had been hunting for – a brand new road being built into the spotted owl’s forest. It wouldn’t be long before chainsaws would be felling trees. 

The Fraser Canyon is the last stand of the wild spotted owl in Canada. Biologists believe there are now less than six wild owls living in several watersheds there, including the Spuzzum and Anderson valleys. 

There are plans by the province to release captive-bred young owls back into the wild to try to get the numbers back up to 250 individuals. But first and foremost the logging of spotted owl habitat must stop so the owls have a place to live and thrive.

My next stop in the Spuzzum Valley was an area of spotted owl forest that had been clearcut logged just two years ago. Located next to an area of protected forest, I wanted to see if this area was recovering at all. I was shocked to discover the logging debris in the clearcut had dried out and caught fire last year and burned the area right down to bare rock. Luckily the nearby protected forest had not caught fire too – but it must have been a close call. 

Shaken by the sight of the burned and blasted landscape I headed further up the logging road nervous about what I would find next. Soon my worst fears came true when I stumbled upon a fresh clearcut. The logging of spotted owl habitat was so new I could smell the sawed up trees. My maps told me the full extent of the planned clearcut had not yet been logged. This was done by BC Timber Sales, which is fully owned and operated by the provincial government. Instead of being the salvation of the spotted owl, the ongoing logging here shows the province is clearly the cause of the spotted owl’s steady slide to extinction in Canada.

The next day I drove further up the Fraser Canyon to the Anderson Valley and here too I ran into recently clearcut spotted owl habitat. 

What I saw in the Fraser Canyon is more proof that the BC government will push the spotted owl to extinction in Canada unless they are stopped. That’s why we have recently teamed up with Ecojustice to demand the federal minister of environment Catherine McKenna enforce the Species at Risk Act and take over from BC the protection of spotted owl habitat and stop the logging for good.  

Write minister McKenna today and tell her time is running out for the spotted owl in Canada and urge her to take action now.

That is all for this edition of Joe Foy’s backroads report. Until next time.

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