Seven Sisters environmental group tries to protect area beside provincial park

The group acknowledges it faces an uphill battle in protecting area outside of park from logging.

Seven Sisters Park.                                Kyley Rumohr photo

Seven Sisters Park. Kyley Rumohr photo

Local environmental group Friends of Seven Sisters hopes to stop planned logging adjacent to Seven Sisters Provincial Park.

The park, named after the Seven Sisters mountain range, is a 39,000-hectare wilderness park and protected area that is an hour and half drive from Smithers that was established in 2000.

Six logging cut blocks have been mapped out near the Seven Sisters Park, including two that are adjacent to the park boundary that total about 50 hectares.

Rod Major, spokesperson for Friends of Seven Sisters, said the group is concerned the proposed logging will not only negatively affect the scenic value of the park but mushroom picking areas, the Coyote Creek watershed and access to the park as well.

CanWel Building Material Group Ltd., a Vancouver-based logging and trucking company, owns the timber cutting rights for the area and is seeking permits to log from the provincial government.

CanWel did not respond to a request for comment.

“I feel these big companies like CanWel are exploiting the Northwest for lumber,” said Major. “I call them slash and dash loggers — they come in, do their thing and they’re gone. They give nothing back to the communities that they’re in.”

The group will discuss their concerns with Forests Minister and Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson on Jan. 9.

“We’re just hoping the minister, since he’s from this area, will be kind enough to listen to us,” said Major. “Our particular platform jives with the NDP platform and the green platform so hoping we’re that the minister will see where we’re coming from.”

A spokesperson for B.C. Ministry of Forests told the Vancouver Sun Donaldson won’t be available for comment until after he meets with the group.

Friends of Seven Sisters hopes the government will implement the B.C. Forest Practices Board’s recent recommendations. The board is an independent government organization that advocates for sustainable forest and range practices in British Columbia.

One of the board recommendations was to give district managers the authority to intervene when proposed activities put local environmental and community values at risk. Currently, district managers must issue cutting and road permits if they meet basic requirements under the Forest and Range Practices Act.

Another recommendation was that the government should enable public consultation on forest roads and cut blocks.

While companies are required to provide a forest stewardship plan — a description of how a company will manage harvesting timber and other values — when engaging in forestry activity these plans do not indicate when or where logging will occur.

“People don’t really have a clue where and when these guys are going to log,” said Major. “If you live in a rural area it could be in your backyard but you’re really not going to know about it because the process is so convoluted it’s very hard for the layman to know what’s happening and to understand what’s happening.”

Major acknowledges his group faces an uphill battle in stopping CanWel’s plan but hopes they’ll be the last company to log in the area.

“We’re not anti-loggers,” said Major. “Everybody’s got to survive but we certainly are against these guys coming from outside [the area], logging, and then leaving the area in a distasteful manner.”