By Roy L Hales
It has been a year since the Wilderness Committee drew our attention to the planned logging of old growth trees in the central Walbran Valley. So far, the controversial heli-block 4424 has remained untouched. Since last November, Teal Jones has been logging 6 or 7 cutblocks in the more easily accessible areas south of the river. They are already clearcutting the Walbran’s thousand-year-old trees.
Conflict Over The Woods
The provincial government denies the allegation that it is “doing nothing” to protect the Walbran’s old growth forests.
A Ministry of Forests spokesperson said, “The neighbouring 16,000-hectare park also contains some of those same ecosystems. The park was formed to protect those ecosystems.”
He added, “Over 4 million hectares of B.C.’s old growth forests are protected.”[1. Email from BC Ministry of Forests]
Sierra Club BC disagrees with their figures. Their “Google Earth file reveals that almost half (46%) of the landscape units now have less than 30 % of productive old-growth remaining. (Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares.) 17% of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining.”
“Experts consider 30% the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species,” says Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC Forest and Climate campaigner.
According to Torrance Coste, of the Wilderness Committee, “Teal Jones acknowledges that old-growth logging will come to an end within the next few decades. At the same time they say if any of their cutblocks are stopped, the situation would be drastic for their company and they’ll need to lay workers off. “[2. Roy L Hales interview with Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee]
Communities Support Extending Protections
The Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed a resolution requesting that the provincial government, and Ministry of Forests, amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan “to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”[3. 2016 AVICC RESOLUTIONS DISPOSITION, Resolution 11]
This month the B.C. Chamber of Commerce passed a motion calling on the province to expand protection of old-growth forests in areas where they have, or likely would have, greater economic value if left standing.
For example, the president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce told the Times-Colonist that tourism is now his community’s #1 source of revenue.
“Thanks to the trees, Port Renfrew is no longer a one-industry tourism town and has been able to successfully brand itself the ‘Tall Tree Capital of Canada,’ he said.
Representatives from the Ministry of Forests met with the Wilderness Committee, several other environmental groups, and Teal Jones last February.
“Nothing was resolved, but it was agreed that a conflict in the Walbran wasn’t desirable and all parties wanted it to go away,” said Coste.
Up until this point, the Wilderness Committee has focused its’ energies protecting 486 hectares north of the Walbran River. (This includes the controversial cutblock 4424.)
“We will never support old growth logging anywhere, but it was’t as hard a line south of the river. We knew they need time to phase out old growth logging. If we said no old growth logging period, we knew they wouldn’t listen. So, as a first step, we looked at the area with the least cutblocks historically,” said Coste.
Clearcutting The Walbran’s Thousand-Year-Old Trees
He added that now that Teal Jones has logged the southern cutblocks, the Wilderness Committee has documented the damage.
“These blocks are road blocks. The potential damage at 4424 would be slightly less drastic (they’d leave the hemlock trees) but the cedar stumps would be as big or bigger — 4424 is at lower elevation than these blocks.”
NDP Hesitant To Intervene
The Wilderness Committee reached out to the official opposition.
“We’ve kept them well briefed on the issue. We’ve let them know that we expect the opposition to oppose unacceptable things that the government is in support of and this is at the top of that list. They’ve said that they aren’t in a position to oppose logging in the Walbran, or old growth logging, until they have talked to more people. Which, I assume, means industry,” said Coste.
The was not sufficient time for the Opposition party critic for Forests to respond to my questions.
(Added 24 hrs later – the NDP have still not responded to my calls)