The forest action taker’s guide
That’s it, I’ve had enough of the destruction of Vancouver Island’s last ancient rainforests!
By Mark Worthing, Conservation and Climate Campaigner
Do you ever find yourself in a clearcut or reading the news about the destruction of Vancouver Island’s old-growth rainforests asking, “How is this even legal?”
Do you get upset by all the logging trucks driving down the highway on Vancouver Island with some of the largest and rarest remaining old-growth trees in tow?
If you already know what’s happening to Vancouver Island’s ancient forests and you want to do more than send a letter, this blog is for you.
Where do I start?
If you want to know more about the state of the remaining endangered old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island, click here for an in-depth and detailed map. You can use the information to highlight how little is left and why the targeted area is important to safeguard or connect remaining old-growth stands (zoom in and use screenshots to show local info).
You can use this Google Earth file to find a data set by landscape unit. And you can find out more about old-growth logging on Vancouver Island here.
Here’s how you can find out about active and pending cutblocks: Launch the newest version of iMap BC. In the left menu under “Build your map,” choose “add layers now.” Next, choose “Licenses and Permits.” In most cases you are probably most interested in “Forest Cut Blocks” and, under this topic, “Active Forest Cut Blocks” (choose “colour themed” to distinguish) and “Pending Forest Cut Blocks” (choose “outlined” to distinguish). You can also check out active and pending roads. Within a few seconds your map should show the chosen information, but it will only show the requested information if you have zoomed into the map sufficiently. To explore further, click on “identify” and choose a cutblock to find out about operator, hectares and other information.
It can be overwhelming knowing two soccer fields of old-growth are being destroyed on Vancouver Island every hour, or seeing cargo ships of ancient giants being whisked off to foreign markets while folks up island are losing the familiar forests they grew up calling home.
Maybe you’ve talked with a logging company and they made you feel like you’re asking too much, or that you don’t understand the regulations. It’s common for those who do try to engage with the government or logging companies to feel hopeless, because getting access to good information is like trying to find a marbled murrelet in a spruce tree.
There’s no shame in not understanding the regulations and objectives – in part because they’re often arbitrary or far too meek to make a tangible difference. Also, many logging companies don’t understand the rules themselves! They’ve been given so much latitude to log freely that they’ve acclimatized to doing what they like without much pushback or oversight.
It’s not your fault that previous governments deregulated the entire forestry sector, essentially privatizing the resource and outsourcing the industry to self-regulate through a “Professional Reliance” model of management (that’s code for “The government doesn’t really do much at all, they just trust that if some registered forester signs off on a logging plan, that it’s probably alright”).
95% of BC forests are on Crown land (well, they’re on Indigenous lands actually…) This means they’re ‘owned’ by the public – they’re YOUR forests! Don’t let a logging company make you feel like you’re not entitled to access public forest lands or information about how those forests are (mis)managed.
The public (represented by the BC government) has given the rights to log on public lands in exchange for stumpage fees that go into public tax coffers.
This is wildly advantageous for logging companies, and allows them to make huge profits in exchange for measly fees that bottom out at about $0.28 per cubic metre—the size of a telephone pole!
The current social contract should look something like this: we, the public, consent to resource extraction if the logging company can operate with respect. Obviously this isn’t working for Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth rainforest.
So what do we do when the government drags their heels and forest corporations act like they own the forest? FIGHT BACK!
It’s our collective responsibility to make sure corporate interests don’t decimate one of the most important ecosystems on the planet—an ecosystem important for stabilizing the climate and sustaining the sacred stolen resources of Indigenous communities.
Okay, so you see some shady logging going on. Maybe your precious viewscape for your kayaking tourism company just got wiped out by a huge cutblock and now “Beautiful British Columbia” is nowhere to be seen. The Forest Range and Practices Act reads as if the logging companies wrote it themselves, so they don’t exactly make it easy for you.
However, you do have some options available to you! Your success will require you to be persistent, confident and assertive, but we’re here to help.
The Forest Action Taker’s Guide
Step 1: If you see concerning logging going on… DOCUMENT!
- Take photos. Take GPS locations if you can. Write down what you’re seeing.
- Maybe you see some logging too close to a stream: count your paces from the creek bed to the edge of the cutblock. Record as much detail as you can in, any way you can!
- Begin to build an info package. The more documentation, the better.
Step 2: Engage your Regional District!
- Start a paper trail (well, an email trail will do) to keep records of your engagement with the government. Email your concerns in a polite, clear and concise way.
- Ask for information about the licensee and basic forest plans for the area, including:
1.) Who the Licensee is (the company or contractor operating there)
2.) Forest Stewardship Plans (the forest company’s multi-year planning document about how they’re intending manage the area)
3.) Site Plans (more detailed plans for a particular location which include how they plan to build roads, manage slope and soil, riparian areas, etc.)
Step 3: Join the movement!
- Reach out to a non-governmental organization (like us) that you think can help with your concerns. Better yet, notify the Regional District Office that you’ve talked to the organization! This way they know the cat’s out of the bag, and they can’t string you along privately for months. Shine a light on it!
- Be transparent and draw the issue into the open so nothing is hidden.
Step 4: Roll up your sleeves and engage with the company
- Okay – by now, you’ve made it further than most people who are upset about the state of our forests –nicely done!
- Let’s say you’ve managed to figure out who the licensee or contractor is, and you’ve got your hands on their Forest Stewardship Plan (FSP). Read it!
- By now you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what kind of fate your cherished forest is up against. You will also have gained a basic literacy around some of the language and terminology that the forest sector uses. Don’t let them confuse you with their industry lingo. The language used is a strategic tool to make engaging with them difficult. Stick to your guns. Speak in your own language. Find ways to make sure you both understand, in simple terms, what is being discussed.
- You might get lucky and find yourself talking with someone who’s really helpful and engaging. That’s great, you may have just begun a relationship where you can give them positive critical feedback and it may result in an improvement in forest practices! Thanks! Keep that relationship alive – cooperation is always better than a fight. But keep the big picture in mind—the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
- If you don’t get anywhere, take your concerns to the next level. You tried in good faith with no result – it’s a logical next step to ramp up the pressure. You can pursue multiple options to do this, either step-by-step or simultaneously, depending on urgency and capacity. Write letters or articles for local or regional media. Contact local journalists to see if they’ll cover the story (you can usually find them on Twitter or on their own personal websites if you can’t find their contact info on the media outlet’s site). Use our tool to call the responsible Minister and his staff and share your specific concerns. Contact us and other environmental organizations to help amplify your concerns on social media, on our websites and through letters from our organizations to the responsible authorities (a heads-up that it may depend on capacity and other priorities whether this is possible). And if this doesn’t change the outcome, at a minimum, you will have helped to increase pressure and add scrutiny, making it harder for government and industry to destroy or damage ecological values without being held accountable.
- Remember – always keep notes, a paper trail, email records, dates and times. Write down the content of agreements and discussions held in person. Sometimes people walk away with different understandings from a conversation. Take notes during meetings and send them a copy of those notes to confirm you’re on the same page. Hey, you’ve just made another paper trail! You’re getting the hang of this!
- No matter the outcome, there are always other things you can do to help defend Vancouver Island’s rainforests. Why not start canvassing in your community to help build the movement? Check out our Toolkit for BC Community Volunteers. You could also organize a local talk, film screening, coffee night, panel discussion, or even an all-candidates debate on the topic during an election. Connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or our newsletter where we share the most recent news about old-growth logging. Share our content on social media and have conversations with your friends and family in person (one of the best ways to influence opinion!) or consider volunteering or donating to Sierra Club BC so we can continue fighting to defend old-growth forests over the long term.
Thanks for your commitment to standing up for BC’s forests. They need our help as much as we need theirs.
Feature image: TJ Watt