By Korie Marshall
A public letter supporting the designation of the Ancient Forest as a protected area now has over 700 online signatures, but some McBride residents are unhappy about the short notice from the province on public input for the plan.
The letter was prepared and distributed by the Northern Wetbelt Working Group, a community advocacy group based in Prince George.
“Everyone we’ve talked to is in favour of protecting the area around the Ancient Forest Trail – no exceptions,” said Ben Garcia-Alonso, a member of the working group, in a news release. “But the number of names on the letter suggests that people in our community also want a much broader conservation vision for the inland temperate rainforest.”
The letter which references reports by scientists, non-governmental organizations, and a government forester points out that people have been calling for large-scale protection of inland rainforest for some time. A BC Forest Practices Board report released in 2008 recommended the suspension of harvesting and the development of a conservation strategy, and groups such as the Save the Cedar League have proposed protected areas for the region.
“We can’t replace old growth forest once it’s been cut down,” says Lukas Bosch, a group member from UNBC, “so we’d really like to see a long-term plan that protects much of what’s left in the inland temperate rainforest.”
The letter has been signed mostly by residents of the Prince George region, but people as far away as New York, Peru and Germany have also added their names. Scientist David Schindler and broadcaster David Suzuki recently added their names. The working group says the letter will be submitted to the Province as part of the public consultation process on the proposed Ancient Forest protected area and will also be sent to MLA Shirley Bond, Premier Christy Clark, and Minister Steve Thompson.
The public comment period on the government’s proposal was set to close Nov. 2, but some residents of the McBride area think the public input period was too short and are asking at least for an extension and more information. Farmer, logger and sawmill owner Len McCarty says he was shocked by the short notice he received on the input meeting in McBride, and by the huge amount of land involved. He is asking for an extension of at least six months for input on a decision he says will last forever, and for an exclusion of lands that do not contain huge old cedars.
Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount has responded to postings on local social media pages, saying she will ensure local concerns about the timeline for the input and the requests for an extension are shared.
The province’s consultation paper, released mid-October this year, is available at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/ancientforest/files/2015/10/Ancient-Forest-Consultation-Paper-Oct-6-2015.pdf. See the letter from the Northern Wetbelt Working Group at goo.gl/6UpY9m or on their Twitter or Facebook pages.