B.C. Timber Sales plans to log area near Sproat Lake in British Columbia, adjacent to provincial park, considers designating recreational trail near logging operations for community

PORT ALBERNI, British Columbia , October 18, 2010 (press release) – A local nature guide said he is very concerned about future logging operations adjacent to a local provincial park.

Rainbird Excursions owner Sandy McRuer, who is a retired registered professional forester, said he discovered pre-harvesting activity while hunting for chanterelle mushrooms in Fossili Provincial Park, which is located on Stirling Arm on Sproat Lake.

"I saw ribbons hanging on the trees," McRuer said. "There were ribbons marked 'Block Boundary' and they appeared to be in a line, as well as pink ribbons saying 'Road Location,' as well as cruise plot ribbons."

The latter item indicates that a "timber cruiser" has evaluated the standing timber, McRuer explained.

"They come up with an estimate of the volume of the wood, although they don't determine the quality of the wood," he said.

The park is accessed from a trail branching off Stirling Mainline. McRuer said he mapped out three areas where he located markings for future activity. One of those zones straddles the access trail, which means someone is planning to harvest timber over a well-used public trail, he warned.

The standing timber is allocated to B.C. Timber Sales, the entity that was created to set market values for standing Crown timber from which stumpage rates can be determined. The agency was set up in response to decades-long complaints from U.S. lumber producers that B.C. Crown timber effectively provides a subsidy to B.C. producers.

John Laing is a member of the B.C. Timber Sales field team, based at the local Ministry of Forest and Range office, that evaluated the Sproat Lake site.

"It is not imminent that the timber is going to be put up for auction," Laing said. "There is work going on to harvest the block at some point in the future."

Laing said he could not comment on any restrictions under which B.C. Timber Sales might have to operate when harvesting adjacent to a provincial park, or in a cutblock divided by a public trail.

"We would be following our Forest Stewardship plans," he said.

McRuer would like to see the trail declared a recreational trail, to bring about some protections for the public. That's at the very least, he said, adding that he'd prefer that the whole area remain unlogged, to allow for alternative uses of the forest.

"Parts of this area are good mushroom territory," he said. "There is a demand for mushroom tours, at $70 per person for up to eight people. Chanterelle habitat is forest (Douglas fir) over 40 years old."

It's best if the forest remains contiguous, rather than being chopped up with small cutblocks that change the eco-system, McRuer said. "But the woods are a whole lot more than mushrooms," he added.

Laing said B.C. Timber Sales is taking McRuer's concerns seriously.

"Our office has been in discussions with Sandy about designating a recreational trail. That's something we've taken into consideration," he said.

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