Pin pointing old growth, road plans discussed at Whistler community forest open house 

Plans for Cheakamus Community Forest in 2014 and beyond discussed

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON - PIN POINTED: Forestry worker Doug McDonald shows Peter Ackhurst the site of a saw mill from a century ago in the Cheakamus Community Forest.
  • Photo by Cathryn Atkinson
  • PIN POINTED: Forestry worker Doug McDonald shows Peter Ackhurst the site of a saw mill from a century ago in the Cheakamus Community Forest.

Peter Ackhurst, forest manager of the 33,000-hectare Cheakamus Community Forest, is bent over a map with logging veteran Doug McDonald.

McDonald, who works for Fulford Lumber, is pointing out the locations of old saw mills from 100 years ago within the forest and Ackhurt is marking them, happy to have the information.

The sawmills did not bring McDonald to the latest information open house on the CCF, which took place at Myrtle Philip Community School on Oct. 16. His interest revolved around having fun beneath the trees rather than logging them.

"Most of the importance the community forest has for me now is to do with the snowmobiling, that's why I came today to hear what their plans are," McDonald said, explaining that he collects fees from snowmobilers in the forest during the winter and this can mean 100 vehicles or more on a busy winter Saturday.

The forest, which wraps around Whistler and far beyond the resort's boundaries, is one of 50 community-managed forests in British Columbia. The forest body was established in 2009, with the Squamish Nation, Lil'wat Nation and the Resort Municipality of Whistler signing a 25-year tenure with the Ministry of Forests. The three communities oversee management and operation of the forest as a not-for-profit organization.

A wide range of issues covering the forest were under discussion, and representatives from the RMOW, the forest and the Lil'wat Nation were on hand to answer questions.

Ackhurst said the open house had been organized to look at future plans for the forest, including thinning out a section of it around Cheakamus Crossing to reduce wildfire hazards, building connecting roads within the forest over the next five years, and asking the public to help forest managers pinpoint important sections of old growth.

In all, 26 people came out to the open house to learn more.

"The aim is to also show the progress that we've made, highlights," Ackhurst said. "We're showing our work on the Ancient Cedars Trail, the new roads and bridges, some are new but some are rebuilt. And there's a bit on the ecosystem.

"We're trying to identify old-growth forest locations to preserve. The provincial government has a legal designation called 'old-growth management areas' and it gazettes these areas to protect them. We are in the process of identifying where they are. The province says you have to do it for the whole landscape. Half of it is in Garibaldi Provincial Park and half is in the community forest."

The aim was to protect 19 per cent of the whole forest under the old-growth designation, a project that has been ongoing throughout 2013. Ackhurst said there would be a public engagement session specifically about old-growth protection on Dec. 5.

Whistler's mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, sits on the CCF board and was on hand briefly. Her interest was to look at thinning out parts of the forest that were overgrown and could spread forest fires rapidly in hot, dry conditions.

"We're just starting to consider (general plans for) 2014. But we are going to be concentrating on FireSmart," she said. "There was work done in 2005, I believe, a report was prepared and sent to council.

" ...There was not a lot... done as a result of receiving that report, so I've asked staff to bring that forward and back to council so that we can see what has already been done with a view to doing more with it next year."

Wilhelm-Morden said she hoped to see it discussed in council after Christmas.


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