Vigil planned today for start of logging on Alberni Valley's Hump

Concerned Port Alberni residents plan to hold a vigil tonight as Island Timberlands starts cutting trees along the highway.

The company is logging about 40 hectares of private forest land beside a section of Highway 4 known as the Hump, and critics say the cut will ruin the view.

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The Witness the Hump Clear Cut event is being organized by life-long Port Alberni resident Chris Alemany, who is concerned about the loss of the view and the rate of logging around the valley.

The aim of the gathering, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Alberni summit, is to witness what is going on, Alemany said in an interview.

“There will be no blockade or confrontation, but a lot of people are concerned about it and want to show their displeasure,” he said. “I think it’s a little insulting and shameful they are getting this close to the highway. They are not mindful of the wishes of the community.”

Island Timberlands spokeswoman Morgan Kennah said last week that the company would leave small shrubs and saplings beside the road, but could not leave larger trees because of the danger of a blowdown. Some taller trees will be left farther back in an area that has already been cut, she said.

Highway 4 is the latest controversy facing Island Timberlands over logging in areas used for recreation or known for views.

At nearby McLaughlin Ridge, the company has put harvesting plans on hold because of community concerns, Kennah said.

“We are reconsidering our options because it is a wildlife corridor and the feedback from our neighbours was a general concern,” she said. “People were curious about the wildlife values and curious that this was in the community watershed.”

McLaughlin Ridge was protected as critical habitat for wintering deer, but protection lapsed after the area was removed from a tree farm licence in 2004.

Documents obtained by Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser last fall, after Island Timberlands started logging the area, showed Environment Ministry staff strongly disagreed with the company’s harvesting plans.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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