Black Mount Logging of Squamish is going to court to seek an injunction against Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF), its two principal members and “John Doe, Jane Doe and Persons Unknown” after its crews were prevented from logging in the Clack Creek area.
ELF has been trying to stop the harvest of cutblock A93884, which it calls the Clack Creek Forest, and was unsuccessful in a court challenge against BC Timber Sales (BCTS). Last year Black Mount, the only firm that bid, was awarded the right to harvest roughly 29,500 cubic metres of timber.
Workers with Black Mount had started cutting in the cutblock on Jan. 11, but were met the following day by ELF members and turned back. On Jan. 13, a roadblock was erected.
In its court petition, Black Mount said it is expected, under the terms of the BCTS award, to start delivering logs from the cutblock in February. As of Jan. 13, according to the company, an estimated two per cent of the available timber from A93884 had been felled.
“The defendants, Hans Penner and Ross Muirhead attended at the site of TSL A93844 during active operations,” Black Mount’s court filing says. “Black Mount eventually ceased harvesting operations later that day out of safety concerns due to Ross Muirhead’s continued presence near the falling operations and his refusal to allow Black Mount personnel to continue harvesting unimpeded.”
The court filing goes on to claim that on Jan. 13, Muirhead and Penner and others “illegally blocked, obstructed and prevented the access of Black Mount and its fallers to the site … [and] the blockaders, and in particular defendant Muirhead, stated they would be there ‘for the duration.’”
The company claims it continues to suffer financial losses as a result of the ELF actions and is asking the court for an immediate injunction.
The petition was filed in Vancouver Supreme Court on Jan. 17 and is scheduled to be heard Jan. 28.
Sunshine Coast RCMP Staff Sgt. Poppy Hallam, speaking at a Jan. 16 meeting of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) policing and public safety committee, said Black Mount is “asking that the police not be involved in that, so we’re monitoring at this time.”
Hallam also said RCMP had received “a heads up,” from the Ministry of Forests before Christmas “because they were concerned it might be contentious.” The company also notified the RCMP about the danger of people on the site of an active logging area. “Like in all protest-type situations, a measured approach is the direction I’m giving my police officers,” Hallam said.
ELF said in a Jan. 14 letter to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson that the SCRD, ELF “and thousands of SCRD residents are asking BCTS and your government not to log A93884 … due to [its] overwhelming natural and cultural values that should override the small monetary (stumpage tax).”
In supplementary papers filed after its initial petition, Black Mount estimated the stumpage owing, which it would have to pay “despite not being able to sell any timber,” at more than $2 million. The company said its workers “would also be adversely impacted flowing from loss of pay, with limited or no alternate sources of work, if Black Mount is unable to proceed with its anticipated harvest.”
In an interview for Coast Reporter Radio last week, SCRD chair Lori Pratt said the board had asked the province not to sell cutting rights to Clack Creek and an area known as DL1313 in Elphinstone, which community members have argued should become a park.
“We’ve been told by our sources that Clack Creek is a done deal – it doesn’t matter what we say. Our official position was that it should be left [unlogged]. I don’t know if we have any more recourse on that,” Pratt said.
In a new letter to Donaldson, emailed by ELF Jan. 20, the group said, “As the two sides are headed to court and a standoff in the woods, we once again, respectfully seek leadership… will ministers remain as bystanders, or will you pick up the phone this week and find a way out for the company and by doing so protect a gem in the Mt. Elphinstone Park expansion area?”
– With files from Sophie Woodrooffe