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Wilderness Committee calls for Penner's resignation

The Wilderness Committee has called for the resignation of Environment Minister Barry Penner, and accused the B.C. Liberals government of failing to take responsibility for ‘the end of the most endangered species in British Columbia,’ said spokesperson Andy Miller.

The species in question is the Spotted Owl, a bird that has been on the endangered species list since 1986 and whose numbers have dwindled to less than 17 birds in B.C. A 2007 government plan to protect the species was heavily criticized by government scientists.

About eight members of the Wilderness Committee are gearing up for a campout near St. Agnes Well (also known as Skookumchuck) hot springs, in an area designated as a spotted owl conservation area where logging is taking place.

"It's one of the last active spotted owl sites in B.C.," Miller said. "Right now the B.C. government doesn't know for sure whether there's an owl there anymore."

It was designated as a conservation area in 2004 – before the provincial government announced that any new spotted owl habitat would be completely protected from logging. Any habitat identified before that is open to logging with certain restrictions.

Jeff Drenk, vice president of operations at Squamish Mills Ltd., says his company is active in the area.He said they have to leave large diameter trees throughout the cutblock.

"The ministry of forests came up and did an inspection in yesterday... went over the parameters in the field," Drenk said. "I haven't seen the report but I believe everything looked okay."

Miller said the group will set up camp tomorrow – and daily after that – on the road, with banners and signs to attract vehicle traffic going to and from the St. Agnes and the Skatin First Nation reserve. He said they will continue after the election if necessary.

"If they keep logging, we'll keep it up until they stop," said Miller.

The Tyee attempted to contact Minister Penner, who is running for reelection in Chilliwack-Hope through the B.C. Liberals campaign office, but a request for comment was not returned promptly.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Hook.

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