Landmark deal expected to protect Vancouver Island watershed from logging

·3 min read

A concrete plan to save the McKelvie Creek valley from logging is finally underway after the village of Tahsis and Western Forest Products (WFP) signed a Letter of Understanding (LOU).

As part of the agreement, the forestry company has established new wildlife and old-growth reserves in the McKelvie Creek area within WFP’s Tree Farm Licence 19. By doing so the company has committed to Tahsis’ community objective of ‘no harvesting’ within the McKelvie area.

Apart from being the community’s source of drinking water, McKelvie watershed is also home to old-growths, and an important habitat for the threatened Marbled Murrelet.

The last intact watershed in the Tahsis region, McKelvie has been at risk of logging for years under TFL 19. The LOU brings to rest a long haul by Tahsis to “completely preserve” the watershed.

Since 2018 Tahsis has been opposing all harvesting within the McKelvie watershed. In 2019, Tahsis council passed a resolution which called for its preservation and a request was made to the province to remove the watershed from TFL 19 altogether.

Last year, although McKelvie Creek was among the nine old-growth forest areas where the province deferred logging, Tahsis still felt this was a temporary fix and that they were running against borrowed time.

READ MORE: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

Which is why this agreement is being considered a huge win for the community.

Tahsis mayor Martin Davis who was at the helm of negotiating the deal said that WFP agreed to include several areas that the village mapped out to be preserved.

Some of these areas contain sensitive ecosystems, karst limestone landscapes, and/or culturally significant areas for First Nations, said Davis.

“The areas we had negotiated for are the large blocks to the northeast and northwest of Tahsis, as well as the areas along Tahsis Inlet and the bits around Weymer Park which is to the southeast of town,” he said.

In future, the village is also looking at establishing a community forest in the surrounding crown land with hopes of setting up a small scale, village-run, sustainable logging operation, said Davis.

In an email statement, WFP spokesperson Babita Khunkhun said that they are “pleased” that the ongoing discussions with Tahsis council have resulted in the LOU endorsing a draft plan that balances community interests in conservation and forestry activity in TFL 19.

Tahsis falls within the traditional territories of the Mowachaht/ Muchalaht First Nation (MMFN). The draft prepared and agreed to by both parties will be reviewed by MMFN before it is submitted to the province for legal establishment through the Land Act and Forest and Range Practices Act.

The forest management plan for the area, which proposes new wildlife and old forest reserves in the McKelvie, requires discussion with Indigenous groups to reflect their interests and is subject to government approval, said Khunkhun and added, the plan may be refined based on this engagement.

“WFP will manage TFL 19 and continue to work collaboratively with the local Indigenous communities and the Tahsis Village Council on this important initiative,” she said.

Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror