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Group rallies to save popular bluffs

Island Timberlands has no immediate plans for harvesting
Kyle Wells

A collective of Powell River area residents, in conjunction with local government, is considering ways to prevent logging in some key areas by Island Timberlands, something it fears could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The move to action began after some residents near Stillwater Bluffs noticed surveying tape and crews in the area in early February. The area, which includes the cliffs and the forests that border them, is owned by Island Timberlands and it is known that harvesting is generally planned for the area sometime in the near future.

Initially a number of letters were written and phone calls placed to Island Timberlands with no reply, said resident Jason Addy. Addy started a Facebook group to encourage letter writing to Powell River Regional District to ask for help in somehow preserving the area.

Morgan Kennah, a spokesperson for Island Timberlands, said the company has had contract crews in the Stillwater Bluffs area doing some field inventory work but that no logging is scheduled. The area is in the company’s “harvesting land base” and Kennah said there is interest in logging in the area within the next one to two years, but that there are no immediate plans.

In regard to Millennium Park and Valentine Mountain, where Island Timberlands owns some lots, they too are within the company’s harvest plan for the next year or two. Kennah said that logging isn’t imminent and will not occur within two months at least.

Plans for any logging that eventually takes place at Stillwater Bluffs will come before the Stillwater Community Advisory Group, made up of about 15 local stakeholders. Island Timberlands typically meets with the group four times per year.

“There will be discussions through that group and through which then there will be notification to the community,” said Kennah.

Stillwater Bluffs is in the top five sites identified by the regional district’s Parks and Greenspace Plan as priorities for acquisition for parks. The regional district discussed the issue at its Thursday, February 9 committee-of-the-whole meeting. Chair Colin Palmer said, at that meeting, that a meeting between Island Timberlands and regional district staff has been arranged for March 8.

“It’s the second priority of the board,” said Palmer. “It’s not as if we suddenly thought it was a good idea, we already knew it was a good idea to try and acquire it. The problem is we’ve got to find out from Island Timberlands what’s the value of it.”

Addy said the area offers a unique ecosystem with the granite bluffs, mossy meadows and healthy, naturally seeded second-growth forest. At least one blue-listed species has been observed in the area, the red-legged frog, and Addy said there are likely others.

“It could be one day an intact area that’s used by the community for recreation, for naturalists, for hiking, birdwatching, swimming, climbing,” said Addy. “There’s a lot of activities that go on there. If they log it, most of those values go away.”

The ultimate goal, said Addy, is for the community to work with the regional district to help acquire the land and timber from Island Timberlands to turn into a park. To make this a reality Addy said that the informal group that has developed is asking Island Timberlands for a five-year moratorium on logging.

Kennah said that a five-year moratorium is “highly unlikely.”

Members of the community are welcome to contact Kennah to find out more information. She said all emails are read and saved and that a response, even if not immediate, will be given. She can be reached at [email protected].

For more information on the advisory group interested readers can visit the group's website. For more information on local efforts Addy can be reached at [email protected].