SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2000



[photo of bear at edge of logged area]

[photo of blowdown in creek, DRL 192]

[photo of blowdown in creek, DRL 192]

[photo of log pile and variable retention area, DRL 192]


Cutting Contiguous Corridors

by Erica Thompson

"Contiguous" is one word which sees a lot of action around here. But just what it means and how it is used depends heavily on the eyes of the beholder and the tongue of the speaker - especially when used to describe forest landscapes.

Oxford says "contiguous" is that which is touching, in actual contact next in space, or meeting at a common boundary. On Haida Gwaii "contiguous" is an endangered word; except for in the context of cutblocks, clearcuts, and more recently variable retention zones. The last of contiguous old growth forests are currently being lost as the logging of central Graham Island in the areas known as Drill, Wilson, Canyon and Black Bear accelerates.

For those who haven't spend much time cruising the backcountry, the Drill ridge can be seen towering behind Lawn Hill from the stern of the Queen of Prince Rupert as she makes the sweeping turn east towards the mainland. Today, a clearcut at Canyon 16 is also visible on Drill's slopes from the ferry. Keeping this ridge in mind, imagine the hub of a wheel placed on a map of Graham Island, the spokes radiating out towards the four coasts. From this central landscape there still exists forest corridors extending from the center of Graham Island to the west coast, via Ghost Creek valley to Rennell Sound, to the east coast, through the Tlell watershed, and the north and south coast through the Yakoun River system.
However, these corridors are fragile, vulnerable and already fragmented by Weyerhaeuser's mainline. Along a set of lines from the mouth of the Yakoun River to the mouth of the Honna River, from Alliford Bay to Moresby Camp, and from Beattie Anchorage to Botany Inlet there are almost no unlogged areas left.

What this means for wildlife, according to Marguerite Forest, a geographer writing for Spruceroots in September 1996, is "in the central areas of the islands, the landscapes between protected 'islands' are becoming more and more like dangerous 'oceans'. What makes a good corridor are not just areas left out of logging plans as inoperable areas, those lacking economic potential or those made up of high alpine and inhospitable landscapes. Good corridors are ecologically safe zones wherein animals and plants species may travel and find adequate food and shelter."

Good corridors also provide some continuity of habitat so animals do not have to spend too much time in places were there usual food and shelter is not found and importantly, good corridors are permanent. Forest says these areas are "contiguous networks of representative old-growth and mature forests, some of which provide forest interior habitat conditions."

Riparian zones next to rivers, lakes and wetlands can make good corridors, Forest says, but they need to be wide and unbroken rather than narrow and logged at odd intervals. The inadequacy of present riparian management zones to serve as connecting corridors can be seen at many creek sides where the thin strips, vulnerable to winds, frequently end up as blowdown. A perfect example of this can be seen today along the Drill mainline at kilometer 5.5 where the riparian zone is now a jumble of windfall laying across the road and over Drill Creek.

Existing clearcuts and new cutblocks planned for Drill, Wilson, Canyon, and Blackbear will further impair the mobility of species, such as black bears, herons, marbled murrelets and goshawks, and their ability to establish home ranges adequate to their needs. As Weyerhaeuser's 2000-20004 Forest Development Plan, with 12,573.8 hectares of planned timberlands, is developed more ancient forests will become fragmented and more will the landscape of Haida Gwaii resemble islands within an island.

"After enough holes have been cut from the forest, the landscape resembles an Emmenthaler Swiss cheese. But the cutting continues until the holes coalesce and the remaining natural forest becomes an archipelago. As islands are cut, the average distance between remaining ones increases. They become more isolated."
Ancient Forests of the Pacific Northwest, Elliot A. Norse


SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2000