The recent clearcut at the gateway to the South Chilcotin Mountains Park can be attributed to a small misunderstanding, said a spokesperson from the provincial government.
"It's a minor glitch," said Erik Kaye, the manager of media relations for the Ministry of Sustainable Resources. "It's just a mix up over timing."
This particular glitch refers to a clearcut in the Bonanza Finger, on the cusp of the provincial park.
In the week leading up to Christmas, between 40 and 80 hectares of trees were cut down there, even though the provincial government had promised there would be no logging in the area until March 2002.
The South Chilcotin Mountains area has been the subject of intense debate between conservationists and logging/mining companies for the past 70 years.
The Liberal government is now reviewing the area after the NDP decided to create a provincial park there just as they were leaving office last year.
Although the area's future hangs in the balance, conservationists believed the status quo would remain the same pending the outcome of the review.
They believed this despite the fact that Ainsworth Lumber has legal logging permits for the area and is within its legal rights to cut down trees.
"There was a cutting permit issued in that area in June 2000," said Kaye. "They were in a legal position to log."
Kaye said Ainsworth were always planning to log that particular area even after the government announcement that suspended all logging over the next three months.
"It was always clear from the agreement that they would stop once they finished that block," he said.
He said the confusion is a result of the fact that the logging took longer than expected due to equipment problems.
But Joe Foy and others with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee were outraged that Ainsworth was allowed to do this.
"They shouldn't have been there in the first place," said Foy, director of the WCWC. "It's not as if they didn't know. This area has been under consideration since the 1930s."
Kaye said that the area would now be protected from further logging until the provincial government decides the future of the area.
"(The logging) has stopped. They were just finishing off the cutblock," said Kaye. "They have agreed to stop logging as a gesture of good faith during the planning process."
Foy said this recent clearcut is a complete breach of trust.
"It makes it clear in our minds what we're up against here," he said. "It's pretty clear what the vision of Ainsworth is an industrialized clearcut landscape, bereft of wildlife and a second rate tourist destination."
He is also disappointed in the provincial government.
"We can't depend on the provincial government. They've really let us down. We're going to have to do it ourselves," he said.
The Bonanza Finger is on the edge of the South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park and is very close to Spruce Lake, one of the prime destinations of travellers to the park.
"In our opinion they've done it to make the area less appealing for protection," said Foy. "This is small-minded vandalism of a wonderful tourism resource."
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