Battle for the Trees; Old Growth Rainforest on Vancouver Island
by Delores Broten
Cortes Island old growth appears to be the next in a series of controversial logging disputes to plague the BC coast in 2011. The unrest is forecast to continue in2012.
Most, but not all, of the trouble stems from logging of rare old growth pockets still standing, and/or the unregulated logging of the private forest land created with the two million acre E & N railway land grant of the 1870s. (See “Vancouver Island’s Great E & N Railway Land Grab,” Watershed Sentinel, November-December 2008, or The Great Land Grab in Hul’qumi’num Territory, www.hulquminum.bc.ca). All of it is aggravated by the remote foreign ownership of access to most of BC’s forests (see page 13).
Sierra Club BC analysis (Restoring the Balance, January 2011) shows that logging of old-growth rainforest ecosystems has seriously compromised species habitat and carbon storage capacity. More than two million hectares of rainforest ecosystems on BC’s coast, mostly on Vancouver Island and on the South Coast, have less than 30 per cent old growth remaining and are considered to be at high risk of species extinction. Vancouver Island alone has lost more than one million hectares of productive old growth rainforest, representing the loss of approximately 100 million tonnes of carbon storage.
District Lot 33
A year of passionate argument and heartfelt pleas has failed to save District Lot 33 at Nanoose, which was given to the Snaw’naw’as First Nation as a woodlot. The move was condemned by the Forest Practises Board, which agreed with conservation activists that the forest was such rare Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem that it should be preserved. Less than 1% of the CDF ecosystem remains intact. Aside from the plant communities which are ranked as “globally critically imperilled” or red-listed, there are numerous creatures which will be displaced, such as Roosevelt Elk which use the 64-hectare forest for winter habitat.
The DL 33 logs are being purchased by TimberWest, causing activists to question TimberWest’s SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification. On their website, ForestEthics says the ‘Sustainable’ Forestry Initiative (SFI) = Selling False Information: “The phony SFI certification program – developed and funded by some of the biggest forest destroyers in North America – is a marketing tool for selling environmentally harmful products by falsely describing them as ‘green.’ This scam threatens our forests, communities, fresh water and wildlife.” (forestethics.org)
Local activists have mounted a petition to timber product purchasers, Don’t Buy BC’s TimberWest Hot Endangered CDF Wood Products. “TimberWest Forest Corp is buying the wood from this controversial red-listed forest, in spite of their SFI certification re: biodiversity and sustainability. They say conventional logging practices are being followed, ignoring the fact this forest is red-listed and there should be no logging at all.” (www.nanoosebayforest.com)
The Avatar Grove and “Canada’s Gnarliest Tree” were discovered by Ancient Forest Alliance activists in December, 2009. It is home to some of the largest and strangest shaped ancient red cedars on the Island, as well as rare large Douglas fir. It has the potential to be the “Cathedral Grove of Port Renfrew” due to its ease of accessibility and giant trees. However, most of the Avatar Grove is currently under threat of logging and road development, with flagging tape strung up and paint on the biggest trees! No cutting permits have been issued yet by the Ministry of Forests and Range but the BC Government continues to state that it is not interested in protecting the grove. (www.ancientforestalliance.org)
Now under logging by Island Timberlands, McLaughlin Ridge had been previously protected old growth forest near Port Alberni. It was classified as critical habitat for wintering deer and endangered Queen Charlotte goshawks until 2004, when the province allowed it to be removed from a tree farm licence.
Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) continue to sound the alarm about the logging of Flores Island where Iisaak Forest Resources is road building in preparation for a cut. FOCS reports that the cut in Clayoquot Sound is now as high as it was in 1995 while the forests remain as unprotected as they were during the days of the great 1993 blockade.
The old MacMillan Bloedel private forest lands on Cortes Island have been the source of controversy since the 1980s, and all during the land flips which have resulted in Brookfield Assets ownership. The community and Klahoose First Nation are close to achieving a woodlot for the Crown land, which is 80% of the forest. However, grief continues to be generated due to the 20% private forest land which rings the island.
The Wildstands Alliance has been working for four years on a variety of initiatives, from negotiation about sensitive areas with the corporate owners, to a Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island, but have now launched the Forest Witness campaign for 2012. The group Island Stance describes their activity as “to encourage civic responsibility prior to industrial logging by Island Timberlands on their private managed forest lands holdings on Cortes Island.”
Residents also have mounted a petition, Protect Cortes Island Forests, to Island Timberlands and Brookfield Assets, at: www.petitiononline.com/petitions/PCIFores/signatures
The petition contains the same concerns which have been enumerated by the islanders for decades: “We the undersigned are greatly concerned about the future of the forests of Cortes Island. Island Timberlands’ proposed industrial logging operations will have long term impacts on this threatened forest type and we therefore demand that Island Timberlands:
1) Retain all remnants of old growth forest;
2) Protect all watersheds and salmonid habitat and maintain natural water flow and quality;
3) Respect all the principles and goals of the BC Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory; and
4) Ban use of clearcut logging methods.”