To the Editor,
The Upper Walker Creek ecosystem remains largely untouched. At nearly 50,000 contiguous hectares, this wilderness contains extremely unique features including rounded mountain tops rather than sporting jagged peaks. This geology promotes slower snowmelt, stabilizing river levels and gravels resulting in the best salmonid spawning and juvenile habitat in the Upper Fraser Rivershed. Indeed, on June 4th the Holy Cross tributary’s snow melt waters near its confluence with Walker Creek revealed the bottom through its rush as if through crystal. These rounded mountains are also high enough to be free of trees creating some of the best alpine meadow systems in the region-Prime grizzly and caribou habitat.
A small group, including myself, headed to Walker 22-3, locally the largest of BC Timber Sales’ many recently proposed cutblocks.
We had no idea what to expect entering off the densely regrown abandoned Holy Cross road, and were absolutely stunned by this stellar example of natural post-wildfire recovery. We explored perhaps .05 per cent of the stand, climbing steeply from the Holy Cross towards the Walker proper. Observing charred 500-year-old cedar snags, I could imagine the impressive pre-fire forest. Continue with the vision of what transpired, remnant surviving old-growth pocket stands displayed healing fire scars on each individual. Multi-aged mosaics of cedar, spruce, hemlock, and balsam fir, were interspersed with fire-killed cedar snags and beetled-out spruce which both provided rich fallen nursery logs and standing habitat. Remnant survivors, as well as dead snag systems, have proven critical to ecological succession and recovery. Occasional Douglas firs and maples rounded the mix with an impressive array of deciduous shrubbery, fungi, lichens, and smaller plants, including an orchid that none of us could ID. Equally impressive was the number of mountain caribou dropping piles that we witnessed is such a short walk.
Historically, large-scale fire is rare in Walker Creek’s wilderness due to its high moisture and canopy diversity. Contrasting this, cutblocks increase the rates of snowmelt, rain run-off, erosion, and evaporation and the openings produce heat islands and promote winds. Furthering this, single-aged planted conifer forests are ladder-fuel-rich, and crown-fire prone. All of these industrially increased factors exacerbate wildfire risk to local communities, as well as to adjacent stands, regardless of age or whether primary forest or planted investments.
It makes no sense to increase the already alarming threat to this area of old and ancient ecosystems simply because a lack of foresight and restraint has produced an economic dead-end of supply to centralized automated industries.
If ecosystem health is supposed to be the overarching principle guiding provincial forestry decisions then what gives? If diversity and habitat are indicators, this place is many orders of magnitude healthier than any of the many similar-aged planted stands that I’ve walked in. Why is BCTS, a provincial government body, slating this to be logged? This block is a case study that fire or beetle-altered ecosystems don’t need management.
With the adjacent Morkill, Torpy, and McGreggor systems already severely industrially impacted, it behooves the government to consider leaving this gem alone.