In recent years, there has been considerable public concern in Port Alberni over logging in its China Creek drinking watershed, in particular over McLaughlin Ridge’s magnificent old-growth Douglas-firs which shelter wintering deer and is also home to endangered species in the Alberni Valley.
Additional concerns have also erupted over proposed logging along “The Hump’s” forested highway buffer, at the “Lookout”, on Mount Horne above Cathedral Grove, and at the Cameron Valley Firebreak – which is akin to a “second Cathedral Grove” with its rare ancient Douglas firs and herds of Roosevelt elk. All of these stands are owned by Island Timberlands.
McLaughlin Ridge, the Cameron Valley Firebreak, and Mount Horne were all intended to be protected as Ungulate Winter Ranges for wintering deer and/or elk until negotiations between the B.C. government and Island Timberlands fell apart, subsequent to the lands’ removal in 2004 from their Tree Farm Licence (TFL). These lands, along with another 78,000 hectares, were once regulated to stronger public standards within their TFL’s – their removal thereby deregulated most of the environmental laws that otherwise would have protected the scenery, riparian zones for water quality and wild salmon, deer and elk winter ranges, endangered species habitats, and many old-growth stands, as well as restrictions on raw log exports.
However, hundreds of Port Alberni residents have attended public forums in recent years to speak out about the fate of these forests, and hundreds more have attended rallies against raw log exports where forestry workers and conservationists have stood together in solidarity. The Port Alberni city council has also passed a resolution calling for the protection of McLaughlin Ridge in the drinking watershed and has met with Island Timberlands over the past year seeking a conservation solution. During the same period, Island Timberlands seems to have taken pause at McLaughlin Ridge and has indicated that they are open to potential buyers – for how long, we don’t know.