Seattle mayor pushes Horgan for ‘immediate halt’ to logging near border

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has written Premier John Horgan to express “grave concern” over logging in a critical watershed near the B.C. border, urging that the work be stopped immediately.

The letter from Durkan tells Horgan that the logging is taking place in the Silverdaisy area of the upper Skagit watershed, an area known as the “donut hole, created when the western boundary of Manning Provincial Park was moved to exclude some mining claims.”

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Durkan said the logging is “inconsistent with the spirit and intent” of the Canada-U.S. High Ross Treaty signed in 1984.

The power utility Seattle City Light obtains 20 per cent of its hydro power from three generating operations on the Skagit system — Ross, Diablo, and Gorge.

“One of the main purposes of the Treaty was to maintain the environmental integrity of the Watershed,” Durkan wrote, adding the “upper Skagit River has extraordinary environmental value that we should protect.”

Durkan said that logging activities, through B.C. Timber Sales, “directly contradict the environmental stewardship and fish protection priorities your government values.” The Skagit watershed provides more than 30 per cent of the fresh water flowing into Puget Sound and supports the largest populations of threatened steelhead and chinook salmon in the sound, she noted.

She strongly urged consultation with the City of Seattle and Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission prior to “any activity that would impact the ecological integrity and recreational resource value of the Silverdaisy area.”

Commission members are appointed by Seattle and B.C., and for years have “sought to eliminate the risks of mining in the donut hole,” she said.

Asked by Postmedia News to respond to the mayor’s concerns, Horgan’s office deferred comment to Doug Donaldson, the minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development.

Donaldson said in an email statement that current logging in the Smitheram Creek section of the Silverdaisy area is from an active Timber Sale Licence awarded under the previous Liberal government in 2015, and that the province is unable to stop the logging once a licence has been issued.

There are no fish-bearing streams in the logging area, he said.

The current logging is expected to be completed this fall — 39,000 cubic metres in four cut blocks totalling 67.2 hectares, he said.

The planned Timber Sale Licence for 2019 is on hold pending further consultations with the commission, Donaldson said.

Durkan is not alone in her concerns about logging in the upper Skagit.

Two former B.C. NDP cabinet ministers, Tom Perry and Joan Sawicki, are also taking Horgan to task for the logging.

Perry served as minister for advanced education, training and technology from 1991 to 1993, and helped lead the fight to save the Skagit in the 1970s.

He described Donaldson’s statement as “somewhat encouraging — at least it implies that they have paid attention,” but said a complete halt to logging is what’s needed. “I consider the current logging a betrayal by the current government of the environmental accomplishments of its NDP predecessors,” he said.

Sawicki, who served as minister of environment, lands and parks from 1999 to 2000, added: “The fight to save the Skagit was hard-fought and fairly won many years ago, with compromises on both sides.

“The current government needs to do the right thing and honour the deal. Abandon their logging plans, extinguish remaining mining claims where feasible, then add the donut hole lands to the adjacent provincial parks … as was always intended.”

Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee has visited the site three times and said he is “greatly saddened and disappointed to see this logging. I especially didn’t think I’d have to fight it under an NDP government — but this fight ain’t over.”

He described Donaldson’s comment that he cannot stop the logging as “bull— ” and said that timber lands could always be traded.

Foy said Thursday the donut hole was created in the 1990s, and that Imperial Metals holds mineral claims in the area.

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