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Campout against logging in owl forest

Fewer than a dozen Northern spotted owls are left in B.C. so it is critical to save any prime habitat that’s left for them.

That’s the rationale behind the Western Canada Wilderness Committee plan to host a Canada Day Campout near Chilliwack Lake, as way to help save a spotted owl forest from proposed logging, said Joe Foy, national campaign director for WCWC.

The conservation group was contacted recently by residents of the Chilliwack River Valley opposed to the idea of logging being allowed inside a Wildlife Habitat Area (WHA).

Part of the problem is that they’re picking out the best habitat, older forests with bigger trees, Foy noted.

“What they discovered was that these protected areas were not keeping logging out but rather they were attracting it,” he said.

The only hint locals had that a timber harvest was being planned by Tamihi Logging “was the brightly coloured logging tape they found fluttering in the breeze to mark off cutblocks,” Foy said.

“To allow logging inside a WHA that the public thinks has been protected and set aside for spotted owls, is patently dishonest.”

It’s galling says the WCWC rep because the province originally protected this particular forest a few years back after pressure was applied by the federal government over declining numbers of spotted owl.

“We aim to do everything we can do to see the logging of spotted owl habitat stopped so that this remarkable creature and all the other species that need forest habitat are given a fighting chance to survive,” he said.

The province began work this year to expand the territory of WHAs, where logging is not allowed “except” in the case of several cutblocks.

“They inserted that one little word — except,” said Foy. “And the reason they did it was to try to protect the spotted owl without having any impact on cutting. So they’re trying to do both at once, but in a grossly over-logged landscape like the Chilliwack River Valley, they can’t do it.”

The attitude seems to be with the licensees’ approaching their last kick at the can, “so let’s kick it hard,” said Foy.

The number of endangered animal and plant species in B.C. is growing.

“Our bottom line is that in spotted owl territory, which is only in the southwest corner of the province, we need to be protecting all the habitat that’s left.”

There may be no owls remaining in the Chilliwack River Valley, but now it’s a matter of “holding onto” whatever habitat is remaining to help get them back from the brink of extirpation, Foy said.

The Canada Day Campout will feature guided hikes through the forest and surrounding trails, as well as a discussion on the importance of protecting forests for the survival of local fish and wildlife.

“I think when people see how beautiful this forest is they are going to be in heaven camping here and are going to want to help save it,” said Foy.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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