As logging companies across the province can no longer easily find big old-growth trees, they’re pushing into increasingly controversial areas, including places we love most.
The 109 hectares of spectacular old-growth stands next to the beloved Juan de Fuca Trail and Port Renfrew—put up for auction by the BC government’s own logging agency BC Timber Sales (BCTS) —are just one shocking example.
Members of our staff visited these stands in Pacheedaht territory in early May and what they saw was breathtaking. Pictures of the area reveal giant cedars, culturally modified trees (CMTs), a northern red-legged frog (a species of concern in BC) and egg masses of the northwestern salamander.
Thanks to many of you, a huge public outcry followed after Sierra Club BC and other groups raised awareness about this proposal. The auction for this cutblock is now on hold, for the moment at least.
But instead of taking the concerns seriously and dropping this proposal for good, BCTS only allowed for a temporary reprieve. They aren’t yet giving up their plan to clearcut. After repeated emails from us, the province passed on this statement from BCTS on May 16, 2019:
“BCTS is no longer advertising the timber sale licence in order to engage with a local stakeholder who was inadvertently missed during the initial referrals. Since additional engagement needs to occur, at this time we can’t speculate when the timber sale licence may be re-posted and to what degree the current cutblocks may be revised.”
This statement doesn’t help to restore trust, as concerned citizens expect transparency and will want to know when they might have to be ready to fight this proposal again.
And it’s just 109 of more than 8,800 hectares of old-growth forest that BCTS has placed on the chopping block for the coming years.
And just as we cheered this temporary win, field assessments on the north island revealed fresh and shocking new clearcuts.
Together with Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club BC’s team did two weeks of assessments in recent clearcuts and high-value hotspots.
They were blown away by the recent destruction – much of which can be traced directly back to BCTS. Below, photos show an active BCTS falling block near Tsitika Provincial Park, where ancient cedars and 500+ year-old hemlocks were cut.
Read our media release about the story and view photos by Louis Bockner, a professional photographer who joined us on the trip. You can also find shocking initial photos taken by Sierra Club BC staff here.
Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee did site visits to Western Forest Products clearcuts in Eliza Inlet, Northwest Vancouver Island.
Doing some site visits to Western Forest Products Area here in Eliza Inlet, Northwest Vancouver Island. Slides, blown out culverts, huge clear cuts, little creeks pumped full of waste and slash. This industry is a disgrace, don’t believe the PR.
Posted by Mark Worthing on Tuesday, 14 May 2019
They also visited Schmidt Creek, where old-growth logging is in full swing. Last year, Sierra Club BC supporters made phone calls to BC’s forest minister Doug Donaldson to direct BCTS to stop planning and auctioning hundreds of hectares of old-growth to the highest bidder in steep slopes close to the globally unique orca rubbing beaches of Robson Bight.
In this video from our recent trip, Sierra Club BC’s Galen Armstong sits beside a 600-year old hemlock that was recently cut in Schmidt Creek. Much of the area has been clearcut since we visited last in the fall, but there is still much that can – and must – be saved from the chopping block.
#FieldUpdate: Last year, Sierra Club BC supporters were mobilized to call Minister Donaldson to stop logging old-growth in Schmidt Creek. Despite the public outcry, nothing changed.
We’re devastated to see the destruction since, but there is still some forest left that can be saved. This old-growth habitat is ecologically important to many species-at-risk, including northern resident orcas, northern murrlets, and northern goshawks.
This time around, we must stop this ecosystem from being further destroyed by the BC government. Take action to #SaveOldGrowth 🌲https://sierraclub.bc.ca/rainforestisland/
Learn more about the significance of this region 👉 https://sierraclub.bc.ca/old-growth-logging-a-threat-to-orca-whales/
Posted by Sierra Club BC on Friday, 10 May 2019
Torrance and Mark also visited the Upper Tahsish where BCTS is proposing cutblocks in one of the last remaining “hotspots” – the few remaining relatively intact old-growth areas large enough to provide a haven for some of the species that depend on intact rainforests.
Fresh out of the clearcuts, the Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee teams hosted a town hall on forests and climate change in Courtenay. You can watch the replay here:
Posted by Sierra Club BC on Friday, 10 May 2019
It’s clear that more and more people are getting upset over government inaction on forests. Some elected officials in our provincial legislature are calling for the last old-growth to be protected. We welcome attention to this issue and we would like to see all political parties begin to champion old-growth. To encourage this, BC residents concerned about old-growth need to keep raising the issue with their MLAs.
Want to learn more? Our weekly forest webinars have been a big hit. We heard from forest experts like Valerie Langer, Andy Mackinnon and Jens Wieting. Wildcrafter Sharon Mackenzie shared about gathering and harvesting traditional foods and medicines and Eli Enns (Tla-o-qui-aht) shared about Indigenous-led conservation and tribal parks. Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation, Jennifer Houghton of founder of Boundary Forest Watershed Stewardship Society and Mark Worthing of Sierra Club BC rounded it out with diverse perspectives on forests.
Please donate to help amplify our old-growth forest campaign.
Feature image: Thursday Creek, by Mark Worthing.