TODAY, WE MOURN ONCE AGAIN as the militarized police squad raided our peaceful and Indigenous-led camp near Fairy Creek on Trunk Road 11. Again, these brave people were there on my unceded land as my guests, guests who had come to protect what’s left of the old growth forests. Once again, they put themselves on the line after hearing that the NDP government had approved several cutblocks up that forestry road. Some of those cutblocks include old-growth forests.
We cannot keep cutting our great Mother Earth like this. Once these great forests are gone, they are gone forever. We set up these camps as a last resort. The government refuses to change their forestry policies and Teal Cedar has stated in their forest “stewardship” plan that they will harvest every last old-growth tree available to them. The loss of every tree is an affront to my Indigenous rights, sovereignty and title, as it is to every Indigenous person. It is also a loss to all peoples as we are as one and we must learn to stand together as one.
I say again, the forest is my cathedral and my place of spiritual meditation. Government and industry cannot come to my lands and destroy my cathedral and expect us to do nothing.
I say thank you to all those forest defenders who built the amazing screech owl sculpture on the bridge and held the camp. Thank you to all those who donated and supported the camp. And I applaud the three brave forest defenders who were arrested and released today. I admire your courage in facing the relentless force of the dozens of CIRG officers who showed up to destroy your camp and arrest you.
I also remind government and industry that it is laughable to charge us with offences and call us conspirators when we are at the end times of our great forests.
We will continue to do what we can to protect our great Mother Earth.
The Donnie Creek Fire, northwest of Fort St. John, in May 2023
BC IS ON FIRE and you, Premier Eby, are busy fiddling while our forests burn. Your commitment to protect old-growth forest has gone up in flames just like 1.5 million hectares already burned this season. With more than 1,200 fires since April 2023 and 400 wildfires still on the go, you appear to be keeping your cool, unperturbed by the destruction to lives, homes, wildlife, land, and property. You would rather spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money to fight the fires than address the root causes that have led to one of the worst BC fire seasons on record.
Now you and your NDP MLAs are blaming lightening strikes. You fail to mention the growing evidence that clear cut logging and monoculture tree plantations where deciduous trees and shrubs are killed off with glyphosate create the best conditions for lightning to ignite fires. BC just happens to have a wealth of these waiting to go up in flames.
Seems you rather see our forests burned than stewarded according to science-based forestry. Just a reminder that there is no scientific basis for either clear cutting forests or replacing them with tree monoculture plantations.
Yet I suppose you will point to the old-growth related announcements since you took office. Let’s explore those, shall we?
First, there were the deferral of 2.6 million hectares of old-growth, where you stated government would support these deferrals and “immediately cease advertising and sales of BC Timber Sales in the affected areas.”
Now we’re learning through a new tool called “Forest Eye” that government is in fact cutting its way through deferred forest lands. Developed by Stand.Earth, “Forest Eye combines satellite imagery, remote sensing, and government data to detect logging and road-building in the most rare and at-risk old growth forests.” Citizens now have access to information that proves that deferral does not mean deferral.
Next came news of the removal of the word “unduly” from the Forest Planning and Practices Regulation, meaning that forest planning around biodiversity and wildlife habitat can now take place even if it reduces the timber harvest. Great joy and cause for celebration, right? Fat chance. The very next line in the Order in Council #76 (OC) states that the “unduly” wording continues “to apply to a forest stewardship plan that is in effect on the coming into force of this section.” Since the majority of Crown lands (aka unceded Indigenous lands) are already under agreement to a variety of industrial forest companies, there’s little left that this OC would possibly apply to. Instead, the OC applies only “the next time that a mandatory amendment is required, or a replacement FSP is prepared and submitted for approval, the holder will be required to develop results and strategies to meet the updated provisions.” Considering that Forest Stewardship Plans can last for 10 years until review, this OC is simply pointless.
Then came the deferral of the Fairy Creek area, announced in a BC government news release June 2, 2023. Again, much joy and relief! However, a wee bit of research reveals that the 1189.3 hectares were already protected as an Old-Growth Management Area. It’s not a permanent protection for the watershed and there was no end date attached, yet under the deferral, it’s only protected until February 1, 2025. For primary old-growth forest, this reprieve is a nanosecond in the timeline of our once great forests.
And still no sign that your NDP government is going to honour the commitment to the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review.
So what do we have instead? A government that would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting the forest fires ripping across the province. These are forest fires caused by the very forest practices government touts as world-class sustainable forestry. Now we have forests that are a net carbon emitters rather than a carbon storage and unable to do their job in regulating the climate.
There is something very wrong with a government willing to sacrifice first responders and enact evacuation orders in favour of increasing the wealth of industrial corporations. Our province is going up in flames and there’s nothing your NDP government is willing to do about it. You remain steadfast in your determination not to protect our old-growth forests despite ongoing citizen outcry and protests. It’s a bitter truth.
Indeed, Minister Bowinn Ma’s recent exhortation for everyone, including businesses, to follow local water restrictions and that “efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows” seems laughable when industrial forest companies are provided government approval to rip up intact ecosystems and destroy water systems that have developed over thousands of years. There is a profound disconnect here.
So fiddle away, Premier Eby, while we burn. It is clear there is a defence of necessity and it is up to citizens and communities to do what we can to save the old-growth that’s left. Let’s get on with it.
Kathy Code is a member of the Fairy Creek Forest Defenders and a member of the RFS legal team.
AMID CANADA’S coast-to-coast wildfires and shattering global temperature records, two prominent climate activists will stand trial in a case that could redefine climate action, civil disobedience, and the law. Howard Breen, a 69-year-old grandfather from Nanaimo, and Melanie Murray, a mother from Denman Island, will present their “climate necessity defence” before the Honourable Provincial Court Judge Ronald G. Lamperson at the Nanaimo, BC Courthouse on August 1, 2023 (9:30am PDT).
Both defendants, active members of Extinction Rebellion and Save Old Growth, face multiple charges, including mischief and breaches of release orders, due to their nonviolent climate action protests. Breen, having spent 121 days under pretrial house arrest—including a 31-day hunger strike—and Murray, chose the “climate necessity defence” to shed light on the country’s worsening climate crisis.
Breen, a former staff NGO campaign director, and Murray, a steadfast climate activist, have underscored the climate crisis’s immediate and wide-ranging impacts, ranging from Indigenous human rights violations to the infringement on public health and safety. Their advocacy has been grounded on the Public Trust and Duty of Care doctrines, asserting that the government bears the climate responsibility to protect the natural environment for its citizens and non-human species.
Their upcoming trial aims to shed light on the desperate need for immediate action in the face of the worsening climate catastrophe. “We’ve exhausted all traditional legal options and believe that being part of a boldly disruptive global movement can draw urgent attention to the immediate danger of the climate crisis,” says Breen.
Murray adds, “We are fully aware of the risks involved in our unconventional approach. However, we are compelled by the urgency of the climate crisis and the moral obligation to protect future generations.”
As Breen and Murray prepare to argue their case, they draw comparisons to historical figures like Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein and others who took monumental risks to advocate against global nuclear proliferation. They call upon the court, the government, and society at large to consider the profound moral and ethical implications of our actions on the existential climate crisis.
“Canada is burning coast-to-coast this summer. As of the most recent update, 4,241 wildfires have burned since the beginning of 2023, scorching at least 11 million hectares of land across Canada this year, and global temperatures have broken all past records,” says Vancouver lawyer Joey Doyle, who will represent the defendants. “Yet Canada and BC are still approving new fossil fuel projects and deforestation of primary forest carbon sinks, while failing to meet their emission reduction targets. In such a context, my clients felt compelled to act.”
This trial would be notable for the introduction of expert testimony by IPCC science peer reviewer Dr. Peter Carter and UBC Professor Kimberley Brownlee, an expert in civil disobedience. Dr. Carter has produced an expert report on the current science of the climate to opine that “the risk to the survival of civilization, all humanity, and most life on Earth has never been higher than today, due to accelerating unmitigated climate change.” Prof. Brownlee will provide evidence on the moral necessity of civil disobedience in the face of a significant crisis. If their testimony is permitted, it will be the first time in a Canadian civil disobedience-related case that an expert has given evidentiary testimony asserting the legitimacy of civil disobedience.
At trial, Crown prosecutors are expected to make submissions to disqualify the expert witnesses expected to testify for the defence. The outcome of this motion will be decided by Judge Lamperson at trial, following the defendants’ own testimonies on August 1.
“This frivolous and vexatious effort by the Crown prosecutors to thwart a landmark necessity defence precedent in the midst of a national wildfire and flooding emergency is an egregious violation of our right to assert a meaningful defence to confront the imminent peril we all face,” says Breen.
“Breen and Murray have been at the forefront of the fight against climate breakdown and have repeatedly highlighted the immediacy and severity of the climate crisis,” said their legal counsel. “This trial is an opportunity to bring these important issues into the judicial spotlight and provoke serious discussions with experts on climate policy and redefine the application of the necessity defence to ensure we don’t criminalize those helping to pull the global fire alarm,” said Doyle.
The defence team is not contesting the Crown’s evidence proving their actions. A successful outcome could set a precedent for the use of the “climate necessity defence” in Canadian law and help legally ‘democratize climate necessity internationally.’
In May 2023, Breen and Murray unsuccessfully argued before Judge Lamperson that their Charter Rights & Freedoms were violated when arrested. The last trial making a climate necessity argument was in 2020 by self-representing former Vancouver lawyer David Gooderham and Jennifer Nathan who argued a climate necessity defence for breaching an injunction to protest the Transmountain Pipeline. The BC Court of Appeal rejected this argument. Breen and Murray will seek to distinguish their case on the basis of the urgency of the crisis and the futility of traditional methods of political engagement.
Their trial on August 1 marks a turning point in the fight against climate breakdown, advocating for transformative action and legal reforms to address the climate emergency adequately. As the defendants face their day in court, nonviolent climate “disruptions” continue worldwide to inspire a burgeoning global movement of climate activists seeking to democratize survival for the many.
The trial will be held at 9:30 am PDT Tuesday, August 1 at the Nanaimo, BC Courthouse (35 Front Street, Nanaimo.
We need to move from “fibre exploitation” to forest reparation. Only if we manage forests for the sustainability of biodiversity, soil, air and water can we derive through sustainable use of forest resources the economic and social benefits that intact forest ecosystems bestow.
IN TWO DECADES, employment in British Columbia’s forest industry has fallen by more than 40,000 direct jobs, and the industry today contributes only two per cent to B.C.’s gross domestic product while employing only two per cent of the province’s workers.
Given this, why all the hullabaloo about the loss of 300 Canfor jobs in Prince George? And why another knee-jerk government response in the form of a new subsidy, amounting to $90-million?
This is the same old pattern repeating itself, a pattern of subsidization following an industry downturn that has contributed to the decline of the very industry that the subsidies ironically purported to support.
A flagrant example of government subsidies that has accelerated the crisis in our forests is a Ponzi scheme known as “crediting,” which awards some of the biggest forest companies in the province with more trees to cut down when they deliver “lower quality” logs to the province’s wood pellet and wood pulp industries.
Examples of other direct subsidies that have accelerated the loss of the province’s forests include those for forest management and electricity. The largest subsidies by far are indirect such as those for carbon and for the loss of carbon sequestration capacity. In recent years, the annual cost of all these subsidies is roughly equivalent to the industry’s contribution to the provincial GDP.
More beguiling than subsidies is industry propaganda. Through misrepresentation about sustainable forest management, the industry bamboozles the public and importers of B.C.’s forest products with phoney certification schemes. The federal competition board is presently investigating two certification schemes for misrepresentation.
Even government politicians and senior government officials, who should know better, parrot the rhetoric of “sustainability” and sing the praises of certification, sending a false signal to the public that all is well.
Acting as a suction pump for public subsidies, the industry—dominated on the coast by Western Forest Products and in the interior by Canfor and West Fraser—directly controls most of the timber in public forests and is largely self-regulated—quirkily known as professional reliance.
Given excessive subsidies and self-regulation, no one should expect the industry to rationalize its activities in the public interest by lowering the boom on logging, processing more logs in B.C. and reinvesting profits in secondary manufacturing facilities in the province.
Anyone doubting this need only ask why BC forest companies have invested so heavily over the last few years in mills and forest operations in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, the Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana.
B.C.’s industry as presently constituted needs to fail completely, as must the weak legislative framework that allows it to clear-cut most of the province’s primary and old-growth forests to the detriment of biodiversity, soil, air and water.
Many millions of hectares of BC have been logged, burned, replanted and then burned again by forest fires—to the point of exhaustion. The image above shows 1700 hectares, now typical of the tortured Chilcotin Plateau.
We need to move from “fibre exploitation” to forest reparation. Only if we manage forests for the sustainability of biodiversity, soil, air and water can we derive through sustainable use of forest resources the economic and social benefits that intact forest ecosystems bestow.
To do this, legislation must be repealed and re-written to place ecosystem management on a legally enforceable footing and forestry schools must be renamed: for example, the UBC Faculty of Forestry might be renamed the UBC Faculty of Ecology. Foresters are a failed profession in B.C.
Meanwhile, the export of raw logs and egregiously low-value products like wood pellets must be immediately halted. By curtailing these exports, we can reduce the supply of timber to move toward a sustainable rate of logging that provides for the economic needs of British Columbians to build houses and to make furniture and other value-added products.
Let the entrepreneurs have free-market access to the timber they need to build small-scale, community-based, secondary manufacturing facilities. This could be achieved by cancelling tenures and forest licences and by auctioning all publicly owned timber at regional log markets.
But here expectations must be tempered. The promise of value-added only works if there are healthy forests containing quality wood. First, though, we must immediately bring logging rates way down and start to build a new, value-focussed industry from the ground up.
Anthony Britneff is a Victoria resident who worked for the B.C. Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.
BC's logging industry went from boom to bust (again) in a matter of months. Let's not do the same thing as we usually do and then expect a different result.
What BC logging companies do in the southern US (above) looks remarkably similar to what they do in BC. The big differences are that in BC, the trees are publicly owned and the companies are highly subsidized.
A JANUARY 16 ARTICLE by Nelson Bennett stated that: “Alberta oil and gas producers made windfall profits on high oil and natural gas prices and B.C. forestry majors banked some record profits on high lumber prices in 2022.”
Record profits? Didn’t Canfor just close a mill with the loss of 300 jobs due to poor market conditions?
Any prudent person or wise company would, after making record profits for consecutive years, put some money aside for potential future market slumps. Or at least they should. The occurrence of such business cycles is not only expected but should be anticipated and prepared for. Rainy days always happen.
When companies regularly disburse their profits to shareholders or spend them on purchasing foreign timber companies, these are their business decisions and they must accept responsibility for them.
Is this the record of fluctuating timber supply in BC? No, it’s the record of price fluctuations for wood products since 2020. Low prices generally trigger a call by industry and workers for greater government subsidization, lower stumpage rates and less conservation. Usually, government caves in to the pressure.
However, when they instead insist the BC government should bail them out of a business slump with monetary grants or with more and cheaper fibre—so they can continue making record profits and, again, disburse them to shareholders and buy more foreign timber companies—this pressure should be ignored.
The situation these companies are in was created by them and the people of BC should not be expected to bail them out.
In a recent article about the closure of Canfor’s pulp and paper mill in Prince George, Hiren Mansukhani quoted Ben Parfitt: “When you see the company talking about lack of access to cost competitive fibre, that really translates into one very simple thing. There are not enough trees remaining to be logged that have sufficient commercial value to support the industry…Companies are having to go further and further and further in search of logs.”
Ben is right, but that’s not the full story. The companies actively participated in the process that caused the demise of their enterprises. The BC government is only at fault to the extent that they provided the companies with various ongoing subsidies, and that enabled the companies to operate profitably for many years. The companies now want their usual level of subsidies to not only continue, but to be raised. Raised significantly.
The government should never have provided such generous public assistance (funds and fibre) to private companies in the first place.
And government should not continue to do so now as this would only delay the inevitable and much more painful collapse that will happen in the near future.
Helping any company to continue harvesting an ever diminishing supply of trees in BC is neither economically sensible nor environmentally wise. Nor is it in the best interests of the people of BC.
Firmer direction by government is especially needed since the forest companies created their problems when they invested in and purchased over 45 foreign mills, most of which are in the southern US. The land there is flat, so logging costs are lower than in BC. The weather there is warm and wet and that means annual growth in the forests often exceeds ten cubic metres per hectare. Labor is cheap.
Now with timber supply increasingly distant from their BC mills, Canadian companies can only compete with their own US mills if the BC government continues to bail them out with subsidies.
Enough. Our government should ignore the logging industry’s lamentations and requests for ever more handouts.
Protesting forestry workers block road, claiming their jobs are threatened by old-growth deferrals
I RECENTLY CHECKED the Association of BC Forest Professionals job listings and while I didn’t count them all, there are approximately 100 listed. Likely several more that aren’t listed!
And ditto for jobs in most any profession. Employers can’t find enough people to fill all the jobs available. In the Boundary area, the local nurseries—who have a variety of jobs available—must bring in many temporary foreign workers every year because no local people want the available jobs. So the Mexicans return year after year and are happy to be well-employed.
The forestry industry’s pathetic mantra is that they must be allowed to continue extirpating BC’s remaining old-growth forests or the industry will lose another 20,000 jobs—or whatever number is their favourite for that day. So what happens when the old growth is gone? No forests and no jobs for sure! That doesn’t sound like a very good deal for anyone.
A close acquaintance of mine is a woods foreman for a lower mainland logging company; he absolutely cannot find employees to do any work and he has several job openings all the time.
If any forestry-related jobs are lost, they are easily replaced as there are many jobs available in the market place; the government has already dedicated millions of dollars to retrain anybody who wants to remain gainfully employed so they can do so. And there are similarly many dollars available for those who wish to take advantage of the early-retirement opportunities.
Fred Marshall is a forester and Woodlot Licence tenure holder in the Boundary region.
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
As more than 90 scientists working at the intersection of ecosystems and climate change, we are deeply concerned by the evidence of continued deforestation and degradation of primary forests globally and in Canada because of the resulting impact on greenhouse gas emissions and the biodiversity crisisi. Canada’s primary boreal and temperate forests have a vital role to play as natural climate solutions, and it is important that their protection is central to Canada’s climate and biodiversity policies.
The climate and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked and require solutions that address them in tandemii. Among the most urgent, critical solutions at the intersection of these crises is the protection of the world’s primary forests (those that have never been industrially disturbed and where natural processes prevail) and older forests, which have unique and irreplaceable ecological values and provide among the most effective, large-scale climate mitigation benefitsiii. Addressing the threat of climate change requires both the elimination of our dependence on fossil fuels and the preservation of the world’s primary and older (old growth and mature) forestsiv. In short, these forests are a critical lifeline to a safe climate as they sequester and store massive amounts of carbon, provide essential habitats, and often have high levels of biodiversity that provide unique natural solutions to both crises.
With the release of Canada’s 2030 Emission Reduction Plan this spring, we strongly recommend the Government of Canada use this opportunity to advance measures to protect primary forests and older forests, and to make their protection a key pillar of its natural climate solutions commitments. We further recommend that the Government of Canada commit to improve the accuracy and transparency of its national greenhouse gas emissions accounting for and reporting of emissions from its logging sectorv.
Primary forests have unique values and provide significant benefits for addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. These increasingly rare forests, which account for between approximately one- quartervi and one-thirdvii of forests globally, hold 30-50% more carbon per hectare than logged forests, and provide a continuing sink for carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasesviii, while also providing critical habitat for at-risk speciesix. Canada is the steward of a substantial proportion (~16%x) of the world’s remaining primary forests, with some of the last large stretches of these irreplaceable ecosystems found in its boreal forest, which contains globally significant stocks of ecosystem carbon.
When primary forests, whether in Canada or elsewhere, are logged they release significant amounts of carbon dioxide, exacerbating climate changexi. Because primary forest ecosystems store more carbon than secondary forests, replacing primary forests with younger stands, as Canada is doing, ultimately reduces the forest ecosystem’s overall carbon stocks, contributing to atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.
Even if a clearcut forest eventually regrows, it can take over a decade to return to being a net absorber of carbonxii, and the overall carbon debt in carbon stocks that were removed from older forests can take centuries to repay, a luxury we simply no longer havexiii. Recent studies also indicate that soil disturbance associated with logging results in large emissions of methane (CH4)xiv, a powerful greenhouse gas second only to CO2 in its climate forcing effects. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently concluded, we have under a decade to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid exceeding 1.5 degrees C of warming, meaning any continued loss of primary forests erodes our remaining atmospheric carbon budget. Responding to the latest climate projections, UN Secretary General António Guterres’ issued a “code red emergency”xv. Importantly, the Glasgow Climate Pact (paragraph 38) emphasizes the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring nature and ecosystems to achieve the Paris Agreement temperature goal, including through forests acting as sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases and by protecting biodiversityxvi.
Primary forests are also generally more resilient than logged forests to wildfiresxvii and other natural disturbances likely to worsen with the climate crisis. Notably, clearcutting and other intensive logging practices are often associated with more intense wildfiresxviii. Thus, achieving the most stable, resilient possible forest carbon stores requires protecting primary forests from industrial logging.
While we commend Canada for its commitment to natural climate solutions as a climate priority, we are concerned by the rate of continued industrial logging in primary forests from the boreal to coastal rainforests and the absence of a comprehensive primary forest protection policy. Replacement of these carbon-dense, biodiverse forests with lower-carbon, less biodiverse secondary forests is undermining global climate progress and contributing to the biodiversity crisis. In Canada, only 15 of 51 boreal caribou herds, which rely on primary and older forests, have sufficient habitat left to survive long-termxix. Additionally, only about a quarter of forests in British Columbia are old-growth and of these, only about 3% are highly productive with large treesxx.
We strongly encourage Canada to adopt policies that will incentivize protection of primary and older forests, particularly under the leadership of Indigenous Peoples and in accordance with Indigenous Peoples’ internationally recognized rights. Where Indigenous land rights are strong, ecosystems’ climate and biodiversity values tend to be better protected, and Indigenous Peoples’ meaningful participation and leadership is foundational to equitable and effective forest protection policies. We also encourage Canada to undertake a comprehensive review of its forest carbon accounting and quantification practices. Recent global studies have shown significant disparities between national greenhouse gas inventories and actual atmospheric emissions, most egregiously in the land sectorxxi. Given Canada’s large forest area and high logging rates, accurate forest emissions accounting is essential to ensuring the integrity of Canada’s overall climate goals. More accurate accounting and reporting will help ensure that Canada is properly valuing the climate benefit of its primary forests and the environmental costs of industrial logging.
The decisions Canada makes regarding its primary forests over the next few years will have profound ramifications for the global climate and biodiversity crises. Canada’s primary and older forests have a key role to play in preserving a safe and livable world, and the Government can make a significant contribution by prioritizing keeping these vital and irreplaceable ecosystems standing.
Note: Institutional affiliations listed for identification purposes only.
Dr. William Anderson
Professor Emeritus, College of Charleston
Dr. William L. Baker
Professor Emeritus of Geography, Program in Ecology, University of Wyoming
Dr. Bruce Baldwin
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California - Berkeley
Dr. Jennifer Baltzer
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change, Department of Biology, Wilfred Laurier University
Shannon Barber-Meyer, PhD
Linda Sue Barnes
Professor Emeritus, Methodist University
Dr. Diana Beresford-Kroeger Independent Scientist
Executive Director, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Dr. Mary S. Booth
Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity
Dr. Richard Bradley
Associate Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
National Park Ranger (retired), Methow Conservancy
Dr. Philip Cafaro
Professor, Colorado State University
Director, Conservation Biology Institute
Director of Field Research, Conservation Biology Institute
Dr. Kai Chan
Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of British Columbia
Dr. Terry Chapin
Professor Emeritus of Ecology, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Dr. Donald Charles
Senior Scientist, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Director, Conservation North
Dr. Kieran Cox
Liber Ero and NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Simon Fraser University
Dave Daust Independent Forester
Dr. Catherine de Rivera
Professor, Portland State University
Dr. Dominick Della Sala Chief Scientist, Wild Heritage
Wildlife Ecologist, Andean Tapir Fund
Jérôme Dupras Titulaire, Chaire de recherche du Canada en économie écologique, Université de Québec en Outaouais
Research Coordinator (retired), National Park Service
Dr. Lee Frelich
Director of the Center for Forest Ecology, University of Minnesota
Research Curator - Ornithology, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Professor Emeritus (Biology), University of Miami
Dr. Jon Grinnell
Uhler Chair in Biology, Gustavus Adolphus College
Dr. Charles Halpern
Research Professor, Emeritus, University of Washington
Dr. Kenneth Helms
Research Associate, University of Vermont
Director, Policy and Research, Wildlands League
Dr. Eric Higgs
Professor at the School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria
Dr. Bill Hilton Jr
Executive Director, Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History
Dr. Rachel F. Holt
Director, Veridian Ecological Consulting
Dr. Elizabeth Horvath
Associate Professor, Biology, Westmont College
Participatory Action Research Scientist, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Professor Emeritus of Soil and Plant Science, California State University - Chico
Dr. Jay Jones
Professor Emeritus of Biology and Biochemistry, University of La Verne
Dr. James R. Karr
Professor Emertius, University of Washington
Dr. Keith Kisselle
Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science, Austin College
Dr. Richard Kool
Professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University
Dr. Brian Linkhart
Professor of Biology, Colorado College
Dr. Brendan Mackey
Director - Climate Action Beacon, Griffith University
Adjunct Professor, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Jay Malcolm
Associate Professor, University of Toronto
Professor of Botany and Curator, STAR Herbarium, Arkansas State University
Dr. Tara Martin
Professor and Liber Ero Conservation Chair, University of British Columbia
Dr. Faisal Moola
Associate Professor - Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Guelph
Senior Scientist (retired)
Professor of Zoology, Weber State University
Research Curator, Natural History Museum of Utah, University of Utah
Dr. Katarzyna Nowak
Assistant Professor, Białowieża Geobotanical Station
Dr. Sarah Otto
Professor, Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia
Dr. Paul Paquet
Senior Scientist, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
Dr. Timothy Pearce
Curator of Collections, Mollusks, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Dr. Stuart Pimm
Professor of Conservation Biology, Duke University
Dr. Jim Pojar
Trustee, Skeena Wild Conservation Trust
Dr. Roger Powell
Professor Emeritus, North Carolina State University
Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Montana
Dr. Karen Price
Member of BC Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel
Robert Pyle, Ph.D. and Hon. FRES Independent Scholar
Dr. Peter Quinby
Chair and Chief Scientist, Ancient Forest Exploration & Research
Dr. James Quinn
Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
Dr. Jennifer Riddell University of California
Dr. George Robinson
Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences, University at Albany-SUNY
Dr. Holmes Rolston
Professor of Philosophy, University Distinguished Professor at Colorado State University
Research Scholar, North Carolina State University
Nicanor Saliendra Ecologist, USDA ARS
Dr. Melissa Savage
Emerita Associate Professor, University of California Los Angeles
Dr. Hanno Schaefer
Professor, Technical University of Munich
Associate Professor, Miami University
Dr. Paula Schiffman
Professor of Biology, California State University – Northridge
Peter C. Schulze, PhD
Professor of Biology & Environmental Science, Austin College Center for Environmental Studies Director, Center for Environmental Studies
Director, Sneed Prairie Restoration
Dr. Suzanne Simard
Professor, Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia
Dr. Tom Sisk
Professor Emeritus, Northern Arizona University
Dr. Risa Smith
Co-Chair, Protected Areas Climate Change Specialist Group at the World Commission on Protected Areas, International Union for the Conservation of Nature
Dr. Oliver Sonnentag
Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Université de Montréal
Dan Spencer, PhD
Professor, Environmental Studies, The University of Montana
Dr. Timothy Spira
Emeritus Professor of Ecology/Botany, Clemson University
Dr. James Strittholt
President and Executive Director, Conservation Biology Institute
Dr. Michael Swift
Assistant Professor Emeritus, St. Olaf College
John Talberth, PhD
President and Senior Economist, Center for Sustainable Economy Co-Director, Forest Carbon Coalition
Dr. Sean Thomas
Professor and Canada Research Chair, Forests and Environmental Change at the University of Toronto
Dr. Edward Thornton University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Mathilde Tissier
Liber Ero Fellow, Bishop's University
Ornithologist (retired), US Fish and Wildlife Service
Dr. Vicki Tripoli
Science Advisory Board, Geos Institute
Dr. Walter Tschinkel
Professor Emeritus of Biological Science, Florida State University
Rick Van de Poll
Principal, Ecosystem Management Consultants
Professor Emeritus, University of California, Riverside
J.T. Curtis Professor (retired), University of Wisconsin - Madison
Dr. Glenn Walsberg
Professor Emeritus, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
Dr. Vicki Watson
Professor Emeritus , University of Montana
Dr. Judith Weis
Professor Emerita, Rutgers University
Jeffrey Wells, PhD
Vice-President of Boreal Conservation, National Audubon Society
Peter Wood, PhD
Senior Corporate Campaigner, Canopy
CC: Minister Jonathan Wilkinson & Minister Steven Guilbeault
i Purvis, Andy., “A Million Threatened Species? Thirteen Questions and Answers,” IPBES, https://ipbes.net/news/million-threatened-species-thirteen-questions-answers.
ii W. Ripple et al., “The Climate Emergency: 2020 In Review,” Scientific American, 2021, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-climate-emergency-2020-in-review/. C.V. Barber et al., The Nexus Report: Nature Based Solutions to the Biodiversity and Climate Crisis, F20 Foundations, Campaign for Nature and SEE Foundation, https://www.foundations-20.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/The-Nexus-Report.pdf.
iii B. Mackey et al., “Policy Options for the World’s Primary Forests in Multilateral Environmental Agreements,” Conservation Letters, 8, 139-147, 2014, https://primaryforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mackey-et-al-2014- Policy-Options-for-Worlds-Primary-Forests.pdf.
iv D.A. DellaSala et al. “Primary forests are undervalued in the climate emergency.” Bioscience 70, no. 6, 2020, https://scientists.forestry.oregonstate.edu/sites/sw/files/biaa030.pdf.
v T.W. Hudiburg et al., “Meeting GHG Reduction Targets Requires Accounting for All Forest Sector Emissions,” Enviro. Res. Letters, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab28bb.
vi D. Morales-Hidalgo et al., “Status and Trends in Global Primary Forest, Protected Areas, and Areas Designated for Conservation of Biodiversity from the Global Forest Resources Assessment,” Forest Ecology and Management, 352, 68-77, 2015, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112715003370.
vii B. Mackey et al., “Policy Options for the World’s Primary Forests in Multilateral Environmental Agreements,” Conservation Letters, 8, 139-147, 2014, https://primaryforest.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mackey-et-al-2014-Policy-Options-for-Worlds-Primary-Forests.pdf.
viii S. Luyssaert et al. “Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks,” Nature, 455(7210), 213-215, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature07276
ix D.A. DellaSala et al., “Primary Forests Are Undervalued in the Climate Emergency,” BioScience 70, no. 6, 2020, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341277924_Primary_Forests_Are_Undervalued_in_the_Climate_Emergency.
x Morales-Hidalgo, et al., “Status and Trends in Global Primary Forest, Protected Areas, and Areas Designated for Conservation of Biodiversity from the Global Forest Resources Assessment,” Forest Ecology and Management, 352, 68-77, 2015, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112715003370.
xi T.W. Hudiburg et al., “Meeting GHG Reduction Targets Requires Accounting for All Forest Sector Emissions,” Enviro. Res. Letters, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab28bb.
xii C. Coursolle et al., “Influence of stand age on the magnitude and seasonality of carbon fluxes in Canadian forests,” Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 165, no 15, 2012, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168192312002109; W.A. Kurz et al., “Carbon in Canada’s Boreal Forest—A Synthesis, ” Environmental Review 21, no. 4, 2013, https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/10.1139/er- 2013-0041.
xiii B. Mackey et al., “Untangling the Confusion Around Land Carbon Science and Climate Change Mitigation Policy,” Nature Climate Change, June 2013, www.nature.com/natureclimatechange.
xiv J. Vantellingen and S.C. Thomas. “Skid trail effects on soil methane and carbon dioxide flux in a selection- managed northern hardwood forest”. Ecosystems, 24, 1402-1421, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-020-00591- 8. J. Vantellingen and S.C. Thomas, S.C. “Log Landings Are Methane Emission Hotspots in Managed Forests,” Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 51, 1916-1925, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfr-2021-0109.
xv United Nations, “Secretary-General Calls Latest IPCC Climate Report ‘Code Red for Humanity’, Stressing ‘Irrefutable’ Evidence of Human Influence, press release, Aug. 9, 2021, https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sgsm20847.doc.htm.
xvi Glasgow Climate Pact https://unfccc.int/documents/310497.
xvii C.M. Bradley et al., “Does Increased Forest Protection Correspond to Higher Fire Severity in Frequent-Fire Forests of the Western United States?” Ecosphere 7:1-13, 2016, https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecs2.1492#:~:text=We%20found%20no%20evidence% 20to,linear%20mixed%2Deffects%20modeling%20approaches.
xviii C. Stone et al, “Forest Harvest Can Increase Subsequent Forest Fire Severity,” Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Fire Economics, Planning, and Policy: A Global View, 2004,
https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1198&context=usdafsfacpub. J.R. Thompson, et al,, “Reburn Severity in Managed and Unmanaged Vegetation in a Large Wildfire,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104, no. 25, 20746, June 19, 2007, https://www.pnas.org/content/104/25/10743.
xix ECCC, Amended Recovery Strategy for the Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), Boreal Population, in Canada 2020, Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series, 2020, https://wildlife-species.canada.ca/species-risk- registry/virtual_sara/files/plans/Rs-CaribouBorealeAmdMod-v01- 2020Dec-Eng.pdf.
xx K. Price et al., “Conflicting Portrayals of Remaining Old Growth: The British Columbia Case,” Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 2021, https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/full/10.1139/cjfr-2020-0453.
xxi G. Grassi et al., “Critical Adjustment of Land Mitigation Pathways for Assessing Countries’ Climate Progress,” Nature 11, 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-021-01033-6. C. Mooney et al., “Countries’ Climate Pledges Built on Flawed Data, Post Investigation Finds,” The Washington Post, Nov. 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2021/greenhouse-gas-emissions-pledges-data/.
TODAY’S THRONE SPEECH started by acknowledging the heatwave, fires and floods of 2021 but didn’t offer assurances that this BC government is ready to do its part to prevent even worse disasters in the future.
In the speech, the province claimed it has set strong climate targets and that it has a plan that builds on progress towards meeting said targets. Both claims are not true. BC’s targets are not consistent with what is needed if we are to have a chance at meeting the Paris Agreement goal of keeping warming below 1.5 to 2 degrees. To make matters worse, BC’s emissions have increased every single year for the last five years that we have records for, from 2015 to 2019. And by subsidizing and welcoming the construction of LNG Canada and the Coastal GasLink pipeline, it is almost certain that BC. will not be able to meet its 2025, 2030, 2040 or 2050 targets. To protect future generations, these projects must be stopped.
The Throne speech acknowledged the role of protecting forests as another key to tackling climate change but fell short on concrete steps to deliver the implementation of all recommendations made by the Old Growth Panel, a key election promise made by Premier Horgan in the fall of 2020. Close to 18 months later, most at-risk old-growth forests in BC remain without temporary or permanent protection.
Indigenous Nations and forestry dependent communities remain uncertain as to whether the province will provide adequate funding to support them through the necessary transition. It is not too late for the province to include much needed funding to enable Indigenous-led conservation solutions and support forestry workers in the 2022 budget announcement later this month.
The throne speech also announced the launch of a new ministry in the coming months to improve stewardship of lands and make the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act a reality. A new ministry may well serve these goals, but nothing will change without the political will to respect the rights of all Indigenous Nations, including those that oppose new fossil fuel pipeline projects through their territory like the Wet’suwet’en.
The province can demonstrate its commitment to responsible stewardship by enacting Species-At-Risk or Biodiversity legislation, by addressing the missing recommendations on professional reliance reform, by implementing all of the recommendations from the Old-Growth Panel and following through on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, with or without a new ministry.
Jens Wieting is Senior Forest and Climate Campaigner for Sierra Club BC.
An open letter to John Horgan, Katrine Conroy and Nathan Cullen
AS WE EMBARK ON A NEW YEAR the following items should be at the top of your forestry-related agenda. What we (actually you, as our representatives) do during 2022 relative to our forests, will have profound and likely irreversible affects on the status and future well-being of our forests and related resources. I therefore hope you will approach several items that need addressing in a logical, timely and somewhat sequential manner that ensures all aspects will be appropriately dealt with.
1. Formally protecting additional areas
The overall goal for BC’s formally dedicated protected areas should be in line with, and complement, the federal goal of having 30 percent of Canada formally protected by 2030. As BC is, by far, the most ecologically diverse province in Canada, the protected area goal for it should be at least 40 percent and preferably 50 percent.
The federal government has made available $2.3 billion to enable the attainment of the 30-30 goal. BC should apply for at least $1 billion, and likely more, to assist them in reaching their 40-50 percent goal. Such funds can be used, at least in part, to compensate those forest licensees who lose allowable annual cut (AAC) via the tenure take-back process.
All areas to be protected must be selected and designated as being formally protected before the other items listed below can be addressed.
In this regard, a formal protected area strategy should be developed for BC to ensure the areas to be protected meet the appropriate criteria for same (i.e. old-growth areas—or those with other high values such as being a rare or endangered ecosystem, etc).
The upper Argonaut Valley (Photo: Eddie Petryshen)
2. Taking back AAC from forest licensees
The province should determine how much area and associated AAC should be taken back from the forest licensees based on the areas required (i.e. timber harvesting land base (THLB) or non-THLB areas) to achieve the 40-50 percent protected area goal and the new provincial AAC reallocations.
The provincial government should use an incentive-based system, at least in part, to determine who should contribute what amount of AAC to the take-back volume.
For example, the major forest companies and the BC government have long promised to “add value” to the logs they harvest. However, with few exceptions, the large forest companies have done nothing meaningful in this respect. Rather, they have used their profits made in BC to “add-value” to their profit statements and to purchase sawmills elsewhere. For example, Interfor, one of the largest forest companies in BC, has only 18 percent of its total forestry-related investments located in BC, while 82 percent are located elsewhere. And it derives its BC profits solely via manufacturing dimensional lumber. This is not a value-added product.
However, several of the smaller BC forest companies have spent millions of dollars to truly add value to the logs they harvest. For example, Gorman Brothers of Westbank have long produced 1-inch lumber and use finger-jointing to manufacture regular boards out of very short pieces of lumber which would otherwise be wasted. Kalesnikoff Lumber, located in the south Slocan, recently built a new structure-lam plant which is now in full production. Atco Forest Products, located in Fruitvale, recently added a small-log peeler line to their large-log peeler line and hence add significant value to very low-value logs. All three of these companies are relatively small with both Gorman’s and Kalesnikoff’s being family-owned.
Gorman, Kalesnikoff, Atco and other companies in BC that have similarly added value to their sawlog inventory should be appropriately recognized for doing so by being exempt from any AAC take-back obligations.
Those who have not should bear the full brunt of the AAC take-back process.
Laminated beams produced by Kalesnikoff Lumber (Photo: Kalesnikoff Lumber)
3. Reallocating the AAC take-back volumes
Once the areas designated to be formally protected have been removed from the THLB, then the remaining AAC volumes should be allocated as per the following, or some permutation or combination thereof:
Indigenous Allocations: 20 percent
Community Forests & Woodlots: 20 percent
BCTS (preferably via TFLs): 20 percent
Forest Licensees (preferably TFLs): 40 percent
All should be area-based tenures; non-area-based forest licences should be phased out as they do not support the sustainability principle. The AAC reallocation should facilitate and hasten the end of the US countervail duties.
4. New landscape-level planning
The ministry needs to commit to and implement, in a timely manner, a new landscape-level planning regime across BC that is inherently designed to be truly sustainable.
As this is a relatively new undertaking, due care must be taken to develop the parameters (i.e. the size of the planning areas, criteria for boundary locations, regulations relevant to the various areas and the associated objectives for each, etc., must all be determined ahead of time).
Criteria for how existing tenures may—or should be—modified (boundaries, obligations, names, AAC, etc.) also need to be developed. Perhaps only three main tenure forms should exist—i.e. TFLs, Woodland Licences and Community Forest Licences.
As new forest stewardship plans and TFL management plans etc. are being developed, the approval of them for a five-year or longer term complicates the transition process that will enable these existing tenures to transition into the new landscape-level planning regime.
5. Revise the timber supply review (TSR) AAC determination process
The TSR AAC determination process must be revised to support the above and ensure that all future AAC’s in BC are truly sustainable. This process has long been outdated and is unsuitable for current and future conditions. A three-person panel should be appointed to review this process and make recommendations for change so that it is responsive to rapidly changing conditions and to the new forest tenure and landscape-planning regimes.
In the interim, any TSR AAC determinations completed should only be approved if the new indicated AAC remains the same or less than that as per the previous AAC. It is well known that the current TSR process is designed and utilized to keep the cut as high as possible for as long as possible. This is via the several growth and yield curves and associated algorithms used within the process which focus the harvest on the mature and over-mature (i.e. old growth) stands. As these stands are harvested (liquidated) the AAC automatically drops. Obviously the TSR process in BC does not result in any semblance of forest sustainability; rather, an increasingly unstainable one.
These trends are further enabled by the chief forester’s refusal to use the Precautionary Principle in the TSR process to allow for expected future changes i.e. those caused by or related to climatic factors such as floods, fires and/or disease and/or insect outbreaks. And this even though we know the future circumstances will be much different than the present or recent past. As soon as reasonably possible after the new process has been developed, any AACs completed via the interim process which involves no AAC increases, will be redone via the new process.
Flooding in Princeton BC in November 2021
6. Zero Net Deforestation policy
The long-standing, proposed Zero Net Deforestation policy for BC must be implemented. This policy has been held in limbo and in-the-queue waiting for several years to be made legal and this must now be done.
Implementing such legislation fully supports and strengthens the concept and commitment to manage our forests in a sustainable manner. Without such legislation BC’s forest lands, and specifically the THLB, will continue to shrink at an unacceptable rate. This is obviously not in concert with the principles of sustainability.
7. Consultation and collaboration with all relevant indigenous groups
Appropriate consultation and collaboration with all relevant Indigenous groups must be undertaken. This is self evident; however an acceptable process to facilitate respectful engagement by all parties still needs to be developed.
As you develop regulations to complement your new forestry-related legislation, you must ensure that such regulations duly consider all of the above so all are appropriately addressed and subsequently implemented in a logical, progressive manner.
As we well know, everything in nature is connected; hence all policies related to any aspect of nature are also intricately linked and therefore must be well coordinated.
Professional forester Fred Marshall was one of the founders of both the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations and the Wood Product Development Council (WPDC). He has also served as federation president and was president of the Boundary Woodlot Association. Fred holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale, has taught at both Malaspina and Selkirk Colleges and has developed four university-level courses accredited by the ABCFP. He and wife Jane operate a ranch and woodlot near Midway.
The NDP government's tinkering with forest legislation is designed solely for the benefit of the logging industry.
BC Premier John Horgan is reinforcing privatization and overuse of forests on BC Crown land
IN NOVEMBER 2021, the BC government passed Bill 23, the “Forests Statutes Amendment Act,” claiming to revamp forest policy by putting “environment” and “people” first. Considering the wretched condition of BC forests, damaged by disease, fire, and the abusive practices of industrial logging, nothing could be more welcome than a change of policy in line with current ecological realities. For years, in fact for decades, those who love BC forests have longed for such an awakening. But does Bill 23 get us what we longed for?
The greatest part of the amendments refer to the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), involving scrupulous tweaking of vocabulary and protocols around landscape planning, permitting and roading – all in the interest of timber extraction. The Bill neither updates nor consolidates the current patchwork of BC forestry laws in the Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) portfolio, nor does it make any clear, effective statutory statement in favour of the public interest.
Overall, the issues that BC citizens most care about are not addressed in Bill 23.
There is no mention of tenure reform. Crown lands, our provincial commons, remain de facto privatized by logging companies whose only goal is profit.
No innovative logging practices are required of industry. The antiquated and devastating method of clearcutting remains firmly in place (the cheapest method), as well as monoculture for replanting and chemical spraying, rather than an enlightened eco-forestry approach.
No protection of old growth from further logging and from BC Timber Sales affecting old growth areas.
No change regarding raw log exports.
No changes to prevailing allowable annual cut (AAC) determinations; no concern about actual sustainability of forest resources.
No mention of carbon emissions from industrial logging or obligations regarding effects on climate change, i.e., no mitigation, no restoration-strategies, no decarbonisation.
No reference to the input of science; no concern for biodiversity; no protection of species-at-risk; no reference to habitat loss caused by clearcutting (couldn’t anywhere locate the word habitat, as forests contain nothing but timber).
No protection of watersheds; no protection of water itself; no concern for flooding, drought, soil erosion or pollution of water caused by inept logging.
Continued adherence to the much-criticized and morally compromised Profession Reliance Model that empowers RPFs employed by logging companies to make site choices and draw up cutting-plans.
No legislated process for community input before cutting plans are approved and no legal right of challenge by local residents directly impacted by such plans.
NOTE: In Bill 23, there is a significant expansion of executive powers devoid of opportunity to comment on new regulations or orders before they are issued. Also, with all the fine talk about Indigenous participation in forest planning, final decisions are firmly in the grip of the chief forester. Indigenous parties are welcome to take their objections to court.
The expanded governmental executive power will impinge on the fundamental rights of all BC citizens, First Nations, and members of the press, who are no longer free (without permission from the Ministry) to set foot on roads located on Crown land in order to monitor the activities of industry, whether pipelines, transmission lines, road builders, or police enforcement operations.
Considering the above review, are we to believe that Bill 23 revamps forest policy so as to put “environment” and “people” first?
On the contrary, Bill 23 is a set of amendments designed solely for the benefit of the timber industry. Its saccharine promises, directed at a naïve public, is meant to say: “Now go back to sleep, honey, we’ll take care of everything.”
Van Andruss is a Bioregionalist who lives with his family in the Yalakom Valley. He is co-author of Home: A Bioregional Reader, The Life of Fred Brown, and a series of BC place-oriented anthologies called Lived Experience.
The massive project to replace BC's primary forests with plantations and managed forests has great costs associated with it. Who should pay for the damage being done?
Merritt flooded in November after heavy—but not record-breaking—rains. Widespread clearcutting in the Coldwater watershed was likely a major contributor to the flooding.
THE FOREST LICENSEES—including BC Timber Sales—who created the extensive network of clearcuts across BC should be held liable for the major portion of the ensuing flood damage experienced. The same ought to apply to late-summer droughts with their associated damage and related costs. And an assessment of liability for the growing number of large forest fires in BC’s southern Interior needs to be made as well.
It is a basic moral and ethical tenet that one who creates chaos with subsequent damage occurring, is responsible, and can and should be held accountable for it.
Unfortunately the current governments, at all levels, don’t subscribe to this tenet. So far, the forest licensees refuse to acknowledge that there is any, let alone a definitive, link between the extensive clearcuts dominating BC’s forested landscape and the subsequent floods and summer droughts. And the provincial government blithely accepts this and does the same. Many credible studies show otherwise.
As most people are likely aware, a small group of Grand Forks residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the major forest licensees in the Boundary area, claiming restitution for flood damages incurred in 2018. (See document at end of story). Hopefully, the outcome of this lawsuit will correct the forest licensee oversight and claims of innocence. Perhaps the residents and communities of Princeton and Merritt and the agriculture producers located nearby should file a similar lawsuit. There is strength in numbers.
And, because of this very irresponsible and untenable stance by the forest licensees, the process of creating such clearcuts continues unabated across BC today, and will continue tomorrow and into the future at virtually the same rate, or very closes thereto, as it has in the past. At least until all the old growth is gone. And this process is strongly supported by the government.
All credible predictions indicate that there will be more episodic weather events accompanied by, or followed closely by, extreme winds, flood and drought events in the near future. Very likely these events will be even more intense than those recently experienced.
We all need to convince the BC Government to reduce the allowable annual cut with the attendant extensive clearcuts created also being reduced. In spite of the fact that—as we all know—we subsidize the forest industry (e.g. via the Forest Enhancement funds etc. etc.) as the provincial government continues to pay out millions to billions of dollars to repair all the damage caused by the floods and subsequent droughts. One might call these “hidden” or “indirect” subsidies but, nonetheless, they are still subsidies. A recent estimate put the costs of the damage caused by the recent floods and those to replace and/or repair the losses and damages to be ~ $30 billion dollars! That basically bankrupts BC. If there’s no money in the bank, how will any future such events be “handled”?
A information bulletin (see attached document at end of story) on how to make damage claims for flood damage was recently sent out to all ranchers and agriculture producers experiencing flood damage. This form directs them on how to get government to pay them for the damages experienced. This represents an obvious form of subsidies to the forestry and agriculture industries, of whom the cattle ranchers have always been favoured recipients.
Ditto for the dikes, roads and bridges being fixed, for which the taxpayers of BC will pay. However, a good part of the costs incurred should be paid for by the forest licensees. Yet they claim innocence and the provincial government blithely agrees with them. More willful blindness!
I and several other people have long been asking the government to conduct a formal review of the TSR process as it is seriously flawed and needs mega changes.
There are four major issues that the results of this process inherently legitimize and hence enable. These are:
The creation of the extensive clearcuts that dominate BC’s landscape today—and which are increasing every day.
The construction of an extensive and ever expanding road system to enable the harvesting/clearcutting. There are already close to 700,000 km of resource roads in BC today with more being added daily.
The focusing of harvesting on old-growth stands, which results in their rapid extirpation. However, doing so keeps BC’s allowable annual cut at an unsustainable level, albeit for a relatively short time. Certainly a zero-sum game.
All of the above are enabled by the timber supply review process. This enabling, as long as it is in play, will determine the future status of BC’s forests and all related resources. Based on past and current experiences, with no meaningful changes in the timber supply review process, the future of BC’s forests is extremely bleak. BC’s forests will, in the future, undoubtedly not be near as healthy, as resilient or as productive as they were or are, even at present. Their present status is obviously not good.
As per Einstein’s famous saying: “We cannot keep doing what we have been doing and expect to get different results.”
Clearcuts and plantations upstream from Grand Forks in the Kettle River Valley
This obviously applies to the timber supply review process (1). Nonetheless, the several requests made to the premier, the relevant deputy and assistant deputy ministers related to forests to conduct a formal review of this process and subsequently change it, have all been denied.
If we continue harvesting our forests and building ever more roads to enable this harvesting there is no question that we will experience the following:
Increased frequency of abnormal climatic events: Wind storms, rain storms with attendant flood damage, fall droughts with extensive damage to aquatic ecosystems and loss of agriculture crops due to flooding and irrigation restrictions and increasing tree mortality due to insects, diseases and drought stress etc.
Loss of transportation infrastructure causing undue harm to everyone in BC due to inability to reach medical facilities, attend to emergencies, to feed and care for livestock, to reduce shortages of food and other essential items.
Enormous costs, in the billions of dollars—and rising, required to repair the flood damage and to cover the costs of goods (homes, buildings, fences etc.) damaged or destroyed. We don’t have the financial capability to properly attend to the above.
Continued conflict with the Indigenous groups across BC
A general breakdown in society due to all of the above.
Even if we significantly reduce our allowable annual cut immediately, because of the already degraded state of our forests and impending climatic events, we will continue to experience many of the above effects well into the future. Nonetheless, undertaking a formal review of the timber supply review process and subsequently making significant changes to it is far better done sooner than later. Such undertaking is already, and very obviously, far overdue.
Professional forester Fred Marshall was one of the founders of both the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations and the Wood Product Development Council (WPDC). He has also served as federation president and was president of the Boundary Woodlot Association. Fred holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale, has taught at both Malaspina and Selkirk Colleges and has developed four university-level courses accredited by the ABCFP. He and wife Jane operate a ranch and woodlot near Midway.
1. For example. The just released (Dec. 14, 2021) TSR AAC Determination for TFL 33 indicated an increase in the AAC from 21,000M3 to 23,160M3, a 10% increase. An increase that is largely attributable to the inherent focus of the TSR process to maintain or increase the AAC and, the Chief Forester’s refusal to appropriately use the Precautionary Principle which ignores expected and imminent climatic events.
Notice of Civil Claim - FILED Interfor BCTS lawsuit in Boundary TSA.pdf
The logging industry's "solution" to forest fires will make them worse
The growing extent of clearcuts and plantations in BC is resulting in larger forest fires (BC Wildfire Service photo)
IN ADVOCATING FASTER CLEARCUT LOGGING to deal with out-of-control wildfires, the forest industry and its advocates ignore the fundamental reasons for the Okanagan region turning into a tinderbox. The industry’s prescription of “chainsaw medicine” to remedy the situation will only make matters worse.
Three key reasons that have turned the Okanagan into a tinderbox fueling the megafires of today are: fire suppression, the rate of clearcutting and global warming.
Decades of fire suppression and prohibition of indigenous, traditional “cold burns” have allowed dead fuel to accumulate.
The rate of clearcutting results in ever-increasing expanses of dry soil and woody debris and in vast areas of young plantations less than 25 years old. Scientists Meg Krawchuk and Steve Cumming tell us that fire ignition by lightning is more likely to occur in a clearcut than it would in the forest that the clearcut replaced.
Young plantations are highly flammable and contribute to the rate of spread of recent large fires. Together, clearcuts and young plantations are the driver of recent megafires made worse by global heating.
Scattered parks, a few protected areas, and remaining old-growth forests are not the problem. In fact, they are part of the solution, being relatively fire-resistant and storing large amounts of carbon when compared to the flammability of clearcuts and young plantations.
The forest industry would have us increase the rate of clearcutting under its fear-mongering mantra of “cut it down or let it burn.” This reasoning is bewildering because, if true, all BC’s magnificent forests would have burned millennia ago.
The forest industry uses every crisis—whether it be insect infestations, tree diseases, or wildfire—to advance its agenda of increasing the rate of clearcutting (profit) with no regard for the social, economic and environmental consequences of its self-serving actions.
Those consequences include, among many others: An increase in the frequency, magnitude and duration of major floods, severe droughts and mega-fires, contaminated drinking water, biodiversity loss, destruction of property, smoke-induced health issues, and death of domestic animals—all directly or indirectly related to clearcutting, and made worse by global heating.
But global heating itself is made worse by clearcutting. In fact, wildfires in BC have increased in size, frequency, duration, and intensity so dramatically that they, together with clearcut logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.
So industrial forestry is feeding a deadly cycle: clearcut logging worsens wildfire, which in turn exacerbates global heating, which intensifies wildfire. We need to break this cycle of destruction and death.
Climate change is the defining issue of our times. Within a societal context, our choice is between life and money. Within the context of BC forestry, the choice is between profit (driven by clearcutting) and community safety and health driven by a new paradigm of forest management based on ecology and conservation.
Taryn Skalbania is a farmer in the Okanagan valley. Severe wildfires forced Taryn to evacuate her farm in 2017, 2018 and 2021. She spent much of the 2021 fire season providing a safe haven for animals from neighbouring farms threatened by megafire. Many farm animals were not so fortunate and had to be shot. Taryn is a co-founder of the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance with which she is presently the director of outreach.
BC logging practices are increasing fire hazard and destabilizing our climate
A forest fire in a clearcut on Vancouver Island. It’s going to get much worse unless the rate of logging is reduced in BC. (BC Wildfire Service photo)
ANTHONY BRITNEFF’S astounding statements in “There’s an urgent need to reduce BC’s logging industry,” should be shouted from the rooftops: “wildfires … together with logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.” He also points out that the British Columbia government’s carbon accounting ignores “carbon emissions from logging and wildfire.”
During the record-shattering late June heat dome, Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said, “We ain’t seen nothing yet. This is chump change compared to where we are heading.”
Had the world’s governments heeded climate change warnings in the 1980s and 1990s, we wouldn’t be in our present dire predicament, which makes the next few years critical if we are to have a chance to prevent runaway global warming.
In the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the August 2021 Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) constitutes a “code red for humanity.” Since the first IPCC report in 1990, “annual global emissions have nearly doubled, and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere put there by humans has more than doubled,” according to The New Yorker. That magazine also described one of five possible futures considered by the IPCC’s most recent report as “a not-at-all-implausible scenario [in which] temperatures will rise by 3.6 degrees Celsius –or 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit—by around 2090.”
But other voices are expressing concern that the report is too conservative in its projections. Greta Thunberg calls it a “solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.” Based, in part, on the Job One for Humanity website, psychotherapist, author, and activist Jonathan Gustin maintains that temperatures will rise 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and 14 or more degrees by 2100. He also says IPCC projections don’t include feedback loops such as methane “burbs.”
In December 2004, the Baltimore Sun reported, “There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere…. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and ‘burp’ into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on…. Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren’t talking about.” As a greenhouse gas, methane is many times stronger than carbon dioxide; Gustin says it’s 86 times more potent. He adds that “a full summer arctic ice melt” could trigger a massive methane release and that such an arctic ice melt could occur as soon as five years from now.
Given how acutely imperilled human civilization is, the answers to the questions Britneff poses should be a resounding “yes” in both cases.
Yes, it is “in the public interest to ban clearcutting and substantially lower the allowable annual cut, thereby reducing the export of raw logs and forest products and cutting back the labour force in the forest sector.”
Yes, we should transition “40,000 forestry jobs into non-destructive forest and value-added enterprises, and into other economic sectors in order to mitigate a global climate emergency.”
A mid-August forest fire in a clearcut spreads to nearby forest in BC’s Interior (BC Wildfire Service photo)
In an earlier commentary, “How to protect forest-dependent communities”, Britneff advocated revamping the current working forest or tenure system, taking control of public forests away from “an oligopoly of multinational corporations,” and placing it instead “in the hands of local forest trusts.”
Will the BC government act or will it, like so many governments, persist in dragging its feet as it bows down to the status quo? Refusing to seriously engage with the consequences of climate change is like refusing to vote or get vaccinated, all of which are passive ways “of empowering the status quo.” Such refusals are increasing the likelihood of unimaginable catastrophe.
Inspired by the urgent example of Greta Thunberg, Patrick Wolfe has been writing about climate change since January 2019. He is the author of the forthcoming book, A Snake on the Heart – History, Mystery, and Truth: The Entangled Journeys of a Biographer and His Nazi Subject.
Report card raises alarm about predatory delay contributing to climate and extinction crises, lack of support for First Nations and forestry reforms, fuelling Canada’s biggest act of civil disobedience.
Click the report card to enlarge:
Press release from Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee:
VICTORIA (Unceded Lekwungen Territories) — One year after the B.C. government shared its Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) report and Premier John Horgan committed to implementing all of the panel’s recommendations, Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee have released a report card assessing the province’s progress on their promise to protect old-growth forests.
The OGSR’s report, made public on September 11, 2020, called on the province to work with Indigenous governments to transform forest management within three years.
The panel recommendations include taking immediate action to protect at-risk old-growth forests and a paradigm shift away from a focus on timber value and towards safeguarding biodiversity and the ecological integrity of all forests in B.C. However, old-growth-related headlines in recent months have been dominated by police violence and arrests of forest defenders, rather than protection. As of this week, with at least 866 arrests, the fight to save what is left is now Canada's biggest ever act of civil disobedience.
“The tough reality is that thousands of hectares of the endangered forests that Premier Horgan promised to save a year ago have been cut down since then,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee. “We’ve seen pitifully little concrete action to protect threatened old-growth, and ecosystems and communities are paying the price for the BC NDP government’s heel-dragging.”
In their report card, the organizations issued new grades on the B.C. government’s progress in five key areas, crucial for the implementation of the panel recommendations: immediate action for at-risk forests (F), the development of a three-year work plan with milestone dates (D), progress on changing course and prioritizing ecosystem integrity and biodiversity (F), funding for implementation, First Nations and forestry transition (D), and transparency and communication (F).
“Our assessment is as devastating as a fresh old-growth clearcut. The ongoing ‘talk and log’ situation combined with police violence and the escalating climate and extinction crisis can only be described as predatory delay,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club BC. “Premier Horgan’s failure to keep his promise has now fuelled the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history, larger than Clayoquot Sound, with no end in sight. People know that clearcutting the last old-growth is unforgivable”
“In the last six months, the B.C. government has failed to allocate any funding toward protecting old-growth, instead funnelling millions into police enforcement to clear a path for old-growth logging,” said Andrea Inness, forest campaigner for the Ancient Forest Alliance. “Without funding to support old-growth protection, the BC NDP government is forcing communities to make the impossible choice between revenue and conservation. They’re choosing inaction while the conflict in B.C.’s forests worsens.”
In July, the province created a technical expert panel to inform the next announcement of old-growth deferral areas. Repeated government remarks about new deferrals in the summer, that are yet to be announced, have sparked a glimmer of hope for science-based interim protection for all at-risk old-growth forests in B.C. in the near future.
Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee will continue to mobilize their tens of thousands of supporters and hold the government accountable for its old-growth promises. The next report card will be issued on March 11, 2022.
Edited September 9 by admin
Logging in BC releases immense quantities of carbon emissions, degrades needed ecosystem services, destroys habitat for at-risk wildlife and creates conditions that allow larger and more intense forest fires. It’s time to downsize the industry to a level that meets BC’s own needs and no more.
All large forest fires in BC involve many thousands of acres of clearcuts and plantations, both of which have a higher fire hazard rating than primary and mature forest (Photo: BC Wildfire Service)
JOBS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA’S FOREST SECTOR have become a talisman exploited by the forest industry and its associations in persuading politicians of the importance of the sector to the provincial economy.
As forestry jobs have steadily declined, industry lobbyists like the Council of Forest Industries, Resource Works and the Truck Loggers’ Association have become increasingly creative in overstating the contribution of the forest sector to the provincial economy by, for example, inflating job numbers with indirect jobs. If Statistics Canada were to count jobs this way, we would have many more jobs than there are residents in the province.
Between the years 2000 and 2019, the forest sector of British Columbia shed 50,000 direct jobs largely due to mechanization and depletion of old growth forests. About the same number—50,000—remain, mostly in manufacturing.
So let’s question the talisman. Is it that ridiculous to shed the remaining number of direct forestry jobs in the woods and manufacturing by, say, 40,000? Perhaps not. Let’s examine some of the compelling reasons for a reduced workforce in forestry:
Tree cover loss expressed as area per capita is greater in BC than in most forested countries of the world; greater than in Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. This rate and extent of clearcut logging has a large carbon footprint. The prevalence of highly flammable clearcuts and young plantations (less than 25 years) has become a significant driver of the size of wildfires…the mega fires of recent years that destroy homes and impact air quality so badly that our health is endangered, including the spread of COVID.
In fact, wildfires in BC have increased in size and intensity so dramatically that they, together with logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon. You won’t find this in the provincial government’s carbon accounting because it has deftly chosen to ignore carbon emissions from logging and wildfire.
Consequences of clearcut logging more familiar to the reader include: the loss of the little remaining old-growth forests growing in ecosystems rich in biodiversity; the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat (salmon, caribou and grizzlies); and the relentless extermination and extirpation of animals, plants and fungi.
In many ways, climate change in BC is all about water. Here, clearcutting is instrumental in contaminating the drinking water for many rural communities; in depleting groundwater causing more frequent and prolonged drought events; and, of huge concern to the residents of Grand Forks and the Okanagan Valley, in increasing the frequency, magnitude and duration of major flood events.
The excessive rate of clearcutting is permitted by a grossly inflated allowable annual cut (AAC). But the question is: to what end? Only 20 percent of the forest products derived from clearcutting are destined for our domestic market. The remaining 80 percent satisfies export markets mostly in the United States, China and Japan—all of which have higher standards for the conservation and protection of old-growth forests than does BC. This means that those three countries are conserving their ecosystems at the expense of the degradation and loss of our ecosystems.
In spite of the high level of exports of forest products, the forest sector contributes a meagre two per cent to the provincial gross domestic product (GDP) and only two per cent to the provincial labour force. In other words, our provincial economy is sufficiently robust and resilient to absorb further job losses in forestry and reduced exports of raw logs and forest products.
Accordingly, would it not be in the public interest to ban clearcutting and substantially lower the allowable annual cut thereby reducing the export of raw logs and forest products and cutting back the labour force in the forest sector?
If we as a society in BC can shed 400,000 jobs in two months of 2020 to deal with a global pandemic, is it that ridiculous to transition, say, 40,000 forestry jobs into non-destructive forest and value-added enterprises and into other economic sectors in order to mitigate a global climate emergency already having such profound consequences for BC's environment and residents?
Anthony Britneff worked for the BC Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.
Professional forester calls for an end to clearcutting in BC and a reduction of the allowable annual cut to less than half its current level.
A clearcut in the Prince George area (Photo by Sean O’Rourke, Conservation North)
AS A REGISTERED PROFESSIONAL FORESTER, I have received many email invitations from the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP) promoting a “Free E-course” which purportedly will explain my profession’s Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct. Ethical behaviour and professionalism are not taught. They are inherent values of honest, compassionate, and thoughtful individuals. The ABCFP would do better to address the endemic problems of forestry that are exacerbating both the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis than to give the illusion of ethical professionalism.
The Code of Ethical & Professional Conduct states, in part under Section 2, Independence: “Registrants exhibit objectivity and are professionally independent in fact and appearance, and must: a. uphold the public interest and professional principles above the demands of employment or personal gain…”
Nothing could be more important and essential to upholding the public interest than acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and to slow loss of biodiversity. Yet, standard industrial forestry practices of clearcuts and short-rotation tree plantations do the exact opposite.
Industrial forestry degrades water and watersheds through the destruction of old, intact primary forests that produce the highest quality water in moderate flows, and the destruction or removal of fallen trees that store and filter water. These same old, primary forests are necessary to conserve water, particularly under the stresses of heat and moisture loss that get progressively worse with global heating. The fallen trees build future moisture- and nutrient-sufficient soils.
Old-growth forests are critical storehouses of carbon, sequester the most carbon compared to other forest phases, produce the highest quality water, and harbour the highest levels of biological diversity, including specialist species found nowhere else. Not to mention the vital cultural importance of these forests to Indigenous people, and to a growing number of non-Indigenous people.
Yet, driven by its commitment to a short-term, timber-extraction bias, the forestry profession consistently discounts the importance of old-growth forests for other than required timber supplies. This bias for timber extraction at the expense of all other forest values has been supported by spokespeople for the ABCFP and even by forestry academics who proclaim, in the face of scientific studies showing the opposite, that there is plenty of old-growth already protected in parks and other protected areas. These false claims expose a willful ignorance of the difference between old-growth forests that grow on deep, moist soils, compared to old-growth forests that develop in bogs, on shallow moisture-deficient soils, and at high elevations.
The Fairy Creek rainforest is but one example of the endemic problems with professional forestry. Who are the forest professionals that designed clearcuts in old-growth forests that contain the blue-listed specklebelly lichen? In another example, what about the ongoing decline of woodland caribou that depend upon old-growth forest habitat? This dependence of woodland caribou has been known for decades. Yet, during that time forest professionals have continued to authorize logging plans that destroy caribou habitat.
We will never know how many threatened and endangered species have been wiped out by “professional” forestry, because no one bothered to ask if they existed before exploiting the forest for timber in the first place. If you don’t ask the question, you don’t need to worry about the answer. Does that approach uphold the public interest? Is that approach an example of ethical professionalism?
Forestry is a significant player in the shift of British Columbia’s, and Canada’s forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources. While wildfires may make up the largest part of that shift, logging, slash burning, and the production of short-lived wood products are significant contributors to forests being the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions of any economic sector in BC. Also, important to note is that clearcuts and tree plantations are highly flammable, increase wildfire risk and cause large, intense wildfires.
When it comes to the public interest, foresters have a professional obligation to recognize that, among “the multiple values that society has assigned to BC’s forests,” protection of a livable climate and the biodiversity that sustains all life on Earth are paramount values, without which the other values will cease to exist. As a first measure towards climate correction, the provincial government needs to stop clearcutting all forests, particularly old primary forests on Crown land and reduce the provincial allowable annual cut by more than half.
Herb Hammond is a Registered Professional Forester and forest ecologist with over 40 years of experience in research, industry, teaching and consulting. Currently his work is carried out through Silva Ecosystem Consultants and the Silva Forest Foundation.
The Canadian Standards Association's "sustainable forest management" certification of old-growth logging is dishonest greenwashing and needs to be removed.
PERHAPS NO ORGANIZATION IS BEHAVING MORE DISGRACEFULLY in promoting the logging of the last vestiges of old-growth forest in our country than is the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The CSA has developed standard Z809-16, which is used to certify forestry firms as practicing “sustainable forest management,” in spite of their logging old-growth forest. Last week, Ecojustice, on behalf of six individuals and supported by two organizations, submitted a request to the federal Competition Bureau to investigate this certification, claiming it is false and misleading, effectively a dishonest marketing ploy. And they’re right, once old-growth forests are gone, they are gone forever. CSA’s certification is like claiming that the wiping out of the cod fishery off the Maritimes was sustainable.
Opposition to the logging of these ancient matriarchs is widespread in the Interior and on the Coast. For over a year in the Fairy Creek Valley on Vancouver Island, protesters have been blockading roads, chaining themselves to trees and sitting in the canopy to stop Teal Cedar Ltd from felling majestic old-growth trees. The blockade continues in spite of arrests—and occasional brutality—by the RCMP. The protests are not the actions of a few hippies, but instead are part of a broad public-based movement. Even on far-away Pender Island where I live, for example, there are about 70 people who are contributing money and supplies, going frequently to Fairy Creek and planning creative methods to save the old matriarchs. Furthermore, public surveys clearly show that British Columbians want the few remaining old-growth trees to survive. Horgan should pay attention.
The Ecojustice complaint comes on the heels of my submission of January 18, 2021, when, together with 13 individuals/organizations, I formally requested the CSA to remove the word “sustainable” from its standard and to revoke the certification from those companies who log old-growth trees. Many of those who joined me also made independent submissions. On June 29, 2021, the CSA rejected all our submissions stating that our comments “are outside the scope and intent of the CSA Z809 SFM Standard.” We are striving to appeal this decision.
The old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek Rainforest took thousands of years to develop. How can logging of this forest and then converting it to a planation be “sustainable”? (Photo by TJ Watt)
Recently, I visited Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew, one of the most beautiful places in western Canada with enormous cedars and Douglas firs towering overhead. Shafts of golden light angled down to the dusky forest floor. The shadowy forest was rich with sword ferns, moss-covered logs and witch’s hair dangling from branches. There was a spirituality; a deep closeness with nature. I was in awe of the vast knowledge these matriarchs have accumulated during a long, long lifetime. Why would we murder these national treasures?
The main reason is that no politician wants to antagonize the communities who depend on the lumber industry. Thanks to vast forestlands, forestry was once one of the largest industries in the province. But since about 1990 the situation has turned bleak and in response to declining profits and market share, BC forestry companies have cut large, old trees, claiming they must do so to remain financially viable. At the same time, they receive CSA certification. After all, being endorsed as “sustainable” can only boost their environmental image and help sales.
Communities who have seen forestry jobs diminish should understand that preservation of old-growth trees will help the industry recover. Environmentalists want the forest industry to be healthy, and a significant part of BC’s economy, but they want this to happen responsibly. These goals are achievable because the remaining productive old-growth ecosystems only constitute a tiny fraction of the forestland in the province. There are masses of younger trees to supply wood to sawmills and the wood-working industry. Yes, sawmills will need to be re-fitted, but that’s doable. Furthermore, old-growth trees have more value left standing, rather than being chopped into small pieces to be used as shingles and other products.
Dan Hager, the president of the local Chamber of Commerce has watched tourism take off since Port Renfrew labelled itself as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada. “Simple logic,” he said, “it’s more economical to preserve grand old trees than cut them down.” Since then, the BC Chambers of Commerce, the largest business-advocacy organization in the province, agreed, passing a motion to protect old-growth forests.
Quantitative evidence comes from a recent study conducted by ESSA Technologies in which revenue from logging old growth was compared to that from retaining old growth. The latter included benefits from carbon storage/sequestration, recreation, tourism, salmon habitat, non-timber forest products like floral greenery and mushrooms, and research/education opportunities. The study concluded that society is better off when old-growth forests are protected rather than logged.
Thus, forestry-dependent communities should welcome those wanting to protect old growth, and not consider them as enemies who want to destroy forestry jobs. Like Port Renfrew, communities will benefit from retaining old growth, and those benefits will be truly sustainable over the long term.
But the forestry industry in its mad pursuit of profits does not listen. Furthermore, it yields immense power so that Premier Horgan and his NDP party refuse to take any meaningful action, in spite of campaign promises to the contrary. His (in)actions are being labelled as “Horganized Crime.” Another label is ecocide.
The CSA, which usually deals with consumer product safety and quality control, and claims to be an independent body, has become a disgrace. As longtime conservationist Vicky Husband remarked in Ecojustice’s press release for the complaint to the Competition Bureau, “What serious standards organization would certify the logging of the remaining 3 per cent of our most valuable, big-tree forests as “sustainable”. To which Anthony Britneff, another complainant, adds, “Only one backed and supported by the Forest Products Association of Canada”.
The CSA and the forestry industry are worrisome signs that society is heading for a cliff, shepherded along by neoliberalism and the immense power and size of international corporations.
Permanently destroying ancient trees cannot be certified as sustainable. It’s time for the CSA to speak proper English … and for a ban on old-growth logging.
Hans Tammemagi is an award-winning journalist and photographer living on Pender Island.
I AM 70 YEARS OLD and have a small farm outside of Victoria. I was a logger at Port Renfrew, a log scaler and a highschool teacher. I helped persuade the Harcourt government to protect the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park.
Jim Pine with a cabbage grown on his farm outside Victoria
I began working in the forest industry because I lost a bet in a bar. My buddy and I were in need of some cash and there was one opening for a chokerman. I lost the bet and had to work. I made more money than I had ever seen in my life. I worked a few months a year and went traveling for the rest. Then it paid for my university. Over 15 years I worked as a logger, a data processor of forestry reports, and as a log scaler measuring trees to determine the royalty payment from each one.
I was shocked even back then at the waste. Clearcutting sacrifices all the young trees so that the industry can cream off the highest value. A sustainable forest, selectively logged, has a life cycle of about 250 years. Our approach is much shorter. We are converting thousand-year-old forests that produce tight-grain lumber into “fibre farms” with 75-year rotations, resulting in inferior lumber. With the current trajectory we will have logged all the old growth within 3-5 years.
We take no account of the damage to the soil and the rivers from erosion and compaction. As far as I know no studies have been done by the BC government of the impact of clearcutting on ecosystems. But we do know that old-growth trees clean water and nurture salmon as well as sink carbon. We know that they are havens for the biodiversity recipes that allow new regenerative forests to grow.
Allowing multinational corporations to continue with their rapacious practices means we are impoverished economically and environmentally and the remaining jobs will support far fewer people with much lower wages. One man on a feller buncher can take out as much wood as it took eight people when I started.
The government and industry philosophy is based on the belief that there are no moral constraints against domination and perpetual growth, and that competition is the basis of success. But there is so much evidence that cooperation, reciprocity and respect are at least as important for resilience and survival. As elders it is our responsibility to tell a different story, one which reflects a 1,000 year ecosystem-wide view.
Premier John Horgan is duplicitous when he tells us he cares about the rights of the Pacheedaht elected council, but can’t find $347,000 to replace the money they might receive over the next 3 years in the revenue-sharing agreement with Teal Jones, who say they will make $20 million although other estimates are much higher. He didn’t listen to the West Moberly Nation and stop Site C, or the Blueberry Nation and stop fracking, or the Squamish or Kwakiutl people and conserve their old growth. And what has it cost to have the RCMP, with heavy equipment operators, helicopter surveillance and the Canadian military to arrest the protestors?
I care so much about this that I am willing to get arrested, breaking the unjust law that says the logging can continue. Recently retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella reminded us that the rule of justice is at least as important as the rule of law, which has given us apartheid, slavery and colonization. It is really unfair that the RCMP do not hesitate to arrest Indigenous youth but I have engaged in obvious civil disobedience five times within plain sight of police and have yet to be arrested. Bad press to arrest old white men I guess.
After requesting a meeting with my MLA, Lana Popham, her constituency assistant wrote: “In terms of the Old Growth Panel Review, Minister Popham is not currently taking meetings with individual constituents on the matter.” What happened to representative democracy?
To the young people at Fairy Creek I say, “Bravo! Thank you! I am proud to be on your side”.
To the rest of us I ask, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?”
Jim Pine is a member of Elders for Ancient Forests in Victoria
July 22, 2021
Remember the letter the Rainforest Flying Squad sent you back in mid-May just as the RCMP enforcement at our camps began? Remember how we asked you to mind the lessons of your past, at both Wet’suwet’en and TMX, and how we pledged ourselves to uphold our commitment to non-violence? How we asked you not to target Indigenous members and to respect our right to peaceful protest?
We kept our promise. You didn’t. Here we are now into our third month of enforcement still face to face with your paramilitary CIRG unit and the list of your infractions is long. In an astoundingly short period of time, you have amassed quite the rap sheet that includes, but is not limited to:
Deliberate targeting of Indigenous youth in exclusion zones and subjecting them to rough treatment and intimidation during arrests.
The use of exclusion zones despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these zones are illegal.
The use of personal searches despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these practices are illegal.
The use of access checkpoints despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these practices are illegal.
Denial of media access to enforcement zones.
Refusal to allow RFS legal observers and police liaisons to do their jobs.
Catch and release programs designed to intimidate people for such offences as refusing to abide by your imaginary exclusion zones.
The use of threats of rubber bullets, tear gas and arrest to intimidate Indigenous and non-Indigenous defenders.
Dangerous use of excavators while extracting human beings from sleeping dragons, causing one head injury and putting people’s lives at extreme risk.
Refusal to provide safety helmets to defenders during these dangerous extraction practices.
Dangerous use of grinders, cutting a woman’s finger.
Illegal towing of private citizens’ vehicles on public roads far from the camps.
Illegal practices of giving personal vehicles to Teal Jones to be held for unreasonable towing fees, along with personal items.
Illegal stoppage of buses and legitimate tour operators.
Deliberate failure to heed the enforcement order of Justice Verhoeven that allows public protest in the enforcement area.
Confiscation of donations meant for camp defenders.
And perhaps one of the worst offences: dragging a man by a bandana around his neck until he lost consciousness and kicking him in the head – this after the BC Supreme Court rendered the decision about your illegal actions. Surely, inflicting harm or death on peaceful protesters is against the law and your ethics.
We thought your purpose is to serve and protect Canadians. Instead, you have used your paramilitary force of trained personnel, helicopters, tracking dogs, threats and intimidation with increasing brutality and harshness. We have noted the presence of officers previously engaged in harmful practices. We remind you that we are Canadian citizens, entitled to conduct peaceful acts of civil disobedience and bound by a Code of Conduct we take to heart and employ every day to protect our forests.
On July 20, 2021, the BC Supreme Court confirmed the illegality of some of your actions, stating that the public has the right to access the Fairy Creek area, and that your geographically extensive exclusion zones and checkpoints are not justified. Also on this day, the BC Supreme Court ruled you cannot deny media the right to access the enforcement areas. To deny the media is to deny their ability to bear witness and document events in an impartial manner, one of the very foundational rights of our democracy.
And just so we are perfectly clear, we will continue our peaceful protests as citizens, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, of this country. In this time of increasing government and corporate partnerships that fail the public interest, we, as Canadian citizens, have a duty and a right to defend our forests.
We remind you that we are standing for the old-growth forests on your behalf as well as that of your children.
We ask you to think about how you wish to be remembered in the coming years.
The Rainforest Flying Squad
Comment from the former Dean of the UBC Faculty of Forestry, published on UBC's website.
MUCH HAS BEEN MADE about the future of old-growth forests in British Columbia. Global media interest is intense, partly because of the coverage of protestors being arrested while demonstrating against the logging of old-growth on southern Vancouver Island. These arrests were made not for demonstrating, which in British Columbia is generally a lawful activity, but for violating an injunction issued by the British Columbia legal system.
I have been asked by those on one side of the argument why I have not added my voice to those demanding an immediate stop to old-growth logging. Conversely, I’ve also been asked by those on the other side why I don’t condemn the people who are making those demands. Here, I will express my opinion as Dean of the Faculty of Forestry at UBC. This is not the Faculty’s opinion – there is no such thing, as we are a community of individuals, each with their own opinion. While very occasionally we all agree on something, the more normal situation is for a variety of views to be held on any particular subject. As I indicate below, what I can and cannot say is influenced by my position as Dean, and if I was writing this as a faculty member and researcher, I would express myself differently.
As with many issues and causes reported in the media, the situation with old-growth conservation in British Columbia is a lot more complex than most people suppose. There has been a great deal of obfuscation, to the extent that the facts are quite difficult to ascertain. For example, it has been stated that that there is only 3% of old-growth left in the province of British Columbia. This is untrue. As defined by the provincial government (and there should be questions being asked about the scientific validity of this definition), there is somewhere between 13 and 14 million hectares of old-growth left in British Columbia. About 10 million ha of this is either protected or excluded from the Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) because it is not considered to be economically feasible to harvest. Much of this forest (an estimated 80%) consists of relatively small, low-productivity forest, but which nevertheless provides many environmental benefits, including important habitat for many species and a significant carbon store.
Many concerns centre on the remaining areas of so-called “productive old-growth forest”. This is a misnomer, since virtually all forests are productive, but some are more productive than others. The area of this that is left is subject to dispute, and it very much depends on how it is calculated. The truth is, there has been no complete survey of old-growth in British Columbia, and all estimates are ultimately based on models, developed from several forms of sometimes conflicting inventory data. The claims that there are only 3% left are based on estimates calculated using methods based on the Vegetation Resources Inventory site index. However, this has long been known to underestimate the productive area in mature and old stands. More reliable estimates of the area of mature and old stands can be gained from the Provincial Site Productivity Layer, but this also has serious shortcomings. On 24 June, the provincial government announced the creation of Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel. “The purpose of the Panel is to provide maps, analysis, and detailed status of old-growth ecosystems in British Columbia in order to improve public information, consistent with recommendation #5 from the Old Growth Strategic Review. The Panel will also provide recommendations on priority areas for implementation of deferrals, consistent with recommendation #6 from the Old Growth Strategic Review.” This is a critical step, and I am pleased that it has finally been taken. However, it will not be able to address the problem of the poor state of forest inventory in British Columbia.
It is clear, especially on Vancouver Island, that many of the magnificent stands of valley-bottom old growth have been logged. The surviving forest in the valley bottom at Carmanah provides an indication of what these forests were once like. These stands were not only some of the most valuable in British Columbia, but also some of the most readily accessible. These were generally located in Coastal Western Hemlock forests. In drier areas, Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems predominated, and many of these have been lost due to land-use change and fires. Already the smallest and rarest of the ecological zones in BC, old-growth CDF forests are believed to have been reduced to less than 1% of their former extent, and any unprotected remaining stand warrant immediate protection.
Should this protection be extended to all old-growth forests in British Columbia? I am reminded of a report produced by the Joint Australian and New Zealand Conservation Council and the Ministerial Council on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture National Forest Policy Statement Implementation Sub-Committee (JANIS for short) back in 1997. This argued for the establishment of a comprehensive, adequate, and representative reserve system for old-growth forests. Their recommendations were quite specific:
15% of the pre-1750 distribution of each forest type
60% of existing distributions of each forest type, if vulnerable
60% of existing old-growth forest
90% or more of high-quality wilderness forest
All remaining occurrences of rare and endangered forest ecosystems
They were dealing with very different types of forests to those found in British Columbia, but something similar could be imagined for prioritizing the conservation of old-growth forests in BC. We would also want to make sure that any conservation policy addressed the vexed question of “how much is enough?”
So why won’t I specifically attempt to discredit some of the claims that are being made by either side? The Faculty of Forestry is a community of researchers with a broad diversity of opinions, something that we both value and encourage. Every person is entitled to their opinion, and is entitled to express it. As Dean, it is my role to protect those rights. That is what academic freedom is all about. As a scientist myself, I could question some of what is being said, but I have to be extremely careful in doing so because of my position as Dean. Ultimately, I have to maintain impartiality, as there is a significant power imbalance between myself and the people who work in my Faculty, and university discussions are increasingly being viewed through such a lens. Faculty members are becoming increasingly astute at using the media to convey their opinions. Some have crossed an invisible line between science and advocacy, but that is both their choice, and their right. If they are wrong, it may affect their credibility in the future, but that again is their choice. When they have had a major success in their efforts, we can, and should, congratulate individuals for their achievements, even if we don’t agree with what they are saying.
I have been misquoted in the media as being critical of the Old Growth Strategy Review produced by Garry Merkel and Al Gorley. I have never been critical of this report, and I am pleased that the provincial government has agreed to follow through on its recommendations. However, I have read these recommendations very carefully, and I believe that they are more thoughtful than many people realize. The report recommends a way forward that takes into account the requirement to meet the needs of truth and reconciliation. The BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has not simply shifted the goalposts. It has changed everything. Everyone is going to have to get used to that. The report does not recommend the immediate implementation of all recommendations, but instead indicates that they will take time, as all paradigm shifts do. They do, however, recommend that as an immediate strategy, the province should: “Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss”. This is not a recommendation to immediately defer all old-growth logging in BC.
The management of old-growth in British Columbia is inadequate, as pointed out by the Forest Practices Board in their 2012 investigation. In their submission to the Old Growth Review Panel, they pointed out that little has changed since their 2012 report. The designation, enforcement, and subsequent monitoring of Old Growth Management Areas in BC is deeply deficient. This needs to change.
However, this is not the only area of forest management policy in need of substantial change. The provincial government’s recent Intentions paper signals a willingness to address some of the issues, including a much-needed overhaul of the outdated BC Forests Act. The question remains as to how much the government will actually be able to achieve, especially given the lack of capacity in the relevant Ministries. Garry Merkel, one of the authors of the Old Growth Strategy Review, and a member of the new Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, has repeatedly emphasized in the media that British Columbia must go through a paradigm change in the way that we manage our forests, and this is the area that is least well-reflected in the Intentions paper.
Getting more involved with some issues is problematic. For example, I have been criticized for not showing more “leadership” during the Fairy Creek protests. That was an interesting statement and made me think. Should I have been supporting Teal Jones, who have a license issued by the provincial government to log in the area and the agreement of the First Nation leadership whose traditional territory it lies within? Should I have been supporting the RCMP in their efforts to enforce the law? Should I have been supporting the Pacheedaht First Nation? If so, should I have been supporting those in agreement with the logging, or those standing against it? Should I have been supporting the protestors, convinced of the justice of their cause, but acting in defiance of an injunction and against the expressed wishes of the elected leadership of the Pacheedaht? Maybe I should have been trying to broker a solution, but that was already happening behind closed doors on a government-to-government basis.
Rather than jumping in uninvited, there are other ways to show leadership, and I think we are doing that. For the past seven years, we have been building a proposal for an Indigenous Land Stewardship Centre. We’re still working on this; although the proposal is complete, permission to start has not been granted. In developing this, we have faced indifference, intransigence, and the occasional outburst of outright racism, but this concept, co-developed between the Faculty and Indigenous partners, and with a similarly co-designed undergraduate program, is exactly what is needed today. It is no coincidence that the Squamish Nation have listed lack of capacity as one of the difficulties facing the resource management planning that is needed to resolve some of the old-growth questions.
What about the forest industry, and the people dependent on it? 27% of British Columbia’s annual cut consists of old-growth. That rises to more than 50% on Vancouver Island. Stopping that harvest immediately would cause major hardship for many individuals, communities, and companies. Many working in the forest sector are highly leveraged, and even a temporary loss of income could have disastrous consequences for their ability to service debt. For others, it would mean job losses, and all the problems and distress that that entails. This is why Garry Merkel and Al Gorley talked about a transition period, giving time to adjust to the new reality. Of course, that would mean continued cutting of old-growth, but this could be directed away from the areas most in need of conservation, potentially reducing (but not eliminating) the impacts.
Just before Easter this year, we submitted a report to the BC Premier’s Office and several BC Ministries recommending major changes to the BC forest sector, including changes in the way forestry is planned, practiced, and regulated, changes to the tenure system, involvement of carbon conservation, and changes towards a future bioeconomy. While receipt of the report was not acknowledged, and there has been no discussion of its contents with government, I was pleased that many of the recommendations we made were the same as appeared in the recent Intentions paper. I, and I hope the rest of the Faculty, remain open to working with government to help design some of the much-needed change that is so clearly needed.
“Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb, across my head...”
Day in the Life– Lennon/McCartney
I SLEEP IN MY CAR when I’m in Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek, wedged into a slot between boxes of supplies, so falling out of bed isn’t an option. I greet the dawn by wiggling the door latch with my toes, and sliding out onto the dusty road like a sardine out of a tin.
“The things we do...” a woman smiled, walking by.
A few nights ago, an angry mob of loggers stoned three cars parked at the side of the road, showering their sleeping occupants with broken glass. I was so upset, I wrote Diary 5 at 3 am. By 8 am I had filed it by satellite, and began to round up a small herd of biologists documenting endangered species like Marbled Murrelets and Western Screech-Owls in Tree Farm Licence 46 (TFL 46), as well as the Juggernaut Pictures film crew.
Streaming their work on The Green Channel, Juggernaut makes investigative films like The Pristine Coast, which revealed for the first time that disease from open pen fish farming, and not commercial fishing, likely caused the East Coast cod collapse.
Scientist/sleuth/director Scott Renyard has chosen deforestation and forest mismanagement for his next project. He’s sure in the right province for that! Fairy Creek has drawn him in with irresistible images.
Scene 1: Unlawful Police Action. Location: A Public Road
“A band of bird-watching biologists are barred entry from an eco-reserve by an RCMP squad enforcing a bogus ‘Provincial Emergency’ declared by John Horgan on behalf of a billionaire corporation.”
Jim Cuthbert is the leader of this dangerous gang. They’ll stop at nothing to listen to birds. The RCMP told them they couldn’t enter their “exclusion zone” around TFL 46 without a physical copy of their diplomas and a letter of accreditation from the organizations they belong to.
Biologist Jim Cuthbert (top left in the truck) and his dangerous gang (YC photo)
By doing so, RCMP officers broke several Canadian laws.
An exclusion zone is a discretionary privilege police use to create room to work and protect citizens at disaster sites. Justice Verhoeven and the Pacheedaht Council welcomed us to peacefully exercise our Charter Rights of free assembly and protest anywhere outside 50 metres from active logging. A reasonable exclusion zone would be 10 metres beyond that 50 metres.
The RCMP exclusion zones here stretch up to 10 kilometres from active logging.
The RCMP have set these illegal roadblocks up all over TFL 46 to keep media and our lawyers from witnessing abusive RCMP tactics: like shining klieg lights on defenders all night to rob them of sleep, dropping excavator blades three inches from defenders’ faces while they are fastened to roads, and inflicting beatings on First Nations youth.
The roadblocks also stop the 85 percent of BC’s population that wants to protect old growth from participating. If we could bus 10,000 citizens in to block the loggers, what would the police do? Put us all in jail?
Biologist Loys Maingon MA, PhD, MSc (RPBio) drove from Courtenay to research an article for the Bulletin of the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists. The RCMP sent him back, telling him he would, quote: “need a court order to access Crown Land in TFL 46.” On hearing that, Jim and his merry band of scientists clad themselves in Lincoln green and melted through the illegal RCMP blockade into the woods.
Scene 2: Our Intrepid Journalist Finds His Heart’s Desire. Location: Secret
To interview the biologists, as well as forest defenders “Screech” and “Owl,” cinematographer Athan Merrick felt the best location would be at the feet of Titania, a 2,000-year-old yellow cedar.
Titania was Queen of the Fairies in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Our 7-year-old guide showed us to the trail head, but I asked a man up ahead if he knew the trail. He said he had made the trail, under the guidance of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones. What are the odds?
“Ask and ye shall receive” is the way things happen in Fairy Creek. You ask the forest for a guide, and you get the guide.
We’ve been suspecting the trees are orchestrating the defence of our shared ecosystem. I was about to find out just how.
I’ve spent my whole life dancing with trees—I’ve planted 300,000, from clearcuts to cities. I’ve horse-logged them with love, sawn them into timber, crafted them into furniture, and carved them into public sculpture. Of all my favourite tree species, my Holy of Holies is yellow cedar.
I turned a corner, and there she was, Titania.
Titania, a 2,000-year old yellow cedar (YC photo)
As I came into her presence, my heart trembling with joy, I suddenly knew that the Queen of the Fairies was not going anywhere. She looks great, for 2,000. Yellow cedars have a special, soft, fluffy beauty at the edges. I told her so.
I walked up to reassure her that she was not coming down, but when my hands touched her bark, I was flooded with her voice, telling me that she was glad I also knew she is not going anywhere.
I had found the Mother Tree.
As Bill Jones says: “You do not go up to the forest to cut it down, you go to ask the Great Mother what she would like you to do.”
Steady as you go seemed to be the instructions.
As we filmed a biologist talking about how serious a crime cutting Old Growth is, RCMP choppers circled overhead: $2,500 an hour spent to bully citizens, kilometres from active logging. The audio intrusion will remain in the soundtrack. Very Apocalypse Now.
Scene 3: A Moment of Reconciliation. Location: Ada-Itsx
The days are long and sweet in Fairy Creek, with many chance meetings, and moments of sorrow and joy. On the way back, we attended a Red Dress ceremony led by Granny Rose to honour the 1,000+ indigenous women missing in Canada, many along BC’s Highway of Tears. Then, with true reconciliation in our hearts, we staggered back into camp at sunset to plan the next day’s shoot—a hard blockade.
Red Dress Ceremony (YC photo)
Scene 4: Hard Times at a Hard Blockade. Location: Road to 2,000 Camp and Waterfall Camp
A hard blockade is where defenders dig holes in an access road, and glue their legs in with concrete. We use them because the exclusion zones prevent us from bussing in thousands of citizens. While our government spews out weekly “talk and log” announcements, and NGOs gather signatures for petitions no one will read, the hard blockaders are saving trees.
At 4 in the morning the arrestee group and film crew gathered to begin the 9-kilometre bushwhack through dark forest to evade the exclusion zone. But something snapped inside each of us. We decided to stop playing their game, and start taking back our Charter rights of free assembly. We snatched a few hours of sleep, and drove to the police road block around 9:00 am.
Script Change: “We decide to break the illegal exclusion line instead.”
Led by Indigenous defenders Rainbow Eyes and Lady Chainsaw, 20 citizens advanced on the RCMP’s “thin blue line,” like a lapping tide, in waves. The officers looked at each other, in growing doubt. The RCMP line broke like a bad dream.
Mist, in red, with Lady Chainsaw (RFS photo)
Pushing Lady Chainsaw’s wheelchair around the police vehicles, we hiked five kilometres in to the next zone, where a group of reinforcements stood lined up like tin soldiers.
Undeterred, Christoph, whom you met in Diary 4, stepped forward. In all, 13 were carted off into paddy wagons, held for four hours, and released without charge. We call this “Catch and Release.”
Catch and release is another unreasonable abuse of discretionary police privilege; in this case to apprehend a suspect, and release them if charges will not stick. Deliberate catch and release takes away our Charter right to talk to a judge and go to jail for our beliefs.
None of us got charged, but we got footage for Scott’s film, and best of all, later on, a hard blockader from nearby Waterfall Camp told me: “They were slamming us, dropping out of choppers with quads, using diamond grinders on our wrist chains, and all of a sudden half of them disappeared. We knew something was up. Thanks.”
Title Suggestion: The Death and Rebirth of Civil Liberties in Canada
We’re losing this War to Save the Woods because false arrest and illegal exclusion zones have made traditional civil disobedience obsolete. The RCMP tactics are clever, but they are totally illegal. Forest defenders describe TFL 46 as a police state. In a few short weeks, our purpose has changed from saving trees, to saving democracy.
The mainstream media are just recycling Orwellian press releases. The plan to stop cutting old growth is to cut it all down, so there’s none left to cut. No wonder the public are confused.
Rainforest Flying Squad (R4FS), and an angry ecosystem of citizen’s groups including Elders For Ancient Trees, are launching multiple legal actions to challenge false arrest and the illegal exclusion zones. Please keep giving to the R4FS Go Fund Me page, because class action civil liberties suits are expensive.
We’re taking our Premier to court, so he will give us back our Charter rights to go to jail.
When civil disobedience is restored, hopefully there will still be some old growth trees left to save, and we’ll be able to go in front of Justice Verhoeven again. I’m suggesting we use the following defence:
“Please sentence me to 100 hours of community service, like they got at Clayoquot. I’d like to do my community service with an organization that is actively working to reduce the 65 million tonnes a year of CO2 emissions caused by clearcutting! They’re protecting biodiversity and democracy! They’re called The Rainforest Flying Squad.”
People ask me where I get these ideas. Credit where due. It came to me standing in a rainforest, with a chopper idling in the background. Titania, the Mother Tree, whispered it in my ear.
Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer.
Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
June 26, 2021
LAST NIGHT I RETURNED TO FAIRY CREEK from my home “outside,” where I am blessed to live in a forest. A friend had come to visit on his birthday, and we walked the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. “Outside” I swam back upstream here like a salmon through a river of tourists eager to soak up some sun and unwind after a year of COVID.
And then I headed back to Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek.
Not 30 minutes after I drove my car a quarter mile up Granite Main, past the sign “You are entering TFL 46,” parked at the gate to “HQ,” and was sitting around the watch fire, the soft summer night was shattered by screams and broken glass. I was back “inside.”
On my way in, I had passed three cars, pulled to the side of the road, people bedding down for the night, walking their dogs, exchanging a few words. A half-hour later, an angry mob swept up and destroyed the rustic intake booth, and stoned their cars, with them inside.
The occupants came running and driving up the road for shelter, windshields and faith in humanity shattered.
Smashed windows of forest defender’s car.
I couldn’t help but think of Kristallnacht. You on the outside will surely say “tut tut, that was different.” Nobody was killed last night, but here on the inside, it doesn’t feel very different.
We live in a province with a leader consolidating his power by exterminating an ecosystem, using a paramilitary tactical squad to enforce “law and order,” and benefitting from mob violence.
And the fear in the eyes of the victims is the same. Come down here and look in their eyes. The vulnerability, the violation, are exactly the same.
On the outside, you can wake up this morning with a reasonable expectation of a cup of coffee, greeting your friends and family, and doing your job. The police will not rappel down from helicopters into your back yard and threaten to punch you in the face. You won’t awake to find your car towed down a logging road and have its tires slashed. You can sleep in peace.
On the inside, it’s different. If you think I’m overreacting, what do you want me to say to this young man, in his bare feet and pyjamas, voice trembling—“and they threw stones right into my car,” broken glass all around his feet? He came here to protect some trees. Who will protect him?
How far is this going to go? Who are we as a people?
This will go unnoticed. Mainstream media won’t print this story. Here on the inside, we’ll pick up the pieces, and get on with our day. We’ll try and comfort the afflicted, and pass the hat to help them fix their cars.
We reported three assaults with property damage, and were routed to North Island dispatch, who said we’d get a call. No call came. We won’t waste our time on the RCMP. We know they’ll say it was a “random act of violence,” and that “they don’t have the resources.”
Germania with her damaged vehicle, Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek
How do we deal with this?
All I can think of is to ask groups of people from the city who feel protected by whatever privilege they have to come down every night and camp at the junction of Granite Main, and when the mob shows up next time, use your connections to see that justice is done.
For me, I’ll carry on believing that John Horgan has a lot to answer for here.
Hopefully my next post will be a bit more cheerful. I meant to tell you about a group of biologists walking a sacred valley to find endangered birds, by coaxing them with their own calls. I meant to tell you how I walked amongst some 2,000 year old yellow cedars on my own little pilgrimage.
We’ll see how it goes.
Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer. Read his earlier entries about getting back to the garden (thank you Joni M), his arrest (“Six Hours in Paddy Wagon”), the targeting of First Nations youths by the RCMP, and why he is willing to be arrested (“25 Species Will Go Extinct Today”).
Correspondent "Yellow Cedar" reports from inside the old-growth blockades
June 15, 2021
I CAME UPON A CHILD OF GOD, he was walking along the road
And I asked him, “Where are you going?” and this he told me
I’m going on down to Fairy Creek, I’m gonna try and save some trees
I’m gonna camp out on the land, I’m gonna try and get my soul free
(Stanzas in italics are from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” about the 1969 Woodstock Festival.)
MY VANCOUVER FRIEND Christoph wants to bring some of his friends up to (Ada-Itsx) Fairy Creek. Could I give him the lay of the land?
“How can I contribute? What should I bring?”
He likes to cook warm meals in the woods, so I suggested he pack his cooking gear, and hike a few hours past the headwaters, through the 2,000-year-old yellow cedars, to Ridge Camp, which blocks the logging road from punching into Fairy Creek watershed.
If our old growth is protected, what’s the road for?
While politicians chatter, the RCMP showed up yesterday with 37 SWAT team commandoes, using diamond saws to cut chains, and a backhoe to dig people out of concrete and rebar reinforced “sleeping dragons.”
Imagine a backhoe blade smacking the earth three inches from your face! Yet every night, new blockaders slip back in from the forest and chain themselves back in.
They’re living on ramen and granola bars, so I suggested if Chris made them a warm, savoury stew, it would go down very well. His cookware and skills will be appreciated. But he could show up empty handed and still be welcome.
The only thing you need to bring is your self.
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
The Pacheedaht Council, by the way, encourages peaceful protest, outside the injunction zone of 50 metres from active logging. The Council’s statement was required to fulfill their obligations under a colonial “hush money” contract they signed to get at least $300,000 for the destruction of their ancestral forest.
That’s all they’ll receive from the conservatively-estimated $400,000,000 street value of TFL 46. A bag of beads and a keg of whiskey all over again. If you want to know more about colonialism at Fairy Creek, please read this.
Indigenous leaders invite you to stand by them and the trees at Ada-Itsx.
Meanwhile, at Ada-itsx people are building true reconciliation with our bare hands and our hearts, inspired by the leadership of Pacheedahts Kati George-Jim, Granny Rose, and elder Bill Jones. Bill was the first to invite us to come up to the woods. I love Bill. In my life, he has become my father, and my grandfather. He is a quiet man, but people ask him to talk, because he comes out with wisdom like this:
“You don’t go up to the forest to cut it down, you go up to ask the Great Mother what she wants you to do.”
“Camping on the land” is back on. And getting our souls free.
Then can I walk beside you? I have come here to lose the smog,
and I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am, but you know life is for learning
Walking to Waterfall Camp in June (photo by Alex Harris)
“Walking beside each other” is my favourite part of Fairy Creek. Eyes sparkle. Stories tumble out. Friendships are made and sealed in a moment.
Although you can, you don’t need to come to Fairy Creek to spend a week in a tree like Panda and Hummingbird, who were inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat for two years in a California Redwood she named “Luna.”
Just come to Fairy Creek Blockade HQ, now on Google Maps, at Pacific Marine Road and Granite Main, near Port Renfrew, and it will all start for you.
Yesterday I met Toucan and her family. Toucan is a “camp name.” Toucan’s sister couldn’t think of another rainforest bird, so she called herself “One-Can.” That, of course, left Mom with “Three-Can.” This lovely family have flocked to Fairy Creek, like planetary T-cells, to help heal a wound.
We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
They were mulling over getting arrested. I set them at ease. The RCMP will inform you if you are breaking a law, and give you the opportunity to step back. They actually don’t want to arrest people, because if 1,000 people go to jail, the trees win.
The only place you risk arrest is within 50 metres of active logging, or machinery, which would place you in violation of Justice Verhoeven’s injunction.
And that’s a choice you can make when you get here. You don’t need to get arrested to stand with the forest defenders and trees. “Cookie” is a beautiful soul in her 70s, who came to camp for three days. She says “I like feeding people.” That was 5 months ago.
Toucan was feeling pretty courageous about the whole arrest thing. “I’m nine years old, what can they do to me?” No one knows yet, but I think we’re about to find out! One-Can, at 14, was a little more cautious. Could she get her first job with a criminal record?
Filmmaker “Egg” reminded her that committing civil disobedience is a civil offence, not criminal, and suggested “it will look good on your resume for Harvard.”
“The RCMP might tack on a criminal “public mischief” charge, but Justice Verhoeven will dismiss that as mischievous. Always practice non-violence. Satyagraha is “holding firmly to the power of truth.” If you get in a situation, just think, what would Gandhi do? You’ll be fine.
Three-Can was quietly mulling all this over in her own way. I think she was wondering why her government would send an RCMP SWAT team to chuck her children in jail for hugging a tree. The situation is pretty weird! A lot to think about.
Western Trillium in Fairy Creek area forest, early June (photo by Alex Harris)
And that, to me, is the gift waiting for us at Fairy Creek, the soul searching. What is our relationship with our planet? What is our relationship with our government? How can we help? What am I ready to do, today?
As we think these thoughts, and make our choices, we change inside. In fact, we start to become the change that we want to see. And we are not alone!
By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers, riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies, above our nation
Human history lurches forward in fits and starts, as good ideas percolate up into people’s consciousness. Bruce Cockburn lamented “Why does history take such a long long time?” But when a threshold number of us catch fire, change just suddenly happens overnight, like bamboo shooting up 90 feet in five weeks after germinating underground for five years.
Today, we are ready. Today, in our time, at Fairy Creek, Ada-itsx, the dam is breaking. The arrow is leaving the bow.
Fairy Creek is no longer just a watershed of Old Growth trees, it is our moment to build reconciliation between forests, oceans, the clouds that join them, First Nations, their land, and all the people from around the world who have settled here.
Bill Jones says “when you go into nature, let her enter you.” At Fairy Creek, we’re settling into the land, and she into us.
The most difficult reconciliation is that with our government. Our democracy has lost its way, and we are taking it by the hand and leading it back to wisdom.
We are stardust, billion year old carbon.
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
Joni is so amazing. If Bill is my father, she is my mother. In 1969, she intuitively grasped the significance of carbon, and that we are carbon. Then she rhymed it with garden.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but I don’t think so.
And even if you can’t come to Fairy Creek right now, imagine this—Joni Mitchell didn’t actually get to Woodstock, she wrote the song after chatting with her boyfriend Graham Nash, who sang there.
Even if you can’t make it physically, you can be here, now.
Fairy Creek valley, June 2021 (photo by Alex Harris)
Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer. Read his earlier entries about his arrest ("Six Hours in Paddy Wagon"), the targeting of First Nations youths by the RCMP, and why he is willing to be arrested ("25 Species Will Go Extinct Today").
THE FAIRY CREEK AREA, with its old growth and unique ecosystems, needs our protection. Thousands of people, not just from BC, but from all over the World know about old-growth logging in BC, and we want that logging to be stopped.
There is only three percent of old-growth forests left in BC and this is a shame for all governments which allowed it.
I am an independent 69-year-old professional, who has devoted all my life to respect and protect nature in every country, every place I lived.
I am a Landscape Architect with great 6 years of European University education about role of nature in our lives. I have 2 years of plant physiology courses, which taught me about the biochemistry of plant cells.
I know how they produce oxygen, without which no life on our planet can exist. Trees, shrubs and flowers are not only for esthetic purposes in our life, they give us Life, for free.
I am also a nature interpreter for schools and the general public at Nanaimo’s Morrell Nature Sanctuary.
As an independent citizen of Canada, I chose to start a hunger strike on June 2, 2021 without definite end. I devote this hunger strike to draw even more attention of the media, governments and public to the mindless devastation of the best gifts nature could give us: our forests, and particularly, old growth.
On June 13, another group of concerned citizens will start their hunger strike in Vancouver. I hope we can make a difference.
As is made clear by renowned scientists, among them our own Suzanne Simard (recent book: Finding the Mother Tree) and Germany’s Peter Wohlleben (book: Secret Life of Trees), trees create their own environment, ecosystems which allow millions of species, including humans, to live on our planet.
Thousands or hundreds year-old trees are even more valuable for that ecosystem, but only when they are standing, growing, doing their job for the rest of nature.
Young trees can’t survive very well without these Mother Trees. All these trees interact and connect through mycelium, a fungi connection that supports all forests’ life. We only started to learn about this recently.
If old growth at Fairy Creek is destroyed, logged within a few months, there will be no return, no possibility to learn about it, to support our lives, to continue BC’s economy based on natural resources.
Old growth is worth much more standing than cut down and changed to pellets or chips to send to Sweden—so they can pretend that they are reducing their climate pollution by burning them to produce electricity.
Why are there so many trees in BC, yet so few businesses producing value-added wood products?
Why do we export raw lumber ignoring the income to be earned and jobs to be generated by turning lumber to high quality products?
Someone in the BC Ministry of Raw Log Exports needs to give their head a shake and craft whatever policies or tax regimes are needed to build a much stronger value-added wood products sector. Now, not in 100 years.
We need a new framework to support a new sustainable economy. The old framework based on free market economics is one of the causes of our many problems. It ignores nature, ignores homelessness, poverty and the realities of power. The free market in housing has created spiralling housing price inflation alongside homelessness, lack of proper mental health care, and unaffordable rents. That has to be changed.
We need a socially responsible market economy, not a selfish market economy, in which the only assumed purpose of business is to make money, regardless of the social and ecological costs.
A vibrant, green economy should be constantly generating new businesses, both private and cooperative. The failure rate for new businesses is high, but when start-ups are supported by community economic organizations that provide training and peer-support, the survival rate increases. At the same time, government at all levels should encourage new businesses to become part of a circular economy of reusing, generating zero landfill waste and recycling wastes into new materials for reuse in the economy. That includes sustainable forest management like selective logging.
There is a great place near Nanaimo to learn about it from professionals: Wildwood Ecoforest. So there is no excuse for governments and logging companies: there they could learn and transfer to sustainable logging, creating even more jobs.
Kate Raworth is a British economist, whose book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a Twenty-First Century Economist is well known already, causing a stir around the World. Her framework for economic development is like a doughnut, where the outer edge is the ecological ceiling, beyond which lie all sorts of ecological dangers, and the inner edge is the social boundary, beyond which people live in a world of poverty and injustice. “The safe and just space for humanity” lies within the doughnut.
The City of Nanaimo has recently adopted this framework to guide all its development, joining Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Brussels, Portland, Philadelphia and many other fantastic cities.
City of Nanaimo and City of Lantzville bravely joined recently the protest against logging old growth in the Fairy Creek area by voting yes to Councillor Ben Geselbracht's motion to formally oppose logging of at-risk old growth forest.
The motion calls on the BC government to defer logging “in all high-productivity, rare, oldest and most intact” old growth forest including at Fairy Creek, to fund an “economically just” transition from unsustainable logging, and forward the resolution for debate at the next Union of BC Municipalities convention.
“This is an unacceptable level of protection for the little that is left of such a globally valuable natural asset,” Geselbracht said. He said that his motion “is not against logging in general, but a request to preserve a small percentage of BC forests”.
Now is the time for change, for shifting to sustainable, green economies, to protect as much precious land and old growth, so future generations can have a healthy living.
Please note: I didn’t even mention “ornamental, esthetic” value of preserved forests for the touristic economy, which is also great in BC. People from over the world come here to enjoy pristine forests, old growth, waterfalls, and wildlife of our land and ocean. Because we professionals and scientists see the real value of standing old growth: for ecosystem, for diversity, for life-giving forces.
This planet and nature do not belong to us. We humans belong to the planet and to nature. It is time to change our thinking and respect our nature.
See Dispatches for more information on Helena Kreowska's hunger strike.
Twin Western red cedar trees in the Caycuse area, before logging and after (Photos by TJ Watts)
WHEN A PROVINCE’S MOTTO motto is invoked ironically, it may be time to reconsider that motto.
British Columbia’s provincial motto is Splendor sine occasu, a Latin phrase usually translated as “Splendour without diminishment.” Narrowly defined, it was intended to refer to the sun on the provincial shield that “although setting, never decreases.”
But the “Splendour” applies equally well to the entire province. BC has more topography than any other province or territory—more mountain ranges, more coastlines. It has more climatic zones, more ecosystems and species than anywhere else in Canada. Or perhaps anywhere else in the world at temperate latitudes.
And that “Splendour”—BC’s natural heritage—has been greatly diminished by our activities. This applies to our oceans and our freshwater as well, but today I’d like to focus on BC’s old-growth forests.
More than 80 percent of BC is covered with forest—we are truly a forested province. There are more types of forest in BC than anywhere else in Canada, from our northern boreal forests to our coastal rainforests. For thousands of years these forests have provided the essentials of life for BC’s First Nations. And they’ve provided habitat for our province’s plants, animals and fungi.
But today we find our rich forest endowment greatly diminished. BC logs considerably more forest each year than any other province. Except where we’ve built large cities, however, we haven’t deforested our province. We’ve simply clearcut our original (old-growth) forests, and regenerated second-growth forests. But these second-growth forests are profoundly different from the forests that were logged, in just about any way you can imagine. They are different structurally and functionally, and they provide little in the way of habitat for the many species that have adapted over millennia to life in old-growth forests. And so perhaps it’s not surprising that BC leads Canada in another category—we have more threatened and endangered species than any other province or territory.
One area that BC doesn’t lead Canada is in protecting old-growth forests and species at risk. We remain one of the few provinces without endangered species legislation. For old-growth forests with very big old trees, only about three percent (approximately 35,000 hectares) remains today outside of protected areas. That’s certainly splendour diminished.
The NDP government’s own Old Growth Panel called for a deferral on logging on BC’s most at-risk old-growth forests within six months of publication of its report. It’s been more than a year now, a year during which the rate of old-growth logging has accelerated considerably. The NDP government promised endangered species legislation for our province, but has subsequently changed their mind. While independent scientists (using provincial government inventory data) have clearly documented and mapped how little high productivity old-growth forest remains, the provincial government and industry continue to assure us that there is lots left, and they’re developing a plan. Talk and log.
There’s an urgency to this issue—every week fewer of these iconic forests remain.
Fortunately, more and more people are rejecting the “relax, we’re on it” message of the provincial government and industry. Instead, they’re listening to what independent scientists are saying, or they’re paying attention to what air photos and satellite images are making abundantly clear. Or perhaps they simply appreciate what they see when they drive the backroads of our province.
For old-growth forests and species-at-risk, there is no objective on-the-ground difference between Christy Clark’s Liberals and John Horgan’s NDP. They share the same legislation and policies. Perhaps the biggest difference is that the NDP promised to be a champion for forests and species, and the Liberals never did. That certainly makes the inaction of the NDP seem all the more appallingly cynical. Activists frustrated at the inaction of our provincial government are beginning to take direct nonviolent action at roadblocks in Fairy Creek and elsewhere.
BC’s natural splendour is certainly diminished. But there are clear opportunities for our governments to protect some of what’s left. For old-growth forests, the recommendations of the government’s own Old Growth Panel report provide an excellent path forward. The NDP have promised to implement these recommendations. Now all that’s required is the political will to keep their promises.
Andy MacKinnon is a forest ecologist who, until his retirement in 2015, worked for the BC Forest Service for three decades. He was responsible for ecosystem classification and mapping and a program of forest ecology research focused on old growth structure and composition, effects of climate change, and BC’s native plants and fungi. He is the co-author of six best-selling books about plants of western North America. He lives in Metchosin and serves as a municipal councillor there.
The most important part of this "potentially significant" Govt. announcement is of course the commentary provided by the Wilderness Committee, since "these draft frameworks, plans & consultations are all happening while habitat is being destroyed & species are being pushed toward extinction." I.e. it's meaningless unless acted on with the urgency spelled out by Coste & Dawe, to avoid further deadly consequences - most obvious & pressing of which are out-of-control wildfires proven to be spread (if not caused directly) by the criminal clearcutting/spraying of healthy forests: THAT emergency must be prioritized as a key impetus for timely implementation of new measures, by Spring at the latest, before a repeat of last year's 'wildfire season'.
The Wilderness Committee sent out the following news release in response to Minister Nathan Cullen's announcement:
New BC biodiversity framework positive but law to protect species is needed
Long-delayed legislation and lack of new interim measures mean harm to wildlife continues
VICTORIA / UNCEDED LEKWUNGEN TERRITORIES — The BC NDP government released a long-anticipated draft framework on biodiversity and ecosystem health for First Nations and public consultation today; it’s a step towards a final plan to prioritize ecosystems in all legislation for all sectors in the province. The Wilderness Committee welcomes this potentially significant measure toward addressing gaps in B.C.’s environmental laws. The group warns, however, that these draft frameworks, plans and consultations are all happening while habitat is being destroyed and species are being pushed toward extinction.
“We need a law to protect species and ecosystems that are at risk,” said Conservation and Policy Campaigner Charlotte Dawe. “The longer government delays on delivering a law, the harder it will be to tackle the biodiversity crisis and its devastating impacts in B.C., especially with no immediate interim measures to safeguard the most vulnerable ecosystems and species.”
The Wilderness Committee is reviewing and assessing the draft framework but is initially happy to see the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems will be prioritized above resource extraction and other development across all sectors and ministries and that this will be reflected in legislation co-developed with First Nations titleholders.
The organization is concerned the lack of a specific commitment to an overarching law to protect species and their habitats means it could be left out. The vague framing of “ecosystem health” leaves the door open for logging, mining and oil and gas projects that destroy or degrade habitat and threaten biodiversity.
Following a 2017 campaign promise to enact endangered species legislation, the BC government launched a consultation process and engaged stakeholders across all sectors before walking away from the commitment in 2018.
“We’ve been on this ride with this government before, and we know logging and mining companies will again be lobbying hard to protect the status quo,” Dawe said. “The BC NDP is promising to do better, promising this time will be different, but they need to put this framework into action and truly put biodiversity ahead of corporate interests.”
The Wilderness Committee has been advocating for a law to protect species at risk in B.C. for more than two decades. Tens of thousands of people have called on the provincial government to pass this legislation. The group says a strong law would be enforceable, free of loopholes, account for cumulative effects on at-risk species and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous titleholders. The timeline released by the government today states an implementation plan will be released along with the finalized framework next spring. The Wilderness Committee expects to hear concrete steps the government will take to implement a new law then.
The draft framework released today is a result of the Old Growth Strategic Review, which included prioritizing ecosystem health and biodiversity as the second recommendation in its groundbreaking report in 2020.
“The old-growth review recommendations had a three-year timeline — those three years are gone, and the BC NDP is only just now releasing a draft framework to make biodiversity and ecosystems a priority,” said Associate Director Torrance Coste. “These delays have deadly consequences, and species like the spotted owl and southern mountain caribou are being pushed to the brink of extinction while the government continues to ‘talk and log.’”
The Wilderness Committee will be preparing its submissions in the coming weeks. It will continue to work with other organizations, First Nations and the public to push for a strong law to protect species and ecosystems across the province.
I am a Wetsuweten wing chief. I was very touched by Catherine McClarty's personal story of activism. I am reaching out to wish her wellness and recovery. It is so sad how much power industry has. A great personal sacrifice on her part. Thank you Catherine for that. God bless and universe energy to heal you. Dolores