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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).

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

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.

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.

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.

 

Environmental groups applaud Ahousaht Land Use Vision

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

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 Stand.earth (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.

– 30 –

Read the Ahousaht land use vision

For more information, please contact:

Valerie Langer, Strategic Projects, STAND.earth (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

End of Old-Growth

By Mark Worthing

November 21, 2016

This article was originally published in the Watershed Sentinel.

Something remarkable happened in Victoria this September. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities, representing over 3 million British Columbians, voted to save all the remaining old-growth forests on Vancouver Island. Preceding this, British Columbia’s largest and most broadly-based business organization, the BC Chamber of Commerce, had voted for the protection of old-growth forests. They stated that forests garner more revenue when left standing because of their economic benefits (derived largely from tourism), and they urged the provincial government to legislate permanent protection through conservancies and parks.

Photo by Jens Wieting.

Photo by Jens Wieting.

Much of this energy precipitated one year ago from the Ahousaht ʔaahuusʔatḥ ḥawiiḥ (hereditary leadership) announcement of a moratorium on industrial scale logging in their ḥaaḥuułi (traditional territory) of Clayoquot Sound. Tyee Ḥawiiḥ Maquinna Lewis George announced that, “the end has come to the large scale logging operations of the past that leave much to be desired in the way of long lasting environmental footprint and very little community benefit.”

Many other First Nations on Vancouver Island are making similar moves by coming to their own conclusions about the archaic nature of old-growth logging economics, especially in a post-Tsilhqot’in-ruling legal context.

Increasingly, unions and forestry workers are calling for an end to old-growth logging, particularly in relation to raw log exports.

Arnold Bercov, president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, explains how raw log exports have resulted in thousands of job losses, with more than half of coastal mills closing within 20 years. He argues for the retooling of mills for second growth in order to keep jobs in Canada and lessen the impact on old-growth forests. “Of the 18 mills on the coast, 14 are really tooled for old-growth, even though that is not the majority of wood being cut on the coast. At some point, that is just a recipe for disaster…. We’re talking about taking young people’s future and putting it on a boat and moving it offshore to other countries.”

The outstanding question is this: how can the provincial government ignore the cries of the business community, many First Nations, union workers, municipalities, and the environmental community while allowing the wholesale liquidation of one of our most important ecological and cultural gifts?

The companies practicing industrial-scale resource extraction have had a major influence on provincial policy, which can make it difficult to shift priorities going forward. This is reflected in Elections BC’s Financial Reports and Political Contributions System (contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca) and amounts to about one million dollars over approximately ten years.

At a quick glance, the governing party received the following approximate contributions: Western Forests Products ($1/3 million), TimberWest ($1/4 million), Interfor ($50,000), Teal-Jones Forest Products (over $100,000), Canfor (over $100,000), Terminal Forest Products ($40,000), Truck Loggers Association ($56,000), Coast Forests Products Association ($100,000), Council of Forest Industries ($40,000), A&A Trading ($30,000), Holbrook Dyson Logging Ltd., Lemare Lake Logging Ltd., and the list goes on…

The governing party is making policy decisions that stand to benefit the businesses that support the party financially. All the while the public feels ignored.

Old growth tree - Andrew S. Wright

Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

What lies behind the lawlessness?
There are two policy barriers that hinder meaningful engagement with the public: the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan and the Forest Range and Practices Act.

The Vancouver Island Land Use Plan is a dusty old document that started out compromised and has subsequently been watered down. First, it employs old data sets with huge information gaps. Secondly, it doesn’t mention First Nations, their title, their opinions, their management priorities, or their territories. Lastly, it doesn’t include anything on climate change whatsoever. Somehow, despite these fatal flaws, this clunky old plan is what determines the fate of the landscape across Vancouver Island. It’s a shame and it needs to be put through the paper shredder.

Second only to the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan in archaic and irrelevant policy is the BC Forest Range and Practices Act (FRPA), which could more aptly be re-named the Logging Companies Wrote This Act Act. It gives little or no control to the regional district managers who manage their respective regions. Paradoxically, a regional district manager cannot actually deny a cutting permit.

FRPA is a compilation of the forestry objectives left over from the now axed Forest Practices Code. Unlike FRPA, the Code had mechanisms for public input on how companies could operate in Crown forests. Now, licensees draft sub-par Forest Stewardship Plans (FSPs) on which the public only rarely has an opportunity to give input. The Forest Practices Board, BC’s publicly funded forestry watchdog, concluded the following after a comprehensive investigation: “[FSPs are] not measurable or verifiable and therefore not enforceable … [they] do not demonstrate consistency with government’s objectives … [are] inadequate as tools for public review and comment … [are] difficult to understand, do not provide the type of information the public wishes … [have] intervals of ten or more years … [and] are not improving over time…. Innovation in FSPs is rare.”

In addition to the weaknesses of FRPA, the ministry responsible lacks the capacity to adequately ensure minimum compliance.

Logging Walbran photo by TJ Watt

Photo by TJ Watt.

In contrast, the provincial government provides significant oversight of an appraisal system through which the taxpaying public heavily subsidizes logging companies. While the American government doesn’t hold the hand of their logging companies, our provincial government bends over backwards to give higher tax subsidies to logging with higher operational costs. The provincial government subsidizes remote areas from which it is typically more expensive to extract timber (and which are often old-growth forests) more than they subsidize accessible, cost-effective areas. The public is paying to artificially keep this industry afloat. Meanwhile, the forestry industry maintains that logging operations are pursued in the interest of supporting communities and creating jobs.

So what happens when the regional land use plan is rickety, the regulatory regime for the industry is as fierce as a puppy, the global demand for a finite resource is booming, and you have a government unwilling to shift its policy priorities? You end up with privatization, a supreme lack of public input, and the liquidation of one of the most important ecological, climatic, and cultural phenomena known to the planet – old-growth forests. People are realizing that now is the time for this to end.

Knowing which way the wind blows
Somehow, despite the obvious fact that old-growth forests (especially high-productivity ones) are vanishing, the provincial government continues to perpetuate the myth that old-growth forests are not disappearing. They go so far as to make this mythical claim in a “factsheet.” If this weren’t so serious, it would be comical.

We owe it to our forestry workers, millworkers, and communities to shift policy priorities away from this finite resource. We also owe it to the landscape itself. Karst, water quality, endangered species, traditional cultural use, salmon, carbon sequestration, recreation, spiritual refugia, medicinal plants, and cultural modification histories are being undermined by government negligence. But we all know this. It’s just that the government either doesn’t, or ignores it.

Andy Mackinnon is arguably one of the most respected and widely affirmed botanists, ecologists, and researchers on biogeoclimatic ecosystems in western Canada. You may recognize him from the book you go to when you ask yourself, “What plant is that?” Plants of Coastal British Columbia has sold more than 250,000 copies. Mackinnon also worked for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, so he’s no rookie.

“When people asked my ministry how much old-growth there was left, I would have to say: ‘Go talk to the Sierra Club BC.’ So believe me when I say that there is much less than 10% of productive lowland old-growth forests remaining on Vancouver Island. And just in case it wasn’t painfully obvious to you, that means that in fact, old-growth forests are disappearing,” says Mackinnon.

Don’t let the government “factsheets” or the “jobs vs. environment” narrative fool you. Our current system is designed to be obtusely inaccessible to the public and acutely beneficial for industry. The industry has become accustomed to an unhealthy degree of ownership over public assets, while the public has come to assume we don’t have the right to say how we think our natural resources should be managed.

So while there is an obvious us-versus-them dualism occurring in this struggle, there are some encouraging signs as well. In the post-1990s war-in-the-woods era, First Nations have consistently been a voice of reason between logging interests and the environmental movement. While not perfect, the Great Bear Rainforest agreements are a testament to what can be done when unlikely adversaries sit down together. No one seems to be entirely happy with the agreements, which in my understanding means everyone compromised. From the Elaho Valley, to Clayoqout Sound, and now the Walbran, Indigenous voices (for and against old-growth logging) are finally being recognized as integral to this issue. This is a step in the right direction that everyone can agree on. The First Nations of Vancouver Island are industry leaders, community leaders, and environmental advocates – and they are taking their land back at varying speeds.

Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

In absence of democracy – Blockadia
A very wise man once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Blockade culture and the reemergence of war-in-the-woods 2.0 can be understood in a similar vein. Unfortunately it takes confrontation for meaningful conversations to even start. Don’t blame protestors (protectors, forest defenders, or territorial asserters) for taking action in the absence of any real government leadership on matters vital to the land. They are often the ones who go unthanked, unrewarded, and unrecognized after stakeholder conversations begin and then end. You would merely be policing their tone. Sierra Club BC neither advocates for nor participates in any illegal activity, but we understand the anger and political asphyxiation that drives people to engage in alternative tactics.

Old-growth logging will end. The conversation that needs to be had is how we can end it in a way that is socially just for workers and dependent communities and that maintains ecological integrity across the landscape. That mandatory conversation is now at hand and the writing is on the wall.

The other option, which defines our provincial government’s current policy priorities, is to log it until it’s gone and then watch logging towns become ghost towns and original forest ecosystems turn into tree plantations. I wonder what the elk, murrelets, and traditional canoe builders would do.

Feature image by Jens Wieting.

Sierra Club BC wins prestigious award

Sierra Club BC is proud to announce that we have been awarded one of the most prestigious international environmental awards for our work on the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements.

Old-growth logging rate will lead to collapse on Vancouver Island

In the last 11 years Vancouver Island lost 100,000 hectares of old-growth rainforest. This high rate of logging will inevitably led to an ecological and economic collapse unless the B.C. government takes immediate action.

Photo by Jens Wieting

Photo by Jens Wieting

We’re calling on our provincial government to:

  • increase protection for old-growth trees
  • introduce a plan to phase out old-growth logging
  • support a faster transition toward sustainable, value-added second-growth logging

Help Sierra Club BC protect B.C.’s wilderness, species, and ecosystems by donating today.

The old-growth forests that are being so rapidly logged play an essential role in the well-being of both indigenous and non-indigenous communities. They are also critical to maintaining biodiversity, clean air, and clean water.

Their role in combating climate change must not be overlooked. Old-growth trees are one of our greatest allies as we tackle a warming planet. The trees continue to sequester carbon throughout their lives, whereas a second-growth tree will take decades until it plays a similar role.

Vancouver Island’s incredible carbon sink has been dramatically reduced as a result of logging. Much of the old-growth has been converted from old to young forest and is now contributing to climate change. Our 2009 report, estimates the overall loss of old-growth carbon on Vancouver Island as a result of logging to be at least 370 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. That amount is nearly six times B.C.’s reported annual emissions.

Old-growth in the Walbran Valley.

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

Despite the rapidly decreasing amount of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island, the average annual amount of old-growth logging has actually increased by 12 per cent. From 2007 to 2011, a period with an unfavourable market for wood products, 7,600 hectares of old-growth forest were logged annually. From 2011 to 2015 that amount increased to 9,000 hectares

Today there remains only approximately 384,000 of relatively productive, old-growth rainforest ecosystems.  Of the original three million hectares of old-growth rainforest on the island, only about 10 per cent of the biggest trees are left standing. Much of this is unprotected and still at risk of being logged.

The recent finalization of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements by First Nations governments and the B.C. 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 have given 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.

A comprehensive conservation and forest management plan for Vancouver Island must respect First Nations rights and interests, enable a transition to sustainable second-growth forestry, support diverse economic activities such as tourism and reduce carbon emissions.

Read our news release: Vancouver Island old-growth logging rate will lead to collapse, July 14, 2016

Read further coverage of this story:

CBC News: Vancouver Island old growth on brink of collapse, environmental group claims

Times Colonist: ‘Generational amnesia’ softens fight for forests

Vancouver Sun: Sierra Club calls for a moratorium on old growth logging

 

Featured image by Jens Wieting