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New BC government must reform forest policies, say environmentalists, businesses, and union

October 10, 2017

For immediate release:

Conservationists with the Ancient Forest Alliance and Sierra Club BC joined representatives from the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC) forestry union and the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce to shine a spotlight on needed government policies to protect BC’s old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry, during the 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly in Vancouver.

Left to right: Jens Wieting, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC; Andrea Inness, Forest Campaigner, Ancient Forest Alliance; Dan Hager, President, Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce; Ken Wu, Executive Director, Ancient Forest Alliance; Arnold Bercov, President, Public and Private Workers of Canada. Photo and media conference by an old-growth redcedar tree in Stanley Park, October 10, 2017.

Vancouver, BC – A coalition of BC environmentalists, unions, and business representatives is taking shape and, with the 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly underway this week in Vancouver, the groups are calling on the new BC NDP government to take action to protect the province’s endangered old-growth forests and ensure a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry.

The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), along with representatives from the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce and the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC), representing thousands of forestry workers across BC, and Sierra Club BC, held a press conference on Tuesday among the old-growth trees of Stanley Park to discuss the new forest policies they want the BC government to implement.

The 2017 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) General Assembly being held in Vancouver brings together forestry sector leaders from around the world, including representatives from industry, unions, environmental NGOs, Indigenous groups, and government policy makers.

“With over 800 delegates from 80 countries gathering in Vancouver right now to discuss responsible forest management, it’s a great time to highlight the need for a major policy shift in BC to protect endangered old-growth forests and forestry jobs,” said Ken Wu, Executive Director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “Third party eco-certification can be an effective way to raise the sustainability of logging companies, but ultimately having strong laws and policies is most important. We see the election of this new government as a very positive development, and it presents the greatest opportunity in decades to create win-win solutions for forestry workers, businesses, First Nations, the environment and the climate.”

The Ancient Forest Alliance is asking for a series of policy changes that can be rolled out over both short- and longer-term timelines. This includes a comprehensive, science-based law to protect old-growth forests, partly modeled after the ecosystem-based management approach used in the Great Bear Rainforest, which set aside 85% of the forests on BC’s north and central coast.

It also includes financial support for sustainable economic development and diversification of First Nations communities, known as “conservation financing,” while supporting First Nations land use plans. While these longer-term solutions are being developed, an interim halt to logging in old-growth “hotspots” – areas of high conservation value – must be implemented to ensure the largest and best stands of remaining old-growth forests are kept intact while a larger plan is developed.

There are also a number of policies that can be readily implemented more quickly. For example, the BC government is currently finishing work on developing a Big Tree Protection Order as a policy option, which if implemented would protect the biggest trees on the coast with buffer zones.

In addition, forest reserves such as many Old-Growth Management Areas that currently exist only on paper should be made legally binding, and the system should be quickly expanded to protect additional endangered old-growth forests. The NDP government should also direct BC Timber Sales (BCTS), the BC government’s logging agency, to discontinue issuance of old-growth cut blocks. Finally, annual funding needs to be directed to establish a park acquisition fund, which would allow the BC government to purchase and protect private lands of high conservation, cultural or recreational value.

“We are excited to work constructively with this new government and hope to start seeing policy changes in the very near future,” said Andrea Inness, Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner. “In the province’s most significant old-growth ‘hot spots,’ getting at least a temporary halt to logging is step one, so we’re not in a ‘talk and log’ situation where endangered old-growth forests are being logged while policy negotiations take place, limiting our options for protection.”

The forestry worker unions, PPWC and Unifor, agree there needs to be regulations and incentives in place that ensure a value-added second growth forest industry. Recommended regulations include increasing the province’s log exports tax on second-growth logs and banning or quickly phasing out the export of old-growth log exports. Incentives include providing relief on PST, stumpage fees or property taxes for companies investing in second-growth milling equipment.

“We’re a union that supports sustainable forestry jobs and environmental protection,” said Arnold Bercov, President of the Public and Private Workers of Canada. “The NDP government has expressed concern for jobs as BC mills are continuing to shut their doors, putting people out of work. Port Alberni’s Somass sawmill closed in June and PPWC’s Long Hoh and Ladysmith mills have faced log shortages and temporary closures. The futures of these mills are now in jeopardy. We want to see action from this government to protect our forestry jobs, support wood manufacturing jobs in both First Nations and non-First Nations communities, and to protect endangered old-growth forests.”

In addition to unions, the AFA works closely with the business community, like the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce, which has led BC’s business community in rallying behind old-growth protection for economic reasons. The groups are urging the Ministry of Forests to consider the province’s broader business community, which also has a stake in responsible forest policy and conservation.

“The Ministry of Forests’ decision-making process on forests should include the interests of the broader business community,” said Dan Hager, business owner and President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce. “In many places, such as Port Renfrew, many businesses stand to gain from protecting more old-growth forests. The protection and promotion of the Port Renfrew area’s record-breaking big trees, along with the famed Avatar Grove, has prompted our former logging town to rebrand itself for old-growth forest tourism. We’re now known as the ‘Tall Trees Capital of Canada.’”

“Old-growth forests in many places can have a much greater value standing than as lumber and logs,” said Hager. “Thanks to ‘tall tree’ tourism, we’re seeing jobs, real estate development and property values go up in Port Renfrew. It sets a good example to other communities that there are jobs and enormous economic benefits to protecting old-growth forests.”

“We have learned in the Great Bear Rainforest that solutions for old-growth conservation, communities, and certainty for forestry are possible. We are losing the remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island at a faster pace than primary rainforest gets logged in tropical countries. The climate crisis means that we must keep carbon stored in old-growth forests, which must now be considered a non-renewable resource and will not grow back as we know it. The time for action is now,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner, Sierra Club BC.

More Background Information

Old-growth forests are vital to sustaining unique endangered species, climate stability, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, and the cultures of many First Nations. On BC’s southern coast, satellite photos show that at least 75% of the original, productive old-growth forests have been logged, including well over 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only about 8% of Vancouver Island’s original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas. Old-growth forests – with trees that can be 2000 years old – are a non-renewable resource under BC’s system of forestry, where second-growth forests are re-logged every 50 to 100 years, never to become old-growth again.

In recent times, the voices for old-growth protection have been quickly expanding, including numerous Chambers of Commerce, mayors and city councils, forestry unions, and conservation groups across BC who have been calling on the provincial government to expand protection for BC’s remaining old-growth forests.

BC’s premier business lobby, the BC Chamber of Commerce, representing 36,000 businesses, passed a resolution in May of 2016 calling on the province to expand protection for BC’s old-growth forests to support the economy, after a series of similar resolutions passed by the Port Renfrew, Sooke, and WestShore Chambers of Commerce. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1010

Both the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), representing the mayors, city and town councils, and regional districts across BC, and the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC), representing Vancouver Island local governments, passed a resolution last year calling on the province to protect Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests by amending the 1994 land use plan. See: http://www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1057

The Private and Public Workers of Canada (PPWC), formerly the Pulp, Paper, and Woodworkers of Canada, representing thousands of sawmill and pulp mill workers across BC, passed a resolution earlier this year calling for an end to old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. See: http://ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=1100

The Ahousaht First Nation north of Tofino in Clayoquot Sound also announced early this year that 82% of their territory will be off-limits to commercial logging. They now need provincial legislation and funding to help make their vision a reality. See: https://www.desmog.ca/2017/01/27/first-nation-just-banned-industrial-logging-and-mining-vancouver-island-territory

The Ancient Forest Alliance is calling on the BC government to implement a comprehensive science-based plan to protect all of BC’s remaining endangered old-growth forests, and to also ensure a sustainable, value-added second-growth forest industry.

The NDP’s 2017 election platform states that “In partnership with First Nations and communities, we will modernize land-use planning to effectively and sustainably manage BC’s ecosystems, rivers, lakes, watersheds, forests and old growth, while accounting for cumulative effects. We will take an evidence-based scientific approach and use the ecosystem-based management of the Great Bear Rainforest as a model.” (see page 61 of their platform at: https://action.bcndp.ca/page/-/bcndp/docs/BC-NDP-Platform-2017.pdf). If taken literally and seriously, this would almost certainly result in the protection of the remaining endangered old-growth forest on BC’s southern coast and in the BC Interior, where old-growth forests are far scarcer and more endangered than in the Central and Northern Coast (Great Bear Rainforest) where 85% of the forests (including the vast majority of the old-growth) were set aside in protected areas and under the ecosystem-based management.

 

For more information, contact:

Ken Wu, Executive Director, Ancient Forest Alliance: 250-514-9910

Andrea Inness, Campaigner, Ancient Forest Alliance: 778-953-5983

Arnold Bercov, President, Public and Private Workers of Canada: 604-862-3800

Dan Hager, President, Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce: 250-858-7665

Jens Wieting, Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club of BC: 604-354-5312

It doesn’t have to be a carbon offset

Take climate action by supporting Sierra Club BC’s campaign to protect Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich old-growth rainforest! 

Travel—especially by air—burns a lot of carbon dioxide. Have you considered buying carbon credits to offset some of your emissions?

Carbon offsets run the gamut from good to bad. Credible offsets can contribute to climate solutions – if they are combined with concrete steps to reduce emissions. Unfortunately there are many examples of dubious projects, making it important to verify whether standards are met.

As an alternative to buying carbon offsets, consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

Wood waste from a clear cut. Photo by TJ Watt.

BC’s old-growth rainforests store up to 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, one of the highest rates on earth. They’re like a carbon bank, accumulating carbon in soil, trees and organic matter over millennia. Reducing emissions by avoiding logging of this old-growth has immediate benefits for the climate.

Sadly, about half of the carbon stored in these ecosystems gets released in clearcut logging. This is often combined with slash burning, an egregious practice that releases millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases annually and must be phased out.

It can take centuries until the biomass reaches previous levels—time we don’t have.

 

While improving forest management will help in the fight against climate change, the most urgent step is to simply leave carbon-rich and resilient forests alive and standing.

This is why Sierra Club BC is working so hard to protect ancient forests.

By becoming a member of Sierra Club BC, you can help protect British Columbia’s forests and our climate.

Vancouver Island: The last stand for carbon-rich old-growth

In BC, Vancouver Island is Ground Zero for logging of endangered old-growth rainforest. A recent Sierra Club BC analysis showed that destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests.

Clear cut logging in East Creek, Vancouver Island. Photo by TJ Watt.

Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest.

Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by thirty per cent.[1] (Three times higher than the ten percent decline for primary forests of tropical countries over the same time period.[2]) Only about ten percent of the biggest trees remain standing. In the last few years the annual old-growth logging rate was 9,000 hectares per year or twenty-five hectares a day.

We have estimated the impact of one year’s worth of old-growth logging on Vancouver Island on our climate. We found old-growth logging on the Island alone essentially eliminated BC’s progress in reducing carbon emissions in the same year, releasing approximately 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nullifying the province’s progress in reducing annual emissions by the same amount.

Solutions are possible when we work together

The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements show that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards. The Great Bear Rainforest carbon project documentation showed that the reduced rate of logging is resulting in 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions reductions annually, benefiting the region’s First Nations with revenue from carbon.

The Great Bear Rainforest lies within a particularly rich region of the province – and North America – for carbon retention. Map source: BC Ministry of Environment.

New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions. The Ahousaht Nation in Clayoquot Sound is leading the way in demonstrating alternatives to old-growth logging, with their land use vision that includes an end to industrial logging in their territory.

Sierra Club BC mapping shows approximately 1.5 million hectares of remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver IsIand and the South Coast area that are currently unprotected. Within this area, there are 600,000 hectares of relatively productive stands, with significant carbon storagecapacity and a higher likelihood of getting targeted for logging. These forests alone store the equivalent of thirteen times BC’s annual emissions.

Sierra Club BC will work with the new BC government, First Nations and the forestry sector to increase protection of ecosystems with high carbon and species habitat value, in particular temperate rainforests, as a key element in its response to global warming. Old-growth rainforest is more resilient than younger forest, and BC’s ecosystems and species habitat are shifting rapidly in a changing climate. That’s why ecologists consider the remaining old-growth a “non-renewable” resource.

Join us today

We will only get there with your support. We cannot tell you exactly how many tonnes of carbon will remain stored in ancient trees as a result of our work, instead of getting chopped and partly burned in slash piles. But we can assure you that our role has been and will continue to be critical to ensure progress for new protected areas and our climate.

Please consider supporting Sierra Club BC’s work toward lasting protection of Vancouver Island’s carbon-rich endangered old-growth rainforest.

You can do this by becoming a member of Sierra Club BC. The best way to support our work is with a monthly contribution of $8, $15 or $25.

So, are you in?

 

Feature image by Andrew S. Wright.

Footnotes:

[1]  The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which anestimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, adecline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years.

[2]  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).

We have to protect all of the world’s rainforests, not just tropical rainforests

By Alys Granados

May 2017

Most of us have heard about how rainforests are in trouble and the rapid rate at which we are losing these spectacular ecosystems, along with the incredible diversity of species that depend on them. Globally, most of these reports focus on tropical rainforests and there has been too little awareness about the fate of temperate rainforests. Close to home, very few know that the remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver Island is disappearing faster than natural tropical rainforests.

Few of us have the opportunity to visit tropical forests in person, which can make us feel disconnected from the problems of deforestation and degradation of tropical countries. I am extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to work in tropical rainforests over the past seven years, as part of my graduate work in wildlife ecology. Most of this has been in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo where I investigated how selective logging disrupts interactions between trees and mammals.

Central Walbran Valley. Photo: TJ Watt.

The loss of intact tropical forests continues to be a serious threat. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently estimated that globally, ten per cent of the remaining primary forests in tropical rainforest countries were lost between 1990 and 2015. These forests are home to many species which exist nowhere else on the planet and protecting their habitats is critical to their survival. Further, the livelihood of millions of people depends on intact forests and they play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change by storing massive amounts of carbon.

While all of this may be well known to many, few of us in Canada realize just how fast old-growth rainforest is being logged on Vancouver Island. I was very shocked to learn from recent Sierra Club BC data that over that same period (1990 to 2015), thirty per cent of the remaining old-growth forest on Vancouver Island was logged. In other words, the rate of loss of so-called “primary forests” (forests that were largely undisturbed by human activity) on Vancouver Island is actually three times greater than in the tropics.  In the last few years the rate of old-growth logging on the Island has actually increased by twelve per cent to 9,000 hectares per year (25 hectares a day).

So what’s behind this forest loss? Similar to the tropics, logging plays a central role. One difference is that in many tropical countries logging often results in deforestation, while in other countries such as Canada logging generally leads to the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest. Much of the old-growth forest on Vancouver Island has already been lost to clearcut logging and the remaining patches of old-growth (called variable retention by foresters) are too small to maintain enough habitat for species that depend on old-growth forest.

Logging in East Creek on Vancouver Island. Photo: Mark Worthing.

In response to the Sierra Club BC data, the BC government stated that it is misleading to compare the problem in tropical countries to Vancouver Island, because in British Columbia logging companies are required by law to reforest logged areas. While this is true, old-growth ecosystems with trees that are many hundreds of years of age are not growing back at a meaningful timescale and climate change means we will never see the same type of forest grow back in the first place.

Species that rely on old-growth forest such as the marbled murrelet are negatively affected by the loss of old forest stands. In addition, the resulting large areas of young trees are not offering the type of habitat that most of the typical plants and animals on Vancouver Island depend on.

Similar to tropical forests, coastal temperate forests play an important role storing carbon dioxide. In fact a single hectare of temperate rainforest can store up to 1000 tonnes of carbon, a much greater amount than most tropical rainforests. Even if replanting is carried out, along the coast it can take centuries for reforested areas to reach a similar capacity in carbon storage potential as that of intact old-growth forest stands.

Tropical forest loss rightfully deserves the attention it gets, and we are lucky here in BC to have equally amazing rainforest habitat. Given that we are living in a relatively rich part of the world compared to many tropical countries, it is remarkable that we are failing to do a better job of protecting the remaining rare and endangered ancient forests on Vancouver Island and inspire other parts of the world. Coastal temperate rainforests exist only in very small areas on the planet and very little intact areas are left. Solutions exist, for example, in the Great Bear Rainforest north of Vancouver Island. Increasing the area of forest protected and halting destructive logging practices are both vital to ensuring the continued survival of these ecosystems and for a diverse economy. They should be a primary concern to us all.

Alys Granados

Alys Granados is a PhD student in zoology at UBC. She is working as an Intern for Sierra Club BC under UBC’s Biodiversity Research: Integrative Training & Education (BRITE) program. For her PhD, Alys is studying the effects of selective logging on plants and mammals in Malaysian Borneo. Previously, Alys completed a Masters at Concordia University in QC, where she studied park-people interactions in relation to human-elephant conflict in Cameroon. As an intern with Sierra Club, Alys will help with efforts to increase awareness about threats facing old growth forests on Vancouver Island. 

 

Feature image by Andrew S. Wright

Six ways you can make a difference for the environment this election

April 2017

It’s official—the BC election period has begun.

From now until Election Day, the rules make it difficult for Sierra Club BC to draw attention to issues you care about like the Site C dam, Kinder Morgan tankers and protecting old-growth forests.

That’s why we need your help more than ever to amplify these critical election issues. Here are six ways you can make a difference for BC’s environment this election:

  1. If you haven’t already, join our Facebook community and follow us on Twitter. Checking our news feed is an amazingly simple way to keep track of the issues you care about most and share them with your own network. We’ll be keeping close tabs on the news for you, and we’re hoping you’ll share it like you’ve never shared before!
  2. Talk to your friends, family and neighbours. Encourage them to get informed on the issues in your riding. Share what you know about how the Site C dam will cause their hydro bills to skyrocket to provide subsidies to oil and gas corporations. Voting is more fun together – make a plan with friends to walk to the polls together or offer them a ride to the polling station if you can!
  3. Attend an all-candidates meeting in your riding. Ask your candidates where they stand on the Site C dam and Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline and tankers proposal. Find our team at meetings in Victoria, Esquimalt, Sidney, Vancouver and Tri-Cities.
  4. Volunteer with us! Right now, we need canvassers on the ground and on the phone helping to get out the vote. Contact galen@sierraclub.bc.ca to join our team.
  5. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper on the issue you care about most. Whether it’s supporting clean water, good green jobs, a livable climate, or keeping big old trees standing, you are in the best position to influence your own community by taking a stand.
  6. And of course, don’t forget to vote on May 9 or in the advance polls! (Not sure if you’re registered? Sign up here)

Elections come and go. Politicians rise and fall. Communities are here to stay, as is the natural world we depend on. And no matter who is in power after May 9, Sierra Club BC will continue working hard to defend the places you love. We hope you’ll join us.

Twenty-five international environmental organizations call for urgent action for Vancouver Island’s rainforest and communities

Destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests

April 2017

Twenty-five international environmental organizations are calling for immediate action to protect and restore Vancouver Island’s endangered old-growth rainforest and its species diversity, carbon storage and benefits for a diverse economy including forestry, tourism and wild salmon in indigenous and non-indigenous communities on Canada’s west coast.

 

The call for action is an initiative of Sierra Club BC. “We are concerned that the BC government is not taking our global responsibility for Vancouver Island’s endangered rainforest seriously. Temperate rainforest ecosystems only exist on a miniscule portion of the planet but we are logging the original primary island rainforest three times faster than tropical rainforest is being destroyed,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC.

Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).

Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by 30 per cent. The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,600,000 hectares, of which an estimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, a decline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years. Only about 10 percent of the biggest trees remain standing.

A 30 second time lapse map of Vancouver Island shows the ecological emergency of shrinking old-growth forests over a century of industrial logging:

The BC government does not share detailed information about the rate at which Vancouver Island’s old-growth rainforest gets logged. Available provincial information is superficial and exaggerates the percentage of remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island by excluding private land and including very poor productivity ecosystems with very small trees.

“Gaps in monitoring and reporting about the health of provincial forest ecosystems play a major role in poor forest management in BC such as overharvesting,” said Wieting. “Sierra Club BC has reported for many years as accurately as possible to fill this gap because the provincial government has not been fulfilling its duty to properly monitor and manage BC’s forests.” Sierra Club BC reports use publicly available forest cover data, filling gaps with Landsat classification, distinguishing the state of coastal old-growth by ecosystems in different regions, and comparing to the historic extent.

The call for action is also supported by a number of organizations from tropical rainforest countries. One of these organizations is SINFONÍA TRÓPICO in Colombia.

“A few days ago a mud avalanche killed more than 300 people in Putumayo, Colombia. These catastrophes are a consequence of climate impacts that have been intensifying in past years, paired with deforestation and forest degradation. Trees that helped avoid landslides were cut,”said Juan Pablo Castro with SINFONÍA TRÓPICO. “There is a grave disconnect between humans and nature that we can no longer ignore. Countries such as Colombia are under international pressure to protect the world’s tropical rainforests. We have similar expectations of countries in the Northern hemisphere such as Canada. Everyone needs to do their part. Protecting old-growth temperate rainforests that are threatened by clear-cuts like those on Vancouver Island is of paramount importance. Please protect them!”

Extensive clearcutting on Southern Vancouver Island threatens species habitat, carbon storage and communities. Photo by TJ Watt.

The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements by First Nations governments and the BC government shows that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards.

 

In contrast, south of the Great Bear region, coastal rainforests are in a state of ecological emergency as a result of too much logging and a dismal level of protection. Remaining intact rainforest areas imminently threatened by logging such as the Central Walbran and East Creek need immediate conservation measures.

There is one region of hope on Vancouver Island: The land use vision announced by the Ahousaht First Nation in January outlines a way forward for Indigenous stewardship in Vancouver Island’s most intact tracts of old-growth forest. Read about this great news in a piece by our Forest and Climate Campaigner Jens Wieting in The Tyee.

New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions.

The hectare numbers for remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island given in the press release include high, medium and poor productivity rainforest ecosystems (not very poor).

The percentage of remaining high and medium productivity old-growth ecosystems (without poor) is even smaller because these forests grow bigger trees and are therefore of greater interest for logging. Landscapes with the best growing conditions (High productivity, low altitude (<300m) and without significant slope (<17%)) have less than 10 percent remaining old-growth forests and less than 4 percent of these types of forest are protected from logging.

Find more information on logging rates or the state of the forest on Vancouver Island.

FAO information can be found in the following paper: “Status and trends in global primary forest, protected areas, and areas designated for conservation of biodiversity from the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.”

Learn more about our efforts to protect Vancouver Island’s endangered coastal rainforests.

Please donate today to help Sierra Club BC conserve and defend BC’s wild places and species.

Twenty-five international environmental organizations call for urgent action for Vancouver Island’s rainforest and communities

Destruction of the Island’s original old-growth rainforest is occurring three times faster than primary forest loss in tropical rainforests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2017

Twenty-five international environmental organizations are calling for immediate action to protect and restore Vancouver Island’s endangered old-growth rainforest and its species diversity, carbon storage and benefits for a diverse economy including forestry, tourism and wild salmon in indigenous and non-indigenous communities on Canada’s west coast.

The call for action is an initiative of Sierra Club BC. “We are concerned that the BC government is not taking our global responsibility for Vancouver Island’s endangered rainforest seriously. Temperate rainforest ecosystems only exist on a miniscule portion of the planet but we are logging the original primary island rainforest three times faster than tropical rainforest is being destroyed,” said Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC.

Globally, the loss of primary forests – characterized by ecological processes largely undisturbed by human activity – is threatening species, carbon storage and environmental services. In some countries this is primarily in the form of deforestation; in other countries such as Canada, this is primarily through the replacement of rich ancient forests with even-aged young forest. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, tropical countries showed an overall decline of 10 percent of their primary forest in the last 25 years (from 1990 to 2015).

Sierra Club BC’s data shows that between 1990 and 2015, Vancouver Island’s primary old-growth forest has declined by 30 per cent. The original extent of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island was 2,872,000 hectares, of which an estimated 1,082,000 hectares were remaining by 1990. By 2015 the remaining old-growth was reduced to 748,000 hectares, a decline of 30 percent over the course of just 25 years. Only about 10 percent of the biggest trees remain standing.

The BC government does not share detailed information about the rate at which Vancouver Island’s old-growth rainforest gets logged. Available provincial information is superficial and exaggerates the percentage of remaining old-growth on Vancouver Island by excluding private land and including very poor productivity ecosystems with very small trees.

“Gaps in monitoring and reporting about the health of provincial forest ecosystems play a major role in poor forest management in BC such as overharvesting,” said Wieting. “Sierra Club BC has reported for many years as accurately as possible to fill this gap because the provincial government has not been fulfilling its duty to properly monitor and manage BC’s forests.” Sierra Club BC reports use publicly available forest cover data, filling gaps with Landsat classification, distinguishing the state of coastal old-growth by ecosystems in different regions, and comparing to the historic extent.

The call for action is also supported by a number of organizations from tropical rainforest countries. One of these organizations is SINFONÍA TRÓPICO in Colombia.

“A few days ago a mud avalanche killed more than 300 people in Putumayo, Colombia. These catastrophes are a consequence of climate impacts that have been intensifying in past years, paired with deforestation and forest degradation. Trees that helped avoid landslides were cut,”said Juan Pablo Castro with SINFONÍA TRÓPICO. “There is a grave disconnect between humans and nature that we can no longer ignore. Countries such as Colombia are under international pressure to protect the world’s tropical rainforests. We have similar expectations of countries in the Northern hemisphere such as Canada. Everyone needs to do their part. Protecting old-growth temperate rainforests that are threatened by clear-cuts like those on Vancouver Island is of paramount importance. Please protect them!”

The 2016 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements by First Nations governments and the BC government shows that solutions are possible. The agreements met science-based conservation levels, strengthened First Nations rights, enabled conservation financing and forest carbon credit projects, and gave forestry companies certainty for logging under stringent standards.

In contrast, south of the Great Bear region, coastal rainforests are in a state of ecological emergency as a result of too much logging and a dismal level of protection. Remaining intact rainforest areas imminently threatened by logging such as the Central Walbran and East Creek need immediate conservation measures.

New protected areas and conservation measures for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry and support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions.

-30-

Contact:
Jens Wieting
Forests and Climate Campaigner
Sierra Club BC
Phone 604-354 5312

Farewell, and not goodbye: Bob Peart

By Executive Director Bob Peart

March 31, 2017

When I was hired by Sierra Club BC 3.5 years ago, I was excited to work with a key environmental group at such a critical time. Sierra Club BC was rightly seen as a leader in the movement – from our respectful approach to advocacy and our belief in science to our award winning environmental education programs and the vital role we play in the energy, forest and climate conversation. I was not disappointed. And we have delivered – from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements and protecting big old trees to speaking out to keep tankers off the coast; and from putting the outrageous Site C dam proposal on the public radar to getting thousands of school-aged children back outside.

As many of you know, by the time you read this note I will no longer be Executive Director. My route to Sierra Club BC was through a 40-year role as an advocate for nature, combined with a deep passion for experiencing firsthand the smells and sounds of the wildlife and plants that surround us. Post-Sierra Club BC, my journey will continue.  I will remain involved in the conservation movement as long as I am able – putting my energy toward defending nature, moving off a carbon-based economy and reminding people that their health is directly linked to a healthy environment.

I am often asked: where do I get my optimism and why, given the degradation to the planet we see every day, do you keep working so hard to protect it? My answer is that I get my hope and optimism from people like you – our donors and supporters who believe in the good work we do. And like me, you refuse to give up and you continue to demand that the communities where we live are healthy, and provide a lifestyle that is truly sustainable and leaves no one behind.

I thank you for your confidence in Sierra Club BC, and please continue to support the good work we do through your donations.


Bob Peart

East Creek investigation finds clearcutting rare intact old-growth on Vancouver Island in compliance with laws, highlighting B.C. government failure to protect endangered rainforest

Investigation also finds company in non-compliance with making information public

March 30, 2017

The BC government’s Forest Practices Board (FPB) released its findings today regarding Sierra Club BC’s May 2016 complaint about Lemare Lake Logging Ltd. logging practices in the East Creek area. East Creek is located adjacent to the Mquqᵂin – Brooks Peninsula Provincial Park, in Kwakwaka’wakw territory and forms part of the largest remaining contiguous ancient rainforest on northern Vancouver Island.

East Creek logging. Photo by TJ Watt.

Sierra Club BC visited East Creek in the fall of 2015 and documented the devastation of ancient rainforest, including the use of blasting charges, in an area known as important habitat for salmon, marbled murrelet and northern goshawk and important First Nations cultural values, leading to the complaint and investigation.

“The scope and scale of the ancient rainforest destruction in this incredible watershed is unimaginable. They were logging more than one Cathedral Grove in the last two years alone,” said Mark Worthing, Sierra Club BC’s Forests & Biodiversity Campaigner. “The liquidation of East Creek’s ancient rainforest is being permitted for government revenue in form of stumpage fees between $0.33 and $1.33 per cubic meter. This is a terribly short-sighted decision.”

The FPB investigation considered two questions: whether the licensee complied with the Forest Range Practices Act (FRPA) and the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan (VILUP) and whether the licensee provided the complainant with reasonable access to site plans (SPs). The Board concluded that the licensee complied with FRPA and VILUP while conducting its operations. On the second question, the Board concluded that the licensee did not provide the complainant with reasonable access to SPs “on request at any reasonable time” as required by FRPA.

Old-growth tree being exploded at Lemare Lake operations.

“British Columbians have the right to know what’s happening in the forests around us, yet it took us six months to access the information the public is legally entitled to. This makes it impossible for the public to document ecological and cultural values that could be at risk as a result of proposed logging. We’ll be waiting to see what action the government takes to respond to this violation of FRPA,” said Worthing.

Sierra Club BC is very concerned but not surprised about the conclusion of the FPB that East Creek logging is in compliance with FRPA and VILUP. “The East Creek investigation confirms what we feared: while blasting roads and clearcutting approximately 1,000 hectares of the last intact old-growth rainforest on Northern Vancouver Island in the last 10 years is inconsistent with good forest management practices, it is consistent with BC’s Forest Range Practices Act and the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Forest and Climate Campaigner. “Provincial laws and the Vancouver Island land use plan are failing to protect forest integrity and we urgently need additional protection and improved forest management to safeguard the web of life as we know it.”

East Creek is located in the Klaskish landscape unit – the area in light green north of the Protected Brooks Peninsula. It is the only unprotected landscape unit with close to 70 percent remaining productive old-growth rainforest on Northern Vancouver Island.

There is growing support for protecting the remaining endangered old-growth rainforest and shifting to sustainable second-growth forestry on Vancouver Island, including from municipalities, chambers of commerce and a number of First Nations and unions. Sierra Club BC warned in 2016 that a 12 percent increase in the annual old-growth logging rate on the island (recently at 9,000 hectares per year) will lead to an ecological and economic collapse.

The most productive types of rainforest ecosystems, with the biggest trees, unique habitat and tourism values are now in their single digits of remaining old-growth. At the same time second-growth forests are being clearcut at a young age, often at less than 60 or 80 years, allowing no recovery of old-growth characteristics across vast areas on Vancouver Island.

“The East Creek investigation shows everything that is wrong with rainforest conservation and management on Vancouver Island – BC’s forestry regulation has no consideration of how little intact rainforest is left on the island and there is no legal impediment to logging the last old-growth trees outside of protected areas.” said Wieting.

The East Creek investigation makes clear that we have no regulatory framework to protect the last of the last remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest,” said Wieting. “Whoever forms the next government has their work cut out to prevent the unfolding ecological and economic catastrophe on the island. We need a moratorium to safeguard biodiversity hotspots as new protected areas and new conservation tools to set aside critical endangered rainforest stands and habitat aside across the landscape.”

A 2015 Sierra Club BC mapping analysis showed East Creek on the northern island and the Walbran on the southern island as the only two remaining largely intact unprotected landscapes, with a percentage of productive old-growth rainforest close to the threshold indicating low ecological risk (70%). These remaining intact areas are critical ecological stepstones between the Great Bear Rainforest, Clayoquot Sound and Pacific Rim National Park.

Solutions for healthy forests and healthy communities similar to those developed in the Great Bear Rainforest are needed along the entire B.C. coast, not just one part of it. East Creek and the Central Walbran are among the most important examples of intact, unprotected, productive coastal old-growth on Vancouver Island that need immediate action or will be lost forever.

Sierra Club BC supports sustainable, second growth harvesting and local, value-added processing that creates a higher number of jobs per cubic metre, such that we can sustain healthy forest-based communities and local forestry jobs into the future.

Further information on Lemare Lake’s East Creek logging operations:

Covert logging of old-growth on Vancouver Island must be stopped

Timeline of Sierra Club BC attempts to view Lemare Lake Logging’s site plans for its East Creek operations

Richard Boyce short film in East Creek

East Creek investigation finds clearcutting rare intact old-growth on Vancouver Island in compliance with laws, highlighting BC government failure to protect endangered rainforest

Investigation also finds company in non-compliance with making information public

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 30, 2017

VICTORIA—The BC government’s Forest Practices Board (FPB) released its findings today regarding Sierra Club BC’s May 2016 complaint about Lemare Lake Logging Ltd.’s logging practices in the East Creek area.  East Creek is located adjacent to the Mquqᵂin – Brooks Peninsula Provincial Park, in Kwakwaka’wakw territory and forms part of the largest remaining contiguous ancient rainforest on northern Vancouver Island.

Sierra Club BC visited East Creek in the fall of 2015 and documented the devastation of ancient rainforest, including the use of blasting charges, in an area known as important habitat for salmon, marbled murrelet and northern goshawk and important First Nations cultural values, leading to the complaint and investigation.

“The scope and scale of the ancient rainforest destruction in this incredible watershed is unimaginable. They were logging more than one Cathedral Grove in the last two years alone,” said Mark Worthing, Sierra Club BC’s Forests & Biodiversity Campaigner. “The liquidation of East Creek’s ancient rainforest is being permitted for government revenue in form of stumpage fees between $0.33 and $1.33 per cubic metre. This is a terribly short-sighted decision.”

The FPB investigation considered two questions: whether the licensee complied with the Forest Range Practices Act (FRPA) and the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan (VILUP) and whether the licensee provided the complainant with reasonable access to site plans (SPs). The Board concluded that the licensee complied with FRPA and VILUP while conducting its operations. On the second question, the licensee was found to be in non-compliance in not providing the the complainant with reasonable access to SPs “on request at any reasonable time” as required by FRPA.

“British Columbians have the right to know what’s happening in the forests around us, yet it took us six months to access the information the public is legally entitled to. This makes it impossible for the public to document ecological and cultural values that could be at risk as a result of proposed logging. We’ll be waiting to see what action the government takes to respond to this violation of FRPA,” said Worthing.

Sierra Club BC is very concerned but not surprised about the conclusion of the FPB that East Creek logging is in compliance with FRPA and VILUP. “The East Creek investigation confirms what we feared: while blasting roads and clearcutting approximately 1,000 hectares of the last intact old-growth rainforest on Northern Vancouver Island in the last 10 years is inconsistent with good forest management practices, it is consistent with BC’s Forest Range Practices Act and the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Forest and Climate Campaigner. “Provincial laws and the Vancouver Island land use plan are failing to protect forest integrity and we urgently need additional protection and improved forest management to safeguard the web of life as we know it.”

There is growing support for protecting the remaining endangered old-growth rainforest and shifting to sustainable second-growth forestry on Vancouver Island, including from municipalities, chambers of commerce and a number of First Nations and unions. Sierra Club BC warned in 2016 that a 12 per cent increase in the annual old-growth logging rate on the island (recently at 9,000 hectares per year) will lead to an ecological and economic collapse.

The most productive types of rainforest ecosystems, with the biggest trees, unique habitat and tourism values are now in their single digits of remaining old-growth. At the same time second-growth forests are being clearcut at a young age, often at less than sixty or eighty years, allowing no recovery of old-growth characteristics across vast areas on Vancouver Island.

“The East Creek investigation shows everything that is wrong with rainforest conservation and management on Vancouver Island – BC’s forestry regulation has no consideration of how little intact rainforest is left on the island and there is no legal impediment to logging the last old-growth trees outside of protected areas,” said Wieting.

“The East Creek investigation makes clear that we have no regulatory framework to protect the last of the last remaining intact coastal temperate rainforest,” said Wieting. “Whoever forms the next government has their work cut out to prevent the unfolding ecological and economic catastrophe on the island. We need a moratorium to safeguard biodiversity hotspots as new protected areas and new conservation tools to set aside critical endangered rainforest stands and habitat aside across the landscape.”

Solutions for healthy forests and healthy communities similar to those developed in the Great Bear Rainforest are needed along the entire BC coast, not just one part of it. East Creek and the Central Walbran are among the most important examples of intact, unprotected, productive coastal old-growth on Vancouver Island that need immediate action or will be lost forever.

Sierra Club BC supports sustainable second growth harvesting and local, value-added processing that creates a higher number of jobs per cubic metre, such that we can sustain healthy forest-based communities and local forestry jobs into the future.

-30-

Forest Practices Board Report: Forest Planning and Practices at East Creek

Contact:

Jens Wieting

Forests and Climate Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

(604)354-5312

 

Mark Worthing

Forests and Biodiversity Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

(250)386-5255 ext. 257

 

Further information on Lemare Lake’s East Creek logging operations:

Covert logging of old-growth on Vancouver Island must be stopped

Timeline of Sierra Club BC attempts to view Lemare Lake Logging’s site plans for its East Creek operations

Richard Boyce short film in East Creek

It’s time for the BC government to curb raw log exports and boost value-added forestry jobs

February 27

Between 2013 and 2016, more raw logs were shipped from BC than during any other four-year period in the province’s history, prompting two forest industry unions and three leading environmental groups to call for a ban on raw log exports from old-growth forests and bold government action to stimulate BC’s flagging forest sector.

Raw log exports. Photo by TJ Watt.

The call follows new research released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office (CCPA-BC) that shows how exports of raw, unprocessed logs are surging. If these logs were processed in some of BC’s hardest hit forestry communities, at least 3,600 new jobs could be generated.

Last year, BC forest companies exported enough raw logs to frame nearly 134,000 homes, which equals roughly half of  Vancouver’s standing single-family homes. Instead of creating thousands of good-paying jobs in rural communities, logs are exported in raw form.

The Public and Private Workers of Canada along with UNIFOR (Canada’s largest private sector union), the Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee say the Province should enact a bold three-point plan to curb exports and stimulate jobs:

  1. Place an immediate ban on all exports of raw logs from old-growth forests.
  2. Immediately impose progressively higher taxes on log exports from second-growth forests to encourage investment in domestic mills.
  3. Introduce new policies to increase value-added forest manufacturing and jobs in rural and First Nations communities.

Four years of log export data analyzed by the CCPA-BC uncovered a number of disturbing trends in log exports from BC:

  • Between 2013 and 2016, nearly 26 million cubic meters of raw logs, with a combined sales value of more than $3 billion, were shipped from BC – more than any other four-year period since record keeping began.
  • More than one in three logs exported in the past five years came from BC’s centuries-old coastal old-growth rainforests
  • Most log exports in the past five years came from public lands under direct provincial control, not from private lands where the BC government has no jurisdiction, which is a sharp reversal from previous norms.

Vancouver Island rainforest. Photo by Charly Caproff.

Sierra Club BC is working toward solutions for healthy rainforests and healthy communities and worked with the BC government, First Nations and stakeholders on implementation of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. Regional models like the Ecosystem-Based Management framework in the Great Bear Rainforest must be complemented with coherent province-wide conservation, climate and economic policies to ensure forestry can contribute jobs as part of a diverse, low carbon economy. For more information, please read our ten-point plan for transition toward this vision in our report, The Future is Here.

Please donate today to support our work protecting BC’s ancient and endangered old-growth forests.

Feature image by TJ Watt.