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Weyerhaeuser decides not to log Pemberton slope

Some form of compensation for not logging still expected to be worked out

In what is being hailed as a victory by the letter-writing residents of Pemberton, Weyerhaeuser has informed Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner that they will not be proceeding with plans to log the hillside behind Signal Hill elementary school.

Manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Stillwater division Ray Balogh and Walter Cowlard visited Pemberton Tuesday, Sept. 7 and informed the mayor that their company would no longer be seeking to amend its forestry management plan.

Balogh said he was spurred on to seek a deal with the Pemberton council after his organization received "hundreds of e-mails" about the project.

"The people of Pemberton are not anti-logging, it was important for me to hear that and this doesn’t mean the beginning of the end of logging in the Pemberton valley," said Balogh.

"There is still plenty of timber down there and plenty of people employed by the logging industry.

"But we received hundreds of e-mails, I personally haven’t received them but people within out corporation have, about this area and it was obvious the community didn’t want it.

"We really came to the determination that they had a serious issue in the community and we wanted to work it out."

While this is a victory for the Pemberton community, Balogh said he was treating this decision as the start of the process rather than the end.

"The council has a couple of interesting proposals," he said.

"But how this unfolds over the next couple of years depends a lot on the willingness of the Pemberton community, the provincial government and Weyerhaeuser to find a solution."

The most predictable option for the Pemberton council now is to make an agreement with the province to buy Weyerhaeuser’s timber licence.

Balogh agreed that this was an option Weyerhaeuser would be willing to discuss.

"But that (buying a timber license from a logging company) takes the willingness of a lot of parties including the provincial government because it’s unusual for a company to walk away from a timber licence without some form of compensation.

"And compensation takes a lot of different forms, you know the one company that’s really getting hurt in this is CRB Logging, and one thing that would certainly help their cause would be to find somewhere else in the Pemberton valley where they could log.

"But that’s something only the province and the Ministry of Forests can resolve.

"So it’s not the end, it’s more or less the start more than anything else to resolve it between all the authorities, but I’m convinced there’s a way to make it work."

Balogh said a long-term solution would have to involve the intervention of the province because it also stands to lose money if the area is not logged.

"I think the province has to be involved because they’re the land owners, we’re just the tenants with the timber licence.

"We just own the first rotation of timber there but we don’t own the land that it’s on, we don’t technically own the timber other than the right to log it.

"Not logging the timber impacts the province and its revenues so they’ve got to be comfortable with giving up the revenue that would come in the form of stumpage and taxes."

Andre Germain from the Squamish Forest District said Weyerhaeuser’s decision had saved the ministry from making an agonizing decision but he warned that there was still a lot of work to be done.

"We’re not sure if this is permanent (agreement)," said Germain.

"But according to the letter they (Weyerhaeuser) sent to us, they’re prepared to back down at this time."

Germain said many of the companies in the Squamish Forest District were responsible companies that reacted to public opinion.

"None of the companies like bad publicity, it’s a business decision, whether this is something where they’re trying to let the situation cool down so they can collect their information and maybe make a better presentation remains to be seen.

"There’s a lot of issues throughout this district where companies are deferring harvest to try and resolve issues… they don’t necessarily give up, but they do take a step back."

Germain agreed that CRB Logging would be adversely affected by this decision but he confirmed that CRB could not log without Weyerhaeuser’s approval.

"They (CRB) have a contract with Weyerhaeuser, I’m not sure what the implications are, but CRB could not log without Weyerhaeuser because it is Weyerhaeuser’s licence."

While there is still a lot of details to be worked on, Mayor Warner was confident that this logging issue would not resurface.

"I don’t think they’ll (Weyerhaeuser) come back and ask (to log)… I believe that we have solved it and we won’t be facing it again in two years."

Warner praised both Balogh and Cowlard for being receptive to the council’s requests.

"We met for an hour and half (Tuesday) and at the end of that they had a conference call and they told me they would not be supporting logging outside my office here.

"We spoke about the moss in there and the re-growth and the time it would take to get some green back in there and it’s a credit to them for listening.

"(Weyerhaeuser) never tried to change our mind that this was wrong for the community."

This decision reflects well on the community and in particular people such as Larry Cosulich, Gerald Giguere, Weldon Talbot and Lisa Richardson who diligently voiced their opinions.

But it also proves that Weyerhaeuser, which is a huge multinational logging company, is still in touch with the feelings within different communities.

Cosulich, who lives at the end of one of the roads which was designated to be turned into a logging road, and Giguere agreed that it was a reassuring decision.

"It’s excellent that a big company like that would listen to the concerns of the community," said Giguere.

"And it’s a wise decision because the logs were right behind the town.

"We’ve had a battle over this hill for a few years now… but I’m just really proud that the council stood up for the community."