Environmental activists call for more old growth protections in Bigmouth, Argonaut Creeks

Environmental group targets government B.C. Timber Sales, calls for deferrals and a stop to old-growth logging in the Argonaut and Bigmouth Creek areas.

File photo: A photo taken by Wildsight members in June of logging in the Bigmouth area about 120 kilometres north of Revelstoke off of Highway 23. Photo: Bailey Repp/Wildsight

Environmental group Wildsight wants more protection for old-growth forests in the Bigmouth and Argonaut Creek areas north of Revelstoke and is hoping to draw more attention to old-growth logging in the Inland Temperate Rainforest.

The group describes the forest area, which is located about 140 kilometres north of Revelstoke east of Highway 23 North, “irreplaceable and globally unique stands of ancient cedar-hemlock forests.” Wildsight says that while there has been focus on old-growth logging in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, “very little attention has been given to logging in BC’s Inland Temperate Rainforest.”

In a statement, Wildsight called the current B.C. policy “talk and log” and called on B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) to defer old-growth logging in the Inland Temperate Rainforest.

“If this government is serious about honouring their commitments towards protecting caribou habitat and old growth, the province must immediately defer BCTS logging in endangered old growth and caribou habitat in the Inland Temperate Rainforest,” said Petryshen.

Wildsight is drawing attention to operations cutting 126 hectares in the Bigmouth Creek area, as well as another 81 hectares in the Argonaut Creek area nearby.

“We need action — as we speak we are losing some of the best old growth we have left,” says Wildsight Conservation Specialist Eddie Petryshen. “The 126 hectares of BCTS old growth logging in Bigmouth Creek is a prime example of that.”

Earlier this year, the B.C. government announced temporary logging deferrals in 11 of 14 planned cutblocks in the Argonaut Creek, bowing to pressure and also citing the ongoing mountain caribou herd planning process, saying it would wait until that process is complete before making more decisions on logging in the area.

“I listened with interest to Premier Horgan’s announcement on deferrals in Fairy Creek,” Petryshen said in a statement. “In the press conference, he said there are unique forests in the interior that need protection as well. There certainly are. The premier needs to turn his attention to the Inland Temperate Rainforest as well. We ask that the BC’s government defer logging within these irreplaceable and globally unique old growth stands today.”

BCTS reaction

When asked for reaction, a Victoria-based forests ministry spokesperson responded with a general statement without much in the way of details.

The ministry said it had temporarily deferred logging in 11 of 14 blocks in Argonaut Creek and was awaiting the results of the mountain caribou herd planning process and consultation with First Nations. “The sector commits to identifying additional areas to defer logging in old growth forests where near-term biodiversity loss is at stake,” the response read. “The work will take time.”

For a recent exploration of forestry issues in the Revelstoke region, see this Februrary 2021 story from Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine that explored local concerns:

Valuing the forest and the trees

Will old-growth blockades come to the region?

Petryshen said he had heard discussion of potential blockades in the area, but that Wildsight was not directly involved.

Petryshen said Wildsight’s charitable status prevents the organization from participating in actions such as blockades.

“I’ve heard rumours about some sort of activism for Bigmouth/Argonaut. But as you know, it’s always challenging to know whether it’s just a rumour or serious.”

Emma Atkinson, an organizer of a Canada Day march against old-growth logging, said she had heard conversations about potential blockades in the area, but is not aware of and specific details. “It could just be the rumour mill,” she said.

Petryshen said that the blockades show the frustrations some British Columbians have with provincial policy on old-growth forests. “They feel this is their only way of trying to protect the last remaining old growth that they have,” Petryshen said.

“If people are willing to put their bodies on the line, it speaks to the failures over the past 30 years,” he said said. “Consecutive governments have kicked it down the line, and as they do we continue to lost the valuable spaces we find so special”

BCTS plans logging in Revelstoke community watershed, more blocks on Mt. Macpherson, Mt. Begbie

A map created by Wilderness Committee shows planned BCTS cutblocks in the Revelstoke area marked with orange lines, including in the Dolan Creek community watershed, and on Mount Macpherson and Mount Begbie. The beige shaded area shows lands controlled by BC Timber Sales. Image: Wilderness Committee

BCTS is planning to log two cutblocks in the Dolan Creek community watershed, a designated watershed that serves the Big Eddy neighbourhood of Revelstoke. The government agency, which controls about 20% of the timber-harvest land base in B.C., is also planning new and expanded cutblocks on Mount Macpherson and Mount Begbie.

Currently, the Big Eddy water supply is derived from groundwater that is pumped into two large reservoir tanks located on a hillside nearby Highway 23, but out of view from the highway.

A forested area in the Dolan Creek community watershed that is

The two blocks in the Dolan Creek area face towards the creek and overlook the Big Eddy area. BCTS said that it had referred the block plans and hydrology assessment to the City of Revelstoke. “There are specific rules that must be followed when harvesting is planned within a community watershed,” the forests ministry spokesperson wrote.

BCTS says the two cutblocks in the Dolan Creek area have not yet been auctioned. The blocks have been in planning since at least 2019 when the Mountaineer first inquired about them.

There is another cutblock planned for Mount Macpherson above the hydro right of way, visible on the map above.

(To explore the interactive GIS map, which was created by Wilderness Committee, see this link. Revelstoke Mountaineer checked with BCTS about the accuracy of the map, and they said the deferrals for the Argonaut Creek area already announced by BCTS had not yet been removed from the map. We requested a GIS map of BCTS’ logging plans but the forests ministry spokesperson did not provide one, instead giving a regional level map showing old growth areas but with no BCTS logging plans mapped on it.)

The cutblocks BCTS has mapped out on Mt. Begbie would add to the cutblock at the bottom of the mountain visible from Revelstoke.

For more background on opposition to old-growth logging in the Argonaut Creek area, see this story from Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine from December 2020:

Public pressure halts logging plans in Argonaut Creek caribou habitat

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.