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Pacific Logging Congress Members Get Firsthand Look at a B.C. Community Forest
By Mary Bullwinkel
Multiple-use options that include timber harvest must be carefully balanced in the Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF) near Whistler, the well-known and immensely popular ski resort and outdoor recreation area in British Columbia.
During the summer meeting in July, members of the Pacific Logging Congress (PLC) ventured out into the Community Forest to learn more about the land use management options in place and to have a one-on-one discussion with representatives about the unique partnership responsible for decisions about which activities can take place.
The management and operation of the 30,000-hectare (74,000+ acre) forest is an equal three-way partnership between the Lil’wat and Squamish First Nations and the Resort Municipality of Whistler. The independent Cheakamus Community Forest Society is the umbrella organization, working with the partners on activities taking place in the Forest.
PLC members visited a harvested area near Wedge Mountain, where logging operations had been conducted by Skytech Yarding Ltd, under contract with and providing the logs to, Richmond Plywood’s nearby mill.
The harvesting operations included hand (chainsaw) felling, and loggers used a Link-Belt LX 210 Processor with a 622B Waratah Harvester Head and a John Deere rubber tired grapple skidder to move the logs. Three log loaders were used in conjunction with the operations: a Tigercat 880, a Volvo 240B, and a Caterpillar 325. In addition, a Komatsu D65 bulldozer was used to remove snow from the site to allow the logging.
Skytech logger Brian Elesko says, “We strive to do our best [when working] in the Community Forest…We take pride in the work that we do.”
This is “how most of the logging has been done to date on the Cheakamus Community Forest,” says forestry consultant Stirling Angus. “There have been some areas where a feller buncher has been used to fell the timber and some areas where line skidders have been used to skid.”
Angus stresses the importance of creating a “light footprint” with timber harvest activities. “Retention trees are selected, and loggers work hard to leave them undisturbed. Skid trails and spur roads, if not planned for use as recreation trails or for future timber access, are rehabilitated and replanted,” adding, “operators not only try to put the top soil back in place and re-contour the ground, they even try to put stumps back right side up to look normal.”
Angus acknowledged the importance of balancing timber harvest operations with other land use activities on the Community Forest. “We are very alive to the importance of tourism and recreation to the community of Whistler,” he said. “Everything we do must be viewed through the recreation lens to ensure we do not damage the image and cachet of Whistler.”
He said the forest is managed with a variety of economic benefits in mind. “We work really hard to be profitable on a financial basis,” Angus said, “although the real profit from operations is in the value of community employment, trail and access construction, and fire hazard fuel reduction.”
Echoing the importance of the employment opportunities associated with land management activities on the Community Forest, CCF Board member and Registered Professional Forester Jeff Fisher says, “From the Squamish First Nation perspective, the profit is Squamish members working and earning a good living from the forest.” He noted that 16 First Nation members were working as trained loggers and equipment operators.
One of the main goals of the Community Forest is to create a balance between forest harvesting and maintaining the values of the three partners, including recreation, cultural values, and sustainable goals, such as protecting viewsheds, watersheds, and old growth forests. Currently half of the Cheakamus Community Forest is off limits to commercial timber harvest for the protection of wildlife and plants and for expanding recreational uses, such as hiking and biking.