Appeal decision overturns logging in seabird habitat

VICTORIA – On Nov. 20, the Forest Appeals Commission struck down the Ministry of Forests’ approval of five cutblocks in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The decision keeps alive important options to conserve the old-growth habitat critical for the survival of the marbled murrelet, a threatened species.

This area was the primary focus of wildlife inventories in 1995 and 1996, which showed very high levels of murrelet nesting activity. Despite this, logging of 51 cutblocks was approved in 1999. The board appealed the approval of the 51 cutblocks and the commission’s decision sets aside the approval of five cutblocks – the ones containing the best habitat. However, despite the victory, one of the cutblocks has already been logged and a second may have been – the board is now trying to confirm the status of these areas.

“This decision opens up options for conserving marbled murrelet habitat,” said Dr. Bruce Fraser, chair of the Forest Practices Board. “We are now reviewing the recommendations of the marbled murrelet recovery team in light of this decision, and we may recommend that the Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection act quickly to implement the recovery team’s advice and incorporate this habitat into wildlife habitat areas, protecting it from further logging.”

Following approval of these cutblocks in 1999, the board’s appeal was heard by a government review panel, which upheld the approval in 2000. The board then appealed the review panel decision to the Forest Appeals Commission, which held a hearing in late 2001 and released its final decision on the matter last week. The fact that at least one of the cutblocks was logged while the appeal was underway is of concern to the board.

Marbled murrelets are small seabirds that live along the Pacific coast of North America. Being poor fliers, this species has very specific habitat needs. They nest in old-growth forests within 50 kilometres of the ocean, below 1,000 metres above sea level. Marbled murrelets are still relatively abundant, but they are considered threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada because populations are rapidly declining.

In January 2003, the board released a special report that concluded potential habitat for marbled murrelet was being lost to forest development while the process for defining habitat areas drags on. The board recommended establishing interim wildlife habitat areas more quickly, and refining wildlife habitat area boundaries as soon as possible so that areas not needed by marbled murrelets can be developed. A follow-up report will be released in spring 2004, and will assess government’s progress since the first report was released.

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that reports to the public about compliance with the Forest Practices Code and the achievement of its intent. The board’s main roles under the Forest Practices Code are:

The Forest Practices Board is an independent public watchdog, established in 1995, that publishes reports about compliance with the forest practices legislation and the achievement of its intent. The board’s main roles are:

  • Auditing forest practices of government and licence holders on public lands.
  • Auditing government enforcement of the code.
  • Investigating public complaints.
  • Undertaking special investigations of code-related forestry issues.
  • Participating in administrative reviews and appeals.
  • Providing reports on board activities, findings and recommendations.


Darlene Dahl
Forest Practices Board

Phone: (250) 356-1340

November 26, 2003