September 28, 2001 Features & Images » Feature Story


They might be giants, Part II

For more than 1,000 years the Elaho has been left relatively undisturbed. Now things are changing, within and outside the valley

Logging versus preservation – it’s an emotive issue. Not least in old growth forests such as British Columbia’s Elaho Valley, which houses some of the oldest and biggest Douglas fir and red cedar trees in the world. Amongst those trees reside black bears and grizzly bears, wolves, cougars and mountain goats.

Standing poles apart in the debate over the future of those trees are the hard-line environmentalists who want to preserve what is left of the world’s rapidly shrinking natural landscapes, and logging communities whose livelihood depends on harvesting trees. Somewhere between the poles, with direct stakes in the issue, are tourist operators keen to market the outdoor experience to a nature-seeking clientele and First Nations trying to reclaim their cultural and economic territorial birthright.

It was with these various factions in mind that I started hiking the 22 km trail from the Elaho Valley to Meager Creek, with fellow Whistlerites John Meyer and Cavan Dykeman. Two days into travelling through some of the most spectacular scenery in British Columbia we met fellow hikers, Mark Crosbie and Susan Hynes from Vancouver. Our subsequent discussion on the pros and cons of the logging debate only served to reinforce the range of views on the Elaho.

Looking down on the Meager Creek valley from Hundred Lakes Plateau, Meyer said: "The scenery I have seen over the past couple of days I will carry in my head forever – the green carpet of trees as far as you can see. To now look down these logged areas is quite devastating."

Hynes agreed. "I’ve been through clearcuts on Vancouver Island that look disgusting after the de-foresting and have no problem saving certain areas as there is lots of land. It doesn’t hurt to save places like the Elaho so people can see what B.C once was like."

Crosbie described his views as middle ground. "I don’t agree that B.C should be preserved as a playground for people who live in the Lower Mainland. There has to be compromise," he said. "Stopping logging altogether isn’t feasible for B.C as it would have a profound effect on communities that depend on this type of industry."

And as Dykeman pointed out, loggers through to environmentalists utilize the forestry resource because "everyone needs wood and everyone needs paper."

Meyer believed that logging is OK in certain areas, so long as the "extremely wasteful" practice of clear-cutting is stopped.

"They (forest companies) waste a large percentage of what they cut as the trees are too small, and they only slash and burn unnecessarily to increase profits," he said. "We could easily heli-log, but there is no motivation because (the forestry companies) would not make nearly as much money as they do now."

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