Light coming through a forest

Mosaic visits Cortes Island: A community meeting and forest walk

There were two public forestry events, while Mosaic visited Cortes Island this week.  

About 135 people attended the mixed in-person/ZOOM ‘Celebrating our Forests’ meeting at Mansons Hall on the evening of April 20, 2022. 

Around 16 people joined Mosaic on at least one of the two field walks of proposed cutblocks the following day. (Someone* went on both trips.)

Mosaic representatives Colin Koszman and Molly Hudson sat politely throughout most of the almost two hour community presentation at Mansons Hall, as speaker after speaker explained why they did not want an industrial scale logging operation on Cortes. 

They listened to accounts of Cortes Island’s activist past, a biologist talk about the uniqueness of the island’s ecosystem, and Dancing Wolf read out a poem in defence of the trees.

Christine Robinson said that over 500 species of plants, animals, fungi and protozoa have been documented within the Children’s Forest. (She was referring to the 600 acres that the Forest Trust for the children of Cortes Island is purchasing from Mosaic, negotiations are ongoing.)

Sonya Friesen acknowledged that Cortes Island’s trees would not be standing if the Klahoose First Nation had not been so strong in their defence of them.  

“I see it as a home in a forest community, not private land, and I feel honoured that I was welcomed in the lands of Squirrel Cove, beside my neighbours,” she said. 

An old growth stump in midst of second growth – Photo by Roy L Hales

Last January Mosaic said they were planning to log in a manner that is similar in size and scope to that currently used by the Cortes Community Forest. 

Bruce Ellingsen, one of the founders of the Cortes Community Forestry Co-operative, said if that were true they would plan to cut 1,100 cubic metres per year – not the 6,000 to 8,000 cubic metres Mosaic proposes.  

Gemma said that, aside from the old growth, the oldest trees on Cortes Island are now 140 to 150 years old and they are mostly found on the land Mosaic intends to log. 

“The fact that we even have to fight for these trees, or have this presentation right now, is devastating,” she said.

Lovena Harvey commented on Mosaic’s ‘business as usual’ approach to forestry, pointing out that the world is in the midst of a planet catastrophe and the emissions from B.C.’s forest operations is greater than the combined emissions from the transportation and buildings sectors. 

Regional Director Noba Anderson suggested that Cortes residents have three things they can do: 

  1. groundtruth the forests, so that we know what is here; 
  2. protest through the media, shareholder meetings, and as a form of resistance. 
  3. Lastly, look into ways to purchase the land.

There is much more in the meeting podcast, which is soon to be released. 

No one from the Cortes Island community came out in favour of Mosaic’s proposal. 

Screenshot from the April 20 meeting at Masons Hall, which 100 people attended.

Both of the representatives from that company spoke. 

Hudson said, “I heard some things that were hopeful for me, as a forest manager.” 

Asked if she had the power to make decisions, Hudson replied that there was no single decision maker within Mosaic. She would bring what she heard back to the planning team. 

Hudson also explained that Mosaic is wholly owned by two pension plans: teachers and government employees.

This brought an audible ‘yikes’ (presumably from one of the former teachers and government employees in the audience).

“Being owned by a pension fund is much better than being publicly traded, for example. If you’re publicly traded, you have these quarterly dividend reports, right? You’ve got to kind of constantly produce,”said Hudson. “A pension fund is by its’ very nature, a longterm vision kind of organization.” 

One of many conversations between community members and the Mosaic team – Photo by Roy L Hales

During the forest walk the following day, Hudson mentioned how she enjoyed the meeting.

She and the five other Mosaic employees made it clear that there was still some flexibility in their plans. They are ‘considering’ some of the community proposals. The proposed cutblock boundaries may change. They are discussing the idea of not cutting trees that are over 140 years old, but said this could be difficult to put into practise.

Larger changes, like cutting only 20% of the annual growth rate on their land (as is the community forest model ), seem less likely. 

Mosaic still expects to start cutting next Fall, which means some of these ‘proposals’ will soon become fixed plans.

A number of community members have said that if Mosaic goes forward with its current plan to cut +6,000 cubic metres a year, they will encounter resistance.

Someone* politely informed the Mosaic team on the afternoon walk, Thursday. He asked if they would consider selling their lands on Cortes.

Hudson was skeptical, does not want to see more of the company’s Cortes Island parcels tied up in negotiations, and said their business was logging.

This was, of course, part of an informal discussion and not necessarily company policy.

Cortes Currents was invited to submit questions, to be answered by email after the tour.  

Q/ What does Mosaic have to say in response to  Bruce Ellingsen’s calculation that they are intending to harvest timber at a rate that is 6-8 times more than the community forest norm? (with the exception of Carrington last year, where they needed to cut out rot).

  • Mosaic Forest Management’s 3-year harvest plans are based on our Cortes land base of ~1085 hectares and the annual growth rates of these lands.
  • The harvest rate we have planned is sustainable over the long term. We have not harvested on these lands for decades, so growth has been occurring without disturbance for some time.
  • We have only shared a few years of initial plans, and we may not harvest every year at this level.
  • Our proposed harvesting is approximately 10 hectares per year, less than 0.1% of the entire Cortes Island land base.

Q/ What does Mosaic have to say about Ellingsen’s statement  they are intending to cut roughly 100% of the annual growth on their land and  should not be harvesting more than 15% to 20%?

  • Our proposal is well within the annual growth of our Cortes Island lands.
  • The Cortes Island land base is 12,450 hectares. A large percentage is productive forest, and each hectare grows at least 5 cubic metres every year which can be up to 50,000 cubic metres per year of growth on the entire island. Forests on Cortes Island have been increasing in age and size for many years.

 Q/  What does Mosaic have to say about David Shipway’s  comments about the amount of sapwood in what I am going to call immature  trees?

  • The stands we propose to harvest are typical of Cortes Island second growth forests. Other forest operators on the island have found there is an excellent market for these logs for high-quality end products.
  • We have heard from the community that old forests are important for ecological reasons, so the second growth forests we plan to harvest are the preferred stand type for timber production.

One of the intriguing aspects of the forest walk was walking through the stumps of giant old growth trees that were cut down 80 -100 years ago. Now Mosaic wants to harvest the generation that grew up after them.

They plan to host an an open house event on May 17, 2022, which anyone in the community can attend and no registration is required.

*Cortes Currents is using the term ‘someone’ rather than a name because (1) it could act as a witness to both events, (2) the people in question are not aware they are being mentioned, (3) these are not pivotal events that must be referenced by names.

This story was posted April 22 and some additional material added April 23.

Top photo credit: Proposed logging ara close to Blue Jay Lake Farm – Photo by Roy L Hales.

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