7/06/2012

Who's Really Poaching B.C.'s Old Growth?

Stump of ancient red cedar hauled away by poachers, Torrance Coste photo
With southern Vancouver Island's near total loss of unlogged watersheds and low elevation forests, we have to look at who is taking the last of the big trees. Since 1853, about 90 percent of the low elevation ancient forests, where the largest trees and greatest biodiversity can be found, have been logged.

In the above photo, Torrance Coste, of the Wilderness Committee, revisits the site of the recent tree poaching in Carmanah/Walbran Park.

Illegal poaching of Vancouver Island's trees is not unknown, or surprising, considering that an increasingly rare large Western red cedar can yield thousands of dollars worth of shakes, shingles, and other products.

In the Carmanah incident, an 800 year old cedar was cut through by poachers, but left standing. Parks officials had to knock the tree down as it was an obvious hazard to visitors. The thieves returned later to haul away the carcass. They have not yet been caught and held responsible for their crime.

Massive, 1000 year old red cedar 'legally' cut by government sanctioned loggers
Some would say that the ongoing elimination of the island's old growth forests by government-sanctioned logging interests is a crime. With most of these trees, among the largest and oldest on the planet, long gone, it boggles the mind as to how we can justify continuing the slaughter.

The massive red cedar stump above was photographed by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance. It was freshly cut in the Klanawa Valley (northwest of Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island) in June 2011. It may have been legal, but I don't think it is moral.

The Klanawa Valley is not far from Pacific Rim National Park, and the location of the Cheewhat Cedar, Canada's largest tree.

Paul George visiting old growth logging bordering Cathedral Grove Park in 2000
Paul George is the founder of the Wilderness Committee. He is also the author of the 2005 book Big Trees, Not Big Stumps. The photo above shows George visiting the location of forest giant Weyerhaeuser's ancient forest destruction next to world famous Cathedral Grove in 2000.

While the legalities may differ between 'poaching' and 'logging' the old growth, the results are identical. One is illegal, the other legal, but both are wrong.

Destroying Vancouver Island's last stands of old growth trees is a crime any way you look at it.

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