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The "Friends of Egmont" have discovered the author of "Watershed Down" which was a submission to the public hearings on the Result Based Code in 2002. Her name is Mary Desmond, a resident of Shawnigan Land and a member of the Shawnigan Lake Watershed Watch Association(SLWWA). She writes of her community's experiences since 2001:

Background of Mt. Baldy

In the autumn of 2001, we discovered that a prime piece of our local landscape, 261 acres on the north and west flanks of a much cherished mountain, Mt. Baldy, had been sold by TimberWest to Malloch Logging. As Mt. Baldy was, by comparison to the rest of our badly eroded watershed, almost intact and undamaged by logging or housing, this news was a source of considerable anxiety. Baldy had not been cut since the thirties, and was thus well clad with nicely maturing second growth forests featuring numerous old vets. The rocky bluffs which dominate the upper reaches were filled with twenty-six different wildflowers -including some quite rare species - during the springtime. Two distinct sensitive ecosystems on the crown of the mountain were identifed and listed by researchers for the provincial Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory. The splendid views over the watershed were much admired by the many hikers who made the trek to the top. Each spring I would look forward to an annual pilgrimage to appreciate the lilies clustered in the woodland copses along the trails.

Meeting with Malloch Logging Company

But, in the winter of 2000, that idyllic custom was shattered. Despite presentations and pleas from the community, TimberWest flagged the cutblock for logging. Such was the public affection for this landmark, they then decided to avoid the outcry that would surely result [if this course were pursued], and quietly sold it to another company - Malloch Logging. Right before the 2001 Thanksgiving weekend, signs appeared at the cutblock borders declaring "Active Logging Operation". When the holiday concluded, the destruction began. The company having acquired a strip of vacant land on a residential road for easy access, the unsuspecting neighbours awoke one morning to the rumble of logging trucks passing by their driveways. The roar of heavy machinery and the crash of trees soon raised the alarm, and one of our members, upset by the ravages bordering his property, hunted down a contact number for Malloch in order to discuss the situation. His efforts were only partially successful; he reached an associate, Dennis Rogers, who refused to agree to a public meeting at our local community centre. Instead, he proposed an informal rendezvous including only a few concerned citizens and immediate neighbours take place. We had no choice but to acquiesce, so on the following Saturday afternoon, about ten neighbours and SLWW members assembled at the entrance to the logging site to speak with Rogers and Malloch. Very little of what we were told came true.

Consequences of Malloch's Logging

They promised not to take the cedars from some steep ravines; they promised to respect the SEI listed areas; they promised a popular trail network would remain unscathed; above all, they promised that after they were done, we would barely be able to tell where they had logged. Malloch explained the main trunk road would go all the way to the summit of the mountain, so his aged parents could drive up there in comfort to admire the view. When questioned about their long term plans for the place - the most crucial bone of contention in a district where log and flog has become endemic - Malloch and Rogers wafted vague notions of a vineyard and a B&B on the peak of the mountain. Further, they floated ideas of taking up residency on the crest themselves. Since the topography of the property was utterly unsuitable for a vineyard, and the local Area Planning Commission had informed them of the room constraints re: B&B operations, we wondered what they were really contemplating.

Lack of Legislated Environmental Protection

Over the winter months the trees were trucked off the mountainside at a furious pace. A late snowfall in March revealed significant bare patches visible from a fair way off, belying Malloch's words that we'd hardly be able to tell where the cutting had occurred. A site visit revealed the extent of the damage; highgrading had been the order of the day - almost all the good quality timber had been ruthlessly extracted with only flawed and juvenile specimens remaining amidst stands of the commercially undesirable arbutus. The road Malloch had boasted about building for his parents' benefit had cut a crude swathe through the two listed Sensitive Ecosystems. Muddied streams of water spurted out of road banks and coursed down the mountainsides now largely bereft of their protective vegetation and forest cover. Of course, we reported our observations to the MWLAP private lands forestry officer, but there was little he could do. Shawnigan Lake may be an officially designated community watershed, but under the anemic auspices of the Private Lands Forest Practice Regulation, private land owners can rape and run without much fear of official reprisal. Residents whose properties are harmed by private lands logging must seek redress through the civil courts - a process most are unwilling to undertake.

Reduction of Wildlife Habitat

In July later that year, I was contacted by two directors of YTS [Youbou Timberless Society], who requested a tour of the cutblock as Malloch, through the "Pinnacle" enterprise, had acquired a substantial property in Lake Cowichan. The fresh greenery traditionally associated with early summer was conspicuously absent - unless you count the proliferation of broom and thistles that had invaded the denuded landscape. As we trundled round the desolation, I noticed a small gartersnake scurry away in alarm. I only mention this commonplace occurrence due to the lack of ground cover [salal, ferns, etc.] which made its passage so painfully visible for quite a distance. Deprived of protective shelter, many creatures had lost their habitat. According to a local naturalist, the population of native owls on the mountain had been halved by the logging.

Someone Failed His Firetender Boy Scout Badge

Our next encounter with Malloch Logging took place in February of the next year, 2003. Troubled by reports of big clouds of black smoke billowing forth from the mountain, I trekked up to investigate. Sure enough, large piles of long butts and large woody debris were smoldering away. A man was darting about with what appeared to be a can of kerosene or gasoline, dumping it on the wood piles. I heard a voice hailing me and stopped. Another man approached and demanded to know what I was doing there. As he drew closer, I recognized Dennis Rogers, who also recognized me. After some sneering allusions to my "high profile in the community", he threatened me with legal action if I ever set foot on his property again. I pointed out many others kept coming up Mt. Baldy, and that he would be kept really busy pursuing legal actions against all the people who kept hiking up the mountain - despite his threats and the sorry state of Mt. Baldy. He responded by remarking he should charge them all $10.

When I got home, my suspicions were aroused and I called Nanaimo MWLAP (Ministry of Water, Lands, and Air Protection).  Mr. Rogers was not being a good neighbour. The air/wind indices were unfavourable for slash type burning, and the report of this incident was passed along to the Duncan Conservation Officer. Eventually Malloch Logging was charged and fined.

Again, at the end of this past summer when conditions were so dry as to be droughtlike, someone with a company key to the property was sawing up firewood with apparently no thought for the obvious fire hazard and the homes clustered at the foot of the mountain.

Future of Mt. Baldy Unknown

Thus far, January 2004, nothing concrete has been heard regarding the company's plans for this place. However, a couple of months ago an area businessman confided a rumour of a deluxe spa development with numerous related housing units. The Courtnall brothers, responsible for the fancy Bear Mountain golf course in Langford, south of Shawnigan, were somehow mentioned in the scheme, as was a big American company.
But, nothing conclusive can yet be reported.

In the meanwhile, the forlorn aspect wrought by Malloch Logging on Mt. Baldy remains only slightly softened by the passage of two years' time. With each windstorm, a tree or two at the edge of the tattered clumps scattered about the mountainside succumbs. The residential properties below the operation have also been affected by increased runoff; one lawn now turns into a winter pond, a small gully has been doubled in depth; a driveway required at least three loads of gravel.

Development Endangering Shawnigan Watershed

Unfortunately, for us, as citizens of an unincorporated region dominated by an Area Director, buttressed by the entire Cowichan Valley Regional District(CVRD) Board, who appears to embrace the conversion of forest land to subdivision, we fear for the future of this place. Over the last few years, the Shawnigan watershed has been subjected to a shocking assault from the curse of conversion. More disturbance from building, etc. in one of the watershed's sensitive recharge areas is the last thing we need as the lake is showing distressing signs of eutrophication attributed to excessive human occupancy. The opportunity to play "let's make a deal" with the developers - zoning bylaws and official community plans be damned - appears to be irresistable to our present leadership. We are constantly regaled with tales of all the "goodies" swung for the community, but the enumeration of all that has been lost is hastily swept aside.

Economic Advantages of Ecoforestry over "Development"

So, take care, good people of Egmont! I've visited your website and seen the appalling aftermath of Malloch and his cronies in your district. We must defeat the "log and flog" trend that is ruining so much of our fine forest land in the province. For if every parcel of woodland is largely denuded and turned into a spa, resort, or whatever commercial venture seems to hold the most promise for a quick buck, then what will become of the provincial forestry industry? Yes, it is presently environmentally and economically unsound, but these problems indicate a need for reform, not liquidation. If the current gang of unscrupulous carpetbaggers have their way, then the well paid logging and mill jobs will be replaced by low paying golf caddy/chambermaid positions! When the trees fall and the houses rise, the forestry jobs are lost forever. But ecosytem based forestry - in addition to protecting ecological assets - provides long term, stable employment, a fact lost on the likes of Malloch.

-- Mary Desmond
   Shawnigan Lake Watershed Watch
   25 Jan 2004 --