A wilderness watchdog group says it has learned the province is allowing clear-cutting to break up rare stands of old growth forest in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
“There are very few (patches of) old-growth trees,” said Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director for the national Wilderness Committee. After his organization hounded the province for months, the government released maps showing where loggers are clear-cutting timber, he said.
The wilderness group’s mapper took that information and, accessing land-use planning data, came up with a map showing where the clear-cutting is taking place in relation to the existing stands of forest, Reder said.
The map shows clearcutting taking a bite out of some of the most spectacular and ecologically important parts of the park, said Reder.
Not far from a hiking trail at Inverness Falls there’s clear-cutting, Reder said. The gashes in the landscape are ugly and disturbing, he said.
“Certain (tree) species will only thrive in old growth,” said Reder. He says the forest industry has no business being in a provincial park.
“No matter what, our provincial parks shouldn’t be logged.”
But logging companies were part of the Whiteshell landscape long before the first camper arrived.
Timber harvesters have been cutting in the Whiteshell since 1900, and a ban on timber-harvesting doesn’t make economic or environmental sense, according to the province.
“It would have an immediate impact on the jobs and the livelihoods of people who work and live in that area, inside and outside the park,” said Fred Meier, assistant deputy minister of programs for Manitoba Conservation.
Banning timber harvesting in the popular, busy park would likely result in an increase in forest fires, he said.
“There’s some evidence that harvesting over-mature stands of trees reduces the threat of forest fires”, Meier said. In the Boreal forest, trees don’t get really old because they are so susceptible to fire, he said.
Timber-cutting clears out the old trees that nature would have destroyed with fire, he said. Because there are so many cottages and campers in the park, the province doesn’t let nature take its course, and puts out forest fires to protect people and their property, he said.
To see the Wilderness Committee’s clear-cut logging map of the Whiteshell, go to www.wildernesscommittee.mb.ca