New group created to fight logging plans in the Upper Lillooet Valley
Logging roads pushing deep into the proposed Randy Stoltmann Wilderness Area are pushing B.C.'s moderate naturalist groups out into the bush — a powerful new environmental lobby was created last week.
Dubbed the Southwestern B.C. Wildlands Alliance, the new group includes the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. Spaces for Nature, The Burke Mountain Naturalists, the Federation of B.C. Mountain Clubs, B.C. Mountaineering Club, Sierra Club of Western Canada, the Alpine Club of Canada and the Canadian Earthcare Society.
In the past these groups have been content to write letters, lobby MLAs and push political buttons in the war between B.C.'s preservationists and industry. But road building approvals for the Upper Lillooet Valley, 75 kilometres northwest of Pemberton, have pulled a number of groups together.
On Aug. 17, the Squamish Forest District issued a road building permit to MacMillan Bloedel to construct a road 1 kilometre into the Upper Lillooet and another to Interfor for a 3 kilometre road up Sims Creek — both areas are within the boundaries of the proposed Randy Stoltmann Wilderness Area.
Paul George and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee have been leading the charge to study and protect the 260,000 hectares in the Upper Elaho Valley, named after the environmentalist who wrote the report proposing to protect the area. They want to protect the area because they say it has the last sizeable stands of Douglas fir and western red cedar in mainland B.C.
The area has not been included in the government's list of areas to be studied — and government officials have said it won't be — but George says with the creation of another powerful environmental lobby, Environment Minister Moe Sihota and Premier Mike Harcourt will have to listen.
"We're really happy to see the formation of this group and it's great to hear their voice," says George. "So far these groups have been the mod squad, so to speak."
George says members of the Southwest Wildlands Alliance have been "working the back rooms of the NDP" but the tactic hasn't proven overly successful as the government plods along with its Protected Areas Strategy and logging companies fast track road building and logging plans.
Coast mountaineer John Clark flew into the Stoltmann Wilderness Area Wednesday with Kevin Scott, spokesperson for the Southwest Wilderness Alliance and Bryan Evans of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
"We're not doing this for GoreTex-clad weekenders to come up from the city to look at big trees on the weekend," says Clark. "It's about wildlife values and protecting the biodiversity of the province."
Although Premier Mike Harcourt has announced 10 per cent of the 12 per cent of land destined to be protected in the south-west corner of B.C., Clark says "an inordinate amount of area is rock and ice in the alpine."
Mark Haddock, of the Southwest Wildlands Alliance agrees.
"It's very curious that the bureaucrats that devise the Protected Areas boundaries have protected a lot of rock and ice but have drawn the boundaries excluding timber," Haddock, a member of the Burke Mountain Naturalists, says.
"We created this new group out of principle," Haddock adds. "The government is saying they are open to protecting biodiversity, but allowing roads into the Stoltmann Wilderness Area is not protecting anything… it's speeding up the loss of the last area of this type in the whole south-west of the province, and that cannot happen."