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Canwel’s logging in a sub-alpine bowl near Fernie

Conservationists are raising the alarm about logging of endangered, old-growth whitebark pine in the Elk Valley. More than 35 logging trucks of the rare tree have been cut and hauled out from land owned by Canwel, the logging company that has come under fire recently for large clearcuts near the town of Fernie and in the upper Elk Valley, around Elkford.

“In the past year and a half, 70% of all the whitebark pine that has been cut in the province has been cut by Canwel in the Elk Valley,” said Eddie Petryshen, Conservation Coordinator for Wildsight. “No one should be cutting this endangered tree that Canwel has been logging on an industrial scale.”

Whitebark pine, a slow-growing tree found only high in the mountains, produces pine nuts that are a food source for grizzly bears and other alpine wildlife. This rare tree is threatened by the white pine blister rust, a fungus that kills 3% of the trees every year, and climate change.
“When we learned that Canwel planned to log in sub-alpine areas around Fernie, we warned them that there was a lot of whitebark pine where they planned to log,” said Petryshen. “When we came back to those areas a year later, including upper Coal Creek south of Fernie, we saw a lot of whitebark had been cut, even trees that were too old and twisted to be used for lumber.”

Lake Louise Ski Resort was recently fined $2.1 million for cutting 38 whitebark pines, but a lack of protection for the federally-protected endangered species under provincial jurisdiction means there will be no fines for Canwel’s cutting of logging truck loads of whitebark pine.

“B.C.’s regulations for logging under the Private Managed Forest Land Act are so weak that we’re not only seeing endangered whitebark pine cut, we’re seeing streams and wetlands damaged, huge clearcuts, and a rate of logging across the landscape that is going to hurt wildlife in the entire Elk Valley,” said Petryshen.

The B.C. government is currently reviewing the Private Managed Forest Land Program and the public has the opportunity to comment on the program, which gives large private landowners significant tax breaks, until July 22nd.

“Ever since Canwel bought 1/8th of the Elk Valley and started logging much faster and leaving far fewer trees than previous owners, people in the Elk Valley have been worried. Now we’re seeing that their liquidation logging includes cutting a whole lot of endangered whitebark pine too,” said Petryshen. “B.C. needs to fix their private land logging regulations to put a stop to this kind of destructive logging.”

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