The Roberts Creek Headwaters Ancient Forest

On July 11 2013,   Ross Muirhead, Bill Legg and Hans Penner of Elphinstone Logging Focus, an environmental group based in Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast, took Helen and I up to up to a small patch of forest presently included in a BC Timber Sales Block (BCTS) Cutblock DK045.  They had identified this area with concern for it’s preservation because of a number of factors, not the least of which is an unusual density of Pacific Western Yew (Taxus brevifolia) which are growing in close association with Old Growth Yellow Cedar, (Cupressus nootkatensis)

Be sure to click on the images below to be able to appreciate the full impact of them.

GF2013-07-104ontrailRoss Muirhead writes: “We call the forest ‘The Roberts Creek Headwaters Ancient Forest”. This Yellow-Cedar forest contains up to 350 Pacific Yew trees. We had a group of 5 volunteers conduct a tree survey of the Yews today, flagging and numbering each Yew. The area is a small BC Timber Sales block of about 3 football fields in size.  I’ve spoken to the Forest Planner in charge and he has sent a message to an Ecologist within the Ministry of Environment to see if they think this forest warrants becoming an Ecological Reserve. “

For the website of this group see: Elphinstone Logging Focus


Over a rough logging road with several waterboard trenches, a few miles above Robert’s Creek on the flank of Elphinstone Mountain, we navigated to the start of the trail into the forest. Immediately they pointed out that the sign they had erected at the trail-head had been destroyed since they were last there.


On entering the forest, the immediate impression was of a shaded spongy moss covered area. The predominant trees rising from the forest floor were giant Old-growth Yellow Cedars. What makes the area unique was that around the base of most of the cedars, a fringe of two to four Pacific Western Yews rose up as if from a cup at the base of the cedars. In the photo Hans  touches two yews from the base of one of the cedars.

Most striking was the abundance of the Pacific Western Yews of varying ages.  This is a very slow growing tree so even small diameter trunks with this very dense wood can be very old.
It was most surprizing to me that there might be no opposition about logging in an area of Culturally marked trees or CMTs.  First Nations people would cut into the bark at the base of the tree and then pull out the bark so that a long strip was extracted. From this they used cedar strips for weaving and rope making. See the map of CMTs  in this link: Jim Stafford map of CMTs in DK 045.

Early on the trail, the special atmosphere of the woods was noticeable by the wild flowers. A patch of Columbia Lilies, Lilium columbianum emerged close to the path.

Other plants became obvious very soon. Particularly striking was the Pacific coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata ssp. mertensiana.

Other orchid species were also abundant:

Many Queen’s Cup were scattered  with other plants on the forest floor.


Several one to two metre  shrubs grew scattered throughout the area with the high bush blueberry being predominant.




Fungus were represented by several species:



On the trail back to the roadway, I paused briefly to take a few samples of mosses and liverworts  from a two square meter the  area around the stream bed. I brought these samples back to Metchosin where Kem Luther identified them as the following:

Rhizomnium glabrescens: Fan moss, the one with the large leaves .

Kindbergia oregana: Oregon beaked moss with  feather-like fronds.

Dicranum fuscescens: Broom moss, a frond mixed in with the Kindbergia

Dichodontium pellucidum : Wet rock moss, a small moss with straight, dark green stems/leaves.

Plagiochila porelloides: Cedar-shake liverwort, a large liverwort.

Cephalozia sp.   The two-horned pincerwort: A small  liverwort mixed in with the sphagnum.

Isothecium stoloniferum: 

Plagiothecium/Buckiella undulatus:

Sphagnum spp. Sphagnum moss (possibly pacificum) Covers much of the area near the stream bed

The map below shows the two parts of the area proposed for logging in dark green with orange hatching. The photos are from the lower portion south of the logging road which bisects the area . The green hatched area is already zoned for wildlife protection. This black line is the logging road and proposed extensions which go right through the middle of the ancient forest Given that habitat fragmentation is a serious  problem when it comes to enduring survival and sustainability of mammal and bird  species, it would seem to be an obvious solution here being able to connect two of the wildlife areas by leaving this forest intact. See the complete map of the area of Elphinstone mountain in the maps linked at the end of this page.
Even given the wide biodiversity observed on this field trip, and the unique characteristics of this ecosystem which I do not believe is  represented in the Ecological Reserve network for the Province, an additional  compelling reason for protecting this Old Growth Forest is that it is part of the watershed for the village of Robert’s Creek, and in that village there are a number of very committed individuals who want to protect their watershed and preserve what’s left of what was once a magnificent forested coastline. Local Stewardship is something to be aimed for by BC Parks.
I am convinced the group at Robert’s Creek would take that on with enthusiasm.
Garry Fletcher, Board Member , Friends of Ecological Reserves.
MAPS OF THE AREA :A84612_i4_map_HP_Bk#DK045A84612_i2_map_DetailedLocation-2Jim Stafford map of CMTs in DK 045
For enlargement , see the following PDFs
Culturally Modified Trees in the proposed harvest area: Jim Stafford map of CMTs in DK 045
DK 045  Harvest Plan Map  A84612_i4_map_HP_Bk#DK045
Followup: October 30 News of the block being taken out of timber sales.