SCBC: Can you explain what a field assessment is like and what its purpose is?
MW: I’ll give you an example. We monitor the BC Timber Sales auction schedule—they auction off all their cutblocks for the next year in the previous year, so they have a big list and by then they’ve done all the work for the contractors to bid on that forestry operation. We monitor those, and find all the ones that are in an area close to us. Recently, Tła̱lita̱’las~Karissa Glendale [forest relations coordinator with Sierra Club BC of both Haida and kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw ancestry] noticed one of the proposed cutblocks was near Atluck lake, which is a pretty important lake for her community. It’s a spot where they do spiritual work, and it has significance in terms of their origin story.
What I typically do before we actually get out there, is I’ll research everything I can find out about the place. I ask what is the real name? What is the cultural significance of the area? Is it second-growth? Is it old-growth? What industrial activity is going on there? Is this a significant spawning ground area for sockeye? With this area in particular, we quickly realized that it was a very significant karst limestone deposit area and there were tons of caves, underground rivers and springs. Just super cool hydrology.
So, we get in the trucks and get out there and we find some karst, sinkholes and little disappearing creeks and stuff like that. Also, sure enough, we find that they didn’t flag it out right. We document that—you take GPS coordinates, pictures, notes of what you’re observing, like how things relate to where roads are and where the waterways are.
After that, we put that data back in the hands of people who might be able to do more with it. Karissa reports back to her community about what she saw on the land, maybe she noticed there was some really good balsam bark harvesting areas or cedar bark harvesting areas. Now she has really good land-based knowledge of the area, and I have information to share with members of the Conservation Committee for the BC Speleological Federation, and they’re like, “That’s pretty huge. If they continue with this cutblock, they’re going to destroy these two caves and this hydrological feature. And they didn’t do a very good karst segment. We’re going to send our people out there to have a proper karst assessment done.” And they did. And then they managed to have that cutblock stopped.