Stumps and trees that had been cut down were strewn in piles through North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve near Chemainus Friday.
In order to find them, CHEK News passed clearly marked signage that read, “No Firewood Cutting.”
The area of the reserve spans 5,000 hectares, stretching from Chemainus to Duncan and is one of several sites where hundreds of trees have been cut down and stolen.
“Leave our trees alone,” said Mayor Al Siebring, of the Municipality of North Cowichan. “They belong to the people of North Cowichan.”
The theft and poaching of the trees was first noticed in January and, according to officials, it’s grown to a scale never seen in the area before.
“I’ve never seen this kind of concentrated cut that says ‘I’m going to go in and I’m gonna basically take out 50 trees and I’m gonna sell them for firewood,’ irrespective of whatever the rules are,” said Siebring.
The biggest tree so far is a 50-year-old fir that was cut down in a protected riparian area near the Chemainus River.
“We’re not even sure that we want to continue logging to the degree that we have been, and now someone’s just coming along and cutting the trees and taking it for firewood,” said Siebring.
RCMP are currently investigating into the cuts and officials are asking anyone who hears chainsaws around the Municipal Forest Reserve land to call police.
The theft of trees impacts not only the wildlife and ecology of the forests but the next generations of people in North Cowichan who stood to benefit from them as well.