By Amy Fendley
A B.C. scientist, renowned for his work in discovering new insect species in the canopy of B.C.’s temperate rainforest, says a stand of Douglas fir in the Upper Elaho Valley contains trees older and larger than any he has found in a wilderness setting.
Dr. Neville Winchester, an entomologist from the University of Victoria, said the grove of trees, estimated to be more than 1,000 years old, is unlike any they have surveyed. The branches at the top of the 50-metre trees are half a metre wide, creating a wide platform for soil buildup, an indicator of a rich, biodiverse canopy ecosystem, a release from the Western Canada Wilderness Committee says.
Winchester and his team, Dr. Richard Ring and tree climber Kevin Jordan, are known for their work in discovering new insect species in the canopy of B.C’s Carmanah Valley ancient temperate rainforest. Last week the team hiked into Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s rainforest research station in the Upper Elaho Valley, part of the WCWC’s proposed Stoltmann Wilderness Area. A film crew from the Discovery Channel accompanied the team.
Over the past week, the team has implemented several insect research traps in the tree-tops.
"We estimate the trees to be in excess of 1,000 years old, based on tree-ring counts in nearby clearcuts," explained Joe Foy, WCWC campaign co-ordinator.
The WCWC says the stand of trees are scheduled to be felled in 2002, by International Forest Products.
"Not only would this grove be an excellent site for further research, but we believe a tourism facility in part of the grove, allowing people to travel up into the tree-tops as they do already in some tropical forests, would be a major eco-tourism draw into the Squamish area," Foy said.
The WCWC has been pushing for several years to have the so-called Stoltmann Wilderness Area preserved. Recently the organization expanded its proposal to include 500,000 ha, stretching up to the western boundaries of the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and calling for the area to be designated Canada’s first national park reserve in the Coast Mountain Range.
WCWC is currently building a 30 km hiking trail from the Upper Elaho through the Stoltmann Wilderness to the Meager Creek Hot Springs. The trail would be a prime feature of the proposed National Park.
The WCWC is also investigating a hiking route through the upper Soo Valley to connect the Elaho trail to Whistler.
But, Interfor is currently working on some trail blazing of its own.
"They are still road building like crazy," said Selena Blais, a WCWC spokesperson, who recently hiked the Stoltmann. "They’re at it 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The road keeps going further and further. They are falling on a section close to the trailhead and have moved in some heavy equipment."
Blais said that many of the trees on the Douglas Fir Loop Trail have this week been flagged for future logging.
"The whole thing is flagged, the trees are numbered," said Blais. "The Elaho River is 70 miles long, we’re fighting for the last 10 pristine miles, and they’re calling us greedy."
Foy says cutting the Douglas firs "would be like cutting down Cathedral Grove, only worse because we believe this is an even more important forest, both for science and tourism."