The punch line at the end of a long-drawn-out environmental confidence game showed up in the March 24 edition of the Valley Voice on page 22. If you don’t live around BC’s Arrow Lakes, Slocan or North Kootenay Lake Valleys, you probably missed it. But for those who know and love the beautiful forest at the north end of Kootenay Lake, this punch line felt more like a punch in the gut.
A logging company named Cooper Creek Cedar issued a notification that logging will start in the Argenta Face Forest in May or June of this year. It’s a tad shocking, given the confidence that the BC government has been trying to instill in us all regarding Victoria’s commitment to instituting a paradigm shift in the protection of old forests.
Who would have thought that a logging show was about to descend on the Argenta Face of all places? After all, it was only in 2019 that three mountain caribou were found to be sheltering in the very same forest that Cooper Creek Cedar now proposes to chainsaw to smithereens. It had been thought that caribou had been totally wiped out in this part of the province by logging companies bound and determined to cut every last old tree – but then these three survivors showed up. It was a miraculous second chance – an opportunity for the government of BC to show its true green heart.
Hundreds of people from all across the province wrote in to BC’s elected leaders calling for the Argenta Face Forest to be spared. It’s not like Southern Mountain Caribou can be found in other countries any more.
Argenta Face Forest, about 6,000 hectares, may be modest in stature, but this forest is a giant when it comes to the gifts it bestows on people and wildlife. BC has designated its lower slopes as important deer range and its undisturbed steep slopes as critical for protection from landslides. Its northern portion is an important view-shed for people camping and swimming on the shore of Kootenay Lake. Its upper slopes are designated as Southern Mountain Caribou Critical Habitat. Various parts of the Argenta Face Forest have been mapped by BC as so-called Old Growth Management Areas and as Priority Old Growth Deferral Areas. The Argenta Face Forest is completely surrounded on three sides by the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park – one of the finest wildlife preserves in the southern part of the province.
Looking at a map of Argenta Face that shows all the special designations put in place by the government of BC just gives you that warm glow of – well there is no other word – confidence. Yes, confidence that the government of BC says what it means and means what it says about protecting the old forests and endangered wildlife of BC – especially in so obviously precious a place as the Argenta Face Forest.
But now with Cooper Creek Cedar’s announcement of impending logging we can see that this is just the same old confidence game that BC’s been running for decades. Saving the Argenta Face Forest is going to be just as tough as saving the Stein or Elaho or Clayoquot or pretty much every other forest.
Joe Foy is the protected areas campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.