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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

Vancouver Island old-growth logging rate will lead to collapse

Vancouver Island lost another 100,000 hectares of old-growth rainforest in 11 years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 14, 2016

VICTORIA—Sierra Club BC warns that high and increasing old-growth logging rates on Vancouver Island will lead to an ecological and economic collapse unless the B.C. government changes course. The Province must increase protection and introduce a plan to phase out old-growth logging including support for a faster transition towards sustainable, value-added second-growth logging.

A review of government logging data by the environmental organization shows that 243,000 hectares of rainforest were logged on Vancouver Island between 2004 and 2015. Of this amount, 100,000 hectares were old-growth rainforest.

“We are urging the B.C. government to take immediate action to protect and restore the coastal rainforests on Vancouver Island,” said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner. “Leadership for the well-being of indigenous and non-indigenous communities, for biodiversity, clean air, clean water, long-term forestry jobs, and as one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks is urgent.”

Despite the rapidly decreasing amount of old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island, the average annual amount of old-growth logging has 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. Sierra Club BC estimates that only approximately 384,000 hectares of relatively productive, unprotected old-growth rainforest ecosystems remain today. Of this amount a significant portion is still at risk of being logged before the unavoidable transition to 100 per cent second-growth logging.

“It is only a matter of time before the logging industry runs out of old-growth trees and fully transitions to second-growth,” said Wieting. “But despite shrinking revenue and jobs from logging, and despite the increasing value of endangered old-growth for species, a diverse economy, climate action, and clean air and water, thousands of hectares of old-growth rainforest are still being cut every year.”

Today the vast majority of the original three million hectares of old-growth rainforest on the island has been logged and only about 10 per cent of the biggest trees are left standing. The original record-high carbon sink in ancient trees has been dramatically reduced as a result of the conversion of old to young forest and has contributed to climate change. A 2009 Sierra Club BC 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, almost six times B.C.’s reported annual emissions.

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. Climate impacts like droughts and storms exert additional pressure resulting in severe consequences for watersheds and salmon. Raw-log exports are at a record high and jobs per cubic meter at a record low compared to other parts of the world, leaving neither healthy forests nor healthy communities.

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.

—30—

Contact:

Jens Wieting

Forest and Climate Campaigner, Sierra Club BC

604-354-5312

Read Stephen Hume’s story in the Vancouver Sun.

Images:

 

Remaining Old Growth Original Old Growth

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

Featured image by TJ Watt

For five months, Lemare Lake Logging Ltd. has barred access to the public and Sierra Club BC to site plans for its current operations in East Creek on Vancouver Island.  This directly contravenes the Forest and Range Practices Act.

Lemare has evaded its legal obligation to provide the plans by cancelling appointments, providing extremely limited scheduling opportunities and refusing to provide the plans in person. Logging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

Sierra Club BC is calling for action to avoid further destruction of irreplaceable ecological and cultural values until appropriate conservation planning has been undertaken and the company has changed its practices. A formal complaint has been filed with the BC Forest Practices Board.

What does Lemare Lake Logging have to hide?

Sierra Club BC visited East Creek on a routine exploration of old-growth valleys in the fall and found the company was logging fast and furious, literally blowing up old-growth trees with blasting charges. Evidently non-compliant logging practices are compromising salmon spawning habitat, water quality, marbled murrelet nesting trees and northern goshawk habitat.

B.C. government equally responsible

Lemare Lake Logging is taking advantage of lax rules and virtually non-existent enforcement to evade accountability and destroy endangered old-growth rainforest. Over the past 15 years, a combination of legislative and regulatory changes and cutbacks in compliance and enforcement and other staff in the Ministry of Forests, Range and Natural Resource Operations has made it next to impossible in many parts of the province to know the state of our forests and easier for logging companies who chose to hide information from the public about what they are doing in the woods. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be government’s approach when it comes to logging the last ancient giants on Vancouver Island.

Section 11 of the Forest and Range Practices Act requires logging companies to make their site plans publicly available “at any reasonable time”upon request at the company’s place of business.

Better solutions neededLogging in East Creek, Photo by Mark Worthing

Rapidly harvesting old-growth and exporting raw logs out of the province is bad economics. Instead, more jobs and forest-based communities could be supported by sustainable harvesting of second growth forests and local processing and manufacturing.

Solutions for healthy ecosystems and healthy communities similar to those found in the Great Bear Rainforest are needed along the entire coastal rainforest region of the province, 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 south of the Great Bear Rainforest 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.

A formal complaint has been filed with the BC Forest Practices Board.

East Creek is located adjacent to the Mquqᵂin – Brooks Peninsula Provincial Park, in traditional Kwakwaka’wakw territory and forms part of the largest remaining contiguousancient rainforest on northern Vancouver Island.

A recent Sierra Club mapping analysis showed East Creek on the northern island and the Walbranon the southern island among the most critical remaining intact areas and ecological stepstones between the Great Bear Rainforest, Clayoquot Sound and Pacific Rim National Park.

A recent Sierra Club mapping analysis showed East Creek on the northern island and the Walbran on the southern island among the most critical remaining intact areas and ecological stepstones between the Great Bear Rainforest, Clayoquot Sound and Pacific Rim National Park.

Karst in the Walbran: From Magical Mineral Baths to Tolkien Giants

by Charly Caproff

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
– Gary Snyder

Across the province, a mysterious ecosystem has been developing for tens of thousands to millions of years. Created by the dissolving action of slightly acidic rainwater on carbonate bedrock (e.g. limestone), karst lands are a Tolkien novel brought to life.IMG_7633_V1

Massive old-growth trees flourish on the epikarst, the exposed upper zone of a karst system. Their gnarly roots reach into the depths of the underworld, in search of water and nutrients.

The excellent drainage and nutrient recycling provided by the karst results in coastal old-growth trees with impressive height and diameter growth.

According to Martin Davis, a karst biologist, the only trees comparable to those in the karst lands are found in areas of deep soils and alluvium.

His field observations suggest that old-growth trees underlain by karst are healthier and larger in comparison to ancient trees growing on non-karst substrate in adjacent areas.

Rainwater comes into contact with the epikarst, gradually opening up fractures in the limestone. The water slips through the subsurface, connecting with a cave stream. Alternatively, surface streams may suddenly “disappear” into the secret world beneath our feet, forming a subterranean river.

Karst diagram courtesy of Vancouver Island University

Karst Diagram. From: McColl, K. M. et al. (2005) Geoscape Nanaimo, geoscience for central Vancouver Island communities. Geological Survey of Canada, Mischellaneous Report 87. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from CGEN Archive [http://www.cgenarchive.org/uploads /2/5/2/6/25269392/poster-nanaimo_e.jpg].

Rare and endangered species dwelling in the karst cave systems, such as the Quatsino Cave Amphipod (Stygobromus quatsinensis), are completely dependent on dissolved nutrients transported by the water.Karst features

Eventually, karst waters reemerge at a karst spring, flowing perhaps into a drinking watershed, or into a fish-bearing stream, such as the Walbran River.

I returned to the Walbran in early April to test the electrical conductivity (EC) of surface streams flowing throughout the valley. This research was part of my environmental capstone on Coastal Karst Ecosystems, a graduation requirement from the SFU Bachelor of Environment program.

Electrical conductivity (EC), the capacity of water to conduct an electrical current, is typically 5 – 10 times greater in karst waters in comparison to non-karst waters[1]. I was interested in determining whether the karst had a noticeable effect on the physical and chemical properties of the water.

The results suggest that surface streams within and adjacent to cutblocks 4403 and 4405 in the Walbran Valley are influenced by karst. These areas contained limestone outcrops, ancient trees growing on the epikarst, and sinkholes, features indicative of karst lands.

Map of the Water Sampling Locations, Charly Caproff

Map of the Water Sampling Locations, Charly Caproff

As a rule of thumb, karst waters will have EC readings greater than 50 µS/cm, according to B.C.’s karst expert.Walbran water

Many of the water samples had EC readings four times greater than the benchmark value. All of the samples had slightly alkaline pH readings, which is also a good indicator of karst waters.

Perhaps there is a reason why people feel “electrified”, “energized” and “rejuvenated” after swimming in the Walbran’s jade green waters.

Why is it important to determine if karst waters are present in the Walbran Valley?

Preliminary studies conducted in southeastern Alaska have found that fish-bearing streams fed by karst waters are eight – ten times more productive in comparison to non-karst streams. This is likely attributed to the constant, cool karst groundwater flows, dissolved carbon inputs and slightly alkaline conditions[2].

While highly productive, karst systems are extremely vulnerable to contamination because the surface water receives minimal filtration as it flows underground. In Walkerton, Ontario, seven people died and thousands fell ill when runoff contaminated with E. Coli flowed directly into a karst aquifer via underground streams. Greater research and protection measures need to be taken in karst areas, as they are susceptible to disruption and can have direct influence on aquatic ecosystem and human health.

Teal-Jones has proposed to construct a road through the heart of this highly sensitive, karstified landscape.

Karst features in the Walbran Valley

Karst features in the Walbran Valley

Directly below the proposed road on a steep slope, lies a karst swallet, an opening in the surface where water drains into an underground channel. During my previous visit to the Walbran in October, surface water was rushing rapidly into the subterranean world. In April, a small subsurface stream could be seen flowing over the pure white limestone. Cavers have noted that because there is a lack of surface streams in the area, it is likely that there are extensive subsurface karst water systems draining into the Walbran River.

B.C. needs to adopt karst ecosystem-based management, similar to Alaska, in order to ensure that the entire karst system is protected. Buffer zones need to be set from well-developed karst systems to ensure that the biological and hydrological integrity of karst lands are not adversely impacted. Karst vulnerability mapping and thorough research of subsurface drainage patterns (e.g. dye tracer testing) need to be conducted in the Walbran Valley because the extent of these systems is largely unknown.

With a greater emphasis on karst research in B.C., we will gain a holistic understanding of these complex systems and be able to establish progressive karst protection policies.

I would like to thank Shane Johnson and Michael Neate for their guidance and wisdom in the field. Your stories and laughter made the Walbran even more special.

Charly’s field report can be accessed HERE

[1] The chemical reaction between carbonate bedrock and slightly acidic rainwater results in a greater number of free ions present in solution in comparison to non-karst waters, increasing the EC.

[2] Karst groundwater’s constant, cool temperatures are attributed to a lack of sunlight exposure and drastic fluctuations in the ambient air temperature (Culver & Pipan, 2009, pp. 3).

Source:

Culver, D. & Pipan, T. (2009). The biology of caves and other subterranean habitats. Oxford University Press, USA.

McColl, K. M., Turner, R.J.W., Franklin, R.G., Earle, S., Stokes, T., David Pawliuk, Houle, J., Guthrie, R., Fox, J., Clague, J.J. 2005: Geoscape Nanaimo, geoscience for central Vancouver Island communities, Geological Survey of Canada Miscellaneous Report 87, one sheet.

Charly Caproff is an Environmental Resource Management (ERM) student at Simon Fraser University. Her interest in karst was sparked a couple years ago during an environmental science class, and her concerns that there are no laws that specifically protect karst prompted her to research and help improve public awareness of this ecologically important environment. 

Read her other blogs about karst and the Walbran Valley:

Walbran Water Knows No Bounds

Road Building on Karst: A Sinking Idea

What Lies Beneath the Walbran

Karst: A Winter Chalet for Bats

 

 

Get a copy of the “Vancouver Island’s Last Stand” newspaper

The time is now to protect and restore Vancouver Island’s endangered rainforest! Pick up a copy of our “Vancouver Island’s Last Stand” Vancouver Island's Last Stand newspaper_pg1newspaper (jointly published with our friends at Wilderness Committee) and find out why now is the time for action.

You can get the paper at the Sierra Club BC office, various locations around the province, or download your copy here.

Inside “Vancouver Island’s Last Stand”:

  • The Central Walbran: Southern Vancouver Island’s last stand
  • The state of forests on Vancouver Island and in the Great Bear Rainforest
  • Old-growth forest and climate change
  • A new map showing unprotected endangered rainforest areas on Vancouver Island
  • New hope for Clayoquot Sound’s intact rainforest valleys
  • The importance of old-growth for indigenous culture
  • Raw log exports: a made-in-BC problem that’s only getting worse
  • A new conservation plan for Vancouver Island’s rainforest
  • All you need to write the B.C. government and support our call for action

Get your copy today and share it with your family, friends, and colleagues!

We’ll also have copies of the newspaper available at Save the Walbran: Updates from the Coastal Forest on April 27th. Hope to see you there.

 

Sierra Club BC’s Google Earth Tool Shows Vancouver Island Old-growth in State of Emergency

March 30, 2016

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 VICTORIA—A new Google Earth file, developed by Sierra Club BC, shows old-growth coastal rainforest has reached a state of ecological emergency across vast parts of Vancouver Island and B.C.’s South Coast.

The Google Earth file, which can be downloaded from the Sierra Club website and studied with free Google Earth software, shows how little ancient forest is left as a result of decades of industrial logging.

“With our Google Earth file, anyone can easily see the dire situation our forests are facing on Vancouver Island and the South Coast,” says Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC Forest and Climate campaigner. “However, it should be the role of the Province, not of NGOs like us, to make information available to the public. The Province must step up to the plate, increase monitoring and take action to increase conservation.”

The Google Earth file reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of the landscape units now have less than 30 per cent of productive old-growth remaining.  (Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares.) Seventeen per cent of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining.

“Experts consider 30 per cent the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species,” says Wieting. “With climate change exerting additional pressure, endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet are experiencing compounding stresses and are threatened with extirpation or extinction.”

In February, First Nations and the B.C. government announced the fulfilment of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements including a set of measures to ensure healthy rainforest and healthy communities in that region.

Wieting, who was heavily involved in the Great Bear Rainforest negotiations, says that the lessons learned through that process should be applied to seek solutions along the southern part of the coast with similar rainforest ecosystems and similar threats to address the massive conservation gap, and in a manner that strengthens and respects First Nations rights and interests.

Sierra Club BC is calling for immediate action by the provincial government to protect and restore endangered coastal rainforest ecosystems, before intensifying climate impacts like drought, wildfires and storms coupled with destructive logging practices further exacerbate pressure on ecosystems. Remaining largely intact rainforest areas, such as the Central Walbran and the Klaskish River/East Creek need immediate conservation steps to save habitat for endangered species and restore second-growth forest to allow for connectivity.

“Remaining old-growth areas are highly fragmented, and most watersheds are covered by forests too young to survive drought conditions,” says Wieting. “Unless the provincial government changes course and protects what remains of our endangered old-growth, much of the southern coast could turn into an ecological wasteland this century. We must protect and restore our rainforests now, for species, for clean air, clean water, long term forestry jobs and as one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks. ”

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Contact

Jens Wieting

Forest and Climate Campaigner

Sierra Club BC

604-354-5312

 

To download the Sierra Club BC Google Earth file, you will first need to download and install the free version of Google Earth. Guidance for interpreting the file is attached.  For more detailed information about the state of B.C.’s old-growth coastal rainforest, read our backgrounder.