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.


Environmental groups applaud Ahousaht Land Use Vision

Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance supports Ahousaht leadership in conservation and community development goals announced today


January 25, 2017

TOFINO – This afternoon, the Ahousaht Hawiih (hereditary chiefs) publicly announced their nation’s new comprehensive Land Use Vision for their territory, which sits within the heart of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Representatives of the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance (CSCA) (comprised of Greenpeace, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Sierra Club BC, STAND. earth and Wilderness Committee) were present to support and congratulate the Hawiih for this initiative.

“The Ahousaht Land Use Vision steps up to meet the environmental and social imperatives of the 21st century with solutions for rainforest conservation and community benefits within their famous territory, located in one of the most beautiful and ecologically rich landscapes in the world,” said Valerie Langer of (formerly ForestEthics), a member of the CSCA.

Under the Land Use Vision about 80 percent of Ahousaht territory will be set aside as cultural and natural areas “to conserve biological diversity, natural landscapes and wilderness, and to provide for Ahousaht continued spiritual, cultural and sustenance use.”

The new Land Use Vision was developed by the Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS) under the direction of the Hawiih, in consultation with the community of Ahousaht First Nation. It identifies different land use designations for their territory. The bold vision moves Ahousaht First Nation away from old-growth logging and other unsustainable industries in ecologically important rainforest areas while prioritizing low-impact, community-led economic development by and for the Ahousaht people. The vision follows the declaration of a moratorium on old-growth logging in Ahousaht territory, made by the Hawiih in 2015.

The organizations that form the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance have been advocating for the protection of the region’s globally significant temperate rainforest for more than three decades.

Ahousaht First Nation traditional territory sits in the heart of Clayoquot Sound, which remains the largest area of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island.

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Read the Ahousaht land use vision

For more information, please contact:

Valerie Langer, Strategic Projects, (formerly ForestEthics) (604) 307-6448

Jens Wieting, Forests & Climate Campaigner, SierraClub BC (604) 354-5312

Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner, Wilderness Committee (250) 516-9900

Jeh Custerra, Campaigner, Friends of Clayoquot Sound (306) 361-7855

Eduardo Sousa, Senior Forests Campaigner, Greenpeace (778) 378-9955


Feature image by Jens Wieting

Growing support for protecting endangered old-growth on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s south coast


The time has come to end logging of endangered old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s south coast. First Nations, communities, organizations, and citizens are calling for the protection of old-growth forests. Their voices are getting louder, more varied, and more numerous.

A shift is underway since leaders of the Ahousaht First Nation in Clayoquot Sound announced an end to industrial scale logging in their Hahoulthlee (traditional territory) in October 2015. This spring, Sierra Club BC released its latest data in form of a Google Earth tool showing the ecological emergency for endangered old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island. Politicians and logging companies are hearing over and over the same call: old-growth is far too valuable to destroy.

Voting to defend ancient trees

“Vancouver Island growing away from old growth logging?”

This was the headline of an article featured in many Vancouver Island newspapers discussing a “dramatic shift in Island thinking.”And it was just one of many media articles in previous weeks highlighting the momentum.

This change was reflected in the vote by the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities in favour of halting harvesting of old-growth in April, stating old growth has more “economic, social and environmental value as wildlife habitat, tourism resource, carbon sink and much more” if it is left standing. The decision was echoed by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, which voted in May to support the same principle across the province in instances where old-growth trees “have or can likely have a greater net economic value for communities if they are left standing.”

Sierra Club BC Forest campaigner Jens Wieting explained that benefits of logging endangered old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island are greatly overshadowed by its negative impacts. “Logging no longer has the same economic importance. We have two trends: there are fewer benefits from logging and increasing benefits of keeping trees standing.”

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.
Photo by Rachel Grigg

The benefits of protecting old-growth forests

A Times Colonist editorial recognized the economic benefits of protecting old-growth forests: “Old-growth forests and other pristine areas of B.C. attract an increasing number of visitors, and will continue to generate jobs forever. When an area is logged off, the jobs are gone until the forest regenerates, and that takes a long, long time. We should remember, too, that forests are about more than esthetics or recreation—they are vital to the health of our watersheds and even the air we breathe.”

Looking at the old-growth logging more broadly shows that many Vancouver Island communities must diversify their economies to move beyond resource extraction dependant livelihoods and avoid ending up as ghost towns. It is time to  thrust ourselves into a just transition away from ecologically destructive logging of Vancouver Island’s finite non-renewable old-growth to a diverse economy including old-growth tourism, sustainable, value added second-growth forestry, conservation financing and carbon revenue for First Nations (such as in the Great Bear Rainforest and the Cheakamus Community Forest Carbon project).

Preventing destructive logging practices

While many were calling for an end to old-growth logging, others were highlighting the damage currently taking place in our ancient forests. The Tyee and numerous Vancouver Island newspapers reported on Sierra Club BC’s work to increase scrutiny and awareness about poor practices and destructive logging of some of the last intact old-growth rainforest on Northern Vancouver Island by Lemare Lake Logging in East Creek.

Also in June, the Vancouver Sun’s Stephen Hume stated that proposed logging in the endangered Cameron Valley Ancient Forest (“Firebreak”) on Vancouver Island would be “a crime against nature”. In July, Hume reported on Sierra Club BC’s study showing that high rates of old growth rainforest logging on Vancouver Island will lead to an ecological and economic collapse in a generation unless provincial government policy changes.

Logging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

Logging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

In the Times Colonist, the Wilderness Committee reminded readers that government and industry must show leadership to protect  one of the grandest stands on the island, the Central Walbran, from further fragmentation through old-growth cutting: “Listening to the destruction of some of the last old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island is tough, but it’s not as frustrating as watching our elected officials turn their backs on this problem and on the citizens, local governments and business groups who want it addressed.”

The recent completion of the final steps of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements through First Nations governments and the BC government, with the support of a group of environmental organizations and logging companies, shows that solutions are possible. As a result of the agreements, 85 percent (3.1 million hectares) of the region’s coastal temperate rainforests are now off-limits to industrial logging. The amount of old-growth available as part of the remaining 15 percent of the forest will be capped and subject to the most stringent commercial logging legal standards in North America. In contrast, very little old-growth remains in the southern half of the coast, and even less is protected.

Learn more, do more

For more information, including what must be done to safeguard Vancouver Island’s endangered old-growth rainforest and how to contact the B.C. government to share your concerns, please check out our newspaper “Vancouver Island’s Last Stand” (jointly published with our friends at Wilderness Committee)

Help us continue to protect B.C’s natural spaces by donating today.

Sign-up for Sierra Club BC news to stay up-to-date and next steps in the fight to save our endangered old-growth rainforest.

A Personal Perspective on the realization of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements

By Bob Peart

In the late 1980’s I commented on the proposed forest harvesting plans for what was then termed the Inside Passage or Mid-Coast Timber Supply Area, now known as the Great Bear Rainforest.

On Monday, I witnessed the announcement of the final steps of the historic Great Bear Rainforest Agreements. After over a decade of negotiations, the B.C. provincial government, First Nations, a group of forestry companies and environmental organizations reached agreement that 85 per cent of the Great Bear Rainforest will be protected from harvesting through a combination of protected areas – primarily conservancies respecting First Nations traditional uses and the stringent application of ecosystem-based management principles.

The Great Bear Rainforest is a global treasure and now that it is set aside can be a landscape of hope where economic activity can occur that is aligned with nature’s limits.

As the ceremony unfolded, I found myself reflecting back on the 40 years I have been involved in conservation and land use issues.

Consider the anger and emotions that led to the ‘war in the woods’ in the 70s and 80s and the subsequent huge effort put into the land use planning throughout the 90s by government, industry and communities. These processes led to such iconic areas as the Tatshenshini, the Stein, the Kitlope, the Khutzeymateen, the Horseranch and Chilcotins being legally protected.

In turn, we mustn’t forget the tumultuous times around Clayoquot Sound, and the dogged patience of those folks in the Fort St. John region who spent seven years negotiating the establishment of the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area.

These processes and the countless hours that people spent at the various negotiating tables all over the province has led to about 15 per cent of the province now being legally protected from industrial development, a truly momentous achievement.

As each of these processes were being undertaken over the decades, scientific understanding has evolved as has the understanding of, and respect for First Nations title and rights – which in turn shaped the next set of negotiations.

It seems hard to fathom but not that long ago, government would set aside lands as parks with little sense of ecological integrity, and no concern for First Nation title and rights.

Today, land use planning brings local people into the conversations, and seeks to honour First Nations’ rights, cultures and practices and to integrate principles of core protection and landscape connectivity into the picture.

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements provide an astonishing example of land use planning that defends nature, strengthens indigenous communities, honours the people who live there and accommodates economic activities without undermining the environment.

It is almost impossible for me to fathom the countless hours and energy that have been spent piecing these agreements. Let us all congratulate the people who were involved in negotiating the Great Bear Agreements and honour how this important accomplishment will help ensure a future for the people, wildlife and ecosystems of the coastal temperate rainforest. My hat is off to Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s Forest and Climate Campaigner who has worked doggedly on this file close to a decade, as well as to his colleagues with ForestEthics Solutions, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Solutions Project formed by our three organizations.

Connectivity and Conservation in B.C.

Connectivity & conservation have reached a pivotal moment in British Columbia. Wilderness landscapes face increasing pressure from climate change, habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation and encroachment of industrial activities.

Join leaders in the conservation movement Harvey Locke & Jens Wieting as they talk about biodiversity and the importance of connecting wildlife corridors across B.C.

Internationally-renowned conservationist Harvey Locke will speak about B.C.’s Flathead River Valley and the role it plays in biodiversity and connecting the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor.

Sierra Club BC’s Jens Wieting will speak about coastal connectivity from the Great Bear Rainforest to Vancouver Island, and conserving forests as one of our best climate solutions.

Our conservation work takes place on the territories of many First Nations. We aim to engage with these Nations hereditary and elected governance as best we can, and honour their authority over their territories

Tuesday November 17th
University of Victoria David Turpin Building
Room A110
Lekwungen Territories



Finishing the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements akin to climbing Mount Everest

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight. Read the original story

Finishing the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements feels like climbing Mount Everest: the air is getting thinner, the peak is in sight. With just one last push, we will reach it.

The Great Bear Rainforest is known around the world not only for its spectacular natural beauty, and as the home of many First Nations, but also for the inspiring story of moving from conflict to collaboration and solutions for conservation and community well-being. The latter are the goals of the 2006 Great Bear Rainforest Agreements endorsed by the B.C. government, First Nations, a group of forestry companies, and a coalition of Sierra Club B.C., Greenpeace, and ForestEthics Solutions.

Though the deadline for implementing the agreements passed one year ago on March 31, 2014, we are finally approaching the summit. New logging rules, community well-being agreements between the province and First Nations, a new forest management framework, and proposals for a number of new protected areas are all close to being final. That being said, the final stretch is still a difficult climb and the sun will be setting soon.

March 31, 2009, marked our arrival at “base camp”, when half of the region’s rainforest was set aside through a combination of new protected areas and stricter logging regulation; $120 million funding was made available for First Nations communities to support a conservation economy; and a new government-to-government relationship between the province and First Nations got established. All parties agreed to the route for the next five years to meet the goals of ecological integrity and human well-being by March 31, 2014.

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements are guided by the Ecosystem-Based Management Handbook, a set of expert recommendations for the region on how to achieve both low ecological risk for the rainforest, and ensure a high quality of life in coastal communities without undermining the environment. One of the key recommendations on the conservation side was to set aside 70 percent of the natural level of old-growth forests, across all types of ecosystems. The 2009 measures fell 20 percent short of that.

In early 2014, after three years of technical work, negotiations, and planning, the environmental organizations and a group of forest companies which together form the Joint Solutions Project (JSP) delivered a set of recommendations outlining increased conservation to close this gap, and the future scope of logging. The proposal would see hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest set aside to achieve the goal of low ecological risk and result in a harvest level that can still maintain commercial forestry.

Over the course of 2014, the province and the region’s First Nations have been in the process of reviewing the proposal, while simultaneously identifying additional measures to support communities with new training, jobs, and revenue opportunities. The B.C. government has stated that it wants new logging regulations out for 60 days of public comment in the first half of April.

Negotiations and planning over land use for a region larger than Switzerland take time. But final implementation in June of this year is critically important because the world is watching the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements and has been waiting for the final outcome for many years now.

Internationally, environmental organizations, customers of wood products, and other stakeholders interested in conservation and sustainable forest management are waiting for final implementation of the model. Timely implementation will be essential for many observers in assessing whether the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements can stand the test of a world-class conservation model that others can learn from.

There are challenges to be overcome. One of them is TimberWest, a major logging company operating in the very southernmost portion of the Great Bear Rainforest with very little remaining old-growth. TimberWest is not a member of the Joint Solutions Project (JSP member companies are B.C. Timber Sales, Catalyst Paper Corporation, Howe Sound Pulp & Paper, Interfor, and Western Forest Products are members) and has a history of opposing increases in conservation and pursuing profit above all else. The company has promised to improve their logging practices but there is still a threat of logging targeting rainforest ecosystems at high ecological risk in the near future.

Full implementation of the outstanding conservation steps as soon as possible is urgent to avoid further degradation of the rainforest. Implementation of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements will be worth celebrating because it will bring certainty for ecosystems and forestry jobs, new initiatives for community well-being, and much needed hope that solutions for a better world are possible.

As we are getting closer to this spectacular summit, both the excitement and the risk of slippage after a long tiring climb are high. It will take a final show of leadership by the B.C. government to reach the peak.

Read the original story


Protecting Our Forests

B.C.’s coastal rainforest is the best carbon storehouse of the province. Other forest lands, too, have great potential as allies in the fight against climate change—if we nurture and maintain their carbon-absorbing capacity.

Right now, B.C.’s forest lands are actually a major source of emissions: they release more carbon dioxide than they absorb.  (In fact, if emissions from forests were properly counted, B.C.’s total emissions would be 77 percent higher!)

The trees, of course, are still doing what trees do: storing carbon in their spreading trunks. It is our logging practices that are at fault: taking too much old growth, clearcutting large tracts (which releases the carbon from churned-up soils) and burning the slash.

Wood products can be a climate friendly alternative to materials like concrete and steel. They store up to 20 per cent of the carbon removed from the forest after harvesting, some of them long-term. Forestry in the era of climate change has the potential to be a key part of a low-carbon economy providing new jobs, but we have to take a close look where it is done, how it is done, and how much gets logged and left behind.

Sierra Club BC and our allies have identified three priority areas to reduce emissions from forests should be:

  1. Increase the area of old forest off-limits to logging. Emissions from harvesting are much higher when logging occurs in old growth forests compared to younger forests. This is particularly true for coastal forests with little natural disturbance and massive carbon storage accumulated over thousands of years. Shifting harvesting from old to second growth will immediately reduce  emissions from logging. It will also help species that depend on old growth forest, particularly where old forest is in deficit.
  2. Improve logging practices. Heavy logging with massive loss of canopy cover warms the soil surface and increases the rate of decomposition and release of carbon. Improved management practices like selective logging, longer rotation and increased retention contribute to maintaining and enhancing carbon storage. Improved forest management can also contribute to better habitat protection for species that require natural, undisturbed stands of trees.
  3. Reduce wood waste and slash burning. A 2009 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that millions of cubic metres of usable logs are left behind at logging sites. Regulation and incentives, combined with better reporting and oversight through government audits, would not only reduce waste and emissions but also create new jobs.

B.C. must set targets and create a plan to reduce emissions from logging in the same way it did with emissions from fossil fuels. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change, it is mandatory that B.C.’s forests become carbon neutral as soon as possible.

Featured image by Jens Wieting