Our Forests Our Future

No trees No future

Two community forums will be held this week to discuss the future of forest lands on southern Vancouver Island. The Juan de Fuca forest lands make up 2/3 of the capital region district, and were the first affected by European exploitation. Although most of the forest is now second and third growth, development threatens the area.

Forum organizers wish to bring a diversity of voices to the forum and facilitate a sense of the community coming together to envision a future that includes care for Earth as well as sustainable livelihoods for people who live here.

Sooke Community Forum:

Tuesday, May 1, 7:00 PM Edward Milne Community School Sooke, British Columbia, Canada 

The forum will focus on ways to care for the forest lands in the Capital Regional District while providing sustainable livelihoods and community-based economic development to the region’s people. Forum participants will be welcomed by T’Sou-ke Chief Gordon Planes, who will give a short introduction on the importance of forests in traditional culture. A short film by award-winning film-maker Maeva Gauthier will show the beauty of the land and address the importance of forests for mitigating climate change. The speakers will have short slots after which the floor will be turned over to a moderated community discussion.

Victoria Community Forum:

Thursday, May 3, 7:00 PM Ambrosia Event Centre, 638 Fisgard St. Victoria

Short film by award-winning film-maker Maeva Gauthier will be followed by speakers and community discussion.

  • David Anderson, former federal Minister of Environment, and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
  • Ken Wu, advocate for protection of old growth forests and sustainable forest management
  • Ben Parfitt, investigative journalist, author and long-time forest policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Organised by the Jordan River Steering Committee, an alliance of environmental and citizens' groups including Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee.


Sooke River Big Trees

Ancient Western red-cedar along the Sooke River
The Sooke River, famous for geological formations known as 'potholes', is one of the largest rivers on south Vancouver Island. Along its rocky banks live survivors of the  logging boom that started in the late 1800s. It decimated the original forest - most, but not all, is gone.

Single individuals along trails, like the centuries old cedar in the photo above, or small groves in hidden nooks and crannies, these are the remnants of the primal forest that once covered the area with thousand year old giants.

A post I wrote here describes how to visit the cedar featured above. It is found along the Sunriver Nature Trail off Phillips Road in Sooke, BC, an excellent place to see a few examples of ancient big trees.


S.O.S. Festival Supports Muir Creek Protection Society

With all the nefarious government and logging company land dealings over the past few years, the gem that is Muir Creek often gets overlooked. It would be a real shame were the very accessible, park-worthy Muir Creek old growth ever get destroyed due to "not enough money". We can't afford not to protect it.

Therefore, if you are in the south Vancouver Island region today and/or tomorrow, please do consider attending the very worthy 6th Annual S.O.S. Fest 2012 at the Shirley Hall. It is a fun way to do good.

All proceeds go to the good people at the Muir Creek Protection Society. They love trees and intact old growth ecosystems. How about you?


Nanaimo Mill Workers Lose To WFP

The  first sawmill in BC, 1848. Sawmill is on the right,
and a grist mill is shown on the other side of Millstream, near Victoria.

British Columbia's old growth forests are not the only victims of years of mayhem in the woods - forestry workers are suffering as well.

Based on data from the BC Ministry of Forests and Range, from 1991 - 2000, the average rate of closure was 3 mills per year. From 2001 - 2009 it rose to 6 mill closures per year. The closures account for the loss of thousands of jobs, and takes millions of dollars out of forestry-based communities.

The following article is a recent example of how forestry workers are suffering from bad policies and corporations looking out for #1 and the bottom line.

Mill workers lose court battle

Labour arbitrator sides with WFP in longstanding fight

By Robert Barron, Daily News April 16, 2012

Hundreds of laid-off workers at Nanaimo's two Western Forest products' sawmills won't receive severance packages after labour arbitrator David McPhillips recently ruled in favour in the forest company in a longstanding dispute.

Darrel Wong, president of the United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 which represents workers at the two mills, said the union sees no point in appealing McPhillips' decision even though it feels many of its arguments in the case are still valid.

WFP spokeswoman MacKenzie Leine said she's not surprised by the arbitrator's decision.

The union began court action against WFP over their concerns that the forest company may have reopened its two sawmills in Nanaimo with skeleton crews in 2010 to avoid having to pay severance packages, totalling more than $6 million, that the company would be mandated to pay if the mills remained closed.
Read full article here.

With old growth forests being rapidly depleted, raw log shipments, lack of government oversight in the woods, and logging companies using questionable business practices to avoid their responsibility to workers, it is hard to see how the citizens of this province are benefiting from the harvesting of our forestry resources.


Cooperation In The Forest

A forest is the ultimate sustainable cooperative community
Trees are but part of the larger forest, 2/3 of which is unseen under our feet. Also unseen is the incredible amount of cooperation that takes place in the forest.

There are many mutually beneficial relationships between species, creating a web of working together to form an entity much larger than any of its parts.

Everything has a role to play in building and maintaining the forest. It would continue in perpetuity, if we would allow. A forest is the ultimate sustainable, cooperative community.

Instead of wiping trees and forests out, we should be studying them and learning their valuable lessons.
Mushroom (mycorrhiza) Cooperation
"In the early 1990s mycologist Suzanne Simard and her team at Oregon State University discovered that cobwebby networks of mycorrhiza could connect not only many trees of the same species but also trees of different species.
They encountered birch connected to fir trees by up to ten different species of fungi. Moreover, birch trees growing in bright sunlight seemed to be subsidizing fir trees in the shade by sharing sugars via their mycorrhiza network."  - source: backyardnature


Liberals ignoring committee on raw log exports: Dix

Overseas shipment of raw logs
I was wandering through the Ancient Forest Alliance's website and came across an important news item. I thought it worthy of sharing so the citizens of BC can learn what the present government is doing with our forests. The raw log export situation in the province should enrage both environmentalists and forestry workers alike.

NDP leader demands explanation for decision to send timber overseas rather than sell it to B.C. producers

The Vancouver Sun - Jonathan Fowlie, March 14, 2012

The B.C. Liberal government has, since December, been exporting raw logs that its own advisory committee has been saying should be going to producers in B.C.

On Tuesday, New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix said the Timber Export Advisory Committee (TEAC) deter-mined last December that logs from Quatsino Sound on Vancouver Island should be sold to Teal-Jones of Surrey instead of being shipped overseas.

But Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson overruled that recommendation, Dix said, allowing the logs to be sold into foreign markets.

"The minister owes people an explanation for his decision," Dix said during question period Tuesday.

"The committee made the determination that keeping those logs in British Columbia was better for our economy than exporting them, and the minister overruled them."

Thomson said his ministry rejected the recommendation because TEAC had changed the way it was evaluating whether or not logs should be sold to foreign buyers.

"Without just taking their advice directly, in this case because we knew there was policy implications that needed to be considered, we administered the policy the way that it had always been administered and the way they had previously been providing advice to us," Thomson said Tuesday, adding the committee has no regulatory function, and is an advisory body only.

"It's not a process of overruling TEAC," he continued, "it's a process of a shift in policy advice being received from the advisory committee."

Ministry staff said the issue stretches beyond Teal-Jones, and has affected about 150 applications since December, comprising about 116,000 cubic metres of timber.

The ministry said that staff overturned TEAC recommendations on 86 applications in December and January, covering 70,145 cubic metres.

In February, the ministry stopped referring anything to the committee from the west coast of Vancouver Island, as they expected the decisions would be overturned. There were 47 offers in February, comprising 35,532 cubic metres.

In March, TEAC requested it be allowed to review cases again, and government agreed. The committee has so far reviewed 18 offers for 10,168 cubic metres, staff said.

Thomson said he has met with members of the committee and is reviewing the change they made in December to deter-mine if it's something government is willing to adopt.

"We're continuing to review that with [TEAC] and we've committed to get back to them," he said, adding he will have an answer before the committee's next meeting in April.

"But because there was a change in determination and a change in policy in terms of their advice we know we needed to look at this and have a discussion around the implications of the policy."

At issue in the matter is the way TEAC judges fair market value for logs.

As of December, the commit-tee began looking at domestic offers for coastal logs that did not include the costs to ship the logs to the buyer. This represents a change from before, where the offer made for the logs had to include the cost of freight.

It means domestic offers can potentially be more competitive than before.

On Tuesday, NDP forest critic Norm Macdonald said the issue goes beyond the details of how to calculate market value, adding the key is all about jobs.

"You have manufacturers that are ready. You have Teal-Jones that has gone through the process. This is a company that produces jobs," said Macdonald. "You have a host of companies that are ready, and these are the crumbs we're talking about that go through this advisory committee. These are the crumbs, and even them - this minister will deny those mills."

In 2011, British Columbia exported 5.87 million cubic metres of coastal raw logs. That was up from the 3.86 million cubic metres that were exported from the coast in 2010.

Stop old growth logging, now. Stop the export of BC raw logs and BC jobs. Retool sawmills for sustainable 2nd or 3rd growth smaller-log forest industry. Replant the backlog of logged-off lands.


Garry Oak Habitat Threatened

Garry oak habitat, Saanich, BC
Garry oaks (Quercus garryana) are large deciduous trees with lobed leaves, grey bark, and a twisted, gnarly branching pattern that gives the trees a stately, ancient look. They are the only native oak species in British Columbia, and their showy flowering habitat is one of the most threatened in the province.

Garry oak habitat covers a tiny area found within the Coastal Douglas-fir zone covering southeast Vancouver Island, part of the Gulf Islands, and a tiny bit of the mainland. The land on which the city of Victoria was built was almost all Garry oak meadows in pre-contact times.

The grassy meadows contain relatively open forests of oak trees. These rich areas are important to the area's original inhabitants who have long collected Camas bulbs as an important food staple. The spectacular blue wildflower grows from bulbs that were cooked in pits and eaten, or dried for trade or storage.

The oak trees are surrounded by grasses that are dotted with delicate wildflowers during a 3-4 month flowering period. Companion trees in this eco-zone are Douglas-fir, Arbutus, and Shore pine.
Garry Oak Meadow Flowers

The Coastal Douglas-fir zone is one of British Columbia's smallest, covering about 4% of the province. Garry oak habitat is a smaller area within that, so has always been extremely rare.

Already, 95% of this spectacular ecosystem has been altered. They are constantly under threat of being developed since their habitat overlaps with the most populated areas of Vancouver Island.

Little studied, we may never know what we have lost in this biologically diverse area. Garry oak habitat contains more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in Canada. Many of the residents can not live anywhere else, including the mighty oaks.

However, beautiful meadows endure, and remain a place where garter snakes and alligator lizards bask on sunny rock outcrops. A rich assortment of wildflowers, including Camas, flower every spring over several scented months.

The Garry oak meadows that are left can be found in the Victoria area, Duncan, Nanaimo, Comox, and most southern Gulf Islands.

To learn more about Garry Oak Preservation, see here.