Logging moratorium doesn’t stop tree removal in the Six Mountains
Safety, blowdown, wildfire risk, and water infrastructure all cited as factors
Supposedly, there is a moratorium on new logging in North Cowichan’s Six Mountains. But that hasn’t stopped the municipality from continuing to remove timber on Maple Mountain and Mount Tzouhalem.
Logging trucks have taken away seven loads of logs from Maple Mountain in recent months to make way for construction of a water reservoir, which is designed, in part, to serve a planned new 200-lot residential development at Crofton.
Another four logging trucks have hauled out hazardous trees and/or blowdown on the mountain, with work continuing, municipal forester Shaun Mason said. “This work is part of regular road maintenance to reduce safety risks for road users, and ensures there are no issues with road access as we approach fire season.”
sixmountains.ca previously reported tree felling on Mount Tzouhalem as part of a wildfire mitigation program. https://bit.ly/3MORClW. Crews with chain saws and machinery are working to reduce fire risk next to residential homes by thinning the forest, pruning lower branches, and removing fuels and dead, diseased or rotting trees.
The site for the water reservoir on Maple Mountain looks like a small clearcut near the base of the mountain, a short walk from the Osborne Bay Road parking lot.
A sign says the rectangular concrete reservoir will measure 21 meters X 11 metres X 6 metres high. It will serve residential properties in the area, including the planned SeaCrest development, 7851 Osborne Bay Road, as well as firefighting in the forest reserve. It also allows decommissioning of an older reservoir.
Council approved the water storage project in late 2019, not long after approving the moratorium on new logging pending public consultation on the forest reserve.
Council’s support included a “termination clause” if construction had not substantially started within 24 months. So, what happened?
Staff believe the “project is of considerable importance to the community, including benefits for water pressure, fire protection and water supply redundancies,” said David Conway, director of subdivision and environmental services.
“The developer has completed a portion of the project needed to create the foundational lots for phasing, has obtained construction approval for a new road access intersection, has dedicated a park area (to be developed at a later stage of subdivision)….”
Conway also noted the reservoir is divided into two compartments that can operate together or independently, making for easier maintenance “without disruption to users.”
Meanwhile, at Mount Tzouhalem, cutting to reduce the fire risk continues. Logs are stacked on the ground and brush piled up. The tracks of machinery have carved ruts in the forest floor.
Jared Witt of Osprey Forest Operations, the Victoria company hired to do the job, told sixmountains.ca that the goal has been to bring down “dead and dying trees.” He estimated no more than 10 healthy trees have also been removed.
“The fallers have to be able to safely bring the danger trees down and sometimes that requires them to take another tree down,” he said.
Witt said recent rains have posed a challenge and forced delays in some work. He said no new roads have been created, and logging has impacted top soils but not mineral soils, making recovery of the forest floor faster.
Both Maple Mountain and Mount Tzouhalem fall within the coastal Douglas-fir forest, the smallest and most at-risk forest type in the province.
(First two photos: site for a water reservoir on Maple Mountain. Third photo: forest floor impacted on Mount Tzouhalem).
Shquw’utsun and Pi'paam are Hul’q’umi’num names for Mount Tzouhalem.
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— Larry Pynn, April 18, 2023