TimberWest says only moderate logging done in Muir Creek, near Sooke

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - 1:00am
Victoria Times Colonist

Community environmental leaders lined up yesterday to protest recent logging of second-growth trees on private lands by TimberWest in the Muir Creek watershed near Sooke.

The company is logging at a rapid pace despite recent heavy rainfall, "posing a threat to salmon- and steelhead-bearing streams," Alanda Carver, president of the Muir Creek Protection Society, said yesterday in Victoria.

Environmentalists are calling on the Capital Regional District to intervene and demanding that TimberWest stop logging, negotiate with the CRD and create a regional plan to turn the 16-kilometre-long watershed into a park.

TimberWest spokesman Steve Lorimer said the forestry company has done only “moderate” logging in the area and has voluntarily been in regular communication with all the stakeholders.

When and if the CRD identifies the area for purchase, TimberWest is happy to listen, Lorimer said.

Selling Muir Creek to the CRD “is something in the scope of possibilities but again we have a business to manage,” Lorimer said. “We can’t put everything in a moratorium while something may or may not happen.”

TimberWest in the past has negotiated deals to sell its land for park protection, including the Sooke potholes.

Environmentalists, including those from the Sierra Club, propose using the CRD's park-acquisition fund and support from the provincial and federal governments to purchase the watershed.

The area contains the "most magnificent remaining stand of old-growth forest" on private lands in the region and is considered a high priority for purchase by the CRD, said Tara Sawatsky of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

Jeff Ward, CRD manager of planning and resource management and development, said the CRD board must first decide next month on a recommendation from the parks committee to increase the parks acquisition levy to $20 per household from $10 over the next five years.

"We first have to know what the funding level is," Ward said. "Also, we have to look at what priorities we would give to certain areas."

The Muir Creek watershed covers thousands of acres. The area most frequented by residents is found off a trail off Hwy 14 near Sooke at the mouth of Muir Creek near the ocean. That area is full of old-growth trees and covers hundreds of acres. Old growth in the area is not being logged, Lorimer said.

Sooke Mayor Janet Evans, a CRD director, said a list of parks have been identified for possible purchase, but priorities have not been set.

Sawatsky, who was in the area on the weekend, described a destructive scene characterized by a frenzied amount of logging with trees fallen over the creek, endangering fish habitat.

Said Carver: "It looks like they [TimberWest] are maximizing their profitability within this area, knowing the CRD is interested in creating parkland."

TimberWest logged the second-growth trees in 2007 but didn’t log there in 2008.

“The overall rate of logging over the last couple of years has been anything but frenzied, it’s been moderate if anything,” Lorimer said.


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