Taped trees in Walbran valley a red flag for environmental group

Conservationists are concerned a pristine area of old-growth forest near Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is under threat after spotting logging and surveying tape in the area.

“This is a nationally significant area with some of Canada’s grandest forests,” said Ken Wu from the Ancient Forest Alliance.

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The non-profit environmental group was contacted by hikers in the Central Walbran Valley after they saw surveying tape marked “falling boundary” and “road location” on trees in the area. The area is a 2 1/2 -hour drive from Victoria, about 20 kilometres northwest of Port Renfrew.

Teal Jones Group of Surrey holds the cutting rights for the area under a tree-farm licence. Teal Jones could not be reached Thursday, but Wu said the company indicated earlier the tape was for surveying and said it had not applied to the provincial government for cutting permits in the area.

The Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Ministry confirmed Thursday there were no applications by Teal Jones for forest harvesting in the area.

“But why else would a logging company survey?” Wu asked.

Two years ago, tape was found in the Upper Walbran Valley near Castle Grove, home to several colossal western red cedars. When environmentalists shared their concerns with the province, they were assured it would not be logged. It hasn’t been.

The nearby Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park was established in 1990 and expanded in 1995 to include the Upper Carmanah Valley and the lower half of the Walbran Valley. The Central Walbran Valley remains unprotected.

“These are some of the last intact lowland ancient forests,” Wu said. “There are only about five per cent left. We need to protect them.”

The Central Walbran Valley is home to a giant western red cedar that is about 60 metres tall and five metres in diameter, he said. Although the area is part of a special management zone — which aims to protect the trees — adjacent to the park, there have been numerous clearcuts since the early 1990s, Wu said.

He noted the region is also home to small saw-whet and screech owls, as well as many elk, bears, wolves and cougars.

Wu’s colleagues TJ Watt and Jackie Korn travelled to the Central Walbran Valley this week to see the taped area for themselves. “Just outside of the flagged area is one of the highest-traffic recreation regions on Vancouver Island,” said Watt, noting the nearby hiking trails, camping sites and waterfall swimming areas. The West Coast Trail, part of Pacific Rim National Park, is just a few kilometres away. “This area should be a national treasure.”

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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