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14th May 2021
B.C. ranchers, loggers unite in fight against plan to log rare inland old-growth rainforest- PART ONE

Proposal to log ‘heartbreakingly beautiful’ Raush Valley — home to trees up to 1,000 years old — would require building a road through a protected area

By Sarah Cox
May 5, 2021

Dave Salayka has been a professional forester and tree faller for most of his working life. He’s laid out cutblocks, worked in Alberta’s oilsands and is part of a crew clearing the right of way for the Trans Mountain pipeline. But the rare inland temperate rainforest in British Columbia’s Raush Valley — home to 1,000-year-old cedar trees, moose and grizzly bears — is one place Salayka doesn’t want to see logged.

Salayka, a long-time resident of Dunster, in B.C.’s central interior, is joining forces with local ranchers, business owners and conservationists to try to save the old-growth Raush Valley, 250 kilometres southeast of Prince George, from planned clear-cutting that would entail building a logging road through a provincial protected area.

“It’s a pristine valley,” Salayka tells The Narwhal. “It’s wilderness. We still have every wild creature … There’s huge biodiversity. It’s completely representative of wild places, and there are very few of them left on the planet.”

“It’s such a waste to take trees that are hundreds and thousands of years old and turn them into lumber.”

The glacier-fed Raush River, flanked by the northern Columbia Mountains, is the Fraser River’s largest undeveloped and unprotected tributary. Its name is an abbreviation of Rivière au Shuswap, drawn on early maps as, referring to the Secwépemc or Shuswap peoples who have lived in the region for millenia. The valley contains four different biogeoclimatic subzones, the rarest of which is dominated by a cedar-hemlock forest known as the inland temperate rainforest.

B.C.’s inland temperate rainforest is scattered in moist valley bottoms stretching from the Cariboo Mountains to the Rocky Mountains. Other temperate rainforests, far from the sea, are only found in two other places in the world, in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.

Thousands of years ago, coastal species like cedar and lichens hitchhiked to the interior as seeds and spores, flourishing undisturbed in the sheltered dampness of valleys that kept fire at bay. Today, some of the oldest trees in the inland temperate rainforest are as ancient as their coastal big tree cousins, which generally command a much larger share of public attention.

In 2005, following a land use planning process, the B.C. government designed a protected area at each end of the Raush Valley, a wildlife corridor that connects Wells Gray Provincial Park to the Fraser River watershed. Together, the two protected areas, called the Upper Raush and the Lower Raush, cover about one-fifteenth of the 100,000-hectare valley. Most of the valley, spread out between the two protected areas, remained open to industrial logging but nothing has happened until now.

Logging rights to the Raush are held by Carrier Forest Products Ltd., a B.C.-based company with mills in Prince George and Saskatchewan. Carrier can only access its Raush Valley tenure through private ranch land or by building a logging road through the 1,280-hectare Lower Raush Protected Area, a piece of land about the size of three Stanley parks that provides valuable riparian wildlife habitat.

Any road through the protected area would also have to run through a privately held grazing lease for horse and cattle.

Devanee Cardinal, whose family owns the grazing lease and 600 hectares of ranch land at the mouth of the Raush River, says family members will not grant Carrier access to their adjoining properties, where four generations have lived since her grandparents homesteaded in the 1960s.

“When I grew up, the ranchers were not environmentalists,” Cardinal says in an interview. “It was very black and white. There were the loggers, and then there were the tree huggers. Now it’s not really like that. There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t recognize that the Raush has this unique ecological blueprint that is undisturbed — and that is now becoming so rare within B.C. The loggers recognize that, locals recognize that and we as ranchers recognize that too.”

The Raush Valley lies in the territory of Simpcw First Nation, Lheidli T’enneh First Nation and the Canim Lake Indian Band.
In an emailed statement, Kerri Jo Fortier, natural resource department manager for Simpcw First Nation, said the nation does not support cutting permit applications in the Raush Valley and that adequate consultation has not occurred. The Narwhal reached out to the other nations but they were unable to respond by press time.

Rancher Rodger Peterson, who is Devanee Cardinal’s uncle, describes the Raush Valley as a fragile ecosystem with fir, pine, balsam spruce and cedars so old it would take three or four people to encircle them with arms outstretched. The valley is home to a plethora of wildlife, including at-risk species such as mountain goat and fisher, a fierce mustelid that dens only in old trees.

“I’ve travelled extensively throughout the province, and I’ve seen a multitude of valleys,” Peterson says. “I would challenge anyone to come up with one as unique as this valley. And I suspect if they could, it may already be preserved and if it’s not, people don’t know about it.”

Peterson says he only learned about Carrier’s intention to log the valley from the local newspaper and is disappointed that he and other stakeholders were not notified directly. “They’ve started right off by excluding information that the public may be interested in knowing.”

Rodger Peterson
Rodger Peterson on his ranch near McBride, B.C. Peterson’s family, who have ranched in the area since the 1960s, is opposed to planned industrial logging in the old-growth Raush Valley. Photo: Katharina McNaughton / The Narwhal

In an emailed response to questions, B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy confirmed that Carrier applied for an investigative parks use permit on March 19 to explore potential road options in the Lower Raush Protected Area.

The ministry said Carrier will gather data for an assessment, which will include an inventory of plants along the proposed logging road and offsets for any values potentially lost in the area. If the investigative parks use permit is approved, the information will be used to support a parks use permit application for a road, the ministry stated.

Normally, parks use permit applications are public, but the ministry said Carrier’s application has not been posted because staff are still reviewing it. The ministry could not say if there have been any other parks use permit applications to build logging roads through provincial protected areas.

A Carrier Lumber map shared with The Narwhal shows the proposed logging road will cut through the lower protected area on the west side of the glacier-fed Raush River, to log a pie-shaped section of inland temperate forest wedged between the river and the boundary of the protected area.

...continued in Part two