Into the woods: An interview with coastal projects lead Mark Worthing

We Asked Our Coastal Projects Lead Mark Worthing What Happens During A Field Assessment, This Is What We Found Out.

Sierra Club BC: Can you explain what a field assessment is like and what its purpose is?

Mark Worthing: 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.

SCBC: What type of prep work do field assessments require?

MW: 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 near Atluck lake, 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.

SCBC: What happened once you got to Atluck lake?

MW: 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 outright. 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.

SCBC: Sounds like partnerships and allies are very important for the work you’re doing. Can you talk a little bit more about partnerships?

MW: I approach partnerships through a kinship lens of friendship and the ethics of eventually being a neighbour. I want everyone to be supported and heard, and engaged with, and listened to, and celebrated. And so that’s my mentality. And when I do that, I locate myself in a physical space and ask what is happening to the landscape here? And who’s land is this? And how can I meet these people where they’re at in terms of what they have going on? And that could be a non-Indigenous municipal government, it could be a hereditary governance system, it could be the band council. It’s whomever I can make radio contact with and sometimes that’s simple and sometimes that’s complicated. But either way, what I find when I ask myself those simple questions and figure out what’s going on, typically it’s seeing a lot of forestry impacts. I see those impacts in salmon spawning watersheds or in high alpine bog wetland or in yellow Cedar forests. So, I can’t deny that the violence against the land that I see most directly everywhere I go in my life is logging.

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We need your help to expand our fieldwork in 2022. Donate today to help us access more remote sites and to document the work being done. Even a gift of $20 will make a huge difference. Your donation will help fund: 

  • Equipment and supplies costs  
  • Travel to and from remote sites 
  • Drone footage 
  • Expert reports from qualified professionals on cultural keystone ecosystems, bear den identification, riparian features, and species-at-risk surveying 

If you’re able to do so, please consider becoming a monthly donor, your ongoing monthly support will help us continue to do field assessments year-round.

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Global heating is putting the health and safety of communities in danger, and clearcut logging is making things worse. Please add your voice to make sure the B.C. government commits to an immediate deferral to logging in at-risk old-growth forests.

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