By Roy L Hales
British Columbia’s environmental community has been calling upon the provincial government to set aside plans to log in the Walbran Valley for months. The city of Victoria joined the chorus in July, passing a motion against this project. Everyone appears to have believed the Walbran was an old growth forest. Yet on September 18th, BC gave Teal Jones approval to start logging the first cutblock. Now, as the Surrey based logging company prepares to commence operations, the existence of an old growth forest grove in cutblock 4424 has been documented.
Old Growth Forest Grove In Cutblock 4424
One of the trees in the Black Diamond Grove is believed to be close to a thousand years old, but there is more to “old growth” than that.
“An old growth forest is more of a system than individual trees. Some of the trees are as big as a living-room, with several hundred cubic meters of wood within them. They sequester massive amounts of carbon, which is a huge factor in the fight against Climate Change. It can trees as big as your finger and everything in between. The whole forest is old growth, it is not individual trees. It is the system that has developed,” said Wilderness Committee campaigner Torrance Coste.
“If you look at the big picture and frame it in terms of Climate Change, I would say it is sacrilegious to log this area. One of the first things we should do is create an old growth strategy to keep sequestered carbon where it belongs,” said Mark Worthing, Biodiversity Outreach Coordinator with Sierra Club BC.
Coste and Worthing hiked in to view the cut block on Tuesday.
“We were expecting to find old growth, but not to the scale of what we found. It just speaks to the uniqueness of the Central Walbran and is just yet another reason why this forest is worthy of protection,” said Coste.
Coste said BC Forest Minister Steve Thomson has “rejected multiple requests for meetings” with the Wilderness Committee.
Teal Jones To Heli-log, Not Clearcut
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests emailed the ECOreport, “The ministry approved a cutting permit submitted by Teal Jones to heli-log (not clearcut) 3.2 hectares.”
He directed me to a provincial factsheet, which said:
- Teal Cedar Products Ltd. has an approved cutting permit and a legal right to log cutblock 4424, which covers 3.2 hectares east of the park and about one kilometre from the large tree known as “Castle Giant” within Castle Grove.
- This cutblock is within special management zone 21 which limits cutblock size to five hectares. The company will use helicopter harvesting with no trails, roads or heavy equipment within the cutblock. As well, the old growth requirements for the special management zone are maintained and the development will not impact the recreational features of the area.
- There are no streams in the cutblock that drain into Castle Grove and the opening is not expected to be visible from the trails or features of Castle Grove. The drop zone for the harvested logs is on a logging forest road outside of the Castle Grove area.
Teal Jones hopes to log seven additional cutblocks, in addition to #4424.
“With regard to the other potential blocks to be logged in the area, Teal Cedar and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations are reviewing current Old Growth Management Areas in the area and options for reconfiguration, to provide additional protection for recreational features, trails and significant trees in Castle Grove,” the spokesperson said.
I Challenge Anyone To Call That Sustainable
“I challenge anyone to stand on one of those cutblocks and call that sustainable. They find the best stands, they fall them and they call that selective logging,” said Worthing.
Teal Jones has the government’s approval, but Worthing does not believe they have the public’s consent.
Though neither the Sierra Club BC or the Wilderness Committee participate in civil disobedience, some grassroots activists are considering blockades to stop the new logging.
“All those people who were out on the logging roads in the ’90’s are still here and they are pissed off,” said Worthing.
The Friends of Carmanah-Walbran is calling for volunteers to “establish a continuous presence at a community witness camp in the Central Walbran valley.” Their website says this will commence on September 26th.
“It could happen as early as tomorrow (Friday, the 25th),” said Coste.
Top Photo Credit: The “Leaning Tower Cedar” – old-growth redcedar tree in Black Diamond Grove, within the recently approved cutblock. (Credit: Torrance Coste)