aerial view of a lake surrounded by foest

Controversy over a Quadra Island Woodlot

David Broadland recently wrote a devastating critique of the old growth logging at Hummingbird Lake on Quadra Island. It is sometimes necessary to cut down an old growth tree, so I asked the Cortes Community Forest how often this occurs in their operation.

Some of the trees at the edge of one Okisollo cutblock – Photo by Roy L Hales

The first person to respond did not want to comment on woodlot activities on Quadra. I am not going to reveal his name. 

However he did write, “The Community Forest doesn’t cut down old growth trees and also leaves the largest & oldest trees in each area where operations take place.”

He also stated that there was an exception in 2021, “Because the WorkSafe board officer deemed it a danger tree and said it had to go during the WCB audit of the community forest operations.”

Broadland estimated that at least 64 old growth Douglas Fir trees were cut down at Hummingbird Lake, on Quadra Island, between July and August of 2019. 

When he contacted Okisollo Resources, they informed him, “We removed some of the old trees during the harvest of the second growth stands, for safety and access purposes.”

Broadland produced two satellite images (before and after), which show about 35 of the 50 old growth in one cutblock were harvested in the summer of 2019.

He wrote, “At the Hummingbird Lake cutblock, all of the smaller-diameter trees had already been removed several days before approximately 35 larger old-growth Douglas firs were felled. That can be seen in the satellite images. Those old trees did not have to be logged for either ‘safety’ or ‘access’ purposes.”

Satellite image of the same cutblock a few weeks later – Photo courtesy David Broadland

Cortes Currents visited Okisollo Resources woodlots during the afternoon on March 19 of this year. 

Before proceeding further, I should say that the only cutblocks I had seen recently were here on Cortes. Like a lot of treeplanters, I was scandalized by the carnage I saw left on logging sites in the mid 70’s and early 80’s. That was mass destruction, with shattered tree limbs left everywhere. The cutblocks do not look like that here on Cortes.

My first reaction on looking at the remaining old growth in one of Okisollo’s cutblock’s, was shock. There were scattered old growth amidst the fringe of trees above us. I saw spar trees, trees without tops and lower branches. I remember thinking there were some healthy trees, but cannot visualize them. On an emotional level, the mangled remains in front of me did not conform to my ideal of what old growth should look like.

I walked through parts of two cutblocks. At one point examined a couple of stumps that had been cut in 2019. There was evidence of rot in both of them. I pulled a chunk out of one stump’s side and set it on the top for a photograph. 

Broadland mentioned Okisollo Resources leaving about 15 of those 50 or so Douglas Firs at Hummingbird Lake. 

I remember seeing two old growth trees that could have been removed because of their close proximity to roads, but Okisollo Resources left them standing. There were probably more.

This is far from cutting down one old growth tree in eight years of operation, but it also shows they have left some standing.

Okisollo informed Cortes Currents, “We leave probably two-thirds to three quarters of the old growth trees standing either in, or adjacent to, the harvest areas. So the vast majority of those that we encounter with our harvesting are being left.”

They also stated that as they are cutting less than the woodlot’s annual growth rate, it will eventually all be old growth.

Bruce Ellingsen, one of the principal thought leaders behind the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative, has repeatedly stated that he does not believe cutting more than 15-20% of the annual growth rate is sustainable.

In June 2022, the Forest Practices Board released an investigation report into a complaint about Okisollo Resources. The woodlot holders were exonerated and praised for “setting aside all of the existing old-growth stands by designating them as wildlife tree retention areas.”

David Broadland points out that the investigators did not visit Quadra Island. They relied upon information from Okisollo Resources.

Chris Oman, the Forestry Practises Board’s director of investigations, told Broadland that 10 old growth trees had been cut “to build a road and for safety reasons.” This is a much less than what Broadland discovered, and he does not know how many old growth Okisollo have harvested since they started operations in 2014.

Broadland states the Hummingbird Lake cutblock had previously been protected in 2001, under the provisions of Special Management Zone 19. 

The first company known to have logged this area was Okisollo Resources.  

“All the evidence suggested that the north side of Hummingbird Lake was rare primary forest with big, old trees growing at a density that was at least equal to any other old forest I have surveyed on Quadra Island.”

This brings us to a second response from Cortes Community Forest. David Shipway is the  Vice President, but the email he sent was his personal opinion:  

“My comment on this particular situation is that I totally respect and support the detailed analysis that Dave Broadland has done for many years to try to hold both licensees and government ministries to their laboriously worded commitments. So much of the BC landscape, clearly visible from above, now reveals a gargantuan and methodical deception.”

“It’s a mystery why so many of the retained large vets in that Hummingbird Mtn. cutblock were later felled, but it’s also a mystery why the Ministry would designate a small Woodlot tenure in an area that contained so much of the rare old growth that it had previously committed to protect in the SMZ of a higher level Land Use Plan.”

“Many old growth trees do have dead tops that could fall off when harvest is conducted around them, so it’s much better to leave them surrounded by smaller trees, which also buffer the big old ones from wind, heat and root damage. But perhaps the greatest danger of these big old trees is that they reveal to us all that most of what government and industry now call “mature second growth forest” that is “ready to harvest” is in fact quite Immature.”

Cortes Currents reached out to Okisollo Resources for further comment, but as of the publication of this article not received a response.

Top photo credit: Hummingbird Lake and surrounding forest in July 2018, as seen from a drone – photo courtesy David Broadland

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