|Vol.9 Number 2||
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Vol. 9 Number 2 - April/May 1999
Defenders of the Good Earth - EDITORIAL
Tobin Tax Motion Passes in Ottawa!
Exxon Valdez Memorial Moratorium For A Clean Energy Future
Have You Heard?
CANDU? Maybe not ...
Wells face shortages
Basking Sharks Pay the Price
Harnessing the Wind
Ottawa to study toxins
Experts oppose modified maize
MacBlo Gains in Land Grab
Park Area Threatened by Gravel Pit Plan
News from the BC Forest Front
MoF "Rationalization" on Sunshine Coast
Workers sue MoF
FSC Standards for BC
Protest hits Home Depot
Democracy Discovered in Sludge Dump
Soil Tested as Carbon-Catcher
Greenland ice melting
Methane on the menu
Cool trend ends
Head for the hills!
Chemicals Contribute to Salmon Crisis
For Vietnam, the War is Still at Home
Back in the USA, Ranch Hand Study Skewed
Reflections on a Decade of Activism
Name The Real Pests
Do You Know What You're Eating?
Alar(m) raised again
Wheat are we protecting?
Rain, Rain Go Away
Going for a Song
Stikine - The Great River
Gov't Gives CanFor a Cut of Cortes
Low Tech Self Help in Guatemala
Island Victory in Sewage Appeal
Removing the Barriers One by One
Defenders of the Good Earth
by Delores Broten, March 1999
As spring approaches across this northern continent with its cycle of rebirth and regrowth, it's time to think of the good earth, of home.
Those who would defend their neighbourhood, their land, the watershed where they live, from the ravages of the timber beast or corporate extraction or global trade for profit are called by the proponents of "development," derisively, NIMBYs, for Not in My Backyard. The controversial development almost always turns out to be a polluting, massive, and somewhat dubious scheme to make money for shareholders "from away."
Are the neighbours, the community associations, the non-governmental organizations, the First Nations, all selfish NIMBYs , blocks to progress? Or are they heroic volunteers, ahead of their time in saying NOPE, Not On Planet Earth? The line from NIMBY to NOPE to Earth Stewardship is a reasonable and progressive one, the road to democratic change for future generations. Let no one tell you differently. Walk it with honour.
Tobin Tax Motion Passes in Ottawa!
The Tobin Tax on all financial transactions is designed to deter currency speculation. Many people suggest the tax should be used to fund UN food and health operations. On March 23, the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa passed Motion M-239 by a vote of 164 to 83:
"That, in the opinion of the House, the government should enact a tax on financial transactions in concert with the international community."
Finance Minister Paul Martin and most of the governing Liberal party supported the NDP in favour of the Motion.
Exxon Valdez Memorial Moratorium For A Clean Energy Future
Federal and provincial politicians should resist calls to lift a 28-year ban on offshore oil development off Canada's west coast. It would be better to concentrate on promoting renewable energy, says a coalition of groups opposed to ending of the moratorium.
"Ten years ago, the Exxon Valdez spilled 45 million litres of crude oil into Prince William Sound. A decade later, salmon and other fish are still at risk from the toxic fallout of that spill. It would be ecological insanity to let the industry drill and transport oil in our stormy, earthquake-prone waters," says Karen Wristen, executive director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.
Since the early 1970s, Ottawa and Victoria have maintained a moratorium on offshore oil development. But lately, a persistent group of business leaders in Prince Rupert have lobbied to lift the moratorium, supposedly to boost coastal BC's lagging economy.
"Ironically, oil prices are in the tank. Oil companies are not clamouring to have the moratorium lifted," says Wristen. "No jobs are likely to materialize from lifting the moratorium at this time."
Wristen's comments follow release of A Crude Solution, an SLDF report prepared on behalf of Green-peace and the Living Oceans Society. The report details the environmental and economic consequences of resumed offshore oil development.
The report also documents promising environmental, social and economic gains for jurisdictions which promote renewable energy production. In order to meet its international obligations, Canada must drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. BC's emissions climbed nearly 80 per cent between 1970 and 1995.
"For a provincial government that has fallen well short of its commitment to create jobs in the beleaguered forest industry, there are promising opportunities to generate hundreds if not thousands of new jobs in renewable energy production, including wind and solar power," says Steven Guilbeault, Green-peace Canada's climate and energy campaigner.
*A Crude Solution is available on the SLDF website at www.sierralegal.org; ph: (604)685-5618; www.sierralegal.org
CANDU? Maybe not ...
CANDU reactor sales may stop because of an international trade ruling that could also force Ottawa to hide its business subsidies within military spending.
Billions of dollars worth of CANDU reactor sales have been contingent on financing through the federal government's Canada Account, a loan fund controlled by the ministers of trade and finance.
But the World Trade Organization has ruled that the Canada Account is an illegal export subsidy because it offers loans on concessional terms. The fund does little for aerospace, but is a major factor in Atomic Energy of Canada's sales of nuclear reactors to developing countries.
* Globe and Mail, Saturday 1999
Wells face shortages
The 600,000 British Columbians who get their water from wells face the dual threat of shortages and contamination, according to the BC government. Reasons such as declining water reserves, and aquifers' vulnerability to contamination are possible sources of contamination.
* Globe & Mail, January 1999
Basking Sharks Pay the Price
Humans engage in pretty strange behavior when money's on the line. In the 1950s and '60s, the West Coast fisheries department began a campaign of wholesale slaughter to protect commercial fishing interests, including killing sea lions, hair seals, killer whales, and merganser ducks, because they feed on salmon or salmon fry. Another creature to evoke the wrath of the department and net fishermen was the basking shark, the second-largest fish in the ocean after the whale shark.
The problem for some fishermen came when this creature, while lazily drifting along the ocean surface feeding on plankton, sometimes blundered into fishing nets, costing money in repairs and lost fishing time. The fishery department's answer was to affix a large knife blade to the brow of their boat, the Comox Post, which could be lowered to slice or impale the offending shark. The BC coast, particularly around Barkley Sound, became the playground for the elimination of a species.
Deaths rapidly mounted: in 1955, the first year of this bloody campaign, 65 sharks were killed; in 1956, 105 died; in the period up to and including 1969, 414 were killed. Other boats, though not equipped with this deadly knife, would simply ram the sharks whenever they were spotted.
The campaign was successful. Today, sighting a basking shark on the West Coast is a rare event.
* Victoria Times Colonist, September, 1992
Harnessing the Wind
Wind power may be the wave of the future. Recently, Enmax of Alberta became the first electrical utility in Canada to offer its residential customers wind power. The program, called Greenmax, allows residential customers the option of paying an extra monthly fee which purchases power generated by the endless supply of wind, rather than the limited reserves of coal and oil that have kept Alberta lit for decades. Customer response to this program has been overwhelming. Countries such as Holland, Mexico, India, Germany and the US have already begun to harness the wind for electrical purposes.
* Vancouver Sun, December 1998
Ottawa to study toxins
The Liberal government announced it will initiate a $40-million research project to investigate the link between toxic substances and human health. Leading scientists from the private sector, universities and government will be asked to examine the impact of heavy metals, persistent organic chemicals, endocrine disruptors, urban air pollutants and the cumulative effect of toxic substances on the environment. This announcement comes as the Commons environment committee continues to scrutinize the government's main law to control toxic chemicals, Bill C-32.
* Vancouver Sun, December 1998
Experts oppose modified maize
A poll published in the Newsletter of the International Society of Chemotherapy shows that a clear majority of experts in the field of chemotherapy consider the antibiotic-resistant gene within Novartis genetically modified maize to be an unacceptable risk.
The gene provides resistance to such antibiotics as Ampicillan, Penicillin G and Amoxycillin. Greenpeace wants the European Commission to ban the use of Novartis genetically modified maize.
* Greenpeace, December 1998
MacBlo Gains in Land Grab
Critics of the government's closed-door deal say MacBlo
should have been compensated in cash, not land.
The BC government has agreed to hand over thousands of hectares of Crown land to forest giant MacMillan Bloedel, in a precedent-setting deal that will exempt the land from environmental protection.
The deal, which saved the province tens of millions of dollars, has angered environmentalists, who say the province should not have brokered public land. Almost 94% of BC land is Crown-owned, and companies logging it must adhere to the Forest Practices Code, which, among other things, regulates how much can be clearcut.
Environmentalists are angry, and say the deal allows MacBlo to log any way it wants to on the province's most sensitive lands. Under the agreement, the province will provide as much as 20,000 hectares of Crown land on the north end of Vancouver Island, and will exempt the company from adhering to the Forest Practices Code on another 90,000 hectares, which may include properties near Clayoquot Sound, on the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the Sunshine Coast.
The Sierra Club of British Columbia has reacted with outrage, and says the government has made an agreement behind closed doors that will compensate MacBlo for past parks creation on Vancouver Island. The decision, says the Sierra Club, will exclude some of the province's most valuable land, almost 3.5% of Vancouver Island, from government regulation, leaving it open to substandard logging practices and the export of raw logs.
"This puts thousands of hectares of forest into the virtually unregulated hands of a major logging company. It removes government's ability to protect environmental values and risks possible conversion of some of the land to sprawling subdivisions," says Lisa Matthaus, Forest Policy Analyst with the Sierra Club.
First Nations representatives are also angry. Rod Naknakim, speaking for the Treaty Society, which represents five Native bands on Vancouver Island, says the province, in removing this land from the treaty table, has committed "an act of bad faith. We should have been consulted."
Originally, it was intended that environmentally sensitive land should be protected from logging and development, and the parks were created in 1994 to provide that protection. But MacBlo held logging rights on some of that Crown-owned land, and the law says a logging company must be compensated by the province if more than 5% of its logging rights are taken.
In the lawsuit it launched three years later, MacBlo claimed that compensation. Even environmentalists agreed with its claim - but they expected the company to be given cash, not land. The value of the land and cutting rights are estimated at $83.7 million.
Jim Cooperman, president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society, says that with this deal, MacMillan-Bloedel will have 110-120,000 hectares of private land from which they will be able to export raw logs and jobs. Cooperman also noted that the actual value of the deal was an oblique comment on BC forest policy.
"In a way, this deal means that three hectares of second growth is the same value as one hectare of old growth. So, by logging, are we reducing the value of the land by one third?"
* Shuswap Environmental Action Society, RR 1, Site 10, Comp. 2, Chase, BC V0E 1M0; ph: (250)679-3693; fax: (250)679-8248.
* Sierra Club, 1525 Amelia St, Victoria, BC V8W 2K1; ph: (250)386-5255; fax: (250)386-4453.
Park Area Threatened by Gravel Pit Plan
Simultaneous clearcutting and mining will make it difficult to hold either company responsible for development near the Englishman River.
by Liza Morris
Since 1995, Englishman Aggregates has been proposing to mine 100,000 cubic metres of gravel annually from an area near the Englishman River and the Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.
The area, prized by residents and tourists as a place of unspoiled natural beauty, has been a bone of contention since 1995 when Han-Con Holdings and LaFarge Construction Material formed Englishman Aggregates Ltd. and applied for a permit to mine two hectares a year to a depth of five metres on an approximately 50-hectare site. The project would provide crushed and prepared gravel to local road contracting businesses and LaFarge (see Watershed Sentinel, Nov.96).
Concerned citizens are up in arms over the proposed mine. The area supports a burgeoning ecotourism industry. More than 80 tourism businesses are within a 10-kilometre radius of the proposed site, using the natural amenities of the area and the quiet setting to promote their businesses. As well, the Provincial Park at Englishman Falls draws 250,000 visitors annually. Destruction of the natural tranquility, as well as water quality and fish habitat, are all possible side effects of the proposed mine.
Due to the public interest in this project, the Vancouver Island Mines Development Review Committee (VIMDRC) has undertaken an enhanced review process, though not the full scale environmental assessment some residents would like. VIMDRC is made up of members from six government ministries, municipal government, Nanoose First Nation, and the Regional District. The committee will give its recommendations to the Chief Inspector of Mines, who will then make the final decision on the proposed gravel mine, but those recommendations are not binding.
Ted Hall, Regional Manager of Mines and Chair of VIMDRC, says, "An environmental assessment was not ordered in this case because of the small scale of the project. Environmental assessment is usually reserved for larger industrial projects."
John Mansell of Voices of the Englishman River (VOTER), claims that the entire process, including testing and public consultation, has been conducted questionably.
The Forest Land Commission (FLC), under the auspices of the Ministry of Forests, must first give approval for non-forest use of land in the forest reserve. Originally, they required testing to establish the location of the water table, but eventually accepted testing that claimed the table was not detectable within one metre below excavation. The VIMDRC has also accepted these results.
According to existing Ministry of Energy and Mines legislation, mining must be at least one metre above the water table to protect water quality. Discrepancies in the water table testing results, such as irregular readings, missing information and final results not matching, even when reportedly taken by the same person at the same time on the same day, have done nothing to slow down the approval process. The FLC accepted excuses such as data entry errors and gave their approval for an initial six-hectare site, only requiring that the permit be subject to ongoing monitoring.
A further complication is that all the land in question, plus a good deal of the surrounding land, is privately owned by Timber West. This company has begun clearcut logging, cutting right up to the edge of the proposed initial site and water table test areas. Tree removal could also have a significant impact on the water table, likely causing a rise in the water level.
Under existing regulation, the mining permit could not be issued if it did not include the protection of fish stocks and ground water. With clearcutting and mining slated to occur simultaneously, it will be impossible to hold either company accountable if problems do arise.
As debate continues over the feasibility of the gravel mine, opposition has come from diverse sources. Local activists, businesses, the cities of Parksville and Qualicum, and the Nanaimo Regional District are being supported by such groups as the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, the Georgia Strait Alliance, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists.
* To help, contact: Earle Warnock, Regional Director, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks; 250-751-3250;
Fred Hermann, Chief Inspector of Mines, Ministry of Energy and Mines, 250-952-0494
News from the BC Forest Front
MoF "Rationalization" on Sunshine Coast
As of November 1998, all Crown land in the timber supply area in the Ministry of Forest's Sunshine Coast District was part of an "administrative rationalization." This means that 100% of Crown timber supply land is now mapped and divided up between the forest companies holding cutting rights within the district.
The MoF insists there is nothing to be concerned about, that this is normal operating procedure, and that forest companies being charted into various areas does not "imply they have cutting rights to the land," because cutting criteria require public consultation and MoF approval. However, many communities are concerned that this new development could have broader implications.
Previously in the Sunshine Coast District, only 90% of the allowable cut was charted. After a one-year process of consultation and negotiation with companies, the remaining land has now been divided up. The MoF gave the fact that some companies were operating below their annual allowable cut as one reason for the expansion.
Susan Hammond of the Silva Forest Foundation counters, "Some companies are below their cut allotment because the cut level is too high. Maybe the cut level for each company should be decreased rather than increasing access to Crown land to meet quotas."
Workers sue MoF
Woodworkers for Fair Forest Policy (WFFP), former employees of CanFor's now closed Eburne Saw Mill in Vancouver, filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Forests seeking to strip away the corporations Tree Farm Licence. The lawsuit would attempt to quash Canfor's Tree Farm Licence No. 37 on the grounds that CanFor did not provide the jobs necessary in exchange for the right to cut Crown timber, under their long-term tenure agreement with the province.
Last year, CanFor closed the Eburne Mill, putting over 200 employees out of work. The closure of the Eburne Mill precipitated a lengthy occupation of the mill by the workers, considerable media attention, and government negotiations. In the end, CanFor was allowed to shut the mill with impunity.
"CanFor should not have the right to cut Crown trees if they're not going to provide employment," says Jeff Pazik, President of Woodworks for Fair Forest Policy. "They are acting illegally and we're going to fight them in the courts."
The Eburne Mill was the last of CanFor's coastal processing facilities. The Woodworkers for Fair Forest Policy will file for a judicial review and argue that CanFor violated that section of the Forest Act which stipulates that a tree farm licence must "require its holder ... undertake or continue the operation, construction or expansion of a timber processing facility."
FSC Standards for BC
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in BC announced the imminent release of the first draft of FSC standards for British Columbia. The FSC is an international, non-governmental agency based in Oaxaca, Mexico that oversees the world-wide voluntary certification of forest land management and the processing of wood harvested from certified forest lands. The FSC is designed to ensure that the forest management systems are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable.
* News Release, Sierra Club BC and FSC Steering Committee, March 1999
Protest hits Home Depot
A team of 80-plus activists from the Forest Action Network (FAN) and People's Action for Threatened Habitat (PATH) stormed through the front doors of the Home Depot store at 900 Terminal Ave., Vancouver, demanding that ancient forest products be removed from the shelves. Similar protests were staged at Home Depot stores in over 150 cities across North America and in Chile. Customers in the store were invited to participate in BC's first "Dead Ancient Forest Tour." At a recent conference, a Home Depot representative said they will only look into increasing the amount of certified forest products in the stores, falling far short of previous promises to move away from the sale of ancient forest products.
* News Release, FAN/PATH, March 1999
Democracy Discovered in Sludge Dump
Community outcry forces mill to seek a new solution for sludge.
by Delores Broten
At a community meeting in March, the neighbours at Milburn and Bouchie Lake near Quesnel in central British Columbia's Cariboo region, showed the BC Ministry of Environment and Quesnel River Pulp (QRP) what real public notification meant. In January, residents discovered that the mill had been stockpiling sludge from its CMTP* mill, on frozen fields which slope towards the two lakes and their creeks which provide drinking water and fish habitat. Over 200 truckloads had been dumped before residents realized just what the trucks were hauling.
Although the mill had an authorization from the Ministry, QRP stopped hauling the waste in mid-February, in response to public complaints. Later, QRP agreed to a public meeting at the Bouchie Lake Community Hall, and placed a small ad in the local paper, similar to the type of public notice required by Ministry regulations.
The neighbours, meanwhile, hand-delivered 600 notices about the meeting throughout the area. They also decided not to notify the TV media, so that people would feel free to speak their minds.
Their effort paid off, when over 200 concerned people, from mill workers to ranchers to mothers with babes in arm, showed up at the Community Hall on the evening of March 9.
The packed and occasionally rambunctious meeting opened with a straight-off declaration from Doug McIntosh, Acting Regional Waste Manager, acknowledging Ministry of Environment responsibility for allowing the mill to skip the public notification requirement in the sludge spreading authorization. Consequently, McIntosh announced, the Ministry was canceling the authorization. The mill would have to reapply and re-advertise, with a 30- day period for public comment, before the permit could be approved and spreading resume.
The crowd was mollified, but not appeased, and one speaker summed up the situation neatly: "We don't know what you guys are doing, and I don't think you do either."
Demands to haul away the sludge were heard from the floor.
Mill manager Brian Black expressed his sincere regret about what had happened but stressed that the sludge was "clean solid waste, composed of wood fibre and biowaste." Mill personnel and consultants gave a fairly straightforward account of what their testing had shown about the sludge, pointing out very low amounts of trace metals, and no organo-chlorines, since this is a Totally Chlorine Free mill.
The mill is conducting experiments, funded by FRBC, on complete enclosed composting of the sludge, but they are a few years away from an industrial operation, and from the legal approval for such a "product." In the meantime, QRP said, the City of Ques-nel is using the compost in their flower beds, with neither permit nor approval. Technician Anna Rankin candidly explained that the agricultural effect for the first year after application would be as a mulch to hold moisture, with some nutrient release only in the second year after the fibre had begun to break down.
Reach for Unbleached! told the crowd that a provincial committee to examine sludge dumping BC-wide, from testing to regulations, had broken down when the Council of Forest Industries left the table, despite environmentalists' unanswered questions about the need for further chemical analysis of the sludge.
For a TCF mill these questions included natural toxins from the trees, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), a range of additives to the pulp, and the concern of pulp mill workers about air emissions, including possible toxic bacteria and fungi which have been shown to grow in pulp sludges.
Rancher Ken Cameron, a former president of the Cattlemen's Association, presented the case for testing sludge on the Daishowa Farm, which he manages for the mill. Cameron explained earnestly that he believes the sludge is an excellent mulch, and restores humus to the thin soils of the Caribou. He said there was no doubt at all that the hay and grain grown on sludged land produced much more heavily. However, he stressed that the applications must be done properly, with prompt tilling and composting, in order to get the agricultural benefit without undue odour. He noted that farms have a right to emit bad smells under the Right to Farm Act.
QRP applied sludge to a hayfield near the Quesnel airport last year, and a nearby resident of those fields disputed Cameron's statement, testifying that the sludge application raised great amounts of dust when it was ploughed into the fields, and that the odour and dust made it impossible to open the windows in his home last summer when the wind was in the wrong direction.
The airport site had 1,500 tonnes of sludge applied, in a continuous operation so the smell of the decomposing sludge was also constant.
A public meeting for that application had attracted almost no public dissent, but noticeable support from ranchers. The Quesnel Environmental Society had questioned the permit and requested some further testing for nonylphenols and other contaminants. These tests were not presented to the meeting.
Residents of the Milburn-Bouchie Lake neighbourhood suggested that at least such sludge-spreading experiments should be carried out away from people, and pointed out that if the mill could haul trees out of the bush, it could haul sludge back. They demanded testing of their wells, and showed general unwillingness to trust their watershed to either government or industry. As one speaker stated, "I don't want to be the trial-and-error method, thank you."
The meeting ended with residents asking the Ministry of Environment how they should further express their opinions on the permit.
The next afternoon, the mill hired a front end loader, and began to truck the sludge off the fields and back to its landfill.
Balbir Mahil, the Tech-nical Man-ager at QRP, told the Watershed Sen-tinel that the mood at the meeting was clear, and the mill would start the process again, with an Open House for the public.
"We owe them answers and we will address their concerns. Our style is to work with the public. This is a clean mill, and we think the situation is a win for both parties, because it shows that QRP listens to the community."
"We strongly believe that thorough, independent testing, real-world application trials and clear, enforceable regulations are needed before pulp mill wastes are spread around the country," said Reach for Unbleached! pulp researcher Jay Ritchlin. "The labour and other environmental representatives on the provincial committee agree."
For other stories on pulp mill sludge and solid wastes, see MillWatch.
Soil Tested as Carbon-Catcher
Is a "carbon sink" on the Prairies our solution to greenhouse gas emissions?
Could soil conservation contribute to the fight against global warming? SaskPower and several other utilities believe it might, and have committed $800,000 to a $2-million project investigating the ability of cultivated Prairie soils to store carbon.
The Greenhouse Emissions Management Consortium (GEMCO), comprised of 10 Canadian utilities, hopes the research will document the existence of a Prairie "carbon sink" that will assist Canada in meeting its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and ease the growing pressure on the utilities to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they produce.
Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by somewhere around 2008 to 2012.
*Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Dec., 1998
Greenland Ice Melting
The southern half of the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest expanse of land-bound ice on earth after Antarcti-ca, has shrunk substantially in the last five years, scientists have found in airborne surveys using new and more precise techniques.
Experts have said for some time that a warming atmosphere has caused mountain glaciers around the world to shrink. But until now, they have not known what was happening to the Greenland ice cap. While five years is too short a period to mark a trend, the new findings, reported in the journal Science, provide the first precise evidence that it, too, is diminishing.
If the big ice sheets melt even partially, sea levels will rise around the world. Melting might also disrupt ocean currents that modulate climate by distributing heat around the globe.
* New York Times, March, 1999
Methane On The Menu
Scientists have discovered a methane-munching bacterium that could play a major role in fighting global warming by preventing the greenhouse gas from reaching the atmosphere. The partly decayed, moisture-absorbing plant matter turns methane into CO2.
Writing in the journal Science, the team said atmospheric concentration of methane has more than doubled during the last 300 years and is increasing at an annual rate of about one per cent each year.
But the bacteria, known as Beijerinckia, play a crucial role in controlling methane emissions from the peat bogs, which are the largest natural source of atmospheric methane. The bogs stretch across much of Russia, Canada, the United States, and northern Europe.
* Vancouver Sun, October, 1998
Cool Trend Ends
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts have released a report strongly suggesting that the 1990s were the warmest decade of the millennium, with 1998 the warmest year so far. The warming in the 20th century counters a 1,000-year-long cooling trend. The study, by Michael Mann and Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts, and Mal-colm Hughes of the University of Arizona, appears in the March 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.
* Contacts: Elizabeth Lucia-no, UMass, 413-545-2989; Lori Stiles, U Of Arizona, 520-626-4402.
Head For The Hills!
Bruce Torrie, Director of the Skies Above Foundation, is urging everyone to head for high ground. Torrie's warning follows his discussion in March with John Topping, President of the Climate Institute in Washington, DC.
Torrie says American scientists are poised to sound the alarm that the West Antarctic ice sheet will collapse within 10 years, raising sea levels by six metres. They say the East Antarctic ice sheet may also collapse, causing a 66-metre rise in sea levels.
Contributing to the destabilization of the ice sheets, Torrie says, are erupting volcanoes under Antarctica that are releasing cubic miles of hot water and mud beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet.
Scientists discovered in 1998 that the two tectonic plates under Antarctica are separating, allowing molten lava to escape.
Torrie says the media have not been alerted to the danger because of the panic that might result, and because it is uncertain exactly when and if the change in sea level will take place. He recommends, in addition to moving to higher ground, stocking up on food, water, and other survival supplies.
* Contact: Skies Above Foundation, phone: (250)391-9223, fax: (250)391-9280, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chemicals Contribute to Salmon Crisis
As with many problems faced by wildlife, bioaccumulation is at the root.
by Miranda Holmes
In the last issue of Watershed Sentinel readers were alerted to some of the research linking problems in the fish population with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nonylphenol ethoxylates. More bad news has emerged since then.
Diminishing Returns: Salmon Decline and Pesticides, a report by fisheries biologist Richard Ewing details the known and suspected impacts of agricultural chemicals on Pacific salmon.
Ewing makes a clear case for nominating pesticides, herbicides and fungicides as bad actors in our current salmon crisis. As with many other wildlife problems, bioaccumulation is at the root. Agricultural chemicals washed off fields and into rivers and streams may be at undetectable levels in the water itself, but by the time they have moved up the aquatic food chain, they reach dangerous levels.
In large enough doses, pesticides can kill fish outright. For example, Ewing cites a spill of acrolein in Bear Creek which caused the death of more than 90,000 steelhead. But accidents such as this are not the major cause of concern.
Far more worrying to Ewing and other fisheries scientists are the subtle, "unseen and unregulated" effects of sub-lethal concentrations. Lab studies show that these effects include:
As well as these altered behaviours, low concentrations of many pesticides can disrupt the immune system of salmon, resulting in increased diseases and death.
Some pesticides act as sex hormone mimics or blockers, causing abnormal sexual development, feminisation of males, abnormal sex ratios and unusual mating behaviour. In addition, pesticides can interfere with other hormone functions, such as thyroid and bone development.
The report makes a number of common sense recommendations:
* Diminishing Returns can be downloaded from www.pond. net/~fish1ifr/ salpest.htm
Dioxin from Agent Orange, sprayed on the jungle to kill trees during the Vietnam War, has contaminated Vietnam's food chain, "creating serious environmental and health problems," according to a study released at the end of October by Hatfield Consultants of Vancouver, BC.
The study, based on five years of research, found "high levels" of dioxin in the blood of Vietnamese children born after the war, as well as in fish and animal tissues, indicating that the carcinogen is being transferred through the food chain.
* Additional information is available on the Internet at www.hatfieldgroup.com/spotlight/vietnam.htm
In November, one of four scientists who designed the US air force Operation Ranch Hand study of Vietnam veterans who sprayed Agent Orange, claimed in the San Diego Union-Tribune that the study was skewed. Dr. Albanese charges the air force wrote two reports on Agent Orange in 1984, but only published the one which concluded there was little difference between the health of Ranch Hand personnel and a comparison group. But a table was removed which showed that Ranch Hand veterans were "less well" by a 5:1 ratio, that their children had more birth defects, and that they suffered twice as many cancers.
* The Guardian Weekly, Volume 159 Issue 19
Reflections on a Decade of Activism
by Peter Coombs, President, End the Arms Race
As a peace activist I've spent the past 10 years reacting to international events. Over that time the fear of nuclear annihilation has receded and interest in the peace movement has dwindled to a bare-bones group of workers around the world. In that time, Gorbachev came to power, and from the start he began easing tensions between East and West. Then there was the collapse of the Soviet Empire and ultimately an end to the Cold War.
Then there was the Gulf War, followed by Gulf War II.
We had French nuclear testing, and now India and Pakistan have entered the nuclear Weapons Club. As peace workers we've been in full retreat since the late 1980s.
The loss of interest in issues of nuclear disarmament and militarism since then has meant for the movement and its organizations:
Yet, these experiences are not unique to the peace movement. But likely we've felt it harder than anyone else has - mostly because we were so high in the mid-1980s we had a long way to fall. Just imagine, in Vancouver, we had a rally in 1986 with over 100,000 people walking for nuclear disarmament. No one has been able to do it since, no one has even tried. But, just two years later in 1988, the number of peace walkers had already dropped and it continued to drop until we decided to cancel it in 1993. But even then it was attracting about 10,000 people. But we were into the numbers game with the media. They considered the Walk a failure because it was only attracting 10,000 people. Yet, no one else could consistently, year after year, attract the same numbers.
The media has probably been our biggest downfall. The peace movement made a fatal error "we relied on the media to cover the story, or at least to cover the issues. We expected media bias and often we worked hard to overcome it, we even expected ideological battles with the media owners.
There was one thing we did not expect.
But let me go back a few steps. My impression is that the experience of the peace movement is not unique to the 1900s. In the early part of this century we witnessed the struggle of workers forming independent trade unions. Women fought for the right of citizenship and the vote. In the 1950s the Black Civil rights movement came to the forefront, then the anti-Vietnam war protests, by the 1970s the women's movement was in full stride again, then came the peace and environmental movements, and today we have the anti-globalization movement.
All of these movements have had their ups-and downs, their successes and failures. And their successes didn't always coincide with their peaks of popular support. Trade unionism was on the rise in the 1920s, thousands of workers were trying to form their own unions, and many more were trying to unite to form the "One Big Union." Yet activists in the 1920s faced some of the most fierce social battles of the century. The military with tanks and machine guns were often called upon to crush union activities. Private police here in Canada used intimidation and violence to undermine their work.
More than we can imagine, the battles of unionists, feminists, civil rights workers, and peace activists of the early 1900s to the 1950s set the stage for those of us who have been working for progressive social change in the 1980s and 1990s.
They achieved some of the major victories. Women and blacks gained the vote but more importantly they were recognized as citizens. Workers succeeded in forming national and international unions to improve the lives of millions. And there are many more successes. But unfortunately they also lost some major battles and likely the single most important battle lost was over the media. By the end of World War II, every independent progressive newspaper in Canada was either burned, vandalized, shut-down or politically discredited.
In the 1950s anyone actively and politically left of the Liberal Party of Canada was essentially purged from every major institution in Canada and the US. They were purged from the military, CBC, NFB, and from all government postings.
This century has truly been the "Best of times and the worst of times."
We've made great strides in progressive social change. A coal miner in Glace Bay on Cape Breton Island in 1901 was equal to the horses that were driven down under ground to work their lives in the dark. (The horses were treated better then the men and their families.) Women, Blacks and Coal Miners were chattel. Those attitudes have dramatically changed.
But history hasn't been moving along in a straight progressive path. It's also been an incredibly horrible century. We've built the largest military systems in history. Our economy is based on militarism. The global environment is in danger of collapse. Two-thirds of the world's population continues to live in absolute poverty. Iraqis, Aboriginal people, East Timoreese, Vancouver's Downtown Eastsiders, and Third Worlders are today's chattel.
Over the past 10 years the peace movement has been in decline.
|You'll end up spinning your wheels if you try to inform, appease, and lobby the government|
Yet, behind the scenes, we've had some of our most successful advances. Nuclear weapons are essentially discredited. The World Court just two years ago gave the opinion that nuclear weapons are generally illegal.
But the threat of nuclear warfare is greater today than it was in the 1980s. Even the threat of limited nuclear war is a reality that we may face in the near future. And generally militarism is on the rise.
All of this leads me to my main point. One small stride will be the abolition of nuclear weapons. The failure of peace activists in the 1980s was to build a populous anti-nuclear weapon movement. This was at the expense of building strong foundations of support for anti-militarism, foundations that would not crumble when the media got tired of us. Earlier I said that we failed because we relied too much on the media. As a movement what we failed to understand was the blatant shallowness of our media.
I remember calling a journalist here in Vancouver, who I know is on the progressive side of the fence, to tell him about the next Walk for Peace. He immediately reacted with "Oh, can't you guys find something better to do, I'm bored." That comment tells me more about the system than the person. Over 20,000 people came to the Walk for Peace that year, yet the Vancouver media portrayed it as a failure and the Canadian media ignored it. Why? Because they were bored.
The media got tired of the peace movement. The issues didn't go away, in fact they are in many ways worse.
We spent enormous energy organizing rallies and other media events throughout the 1980s. Millions of people participated, yet the impact of those events is at best minimal.
The Berlin wall fell because thousands of Germans wanted it to come down and they started ripping it down by hand, and they acted as if it were already gone even before it was. These people didn't go out and start tearing down the wall in order to get media attention. They did it because it was the right thing to do at the right time.
Apartheid came tumbling down because people worked for decades to get rid of it, and they began en masse to ignore or undermine its insidious rules. The people in power couldn't keep it together. And the media had little to do with it. In fact the media more often than not obstructed the anti-apartheid movement.
I strongly believe that each of our movements will have their great moments of success. But there are no quick fixes. It took decades to build unions, and decades to get rid of apartheid, the fight for equal rights for women and Blacks is centuries old and continues. For Third Worlders, colonialism has merely changed its face.
We have to work hard. But you'll end up spinning your wheels if you spend too much time trying to inform, appease and lobby the government. And you'll be pissing in the wind if you act out of frustration and play games for the media.
Getting media attention will not change the world.
Getting thousands or even millions of people actively supporting you will change the world, then the media will have no choice but to come out and watch.
And when we, the people, make our great leaps of progress the elite will rewrite history to show that it was actually they who wanted to improve the lives of women, blacks and workers, and it was they who wanted to end the Cold War and abolish apartheid.
We will all have to do the right thing (and that does not mean dancing for the media) and each of us will have to learn to recognize when the time is right. As an example, I strongly believe that in the next five or 10 years the peace movement is about to make some of its greatest advances. No, we likely will not end all war. But we'll take a few strides in that direction. The time is right, we've been doing the work, people are on our side, and the right actions are already in our hands. Our position is now the common wisdom of the day.
* From a speech given by Peter Coombs, Pres-ident, End the Arms Race, at the Community Development Institute's Conference in Vancouver in 1998. Contact: email@example.com, www.peacewire.org
Name The Real Pests
By now a lot of people have figured out that the products of the "We Can Kill Anything" industry (manufacturers of pesticides, herbicides et al) may not be such a good idea. Further, extremely depressing evidence came with a study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health in March.
University of Wisconsin research suggests that prenatal exposure to synthetic agricultural chemicals can cause permanent brain defects. The study showed that the sort of mix of insecticide, herbicide and fertilizer commonly found in North American drinking water altered the thyroid hormones of young mice.
Human studies support the hypothesis that agricultural chemicals are harmful to children's development. Scientists in Mexico found significant differences in hand-eye co-ordination and other mental and physical skills when they compared preschoolers from an agrarian area with those from an adjacent area where no pesticides are used. The four- and five-year-olds in the agrarian area had poorer memory skills and stamina, were more prone to physical aggression, and less sociable and creative while playing.
Another study found increased birth defects in children conceived during the growing season.
Do You Know What You're Eating?
In February, Consumers' Union (CU) published Do You Know What You're Eating?, an analysis of data collected by the US Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Date Program.
CU looked at pesticide residue data on over 27,000 food samples, weighted the amounts of residues present to account for toxicity differences in individual pesticides and computed a Toxicity Index (TI) for each food. TI values for the foods tested ranged from 0.01 to 5376. A value of 10 or less is considered "clean". The majority of samples fell between 10 and 300, most of the remainder between 300 and 600.
Although virtually all residues detected fell within established US limits, some chemical residues would expose children to doses greater than official US estimates of the "safe" daily intake of pesticides. (This assumes that safe levels really exist and aren't just numbers pulled out of someone's hat.)
The big losers were fresh domestic and imported peaches, fresh and frozen US winter squash, domestic and imported apples, grapes, spinach and pears, and US green beans.
Only six foods consistently had TI values of 10 or less: canned or frozen corn, milk, US orange juice, US broccoli, bananas, and canned peaches. Not as good, but better than most: frozen or canned sweet peas, domestic and imported apple juice, Mexican fro-zen winter squash, Canadian and Brazilian orange juice, and US wheat.
CU chastises the US Environmental Protection Agency for its slow progress in implementing the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act which requires pesticide levels to be set to protect children - rather than that infamous 170-pound male currently used for death assessments - and which could result in the ban of some chemicals. Not surprisingly the law is meeting fierce resistance from the agri-chemical industry.
While waiting for stricter laws, CU recommends washing and peeling fruit and vegies, particularly apples, peaches and pears, and buying organic green beans, grapes, apples, peaches, pears, winter squash and spinach.
The full report is available on the CU web page (www.consunion.org).
Alar(m) raised again
Also in February, the US Environ-mental Working Group brought out a damning report called How 'Bout Them Apples? which catalogues the doubling of high-risk pesticide use in US apple production.
In response, Dean Kleckner of the American Farm Bureau Federation went on the offensive, saying, "The EWG report ... is a shameless attempt to frighten parents and an arrogant power play to pressure the EPA to ban safe and effective crop protection tools. It is unconscionable that 10 years after the debunked Alar scare, EWG is once again foisting on the American public a report rooted in junk science and anti-pesticide use propaganda."
As the EWG points out in a companion report, How the Chemical Industry Rewrote the History of a Banned Pesticide, Alar (daminozide) prior to its withdrawal by manufacturer Unir-oyal, was confirmed by the EPA to pose an unacceptable risk as a probable human carcinogen.
Some debunking certainly needs to be done - including chemical industry apologists, like US columnist Michelle Malkin, who make a very good living out of calling everyone concerned about the health of their children (or some other, more immediately endangered animal) hysterical, anti-capitalist, scare mongering Luddites.
Reports can be downloaded from the EWG web page (www.ewg. org).
Wheat are we protecting?
In theory, the aforementioned Food Quality Protection Act is scheduled to begin implementation in Au-gust this year. Some people will be-lieve it when they see it. Others, including Canadian Prairie farmers, are getting into quite a flap.
At issue are organophosphate and carbamate pesticides, residues of which, after August, will have to be eliminated or severely restricted for produce imported into the US market. These chemicals are commonly applied by Manitoba farmers, representing about 70% of pesticide use. A March Winnipeg Free Press article quotes a Manitoba farmers' association as suggesting more than $1 billion worth of the province's agricultural exports could be turned back at the border, which would have "devastating" consequences for the industry. Potato exports alone to the US are worth more than $87 million. Canadian government officials are trying to negotiate a deadline extension while they endeavour to fast track approval of alternative chemicals. The farmers' association fears that these alternatives might cost two or three times more than the current $8 per acre, and make growing some crops uneconomical.
Guess they haven't heard about the constantly growing market for organically-grown produce.
Rain, Rain Go Away
"I'd hate to be the bearer of bad news, but don't bob for apples in Grand-ma's rain barrel."
This was the warning delivered by Lethbridge Research Centre scientist Bernie Hill when he revealed in February that unacceptably high levels of the herbicide 2,4-D had been found in all 150 samples of rain water collected in eight Lethbridge, Alberta locations, including three back yards.
Farmers near Lethbridge are the biggest users of 2,4-D (sold under numerous brand names, including Weed' N'Feed) in Alberta, buying more than 20,000 kg annually. The herbicide is also used by city residents to kill dandelions and other weeds.
The 2,4-D levels in the Lethbridge rain water were 10-50 times higher than levels in Ontario and Manitoba locations. Scientists suspect the high levels are a result of the area's hot, windy and dusty weather.
Going for a Song
On a stupidity scale of 1 to 10, the decision by Health Canada to ban the granular form of carbofuran in Decem-ber, but give pesticide makers, dealers and farmers a year to use up stockpiles rates at least an 8.
There are many good reasons to ban this product. It is incredibly toxic to birds, insects, amphibians and mammals. One carbofuran granule contains enough nerve toxin to kill a songbird in 10 minutes.
According to a World Wildlife Fund estimate, if the existing supply is used it could kill 200,000 to 1 million songbirds this summer. The granules are easily mistaken for food or for the grit birds need for digestion.
The excuse given by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency for not initiating the ban immediately is that pesticide companies rarely buy back banned products, and that these companies, if not given time to sell their stockpiles might try to fight the ban with a trade appeal. And, they say, an instant ban might cause hazardous disposal of a highly toxic pesticide. (As if spreading it all over the country's canola fields doesn't constitute a hazardous disposal?)
A modicum of much needed protection may be offered by the US Migratory Birds Convention Act which has already been put forward as a possible grounds for litigation against the Canadian government if it fails to take equal safety measures.
* Source: Ottawa Citizen, 6/3/99. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about WWF Canada's pesticide campaign can be found on their web page www.wwfcanada.org
Stikine - The Great River
A Heritage Corridor or a Channel for Exports to Pacific Rim Countries?
By Mary Boardman
The other day a call came in from a friend in Alaska who told us that when she was in Stewart recently, she watched a Korean freighter being loaded with raw logs from BC's northernmost old-growth temperate rain forests and a Japanese freighter being loaded with gold ore likely from the Eskay Creek Mine, which is between the Iskut and Unuk rivers. "What's happening over there?" she asked. "Are you Canadians stripping the region of its rocks and trees and risking laying waste to its sensitive fisheries, which we southeast Alaskans depend on for our livelihoods?"
A good question, I thought. Where can I find out what's going on in the Stikine? I did an internet search and found out there is a Land and Resource Management Planning (LRMP) process going on in the Cassiar-Iskut-Stikine that may soon decide the fate of a region that is known the world over for its wildlife and wilderness character - and its ability to produce fish. Unfortunately, government policy does not allow for a moratorium on development or resource extraction while an LRMP is underway sort of like land claims negotiations going on while the land that's under discussion continues to undergo changes that oftentimes completely alter its natural characteristics.
To review the government's website on the LRMP (www.lrmp.gov.bc.ca/iskut-stikine/ISKUT-STIKINE-HOME.HTM), you'd think things were progressing relatively smoothly towards a December 1999 completion for one of the largest LRMP areas in the province. The table has been meeting since February 1997 and, according to the August 1998 Process Update, has completed two draft land use scenarios. This Update states that the LRMP here has "made significant progress" including the inclusion of First Nations in the process, consolidation of all maps and geographical information onto one computer system within government, the initiation of a local knowledge project, and economics studies "using input from local people." With characteristic divisiveness, however, if you talk to folks who live in the area, you'd likely hear one of two opinions:
"Huh? LRMP? What LRMP? What's an LRMP, anyway?" (the most common response)
"It's very frustrating because it sometimes seems government is thwarting our work because of its own agenda. I fear we'll not be able to reach consensus because of the players at the table and what seems to be the prior agenda and vested interests of some of those players." (a quote from an LRMP participant)
As with most things in life, there is a different perspective for each person you talk to. So it won't do to consider any one perspective as the gospel truth. What is clear, however, is that the Great Riverknown throughout various ages as a transportation corridor of one kind or another - has the very real potential to become a channel through which log exports and gold ore reaches Korea and Japan, and other countries in the Pacific Rim.
Why should we care about the Stikine?
The Stikine is remote, so some readers may appreciate a little background. The Tlingit people of the lower, coastal reaches of the river, where it is truly a wide and magnificent spectacle, named it Stikine, meaning "The Great River." The Tahl-tans of the upper river called the land and river Spatsizi, meaning "land of the red goat," referring to the mineral-rich dust caught in the otherwise snowy hair of the wily mountain goats that inhabit the crags and steep canyon walls surrounding the river.
From its headwaters in Spatsizi Plateau Provincial Wilderness Park, where it rises as trickles from a glacier over 1,830 m above headwater lakes on the plateau, to its mouth opposite Wrangell, Alaska, the mighty Stikine traverses over 640 kilometres of varied landscapes and courses through eight of BC's 14 biogeoclimatic zones, each imparting a distinctive character to the river and giving evidence of the outstanding diversity throughout the Stikine's 52,000 km2 watershed. The Stikine is BC's fifth largest river by flow volume, and the Stikine watershed is the sixth largest river basin in the province, yet it is home to fewer than 2,000 people.
Shortly down river from the international boundary in southeast Alaska, the Stikine opens its mouth to the Pacific, spilling its nutrients for miles across a tidal flat that is replete with shellfish and other wildlife. For its last 40 km, the massive estuary forms a huge wetlands complex important to millions of migratory birds and water fowl on the Pacific Flyway. In the US, it should be noted, the Stikine is protected in the Stikine-LeConte Wilderness Area.
Archaeological sites of Tlingit, Tahltan, and pre-Tahltan peoples occur in many locations in the Stikine watershed. Five species of wild Pacific salmon (sockeye, chinook, coho, chum, and pink), steelhead, rainbow, bull trout, mountain whitefish, and dolly varden are found here, and important commercial and aboriginal fisheries are carried out in the lower watershed. The Iskut River, Stikine's major tributary, is considered the spawning and rearing habitat for up to 40 percent of the wild salmonids in the system.
The Stikine is perhaps best-known as a heritage transportation corridor. Used for centuries by Tahltans and Tlingits, the river was a principal facilitator of trade and communication. When Robert Campbell, of the Hudson's Bay Company, arrived on the banks of the Stikine in 1838, he effectively completed the last link of a 5,000-km trade route connecting Atlantic and Pacific waters via portions of the Hudson's Bay and Arctic drainages. This transcontinental canoe route is one of the first trans-Canada highways, no less than the rivers of Mackenzie and Fraser. Thousands of gold-seekers in the Stikine, Cassiar, Atlin, and Klondike gold rushes used the Stikine as a major transportation route to the gold fields. In fact, the Stikine was considered the "all-Canadian route to the Klondike."
During World War II, builders of the Watson Lake Airport, part of the Northwest Staging Route, and of the Alaska Highway, freighted supplies up the Stikine to Telegraph Creek (where the original Hudson's Bay store now stands) and then overland to the Dease River to access construction. River boats operated between Wrangell, Alaska and Telegraph Creek for over 100 years, even into the 1970s, until the Stewart-Cassiar Highway was built. For decades, river recreationists have rafted, canoed, and kayaked the upper and lower Stikine, thrilling at the magnificent scenery and abundant wildlife. Only two spans intersect its length: one road bridge and an uncompleted railway bridge.
The 80-km-long, 330-metre-deep Grand Canyon of the Stikine is one of the most spectacular geographical features in Canada. However, in 1980, BC Hydro was actively engaged in groundwork for two very large dams in the Stikine Canyon and three more for the Iskut River. Some readers may remember a public outcry at the time, and the formation of a community-based organization called Residents for a Free-flowing Stikine to respond to the threat of flooding the Grand Canyon. By the mid-1990s, BC Hydro removed its installations on the Stikine and said it agreed with those who felt this area should remain undammed. Their flooding reserve, however, is still on the books.
In addition to tremendous hydroelectricity-generating potential, other outstanding features of the watershed include sinuous glaciers, ice fields, and volcanic landscapes. On visiting it in the late 1800s, US naturalist John Muir called the lower Stikine "a Yosemite 100 miles long." Attesting to the tremendous diversity along the Stik-ine are grizzly bears, caribou (the Stikine uplands boasts BC's largest population of woodland caribou), mountain goats, Stone's sheep, lynx, moose, amphibians (very rare in the north), bats (some of which are endangered), over 125 species of birds (representing nearly 70 percent of the bird species found in British Columbia), and rare plant communities. Not many areas in the world at this latitude have such diverse and numerous plant and animal species, some of which are on BC's lists of endangered and threatened species. While two major provincial parks - Mt. Edziza and Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness - protect some of the higher elevation habitats in the watershed, none of the lower Stikine and very little of the important valley bottoms in the entire watershed are protected, leaving critical wildlife habitat vulnerable to industrial development and road-building.
Ever since Parks Canada did its Wild River Survey in 1972, the Stikine River has been "officially" recognized as having exceptional environmental and cultural heritage significance on a national scale. In fact, the Stikine was considered by the survey team to be the prototype river system for the federal heritage rivers program. In 1986, BC's Wilderness Advisory Committee included the Stik-ine in its recommendations to government concerning wilderness policy matters for 24 separate study areas. These recommendations resulted in a March 1987 announcement of four new provincial recreation areas, including 250 km of the Stikine River corridor between and adjacent to the northern boundaries of Mt. Edziza and Spatsizi provincial parks. The announcement singled-out the Grand Canyon of the Stikine as "one of the world's most spectacular river runs."
In 1995, BC established the BC Heritage Rivers System. The Stikine was one of seven rivers in the inaugural package. In 1998, in recognition of the national heritage values in the Stikine, it became BC's second river to be nominated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System program.
In the mid-1990s, when government was honing its Protected Areas Strategy (PAS), the Prince Rupert Regional Protected Areas Team (RPAT) identified a number of small and large study areas to the west of Hwy 37 for possible inclusion into the province's provincial parks and ecological reserves system. At about the same time, the Chief Forester of BC announced an increase in the Annual Allowable Cut for the Cassiar Forest District that nearly quadrupled the planned harvest for the region, with much of the pro-posed increase projected to come from the old-growth temperate rain-forests of the lower Stikine-Iskut. Also at the same time, two con-current environmental assessments were in progress for the Bronson Slope gold mine on the middle Iskut and the Red Chris copper/gold mine above the Iskut headwaters on the To-dagin Plateau. Both these mine projects demanded road-building projects and the Bronson Slope project included a hydroelectricity-generating facility on the lower Iskut canyon. It wasn't long before the RPAT removed PAS Study Area status from all the areas around the Stikine and Iskut rivers. While the RPAT's report recognized the "high to very high" recreational, scenic, and conservation values along the lower Stik-ine and Iskut, it nonetheless recommended removal of study area status citing "mineral access concerns" as the primary reason.
Local Economic Sustainability Depends on Wilderness
Those who care about conservation should care about the Iskut River, Stikine's largest tributary. Because of the Iskut's unique hydrological and riparian characteristics, it has tremendous potential for producing wild salmonids; this makes it one of the most valuable rivers in the northwest. The entire Iskut, including hot springs and the sensitive wetlands and riparian areas of the lower Stikine are highly vulnerable to impacts from mining, logging, and road-building activities. Any development here must be done in an extremely careful and sensitive manner that is probably beyond our current level of knowledge or technical capability. There are many who don't want to see it become an industrial corridor and who feel that it should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency in the name of "economics."
Economics is, of course, a key consideration to the people of the Stikine. Unemployment among the Tahltans and non-First Nations people living in the watershed is very high. While there are some skilled workers for mining and road-building, there are not nearly enough, and most development imports workers from other parts of BC. This kind of employment, however, usually only fuels the boom-and-bust problems experienced by resource-development towns throughout the province. With some vision, one could see a local economy that depends on the characteristics for which the watershed is famous: heritage, wilderness, pristine rivers, and abundant wildlife populations. This is the legacy of the Stikine and this is the legacy that needs to be understood and form the basis for future economic development here. With protection of the entire river and special, sensitive management through-out the region, sustainable economics and employment opportunities could be developed for the watershed's residents using ecosystem planning methods and labour-intensive, value-added forestry and fisheries in conjunction with appropriate cultural and ecotourism. But this vision depends on wilderness, and the very reason wilderness has economic potential lies in its ability to renew and enrich the land and its people.
A short-sighted, self-centred version of economics is the skyhook upon which government and industry hang their agendas. Economics is at best a social science, and social means people. What are people if not intimately connected to and evolved from - culturally and biologically - the landscapes they inhabit? The landscapes for which the Stikine is renowned are largely wilderness landscapes. This is the wilderness out of which the Tahltan people created a nation and a way of life. But things change, and to an extent that is right and good. The problem in today's society is the scale of change and the abrupt shrink-age of time over which changes occur. Changes are often huge and happen in a span of time that is often far too short for the land, not to mention the people, to acclimatize or regain a dynamic equilibrium. Is it not the mark of a progressive society that human-caused changes to the evolution of a landscape are beneficial? The loss of wilderness characteristics in the Sti-kine can only ultimately cause the loss of benefits to the people who live in the watershed. In 50 or 100 years, what do you think will be one of the most valuable "commodities" on the planet? Gold? A coal mine on the Klappan? A road? Try wilderness.
What good is wilderness? Aldo Leopold, in an essay in A Sand County Almanac (1949) said:
Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization. Wilderness was ... very diverse, and the resulting artifacts are very diverse. These differences in the end product are known as cultures. The rich diversity of the world's cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.
Wilderness has the power to console, and there's a lot of consolation needed in this world. Another of the principal values of wilderness, both as a concept and as a real place, is its ability to in-spire. Inspiration ramifies as philosophy, poetry, ethics, know-ledge, understanding, love--a host of concepts crucial to our experience as people on this planet. Wilderness must be as varied as the inspirations arising from it.
Vast wetland complexes visited by millions of migratory water fowl, glaciers calving with tumultuous crashes into great rivers, dense forests exhaling oxygen into our now-polluted atmosphere, a herd of caribou thundering across the landscape, a group of wild sheep on a mountain ridge etched against the clear blue sky - all of these visions describe wilderness in the watershed of the Great River. Whose vision shall emerge from the LRMP pro-cess? I don't know what to tell my friend in Alaska, other than to get involved and encourage people on both sides of the border to check out that website and pay attention to what's happening in the Stikine.
When I was very young, possibly four or five years of age, I had my first glimpse of a train. It was while on a visit to my grandparents' farm near Napanee in southeastern Ontario. A young uncle, probably not yet in his teens, took my older siblings and me to the line fence at the back end of the farm to watch a train go by. Pressing against the fence, beyond which we were warned repeatedly not to go, we waited impatiently for the train to come.
We heard the whistle in the distance as it gave warning at crossings up the line from where we waited. The big kids climbed to the top of the fence to get the best possible view. I stayed where I was with my feet planted firmly on the ground. I was not quite sure I wanted to see this thing after all. When someone shouted, "Here it comes," I was thankful for the shielding fringe of tall grass along the fence. With screeching and rumbling of wheels coupled with the rhythmic hissing, banging and clatter of exhausting steam the monster roared by our spot and was gone.
Governments turn a blind eye to the abandonment of branch lines, and those essential links to our past, and our future, are lost.
Imprinted in my memory of that first train is the noise and the shaking of the ground but I would not then have been able to describe what a train actually looked like. From my vantage point behind my grass shield I saw only the flashes of light through the spaces between the box cars. When we arrived back at the farmhouse my grandmother asked, "How did you like the train?" I answered, "I didn't see it. The long grass got in the way."
I have long since lost my initial fear of trains, and in the ensuing years I've ridden them many thousands of miles crossing and recrossing Canada. When arriving at my destination I've been reluctant to get off. My first realization of the vastness and grandeur of my country came when on Boxing Day in 1952 I climbed aboard a steam train in Halifax that carried me westward through the Maritimes, Quebec, my home province of Ontario, across the broad Prairies to the mountains, over the Continental Divide and down to the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver.
Trains remain a fascination for me, and by far my favourite method of transportation. When crossing the country by car on the Trans Canada Highway one of the highlights is the number of trains encountered where the highway and the railroad run closely parallel. Crossing by jet aircraft is a wasted trip producing only a destination.
In recent years I have experienced alternately hope and despair over corporate and government decisions concerning Canada's railways. The Car-Go-Rail service, enabling passengers to take their cars to their chosen destinations, held promise but it was so needlessly overpriced it was out of reach for most families. Passenger service has deteriorated and is generally discouraged by infrequent departures. Governments have turned a blind eye to the abandonment of branch lines and, like ravelling threads from the very fabric of Canada, those essential links to our past, and probably our future, are lost. Meanwhile, increasingly, motor vehicles overburden the country's ever-expanding highway system and foul its air.
When political rhetoric is replaced by positive action addressing the issues of pollution and ozone depletion, perhaps trains will be restored to their former glory.
Trains are, in practical terms, our cleanest method of transportation, despite the engines burning a great amount of fuel. To quote Canadian Pacific's attractive full-colour ads, currently running in Maclean's Magazine; "Rail is twice as fuel efficient as road transport. One train moves as much as 280 trucks."
One of my favourite campsites on the Trans Canada Highway is Ski-hist Provincial Park eight km east of Lytton BC. The campsite's location high above the Thompson River presents a great opportunity for a train-watcher. With the CN track on the north side of the river and the CP track on the south, it's common to see trains on both tracks at once. Trains going east are labouring up the incline toward the continental divide while those going west are grinding brakes to check their speed, which they will do for most of the way to Vancouver. There I've been inspired to dream of the future of trains.
From the height of the Rockies, both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are downhill. In my dream I see hybrid diesel/electric trains running on their own power grid with the right-of-way from coast to coast harnessed to its maximum capacity with wind and solar power generation. Installations on private properties adjacent to the tracks could also produce and supply power to the railroad system. Power generating axles on all cars could automatically engage on down grades reducing the energy loss and expensive mechanical wear of braking while returning power to the grid. I see trains running downhill virtually pulling those going up. I see, ultimately, hydro dams being torn down and rivers set free.
Can it be done? Experts will have to decide. Experts can't afford to dream. They have reputations to protect. They must do. Dreamers believe imagination the only limit to what can be done.
When World War II was cutting its terrible swath through the citizens of the world, who would have believed that men from Earth would walk on the moon and come home again? The dreamers would.
The Cortes Ecoforestry Society (CES) and the Klahoose First Nation have learned that all Crown land on the island has been allocated to CanFor, in a charting exercise by the Ministry of Forests' Sunshine Coast District office. [See above: MoF "Rationalization" on Sunshine Coast]
Klahoose treaty negotiations, and discussions between CES and MacMillan Bloedel, one of the island's biggest landowners, take place regularly. But with this newest development, forestry issues on Cortes have become much more complicated.
Previously, all Crown land on Cortes was undesignated. Mark Anderson of the Sunshine Coast Forest District says forest land allocations could easily be shifted from forest companies to First Nations, or community groups, in the event of successful treaty negotiations or community forest tenure applications. According to Anderson, changing designation is "as easy as changing colours on a map."
The Klahoose First Nation has been negotiating with the provincial government since 1994 for land and water rights on most of the land in question.
Kathy Francis of Klahoose claims that granting land rights to CanFor represents a major "breach of consultation," placing forestry needs and goals above those of First Nations. Negotiations between the Ministry of Forests and the forest companies went on for more than a year, and it was not until five months after a final decision was made that Klahoose heard of the charting process. They have informed both Can-For and the Ministry of Forests they have serious issues with the process, and want consultation.
Rob Woodside, Planning Manager of Coastal Operations for CanFor, said the company would not cut immediately on Cortes, but plans to meet with islanders this spring to discuss future activities, including volume of cut.
|Changing forest designation is "as easy as changing colours on a map."|
CES was also dismayed to learn of the charting exercise. Recently, the Cortes community has explored the possibility of purchasing MB lands to begin an ecoforestry project based on the work of Herb Ham-mond and the Silva Forest Foundation, a certification institute based in Winlaw, BC. A variety of factors led CIFC to focus energy on the MB buy-back, rather than community forest tenure on Crown land.
Anderson says, "I was surprised that the Cortes Island forest people didn't put in an application for community forest tenure, as they seem to be a pretty active group." The deadline for community forest applications to MoF was Jan. 15, 1999. Twenty-seven communities submitted proposals.
CES member Bruce Ellingsen responds, "There were a number of reasons for not applying for community forest tenure over Crown land at this time. First, we had concerns about the MoF's Annual Allowable Cut, which was much higher than what we could support. And even more important, we did not want to disrupt the treaty negotiation process." David Shipway adds that the CES wanted to "let the treaty pro-cess get to the land selection stage" before applying for a community forest licence, thus preventing any conflict between Klahoose and Cortes community aspirations.
The Klahoose and CES may now explore the possibility of doing a joint Community Forest application under the guidance of Silva.
Meanwhile, discussions between CES and MacMillan Bloedel are at a standstill. At this point, MB is unwilling to sell the land outright, and instead wants to come to some type of arrangement with the Cortes community, which would result in greater public input for long-term management. MB has, however, agreed to sell or trade three parcels of land to the Klahoose.
MB has mentioned applying the ecoforestry standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to Cortes logging. [See above: FSC Standards for BC]
Both CES and other members of the community have serious concerns over MB's intentions for Cortes. For example, in 1998, 2 parcels of land, 110 ha., were sold to Mike Jenks by MB. Jenks is notorious for his disregard of community opinion and his clearcut logging practices on small islands such as Denman, Gabriola, the Twin Islands, and now Cortes.
Furthermore, a community-run forest would emphasize local employment and value-added manufacturing, with cutters, millers, and woodworkers hired from the island when possible. Currently, logs are boomed and hauled off-island. At this point, MB will only consider public input, not full public participation or co-management of Cortes Island logging.
The enthusiasm on Suzanne Rose's face creates a joyful glow as she tells about her experiences during a three month working visit to Guatemala last fall under the auspices of the Shuswap Association for the Promotion of Ecological Development (SAPED). SAPED is an all volunteer-run charitable organization founded in 1989 to help link the concerns of community development and ecological sustainability. It is working in co-operation with five rural non-government coalitions in Chiapas, Mexico, and Guatemala. The organizations are all composed of dozens of small co-operatives and projects, with membership and leadership from campesinos, especially women.
Projects that Suzanne tells about during her slide show include tree nurseries to promote reforestation, organic agriculture techniques, natural and local herb growing, and conservation technologies such as fuel-efficient and less smoky cook stoves, light-weight locally made sand roof tiles, and natural orchard management such as teaching pruning methods.
One striking example of low tech self help is spreading the knowledge of how to make a bicimolino - a bicycle-powered maize grinder made in local shops from old bicycles. Women usually spend up to three hours a day grinding their corn by hand but with the bicimolino the work is cut to a half hour.
Suzanne's enthusiasm for the work is fuelled by the eagerness of the local people, recovering from years of bitter civil war, to try new ideas. "Because there is no bureaucracy, no big aid project involved, people just say, 'Ok, let's try that!' she says, "and next thing you know it's happening and they're telling the people in the next village about it."
When Suzanne gave her inspiring slide show on Malcolm Island in BC last February, the discussion quickly shifted to a thoughtful examination of the need for local control of the island forests and what was needed to gain control of these resources and the island's destiny.
* To support the work of SAPED, contact Suzanne Rose at Box 228, Sointula BC V0N 3E0; email: email@example.com
Friends of Cortes Island, along with the Comox-Strathcona Regional District, BC Shellfish Growers Association and the Cortes Bay Residents Group, appeared before the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) in December 1998, to challenge the safety of a sewage disposal system for a proposed resort at Red Granite Point on Cortes Island. The permit was granted by the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) who, along with the developer, Triple R Developments Ltd., appeared as defendants.
FOCI and the other appellants argued that a number of issues were not properly considered by the EHO including: the size of the buildings, land zoning, questionable estimates on daily sewage flow, possibility of contamination of nearby wells, beach and shellfish waters, and, finally, lack of consideration of the Official Community Plan (OCP) which lists Red Granite Point as one of the few areas on the island to be treated with extra care due to its sensitive ecological nature.
The EAB concluded that because sewage flow estimates for Triple R's 1998 permit were incorrect, the EHO did not have all material information when he made his decision. Further, he did not have up-to-date plans on the size and layout of the units. Therefore, the sewage disposal permit was rescinded.
Special thanks to West Coast Environmental Law's Dispute Resolution Fund, Stephen Frame, George West, Kathy Smail and everyone who contributed their time, funds and effort towards this appeal.
There was once a mountain, and if you stood on top of it at dawn, you could see the most beautiful sun rising over an incredible land, full of grace, rich with peace and meaning. All human hopes were fulfilled there - and all animal hopes, too.
On the plains that stretched out before the sunrise, however, there was a huge black barrier, which acted like a thick hedge. When you looked at it more closely, you could see it represented all the Earth's woes, from warfare to cruelty to environmental loss. It was clear the barrier blocked every possible road to the sunrise, and this dampened the peoples' hope that one day they might be able to reach that beautiful place, and share it in peace.
Everyone who lived on the mountain loved the sunrise. People often used to set out to walk towards it, but they soon fell under the shadow cast by the barrier, and began to be influenced by its ways, until they were behaving like those in the barrier, becoming absorbed in their own needs and pleasures and forgetting all about the sunrise.
Some remained on top of the mountain forever, creating great theories about how to overcome the barrier. "If only everyone would give up sin," they said, "we could reach paradise today," or, "If only we could overthrow capitalism, these problems would disappear." They wrote about their philosophies and attracted followers who sat beside them on the mountain - but the barrier remained in place.
Over time, however, small groups of people became impatient with these approaches, and decided to walk towards the barrier, holding onto the memory of the sunrise and the beautiful land beyond.
As they walked, the barrier became ever larger, until it soon blocked out all sight of the sunrise. Now they could see that the barrier was made up of smaller barriers, some with names such as "hunger" and "civil war," others named chemical farming, clear-cut forestry, child labour, genetically manipulated food, global investment treaties, consumerism, cruelty to animals, and so on. There were thousands of them! The people kept walking, however, for there was nowhere else to go.
Now because each person has only two feet, and because it is physically impossible to be in more than one place at a time, each person had to start by choosing a particular part of the barrier to approach, so someone ended up standing next to a section of the barrier called "saving the wild salmon," while others ended up by sections called "kids who know nothing about nature," "poverty in Victoria," or "building a green economy."
No one was ever alone at their chosen section of the barrier. There were always a few others, so they could work together. And so each group worked away at its particular part of the barrier, remembering the sunrise and learning all they could, working to overcome the barrier in that particular place.
After a while, people often became so immersed in the details of the section they were working on that they became overwhelmed by its difficulties, and began to feel depressed at the scale and complexity of it all. Whenever this happened, someone from a nearby section would come over and give them a hug, which made it possible to continue.
At first, the barriers seemed impenetrable, but then the groups began to understand their respective parts of the barrier, and they realized that if you bent this bit this way and tied that bit back, if you cut this bit out, fixed those bits together and untangled those other bits, it was possible to remove the entire barrier and work through to the sun.
Around this time, however, people would remember that they were only working on one tiny piece of the barrier. There was so much more to be done! However would it be possible to transform the whole barrier? There was just so much work.
And then they would stand back, and see to the left of them, 50,000 people, reaching as far as the eye could see, and 50,000 to the right, each little group working away to transform its own small section of the barrier.
And they knew that by working together in this way, it would soon be possible to transform the entire barrier, and open the road to paradise.
* Adapted from: After the Crash: The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy; $29.50 from book stores, or 2069 Kings Road, Victoria BC V8R 2P6; ph: (250)592-4473.
It is a compliment when readers send us letters and articles for publication. We are sorry we cannot publish all the material we receive. Deciding what to put in/what to leave out is a tough call. In order to present a broad range of topics, many good items are shelved and then become dated. You can help by ensuring that your articles are researched, documented and topical. Don't be discouraged. Your next article may trigger a polar shift.
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This magazine could not be published without the kind help and encouragement of so many people it is impossible to name them all - from those who run a pic to the graphics house at a moment's notice to those who send clippings or distribute magazines to those who give generously of their time and skills. And then there are the Sustaining Subscribers, whose support keeps this magazine in print:
|Alberni Environmental Coalition, Port Alberni BC||Paula Khan, Victoria BC|
|All-About-Us Foundation, Landysmith BC||Yvonne Kipp, Manson's Landing BC|
|Arne Baartz, Lasqueti Island BC||Renate & John Kroesa/Dafoe, Sechelt BC|
|Denise & Randy Blinn/Robinson, Toronto ON||Langara Students Union, Vancouver BC|
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|Charles Burnett, Victoria BC||Hannah & Robert Main, Victoria BC|
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|Richard & Sandi Chamberlain, Manson's Landing BC||Reid & Sakiko Neufer, Kobe Japan|
|Grey Chase, Victoria BC||Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Port Alberni BC|
|Community Fish Development Centre, Surrey BC||Stefan Ochman, Bamfield BC|
|Jan Crunican, Bezanson AB||Maggie Paquet, Port Alberni BC|
|Marna Disbrow, Heriot Bay BC||Tom Pater, Kyuquot BC|
|Fletcher Challenge Canada, Elk Falls, Campbell River BC||William S. Paterson, Vancouver BC|
|Environmental Mining Council of BC, Victoria BC||Jo Phillips, Sooke BC|
|Fish for Life Foundation, Vancouver BC||Chris R. Picard, Vancouver BC|
|Lyle Fenton, Garibaldi Highlands BC||Joe Prochaska, Nashville TN|
|Sue Frazer, Port Alberni BC||Shivon & Bill Robinsong/Weaver Victoria, BC|
|Ralph Garrison, Manson's Landing BC||Michael Rooksby, Victoria BC|
|Donna & Richard Gross, Sointula BC||Martin Rossander, Powell River BC|
|Nancy Harris-Campbell, San Francisco CA||John Rosser, Sointula BC|
|J.F./N. Hautcoeur/Boyer, Courtenay BC||Barbara Scott, Victoria BC|
|Wendy & Hubert Havelaar, Whaletown BC||Paul Senez, Victoria BC|
|Willem J. Havelaar, Denman Island BC||Skies Above Foundation, Victoria BC|
|Bill Henderson, Gibsons BC||Leo & Charlotte Smith, Heriot Bay BC|
|Kristen/Alex Hollier/Riesterer, Manson's Landing BC||Sprague Assoc. Ltd., Salt Spring Island BC|
|Alan & Barb Hourston, Nanaimo BC||T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver BC|
|Jacqueline Iwasienko, Edmonton AB||Wayne Bright & Alison Toplay, Lasqueti Island BC|
|Kathy Johannesson, Sooke BC||Bill Turner, Victoria BC|
|Peter & Sue Johnston/Wheeler, Lasqueti Island BC||Anna Van Ermengen, St-Jean Chrysostome PQ|
|KEEPS, Kyuquot, BC||Cordula Vogt, Saltspring Island BC|
|Robin Keller, Whaletown BC||Susan-Marie Yoshihara, Denman Island BC|
|Robyn Budd & Erika Kellerhals, Heriot Bay BC|
|Oliver/Ruth Kellhammer/Ozeki, Whaletown BC||And Those Who Wish To Remain Anonymous|
Watershed Sentinel Patrons
Did you know that Friends of Cortes Island has supported the Watershed Sentinel since its beginning in 1992? In fact, FOCI was the original publisher of the magazine and continues its support to this day.
These days, the Friends of Cortes Island Watershed Sentinel Development Fund helps the magazine with the costs of special features about sustainability issues around the Georgia Strait. Donations over $50 to the Fund are tax deductible.
FOCI and the Sentinel wish to thank the following Patrons of the Watershed Sentinel:
Louis & Vera Broten, Edmonton, AB
Susan Brown, Lillooet, BC
Hal & Martha Chase, Paso Robles, CA
Endswell Foundation, Vancouver, BC
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Alison Graves, Nanaimo, BC
Dave & Ann Hiatt, Whaletown, BC
Hollyhock, Manson's Landing, BC Harry & Shirley Holmes-Holman, Denman Is., BC
Judith Lawrence, Hornby Island, BC
Paul MacGillivray, Delta, BC
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Libba & Gifford Pinchot, Bainbridge Is.,WA
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Dr. Joe Rea, ON
Jill & Basil Seaton, Jasper, AB
Joel Solomon, Nashville, TN
And Those Who Wish to Remain Anonymous.
Patrons of the Watershed Sentinel donate $100 or more to the
Friends of Cortes Island Watershed Sentinel Development Fund,
thereby enabling us to make a better magazine for our readers.
Donations are tax deductible.