Logging operations in a valley north of Revelstoke are paused due to concerns raised by conservation groups, confirmed the province.
Roughly 270 hectares of proposed cut blocks in the Argonaut Valley were scheduled to be auctioned off by BC Timber Sales, the provincial government’s own logging agency. Multiple environmental groups called on government to cancel the auction and restore the 10 kilometres of already-constructed road as the area provides habitat for mountain caribou, an endangered species in B.C.
The proposed clear cuts fell within the 150-member North Columbia herd’s critical habitat and tracking data shows caribou use the area.
The province said it suspended planned harvesting operations in October to allow for further assessment on how logging might impact caribou.
No logging is planned in the valley while the assessment is underway.
|The province punched a road this summer up Argonaut Creek in preparation for logging. (Photo credit Wildsight)|
Conservation groups Wildsight, Echo Conservation Society and Wilderness Committee visited the Argonaut Valley last summer and found old growth forest with cedars and hemlocks over 50 metres tall. B.C.’s definition of old growth is 140 years old in the Interior. There is less than one per cent of old growth in B.C. still standing.
While the North Columbia Environmental Society said the province’s move is in the right direction, it would like B.C. to go further and permanently end plans for harvesting in the Argonaut Creek.
“Intact critical-caribou habitat is extremely rare and must be protected if we want to be serious about the viability of caribou in our region,” said Kent Christensen, president.
The valley is part of the inland temperate rainforest ecosystem, which is the last large-scale inland temperate rainforest left on earth.
While the province has paused logging operations in the Argonaut Valley, Wildsight said 63 hectares of cut blocks in adjacent regions are still slotted for harvesting.
The group is calling for these remaining blocks to be cancelled.
“We must ensure the remaining cutblocks in this area are cancelled and Argonaut Creek gets protected,” said Charlotte Dawe, spokesperson.
According to the B.C. government, caribou in the province have declined from 40,000 in the early 1900s to less than 19,000 today.
Only 40 per cent of habitat for the North Columbia caribou herd is protected.
“We’re still logging what little old growth and caribou habitat we have left,” said Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight conservation specialist “If we want caribou, if we want ‘supernatural B.C.’, if we want a future where we have old growth, we have to start protecting old growth and caribou. Argonaut Creek is a great place to start protecting those values.”
Studies suggest logging and other industrial activity is largely to blame for the severe decline of southern mountain caribou.
Between March 1, 2019 to July 2, 2020, the province approved 104 cut blocks, totaling 19 square kilometres of caribou habitat near Revelstoke, not including new roads built.
The province is working on provincial caribou recovery plans to help caribou. In February, the provincial and federal government unveiled an agreement to add two million acres to protected areas in northern B.C. to help the endangered animals.
B.C. has yet to release caribou plans for Revelstoke, but had aimed to release them within this year. The province did not respond to questions if it would finish the plans before 2021.
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