By Timothy Schafer
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
People are already standing together to stop a plan to log a section of old growth forest near Argenta.
Last weekend an environmental protest camp was set up near Argenta, with support from local environmentalists and at the invitation of the Autonomous Sinixt, Last Stand West Kootenay (LSWK), a grassroots collective, non-profit group, intends “to help protect part one of the most significant wilderness areas in southeastern B.C.,” noted a LSWK press release on Monday.
“The Argenta-Johnsons Landing Face is an ecologically diverse mountainside, important to wildlife and home to old growth spruce, cedar and rare 300-plus-year-old western larch,” the release explained.
For several years BC Parks has suggested the importance of protecting this land, according to the release, but Cooper Creek Cedar (owned by Porcupine Wood Products) has been permitted access to five clear-cut blocks, “some of which contain potential priority one old growth.”
LSWK’s Fox Forest said the action started on the weekend isn’t just about the Argenta Face.
“This is about a province-wide need to protect old growth,” Fox Forest said in the press release. “We are asking for the government to follow through with promises to protect B.C.’s remaining old growth forest and to consult fully with First Nations before proceeding with logging of vulnerable areas.”
Beyond the trees
The need to protect the old growth forest goes beyond the trees, said Amber Peters, a biologist with the Valhalla Wilderness Society.
“Connectivity to the lake should be preserved to maintain the integrity of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy ecosystem,” she said. “A herd of caribou have been known to use the area which may be one of the last refugia not subjected to intensive motorized recreation, which are a serious disturbance to the local and dwindling mountain caribou.”
Important species like grizzly bear, goshawk, mountain caribou, heron and wolverine also call this piece of forest home.
The logging could also affect water sources and ground stability for some residents. Breanne Hope and her family live below where some of the logging is scheduled to happen.
“We are very concerned about the impact this will have on our drinking water, along with the rest of the community’s water,” she said.
The nearby Johnsons Landing community experienced a major landslide in 2012 that killed four people, took out four homes and severely damaged others.
“We have been told that slides are less likely in our area, however, a local biologist surveyed the area and confirmed that the area lies on an inherently weak base,” Hope stated.
Conservancy at work
An independent group of Argenta locals created the Mount Willet Wilderness Forever Proposal to protect the area in question and include it in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy.
Their efforts have put this mountain face on the map of the provincial government, said Sam Fleming, who calls Argenta home.
“The local MLA, Brittny Anderson, has been there. Aimee Watson of RDCK has been there. Suzanne Simard has studied it. Even John Horgan has been to Argenta and talked to local advocates. They know it’s worth protecting,” Fleming said.
LSWK’s action is in alignment with Autonomous Sinixt’s Land Declaration which asserts their sovereignty over unceded t?mx?ula?x?
The declaration calls for a “full stop to proposed resource extraction” within their t?mx?ula?x? until they have had time to evaluate it and make sure it is in alignment with their traditional laws.
The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recognizes each nation’s right to make decisions about their own land, recently reinforced by B.C.’s commitment to the 2022-2027 89-point Action Plan.
“Carrying on the legacy of decades of advocacy, and under the jurisdiction of the Autonomous Sinixt, we will stand in the way of industry in peaceful protest until the unique and biologically significant forest is added to the wilderness conservancy,” noted the LSWK release.
Source: Last Stand West Kootenay
Joining in The protest is located 500 metres up Salisbury Forest Service Road, directly across from Davis Creek and Lost Ledge, just past the community of Argenta on the east side of Kootenay Lake.
Before joining the camp, people are asked to message laststandwestkootenay?protonmail.com for a schedule and intake, and to read and abide by their camp protocols.
People can follow them on Facebook or Instagram, ?laststandwestkootenay, for letter templates, camp intake information, location and other ways to get involved.
Timothy Schafer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of THE NELSON DAILY . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.