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  • Fairy Creek Frontlines
    We have moved this record to the Fairy Creek Rainforest Defence forum
     
     May 26, 2021, continued
    A coalition of media outlets and press freedom groups filed an application in BC Supreme Court today, asking a judge to order the RCMP to provide journalists with reasonable access to police enforcement actions taking place in and around Fairy Creek and Caycuse camps. 
    The broad use of exclusion zones is questioned as it interfere’s with the media’s ability to inform the public about what is happening. RCMP have been forcing media to stay far away from arrests being made.
    FOCUS will report more on this in the coming days.
     
    12:22, May 26, 2021
    The Rainforest Flying Squad reports
    • from Caycuse, Ditidaht territory: We have heard that "Keys" was taken from the tree-sit, and that RCMP plan to extract all the remaining tree-sitters today.
    • While at Fairy Creek, Pacheedaht Territory: 30 RCMP vehicles are at 2000 Road now.
     
    10:30 am, May 26, 2021
    FOCUS updates
    Last night at 10:19 pm, Corporal Manseau wrote to say that “In order to avoid a repeat of what occurred today when an operational need to change locations occurred, I am asking that all interested media parties remain flexible, and I will commit to putting out an email update tomorrow by 8:30a.m.” At 9:26 am, he emailed that planned enforcement “will take place in the Port Renfrew area.” Media were requested to meet at 10:30 am in a parking area approximately 2kms past Port Renfrew on Pacific Marine Road to rendezvous with the media liaison officers for escort. The distances, given the late notice, will make it difficult for many media to get there in time.
    Rainforest Flying Squad reported at 9:32 am that “14 police vehicles and 2 vans have left the station at Cowichan Lake.” They had also had a report that “50 or more, many unmarked police vehicles, are leaving Cowichan. They don’t seem to be going to Caycuse.”
    It’s not totally clear how many were arrested yesterday, but it could be close to three dozen, making it the busiest day so far. Arrests were made mostly in the Caycuse area. (Media had been directed to the Port Renfrew area.)
    Shown below are a couple of photos of the Elders convoy who visited 2 blockades in the Fairy Creek area yesterday. Many were willing to risk arrest, but the RCMP let them into the exclusion zone without charge. From 75-100 elders attended. See entry below from yesterday afternoon for more details on the convoy.
     

    Elders attend Fairy Creek blockades, May 25 (Photo by Marnie Recker)
     

    Elders attend Fairy Creek blockades, May 25 (Photo by Marnie Recker)
     
    4:49 & 6:10 pm, May 25, 2021
    Report from Rainforest Flying Squad, Caycuse, Ditidaht Territories
    RCMP showed people where they could peacefully protest, and everyone was in that area. Then police went in and started arresting leaders, legal observers and our police liaisons. Three to six people at a time were escorted out.
    About two dozen people were removed and arrested, and we were told about 15 more were being held there and told they would be arrested imminently.
    One witness said she didn't recognize any of the RCMP from any of the previous situations.
    Many protestors' vehicles were towed away, some to Tiger Towing, some were left about 3 kms away. RCMP have told people they can go and get them, although Teal Jones may charge them for the tow.
    We also heard some protestors' tires were punctured.
     
    2:05 pm, May 25, 2021
    Rainforest Flying Squad reports
    • We are asking media to attend the Caycuse exclusion zone checkpoint, where RCMP had corralled about 3 dozen people. About one-third have been arrested and removed, but it seems they're taking hours in between.
    Some media have been penned off to one side, with everyone else in another area. No one is allowed to go anywhere and vehicles are being towed off-site without warning.
    • A convoy of 30 elders is approaching an active blockade at the bottom of Braden Maine on Gordon River Road. 
    The elders have been invited by Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones. This area is home to some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island. Some of the seniors are willing to risk arrest to show their support for the protesters who are blocking the logging of the last old growth forest at several blockade sites.
    Why get arrested? Their reasons are varied. 76-year-old Jackie Larkin feels betrayed. “This government has lied to us about their willingness to protect old growth. It’s my responsibility to stand with the ancient trees and against the forestry companies and chainsaws that destroy precious ecosystems.” 
    Joanne Manley, now 88, was arrested 28 years ago in Clayoquot. She’s saddened nothing seems to have changed: “Writing letters and phoning the government hasn’t helped so far, so here I am, standing with the few trees that remain, hoping the government will finally come to its senses.”
    The circle of elders will drive in convoy to the Fairy Creek area, assembling at the Park-and-Ride in Sooke, knowing that they face possible arrest, fines and jail time.
    Susan Gage, one of the group organizers, reflects that it’s not fair that younger people, indigenous and non-indigenous, have to be the ones fighting for environmental sustainability. “We want to show that we, as elders, stand with these brave young people, who are trying to reveal the insanity of mowing down these ancient trees and the unique temperate rainforest ecosystem sustained by these mother trees.”
     
    Morning, May 25, 2021
    FOCUS reports
    FOCUS photojournalist Dawna Mueller, acting on the below instructions from the RCMP, proceeded to the Port Renfrew area on Tuesday, May 25th morning.
    But the RCMP failed to appear. She managed to get a message to the editor of FOCUS. On inquiry to Corporal Manseau, FOCUS received the following reply by email: “Enforcement was planned for the Port Renfrew area but circumstances have changed and members are again in the Caycuse area, where enforcement started last week.” In a subsequent email, he elucidated: “Those plans literally changed based on the actions of protesters in the Caycuse area that were unexpected. Our plans had been to continue enforcement in the Port Renfrew area up until that moment. I apologize  for the inconvenience.”
    It is a long, bumpy ride along logging roads from Port Renfrew to Caycuse. One would normally go from Victoria through Lake Cowichan to get to the latter. So it is unclear whether media will be able to get to Caycuse today.
    According to the Rainforest Flying Squad at 10:36 am, “People are being arrested right now at a ‘temporary exclusion zone’ at Caycuse.”
    —Leslie Campbell, editor
     
    9:34 pm, May 24, 2021
    Email to media from Corporal Chris Manseau, BC RCMP
    Tomorrow, Tuesday May 25, 2021, enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction order is again planning on continuing.  As operations are still being developed, the exact location of the enforcement has yet to be determined.
    I ask that you again please meet our Media Relations Officers in the Port Renfrew area, this time at 9:30a.m. They will be waiting in the same gravel pull out/ parking area approximately 2kms past Port Renfrew on Pacific Marine Rd (across from the entrance to the Port Renfrew Marina & RV Park). You will be asked to sign in with identification and contact information. 
    At approximately that time (or before) the RCMP Relations Officers will be informed where enforcement will be scheduled to take place and you will be invited to travel to the enforcement area led by our Media Relations Officers. They will then escort you into a designated area for media.
    Every reasonable effort will be made to allow you to get as close as possible to the enforcement area, while ensuring no interference with police operations. Plenty of time will be provided to you in the area to ensure that you have opportunity to document and report on actions as they occur.
    Due to timing and logistics, these plans may vary. We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there on time tomorrow, but we will ensure we provide ample notice if meeting times change.
    I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.
     
    Afternoon, May 24, 2021
    Trees for Tomorrow demonstration at Legislature
    Trees for Tomorrow, a newly founded initiative led by youth, organized a demonstration, standing in solidarity with Indigenous land defenders after a call out for organized action from frontline activists. “We as organizers, youth, and allies demand action towards the protection of old-growth forests for current and future generations,” said Mischa Arbess.
     

    Trees for Tomorrow demonstration at Legislature (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Afternoon, May 24, 2021
    Rainforest Flying Squad updates:
    • There have been four or five arrests at Waterfall Camp today. RCMP have reportedly left the area now.
    • There is or was a police line blocking people at Reid and Braden. There was not much media there. We are not sure if RCMP have also left this site.
    • Forest defenders set up a blockade at 2000 Road this morning. The area was an active work site for logging old growth up until the morning of May 17th, when the first blockade there was set up. Work was stopped for four days until arrests on May 21.
    About 30 RCMP vehicles attended Road 2000 this morning. There are no reports of exclusion zones.
    Is this level of police presence and illegal exclusion zones really necessary to dismantle the camps of peaceful civil disobedience activists?
    • A supporter sent the following message:
    “I spoke to RCMP spokesperson Corporal Chris Manseau this morning and got a better understanding of who is in charge of the operation. It’s not Lake Cowichan RCMP at all. The RCMP used for enforcement come from all over the province. The person in command comes from RCMP Headquarters in Surrey. His name is Dave Attfield…He was the Gold Commander who oversaw the raid  at the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory.  Remember that?”
     
    May 24, 11 am, BC Legislature
    Parents Support Land Defenders
    Parents4Climate created a forest on the lawn of the Legislature on Monday to show solidarity for Indigenous sovereignty and Old Growth Forest defenders at the Fairy Creek Blockades.    
    “Having spent time at the Fairy Creek Headquarters camp in the past few weeks, we can attest to the deep commitment of the land defenders who have spent so many days keeping watch and putting their bodies and spirits on the line for our ancient forests,” says Kate Lawes, Parents4Climate (P4C) member.
    “Since we’re currently unable to go there ourselves, we want to support, in any way we can, the land defenders and the old growth forests they have protected for more than 280 days.” 
    The symbolic “planting” of cardboard trees will be from 11am-1pm and follow all public health and safe distancing protocols.  
    We would like to acknowledge that this event will take place on the unceded territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples.
    https://www.facebook.com/parents4climate/
    Parents 4 Climate is a local group of committed, loving parents on Lekwungen territory, united around the basic sense of duty every parent feels to ensure that our children have a healthy planet to grow and live on.
     
    12:20, May 24, 2021
    Updates from the Rainforest Flying Squad:
    Fairy Creek, Pacheedaht territory: 
    • 17 RCMP vehicles have arrived at Fairy Creek, including a large paddy wagon. There is an exclusion zone being set up at Fairy Creek.
    • We understand that RCMP have been using the letter issued by the Pacheedaht last month to tell people that the Pacheedaht do not want them on their territory. The origins of that letter may be in question. Please note the following paragraphs from the revenue-sharing agreement the Pacheedaht have with government:
    ARTICLE 11 -ASSISTANCE 11 
    11.1 Non-interference. Pacheedaht First Nation agrees it will not support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities. 
    11.2 Cooperation and Support. Pacheedaht First Nation will promptly and fully cooperate with and provide its support to British Columbia in seeking to resolve any action that might be taken by a member of First Nation that is inconsistent with this Agreement.
    • Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones was stopped by police today as his car approached Fairy Creek. He told officers that “The pretender chief, Frank Jones, and the elected chief are not the final authority here. They're acting out of their own pretensions. They are not being guided by our... cultural laws,” he told police. “You are invading the territory of our hereditary chief. Frank Jones is not from here, he’s from Terrace,” so he would not be high up on the list of those eligible for the position of hereditary chief.
    A witness said RCMP told Elder Bill that he would be arrested if he didn't get off the road. A supporter took him home. Fairy Creek has been a place of refuge and spirituality for Elder Bill his whole life. 
    • Earlier there was a large group of angry pro-industry people at Braden and 2000 Road at the back of Fairy Creek. They have now left.
    Caycuse, Ditidaht territory:
    There is still a tree-sitter at Caycuse. He is fasting until all old-growth trees are protected. Trees are being cut down around him, some so close that debris is falling on him as they go down. There are a few RCMP and a helicopter.
    Elsewhere: Statement on cut brake line
    We have heard police are investigating a cut brake line on a logging truck. Kathleen Code, a spokesperson for Rainforest Flying Squad, said, “We assure the public that our group of nonviolent forest defenders would never contemplate such an action. We stand on the time-honoured principle of non-violent civil disobedience to express our grief and anger at the loss of these majestic trees and the rich ecosystems they provide. What we have already lost is unimaginable. But we would never intentionally harm a forestry worker or a police officer, even if we don't agree with what they're doing. 
    “If there is someone out there that believes cutting an innocent person's brake line would somehow help, I urge them to take responsibility and to desist. Please do not ‘help’ us in that way. Violence and endangering others is not what we're about. Some of our forest defenders are risking their own lives and freedom for this cause.
    “We are a movement that is peaceful, honourable and immovable. Nonviolent supporters are welcome and encouraged to join us in either urging the government for an immediate moratorium on old-growth logging, or standing with us to protect these ancient forests. Please come.”
     
    9:33 pm, May 23, 2021
    Email to media from Corporal Chris Manseau of the BC RCMP:
    Tomorrow, Monday May 24, 2021, enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction order is again planning on continuing.  As operations are still being developed, the exact location of the enforcement has yet to be determined, however, I have been assured that it will again be near Port Renfrew.
    I ask that you again please meet our Media Relations Officers in the Port Renfrew area, this time at 9:45a.m. They will be waiting in the same gravel pull out/ parking area approximately 2kms past Port Renfrew on Pacific Marine Rd (across from the entrance to the Port Renfrew Marina & RV Park). You will be asked to sign in with identification and contact information.
    At approximately that time (or before) the RCMP Relations Officers will be informed where enforcement will be scheduled to take place and you will be invited to travel to the enforcement area led by our Media Relations Officers. They will then escort you into a designated area for media. 
    Every reasonable effort will be made to allow you to get as close as possible to the enforcement area, while ensuring no interference with police operations. Plenty of time will be provided to you in the area to ensure that you have opportunity to document and report on actions as they occur.
    Due to timing and logistics, these plans may vary. We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there on time tomorrow, but we will ensure we provide ample notice if meeting times change.
    I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.
     
    May 22, 2021
    Downtown Victoria action in solidarity with old-growth defenders:

    Tasha Diamant, chained to statue of Captain Cook, Government Street, Victoria (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Tasha Diamant, 59, is a mother of two teenagers, an artist, and a former university professor.
    Says Diamant: “When Captain Cook arrived in the late 1700s, some of our trees that people are getting arrested for protecting were already ancient! That blows my mind.”
    “We cannot lose another inch of ancient forest when almost nothing is left. I’m doing nonviolent civil disobedience in solidarity with all those forest protectors getting unjustly arrested.”
    “I’m chained to Captain Cook who is one of the guys who led us to where we are today. A situation where we have to fight our own British Columbia and Canadian governments to save the last 3% of ancient forests in BC.”
    “I have two daughters and it’s my job as a mom to model responsibility and ethics. As a person living with Stage 4 cancer, I may not have a lot of time. I’m extremely anxious about getting arrested but I strongly believe that those of us with privilege must risk arrest to expose the real criminals.”
    Follow @urbanactionsforancientforests on Facebook and @urban_actions4ancientforests on Instagram
     
    9:14 pm, May 22, 2021
    Email to media from Corporal Chris Manseau of the BC RCMP:
    Please be advised there is no scheduled media meet-up tomorrow, Sunday May 23rd, as there is no planned or scheduled enforcement of the BC Supreme Court’s injunction order in the Fairy Creek Watershed area.
    The RCMP has tried to remain as flexible as possible for all media to have access, however there have now been several instances of persons claiming to be media who have then joined the protest situation.
    If any journalists from recognized media outlets are interested in observing, reasonable efforts will be made to provide access to the enforcement area as described in the media release from Monday May 17th.
    As the access control points do not have cellular or data services, it’s recommended that should media be interested access, please contact me at this email address rather instead of arriving at the access control points, so I can assess options.
    Thank you for your co-operation and participation over the last couple of days.
     
    Afternoon, May 22, 2021
    Updates from the Rainforest Flying Squad:
    •  Video of indigenous-led protest that broke through the exclusion zone earlier today at Caycuse. They staged a peaceful sit-in at the police line. See video.
    • We are getting updates from “Keys,” a fourth tree-sitter still in Caycuse, that loggers have been falling trees around her for the past 2 hours. They found her internet and apparently have destroyed it. We are very concerned.
    • We have also heard about 16 to 18 RCMP vehicles are right now en route to Caycuse, including paddy wagons. They have passed the Port Renfrew turnoff.
    • Tzeporah Berman, veteran of Clayoquot defence and director of the environmental organization Stand.earth, has been released after her arrest today at Fairy Creek.“There are moments in history when our government fails us. When we are called to stand up. This is one of those moments,” she said. “There is so little old growth left standing and the government has so far broken its promise to protect what’s left.”  The Clayoquot blockades still stand as the greatest act of nonviolent civil disobedience in Canadian history.  
    • 3:24 pm: Two people who were in a treehouse have been removed by RCMP and were arrested.
    • Active logging has again resumed at Caycuse.
    • Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder who visited Fairy Creek often in his life, is reportedly on his way to Fairy Creek. Jones recalls visiting the area from his childhood and throughout his life. He regards it as a cathedral, and sacred to his people. He has called for the area to be made a park in recognition of the thousands of First Nations people who died of smallpox in 1862. This is referring to the estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Indigenous people who died of smallpox in 1862-63. Some reports say one-third of the Indigenous population of BC was lost, others say up to 60 percent.
    Although the Pacheedaht chief has issued a public letter in April asking forest defenders to leave, Jones says he has the right under the Indian Act to invite people to his territory. He continues to welcome all who wish to help defend Fairy Creek to join us now. 
    The city of Victoria grew quite suddenly from 300 to 5000 people in just one year, because of its situation on the way to the Cariboo goldfields.
    Many First Nations from other communities had come to Victoria for work or trade opportunities. In 1862 there were between 2000 and 2500 First Nations people, including Tsimshian, Haida, Stikine, and others from the north, as well as the Songhees who lived there.
    Due to racism and fear, Indigenous people were forced to leave Victoria, accompanied by two gunboats, even though many were direly ill with smallpox. Their dwellings in Victoria were burned, to prevent them from returning.
    Many who were too sick to travel were dropped off along the coast, where they died. There could well be unburied bones of many First Nations around the San Juan River, into which Fairy Creek flows. 
    Those that lived long enough to return home delivered the devastation of smallpox to their territories, killing thousands, as far north as Alaska. The Haida population alone was decimated from a pre-epidemic count of 6,607 people to only 829 in 1881.
    Because First Nations were decimated, their land claims were ignored. It is part of the reason BC didn't make treaties:
    “Governor Douglas had earlier signed 14 treaties on Vancouver Island until a funding conflict between the Crown and the colony postponed progress and, in the face of the smallpox crisis, treaties became a low priority. ‘There was this pervasive belief that this was a dying race and the smallpox epidemic seemed to confirm that. So essentially treaty-making was abandoned as a result,’ says Lutz.” From MacLeans.
     
    1:11 pm, May 22, 2021
    Email report from the Rainforest Flying Squad:
    RCMP are enforcing the injunction at Waterfall Camp. Four people have been arrested. RCMP are still working to extract someone locked to a structure underground, which requires a jackhammer.This is Rainforest Flying Squad's first camp. It guards the approach to the Fairy Creek watershed. As soon as it is cleared, road building crews will begin cutting down trees and carving a road into the last unlogged watershed in the San Juan River system.
    It is the last pristine watershed, outside of a park, on southern Vancouver Island. Although Teal Jones says it is only cutting down a small area in the headwaters, their permit allows building one kilometre of roads into Fairy Creek. This alone will do incredible damage.
    Old-growth forests are far superior at carbon sequestration. Protecting old-growth forests is an exponentially better way to mitigate climate change than planting seedlings.
     
    11:57 am, May 22, 2021 Rainforest Flying Squad reports: We have just heard that about 50 pro-logging demonstrators have blocked our convoy of protestors at Mesachie Lake, who were heading to a demonstration at Caycuse Main, just south of Lake Cowichan. At Caycuse, RCMP are currently working on getting the treehouse down, which has two people in it. At Waterfall Camp, RCMP are extracting a man from a structure using jackhammers.     10:56 am, May 22, 2021 Rainforest Flying Squad reports: About 15 RCMP vehicles, including paddy wagons, are at our Waterfall Camp. We are asking media to attend both Eden and Waterfall camps as soon as possible. Trees are being felled again at Caycuse, again near tree-sitters. WCB [Worksafe BC] has again been called. We have heard RCMP are there with SUVs and dogs in the back woods. Journalists and lawyers were turned away at Caycuse this morning.  
    9:03 pm, May 21, 2021
    Email from Corporal Chris Manseau, BC RCMP, to media:
    Tomorrow, Saturday May 22, 2021, enforcement of the BC Supreme Court injunction order is again planning on continuing.  As operations are still being developed, the exact location of the enforcement has yet to be determined. However, I have been assured that it will be near Port Renfrew.
    I ask that you meet our Media Relations Officers at 9:15 a.m. in the Port Renfrew area. They will be waiting in a gravel pull out/ parking area approximately 2kms past Port Renfrew on Harris Creek Rd. [Clarified later: Google calls the road Pacific Marine Rd. I have been assured that it is across from the entrance to the Port Renfrew Marina & RV Park.]
    RCMP Sergeant Kris Clark will be driving a blue Chevrolet Trailblazer (for reference) You will be asked to sign in with identification and contact information.
    At approximately that time (or before) the RCMP Relations Officers will be informed where enforcement will be scheduled to take place and you will be invited to travel to the enforcement area led by our Media Relations Officers. They will then escort you into a designated area for media. 
    Every reasonable effort will be made to allow you to get as close as possible to the enforcement area, while ensuring no interference with police operations. Plenty of time will be provided to you in the area to ensure that you have opportunity to document and report on actions as they occur.
    Due to timing and logistics, these plans may vary. We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there on time tomorrow, but we will ensure we provide ample notice if meeting times change.
    I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.
     
    1:00-1:45 pm, May 21, 2021
    A series of emails from the Rainforest Flying Squad report:
    • Three arrests have been made at Road 2000 near Fairy Creek today. They are being taken to Lake Cowichan RCMP detachment.
    • However, “Pony” the tree-sitter at Caycuse has survived active tree falling nearby today, and police efforts to extract her so far. We hear they need to get special equipment—a genie lift—from Nanaimo.
    • Dangerous tree extraction continued in Caycuse with someone on the ground almost hit. 
    • Worksafe BC has now shut down tree falling around tree sitters. This activity, by loggers, was unsupervised by RCMP. 
    • Owing to endangered screech owls in the area, BC’s ministry of forests has shut down logging activity around the sites. Caycuse remains defended.
     

    Beautiful forest at Caycuse, now believed dead. Photograph by Will O’Connell
     
    11:44, May 21, 2021
    Email from Rainforest Flying Squad, Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory: 
    RCMP are now extracting the first tree-sitter.
    We have just heard a journalist was arrested at Caycuse.
    Sierra Club says endangered screech owls have been seen at Caycuse:
    https://sierraclub.bc.ca/teal-jones-risks-destroying-fragile-western-screech-owl-forests/?fbclid=IwAR0RKEr3-mazsUO6IT_kiS3TfxpjcELdp4-sciePa76g4GcCkYQLPZp1hCc
     
    11:19 am, May 21, 2021 
    Email from Rainforest Flying Squad:
    • RCMP are extracting a protestor who has locked part of his body underground [on Braden Main in Pacheedaht Territory]
    Police have set up an exclusion zone at Braden Main, about 3.9 km , where the road forks onto 2000 Road, near Fairy Creek.
    Paddy wagons and a fleet of police vehicles arrived earlier this morning.
    Protestors had recently set up a new blockade there, and loggers had been turned away from active felling for several days.
    The felling is in a forested area contiguous with Fairy Creek, but outside of the Fairy Creek watershed itself.
    • And in Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory:
    We have heard there is falling one tree length away from a tree sitter. 
    RCMP are working on extracting the tree sitter.
    Why are they allowing falling to continue?
     
    10:25 am, May 21, 2021
    Email from Rainforest Flying Squad, Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory: 
    We understand that loggers are felling trees within two tree-lengths of our tree-sitter. One of our members called WorkSafe BC, and was told loggers are not allowed to be felling trees with members of the general public there, and that if a protestor was hurt during logging that would be a criminal offence.
    We believe there is not RCMP oversight at this time.
    The RCMP's media liaison was asked if media would get full access to the site. They were told "Depending on the methods used to remove the tree sitter, media may/may not have full access. There may be some tradecraft techniques used that we want to keep private, however all attempts to have the media have access will be made."
    We have been underwhelmed by the RCMP's "attempts" to give media access to this point.
      9:27 am, May 21, 2021 Rainforest Flying Squad email report: Despite being very aware there is at least one tree-sitter very high up in a tree at Caycuse, RCMP have allowed Teal Jones back into the area, and they have started falling trees. We are very concerned about her safety.  Asked why media were not allowed to witness her pending arrest, the media liaison officer reportedly said that a determination would be made this morning if it's necessary to remove that person today. Also a member of our group just saw a fleet of police vehicles driving towards Fairy Creek on the Pacific Marine with paddy wagons. We assume they must be heading to 2000 Road. Our Instagram is down. Our admin person is exploring the reasons and believes we have a good case for opening it again. He doesn't believe we've violated any of the rules and that upon review we should be up and running again.     9:08 am, May 21, 2021 Email from Corporal Chris Manseau, BC RCMP, to media:
    As mentioned last night, the police enforcement operations in the Caycuse area of the BC Supreme Court’s injunction order was completed pending further assessment this morning.
    As of this time it appears that enforcement will recommence in relations to the persons observed in the trees.  An assessment was made this morning, determining that those persons who remain in the structures in the trees will need to be removed if they do not choose to come down.
    Currently the media liaison officers are stationed at the access control check point on the McClure Forest Service Road, and will again be able to escort media into the area designated for media. Every reasonable effort will be made to allow you to get as close as possible to the enforcement, while ensuring no interference with police operations. Plenty of time will be provided to you to ensure that you have opportunity to document and report on actions as they occur.
    During the overnight patrols, two persons walked out of a heavily treed area and self-identified as journalists. These people had not been in prior contact with either the DLT members, or the media liaison officers on site. After some discussion they were offered and provided transportation to the access control point without any incident.
    Once again, thank you for your co-operation, patience and participation over the last couple of days.
        May 20, 2021 Claims of colonial violence by arrestee Katie George Jim:
    One of those arrested on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at Caycuse camp, was Katie George Jim, a niece of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones.
    In a video after her release in Lake Cowichan, she claimed the RCMP had tackled her using an “excessive amount of force.” Though acting as a legal observer and not blockading, she says she was charged with obstruction of justice and assault of a police officer. She says she was only attempting to help a young man being tackled and treated roughly by the RCMP. She stated, “From the video you will see the only assault was of me.” She condemned it as colonial violence.
    The videos can be seen on Instagram for the Fairy Creek blockade.—FOCUS
     
      3:24 pm, May 20, 2021 BC RCMP report, released by Corporal Manseau: “Earlier this morning, several individuals were discovered to have returned to the enforcement area on the McClure Forest Service Road and attached themselves to structures. Police enforcement efforts resumed, resulting in the arrest of seven individuals. Six of those for breaching the injunction (civil contempt of court) and one person was escorted out with no recommended charges. The RCMP are also recommending that two individuals be charged with obstruction, two for possession of stolen property and one for obstruction and assaulting a police officer.
    “All arrested persons were transported to the Lake Cowichan RCMP Detachment for processing and have refused to sign a conditional release document. They will be held in custody overnight to appear before the Supreme Court in Nanaimo tomorrow, May 21, 2021.
    “Since enforcement began, the RCMP have now arrested 21 individuals; 17 for breaching the injunction (civil contempt of court) and 4 for obstruction. Of the 17 individuals arrested for civil contempt of court, RCMP are also recommending that 2 individuals be charged with obstruction, 2 for possession of stolen property and 1 for obstruction and assaulting a police officer.”
     
    May 20, 2021 Dawna Mueller reports from Victoria. Photographs by Dawna Mueller:
    A Solidarity Action for the forest protectors arrested at the Caycuse Camp over the past few days was held today in front of the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy Headquarters and on the steps of the BC Legislature in Victoria. The local group “Urban Actions for Ancient Forests” organized the event in an effort to stand in solidarity with the forest protectors since the arrests started on Tuesday.
     

     
    This week was a difficult one on the blockades as the RCMP moved in to enforce Teal Jones’ April Injunction. Arrests began early Tuesday, May 18, 2021 and continued through the week with each day becoming more contentious. What began with media exclusion on Monday, turned into limited and supervised access on Tuesday, with reduced access for both media and legal observers on Wednesday and Thursday.
     

     
    Today’s Solidarity Action event included speeches, singing, art (that’s Jeremy Herndl’s painting in the above photo) and concluded with six-year-old Maddison hand delivering a letter addressed to Minister Heyman, Minister of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, asking him to protect the old-growth forest. The Legislative Assembly was sitting today, but Minister Heyman did not come out to meet with the group knocking at the front door.  Instead, Greg Nelson, Acting Sargeant-at-Arms came out and promised Maddison that he would personally deliver the letter to the Minister.
     

        1:47 pm, May 20, 2021 Email from Rainforest Flying Squad:
    Forest defenders have re-occupied the Caycuse bridge after the RCMP concluded their enforcement action yesterday and cleared our camp. 
    Activists on the ground tell us that RCMP helicopters are circling, along with the pictures they sent us this message; 
    “Caycuse Stands ✊ Our support is strong, and will not end until this colonially upheld ecocide is stopped.”
    Here are the photos sent today:
     

     
     
    10:57 am, May 20, 2021 Statement from observers at Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory:
    “On Wednesday, May 19, the media was allowed to access the Caycuse area currently under enforcement. Upon arrival, they were corralled into a close space approximately 50 meters away from arrests happening, and told to remain there, or risk arrest themselves.
    “The space was not sufficiently large for all journalists to document what was happening while safely social distancing in a manner that befits Covid times. They were then told if any of the police lines enclosing the space ripped, the area would be made even smaller. They said their orders were justified as securing their safety, as a wooden slice of old growth was said to be at risk of moving. At the same time, however, police officers were continuously moving past that structure and standing nearby.
    “The media actively engaged in several conversations with RCMP onsite to explain that this restriction of press access reinforced the appearance of police actions not holding up under public scrutiny. All negotiations were denied and the commander onsite did not engage with media.
    “After extensive time, the media was allowed to approach the arrestee known as 'The Machine' with 20 meters distance. The police liaison on site, known as 'Sparky' was told she would be allowed to get close and talk with the arrestee. 
    “After 10 minutes, all press and the PL were asked to return to the corral, an order which was challenged by them. They remained in place, stating that it was their right to document what was happening from an appropriate distance. After not moving for several minutes, the RCMP formed a wall of bodies to push media back physically. At that point, the filmmaker Gabriel was arrested for 'obstruction of justice' and escorted out of the area.
    “His charges were dropped and he was released the same afternoon.”
      9:41 am, May 20, 2021
    Email from Cpl. Chris Manseau, Media Relations Officer, BC RCMP:
    Good morning,
    As indicated in the email sent out last night, there was no scheduled media meet-up today as there was no planned enforcement of the BC Supreme Court’s injunction order in the Fairy Creek Watershed area.  It appears several individuals have returned to the enforcement area on the McClure Forest Service Road and have attached themselves to structures. After discussing with the Operations Commander, we will again be escorting the media to the temporary access control area so you can observe and report police actions.
    I would ask that any media personnel interested in attending today, to meet our Media Relations Officers at 11 a.m.
    Location: March Meadows Golf Club - 10298 South Shore Road, Honeymoon Bay, BC. They will be waiting in a parking area before the road turns to gravel from paved.
    Time of departure: 11:15 a.m.
    Same process as before, you will be asked to sign in with identification and contact information, prior to being accompanied to a designated media area on the forestry road.
    Cheers,
    Chris
    Cpl. Chris Manseau
     
     
    9:16 am, May 20, 2021
    Email report from Rainforest Flying Squad, Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory: 
    So far this morning, RCMP have not allowed ANY media to enter the exclusion zone. We are hearing that their media liaison is not there.
    None of our police liaisons or media observers have been allowed in.
    Seven industrial vehicles and about 13 police vehicles have entered.
    We are asking all media to attend.
    Corporal Manseau, contacted by phone, has just informed us he will send an email clarifying that all media are welcome.
     
     
    10:40 pm, May 19, 2021
    Email report from Rainforest Flying Squad, Caycuse, Ditidaht Territory: 
    We have had contact from people at Caycuse camp. They are respectfully requesting that media attend Thursday morning for "something big". 
    Sorry, we were given no details to pass on.
    "Rainbow Eyes" refused to sign papers agreeing not to return to the injunction zone. 
    However we understand she was released on a promise to appear, and was directed to not violate the injunction, pending charges. 
    Teal Jones is reportedly pursuing both civil and criminal charges.
    We understand three other people are still in custody tonight and will be transferred to Nanaimo tomorrow to be brought before a judge. 
    Four others have been released.
     
     
    9:02 pm, May 19, 2021
    Email from Cpl. Chris Manseau, Media Relations Officer, BC RCMP:
    Good evening,
    The police enforcement of the BC Supreme Court’s injunction order in the Fairy Creek Watershed area concluded today along the McClure Forest Service Road, once the area was cleared of those in violation of the court-ordered injunction.
    The area is now closed to allow for Teal-Cedar Products Ltd. to clear the roadway and resume their operations.
    Please be advised there is no scheduled media meet-up tomorrow, as there is no planned enforcement. I will notify you should plans change, after a briefing with the Operations Commander in the morning.
    Thank you for your co-operation and participation over the last couple of days.
    Cheers,
    Chris
    Cpl. Chris Manseau, Division Media Relations Officer, BC RCMP Communication Services
     
    5:16 pm, May 19, 2021
    The Rainforest Flying Squad reports from Caycuse on Ditidaht Territory:
    RCMP said they were done for the day. There were four arrests so far, including a journalist who refused to move back into the new exclusion zone.  However, then we received an update that another protestor is being freed from a position where his arm is chained under the ground. (As far as we know, the protestors have been chained in these positions since yesterday.) Media, police liaisons and legal observers complained today that they were held back so far that it was difficult to see anything.     The “cookie” which is a section cut from a previously logged stump. Photography: @mackaisharp     About 30 RCMP vehicles drove in this morning. Industry appears to be starting work. At least two large industrial trucks went into the exclusion zone today, one loaded with large pipes, one with a small crane. Possibly one more as well.
    Early this morning, two Teal and Domtar pick-up trucks went in with fellers.
    A member of the media was arrested today for standing their ground and refusing to be corralled into an exclusion zone with other media. RCMP officers formed a line and pushed back the media.
    Some police were overheard telling arrestees they’re not opposed to the blockade…
    “Machine” also known as “Cheddar” was arrested after being cut free from a chain to a huge “cookie”—a slice of a previously logged old-growth stump. This was a very lengthy process. Another was freed from a perch in a 'tripod'. Altogether three protestors have been arrested so far today, and one media person.
     

    This photo shows one person chained to the ground, in front of the bus and to the right, and another up in the air in a tripod. Photography: @mackaisharp
     
    One person said the RCMP appeared to be using an electronically activated pneumatic bolt cutter to free people from the chains and U-locks they have used to make themselves more difficult to remove. 
    These forest protectors are incredibly committed to staying in between industry and the old-growth forests they are there to protect. Many have been chained for many hours in uncomfortable positions in the cold and rain.
    It was overheard that police are bringing in a plasma torch.
     
     
    12:54 pm, May 19, 2021.
    The Rainforest Flying Squad reports:
    • About 50 people are protesting outside the courthouse in Nanaimo. Protestor Rainbow Eyes, an Indigenous woman from Vancouver Island, will be taken before a judge at 1:45 today. She could be transported to the women’s prison on the mainland.
    She was arrested yesterday [with four others] and refused to sign the conditions in order to be released. 
    Crowd outside are chanting: “We are here to guard our trees, get our sister and set her free.” 
     

    Rainbow Eyes, chained to gate prior to arrest May 18, 2021. Photograph by Dawna Mueller
     
    Editor's Note: Rainbow Eyes was released after her court appearance. She thanked other forest defenders and said: "Leaving the site and getting to the top and hearing the cheers in the police mobile was probably the coolest experience I've ever had…The power is in the people…The power is in the land, we connect in the land…When land and people truly come together, it creates something we all feel." 
     
    • So far today, one person was taken down from a tripod and arrested before 11 a.m. [A second person has reportedly now been arrested.]
    Media, legal observers and police liaisons say they are being kept too far back to get an unobstructed view of others being freed for arrest. 
    We have audio from legal observers and police liaisons who were not permitted to do their volunteer roles, unlike yesterday.
    RCMP have entered the Caycuse camp from the back as well, from 3 directions in all. A helicopter was trying to land.

    Ben Parfitt
    More than the climate crisis was behind last November’s rising waters, death and destruction; experts urge province to make course correction.
     

    The catastrophic flooding in Merritt in November 2021 occurred after a rainfall similar to previous precipitation events that didn’t cause flooding. The difference? Professional hydrologists implicate logging, forest fires and snowpack in the nearby Coldwater River watershed. 
     
    WHEN PREMIER JOHN HORGAN declared a provincial state of emergency in the wake of last November’s horrific floods, landslides and deaths, he was quick to name the culprit. 
    The “never seen before” flooding in southern British Columbia was a direct result of “human-caused climate change,” he said, adding that such floods were “increasing in regularity” thanks to our unceasing use of fossil fuels. 
    But climate change alone didn’t account for the numerous highway washouts, the lethal landslide that killed five on the Duffey Lake Road, the thousands of people displaced from their damaged or destroyed  homes, the dikes and sewage treatment plants overwhelmed by the rising waters, and more. 
    Other important factors combined to turn last November’s deluge into the monster it became.  
    Heavy two-day rainfalls similar to those of late last year have occurred in the past without triggering the horrendous damage witnessed in November 2021. Not one, but many things conspired to cause such destruction.
    The essential public policy questions now are what lessons the government learns from last year’s events: 
    Are there things it can easily do now to more accurately anticipate what troubles lie ahead and therefore provide robust early warnings to vulnerable communities?
    Can it better regulate industries known to play a role in increased flood frequencies, such as the logging industry?
    And finally, what can it do to better incorporate knowledge about climate change-related events such as wildfires into flood forecasting models so that   more timely and effective warnings can be given to communities that may be in harm’s way?
     
    Deflecting accountability 
    One person who has pondered such questions since November’s events is Allan Chapman. A long-time professional hydrologist, Chapman once headed BC’s River Forecast Centre, the critical front-line agency tasked with warning the public and vulnerable communities about flood risks. 
    He says the premier’s invocation of climate change and climate change alone “deflects accountability for failures within government.” 
    The potential for last year’s rains to trigger extensive flooding, particularly to lands damaged by wildfires, was foreseeable, Chapman believes, and had only a partial connection to climate change. Other factors like extensive logging and logging roads in key river valleys, or the accumulated snow in mountains that rapidly melted in the face of the rain, were both known risk factors that had nothing to do with climate change at all.
    Given the prospects for increased flood severity due to wildfires and logging or the presence of snow in watersheds forecast to get a lot of rain, Chapman says flood forecasting and emergency planning staff in the provincial government had all the information they needed to issue early warnings to vulnerable communities about the potential for dangerous times ahead.
     Chapman first publicly voiced concern about the government’s response to last November’s heavy rains a couple of weeks after the event after analyzing the forecast centre’s actions in the lead-up to the floods. He said then that weather and streamflow data readily available to professional staff at the agency should have resulted in them making higher-level warnings far earlier than they did. 
    Since then, the provincial government has been named in a class action suit, in part for failing to adequately warn residents in the Sumas Prairie about the impending flooding, which resulted in thousands of farm animals being killed, some of the best farmland in the province being contaminated and farm buildings and machinery destroyed. 
    Chapman has since looked more closely at various data to try to make sense of what happened in mid-November. His review included rainfall data, water flow data in streams and rivers proximate to the flooding, snowpack data in key watersheds and significant land-use disturbances in the watersheds closest to where the flooding occurred. 
    He has detailed his findings in a 22-page report that he sent to provincial Ministry of Forests hydrologists. The River Forecast Centre is housed in the ministry that is responsible for ensuring the safety of dikes, for managing forest industry activities—including logging and road-building on public lands—and for dealing with wildfires. 
    Chapman also submitted a lengthy letter summarizing his findings to Forests Minister Katrine Conroy. 
    One of Chapman’s key findings is that the intense rains of last November were unquestionably large, but in keeping with other heavy rains of previous years. 
    What happened in November was, in many ways, a classic “pineapple express” or, as it is now more frequently called, an “atmospheric river.” 
    At some Environment Canada weather stations, including Abbotsford, Aggasiz and Hope, the rainfall recorded for a single day was a record. But the rainfall accumulations over the two days of the storm were not. 
    “Other major and similar storms appear in the record in October 2003, November 1990 and a few other years. The data lead to the conclusion that although the rainfall on  November 14 and 15 was certainly large, it was not unprecedented and should not have been unanticipated” Chapman reported. 
     
    Beyond extreme 
    It is what was layered on top of all of the rain that became the issue.
    A pineapple express delivers lots of rain simultaneously with warmer temperatures. If such events are preceded by snow accumulating in the mountains, that can be a big problem. During atmospheric river or pineapple express storms, temperatures warm and the freezing line rises as the storm front passes over. The warmth and rain turn much or all of the snow below the freezing line to water. 
    Chapman’s report looked at data from several “snow pillows” (sites where snow depths are measured) and weather stations operated by the BC government, and documented how the rapid melting of accumulated snow substantially augmented the rainfall water, increasing peak flows in key rivers. 
    He concluded that “the water contributed by snow melt” in the critical 48 hours beginning on November 13 and carrying through November 15 was half as much and possibly equal to all of the volume of rainfall at some measurement locations and was “a significant contributor to the severity of the river flooding,” particularly in the Merritt area. 
    This meant that on critical rivers such as the Tulameen, Nahatlatch and Sumas, peak water flows were in the range of what might be expected every 300 years. 
    But this was nothing compared to the peak flows on the Coldwater River. Based on water gauge readings on that river both at Brookmere and Merritt, Chapman found that the peak flows were “beyond extreme,” possibly reaching levels seen only once every 1,000 years. 
    Corresponding data for the Nicola River were not available in real time, Chapman noted. But by looking at readings from gauges in the nearby Coldwater, Chapman estimated that the Nicola’s peak flows were between 700 and 1,000 cubic metres per second—enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool roughly every three seconds. That put the river’s peak flows at levels possibly 2.5 times higher than the previously highest recorded levels, based on 59 years of measurements. 
    “The rainfall was large, but not unexpectedly large based on the historical record,” Chapman says. “It was the rain on snow that proved to be so significant.” 
    And that, Chapman says, should not come as a surprise to anyone in the flood forecasting community. He explains that the historical data available show that “all the floods of record” in the Coldwater, Tulameen and Similkameen river valleys “result from October-January atmospheric river rain storms, and this combination of heavy rain and snowmelt. The November 13 to 15 storm, although extreme, should not be considered unusual in this regard. It is the standard flood-causing mechanism for these rivers.” 
     
    A burning issue 
    The “beyond extreme” water level on the Coldwater River was bad news for Merritt’s 7,000 residents. The town’s sewage treatment plant—like many such plants throughout BC—is on the floodplain. 
    In a cascade of events, the plant was overrun by floodwaters, its contaminated sewage then mixed with the floodwater which in turn contaminated groundwater wells used to supply local drinking water as well. 
    The evacuation of the town’s residents was inevitable under such circumstances. 
    Heavy rain on snow—a phenomenon well understood by hydrologists—elevated the severity of the floods. But it was not the only reason flooding was so severe. 
    Foresters and climate scientists know that temperatures are creeping up and more forests are becoming drier and susceptible to burning. 
    Mike Flannigan is an award-winning researcher and internationally recognized expert on wildfire behaviour who works at Thompson Rivers University where he is the new BC research chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science.   
    He has long warned that wildfire seasons are starting earlier, extending later into the year and that BC along with Canada as a whole are witnessing “significant increases in the area experiencing high to extreme fire danger.” He would like to see the provincial and federal governments produce “risk maps” that clearly spell out where danger may be imminent due to wildfires and floods, especially for northern, more-remote rural communities, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. 
    SparksGeo is a Prince George-based company whose geospatial analysts work with satellite data. In April, the company released a report suggesting a connection between the intense wildfires that burned in 2021 and subsequent flood-related destruction, particularly in the highway corridors where some of the most severe road damage occurred. 
    While it cautioned that “the causes of flood damage are complex and involve the interplay of many different environmental and engineering variables,” the company said the satellite imagery suggests a compelling correlation between the fires and the floods. 
    Given that apparent correlation, the company said it makes a lot of public policy sense to use satellite imagery and other knowledge of where wildfires have occurred as a tool to better protect the public in scenarios where there may be increased risks of flooding. 
    “It seems clear that accurate and timely mapping of wildfire damage is an important part of being able to assess the risk that severe flooding poses to our settlements and critical infrastructure,” the SparksGeo report concluded.
    Letting communities in harm’s way know of such risks well in advance would give them a chance to proactively invest in flood-protection infrastructure and reduce the likelihood of last-minute, frantic scrambling as was the case in Abbotsford last November when the Barrowtown pump station was only prevented from being overrun by rising floodwaters by the heroic, last-ditch efforts of a volunteer sandbagging crew.
    Merritt was never given that opportunity. But in 2007, the community of Terrace was.
    That year there was widespread fear that major rivers like the Skeena in the Terrace area and the Lower Fraser could overtop causing extensive damage. The culprit was a huge snow pack that Chapman and others predicted had the potential to cause extensive damage.
    Forewarned with that knowledge and the assistance of $200,000 in provincial and federal funds, Terrace armoured its sewage plants treatment lagoons with tons of additional rock as well as digging a deep 100-metre-long trench and filling it with rock to prevent the Skeena from encroaching on and destroying the multi-million dollar facility. The funds were part of $33 million made available by both governments to communities deemed to be in harm’s way that spring.
     
    Unprecedented behemoth 
    Three of the most-intense wildfires detailed in the SparksGeo report were the July Mountain, Lytton Creek and Tremont Creek blazes. Chapman considered all three in his report and found the significant areas of land burned in each amplified the flood risk. 
    His analysis is that the July Mountain fire burned 26 per cent of the Coldwater River watershed at Brookmere and 16 per cent of the Coldwater River watershed at Merritt. That fire, combined with those at Lytton Creek and Tremont Creek, burned a further 13 per cent of the Nicola River watershed at Spences Bridge. 
     

    Shortwave infrared satellite image of the July Mountain Fire (reddish brown area). The Coldwater River snakes along the fire’s lower edge on the left and then punches through the centre of the burn as it heads toward Merritt.
     

    SWIR image of the Lytton Creek Fire. The Fraser River is on the left. The Nicola River can be seen cutting through the eastern section of the burned area on the right as it heads for the Thompson River.
     

    SWIR image of the Tremont Creek Fire. Kamloops Lake can be seen in the upper right corner, the Thompson River on the left.
     
    One effect of such fires is to blanket once-absorbent forest soils with a wax-like coating—a result of chemical changes that occur during and immediately after fires. This can make them “hydrophobic” or water repellant. 
    In an interview, Flannigan said that wildfires can have profound consequences as far as water runoff is concerned. 
    “Some studies suggest as much as seven times more water flow between a forested watershed and a burned or harvested [logged] watershed,” Flannigan says. “Of course, it depends on many factors, but it is not unusual to see that kind of increase.” 
    He added that in the case of “hydrophobic ash,” it acts “almost like cement. The water just runs straight down based on gravity, no absorption.” 
    In his report, Chapman says the extensive area of land burned in key areas played a “compelling role” in the flooding that followed and that knowledge of where wildfires occur in future years and their proximity to vulnerable communities must become part of the flood forecasting and emergency planning regime. 
    “It is probable that these fires were major contributing factors, taking what would have been a large rain and snowmelt flood and creating an unprecedented behemoth catastrophic flood with a 1000 plus--year return period,” Chapman wrote. 
    Chapman notes that forest fire data are provided by the Northwest River Forecast Center in Portland Oregon as part of their flood forecast information for Washington and Oregon, but that similar information does not seem to be considered in BC. Flood forecasting and the models used to predict site-specific flood threats would be dramatically improved, in Chapman’s opinion, if two things happened: 
    The Ministry of Forests clearly recognized the vulnerability that certain communities face in the event of rain-on-snow events and built that knowledge into flood forecast models.
    The ministry ensured that information on areas burned by wildfires be built into such models as well and be considered as a key risk factor when deciding when and where to issue flood warnings. This would involve much more information-sharing between water and wildfire experts spread through a very large ministry.
    Such changes become even more crucial with climate change, something the provincial government was specifically warned about in 2010 by Jim Mattison, a long-time civil servant and formerly the provincial government’s top water official. 
    In a report  that he wrote as a consultant that year, Mattison noted climate change was starting to “affect the lives of citizens every day.” This demanded improved and more-effective forecasting, he said, which was one reason he advocated for more than doubling of BC’s Forecast Centre staff. Today, 12 years after his report was submitted, staffing levels stand at six, one more than they were when Mattison issued his report and six positions below the 12 he said were needed.  
    Mattison also warned that not enough data were being used by Forecast Centre staff to plug into their predictive flood models and therefore the models were “limited in their ability to provide accurate flow forecasts.”
    In its 2022 budget, the provincial government indicated the River Forecast Centre and provincial floodplain mapping programs will be expanded.
     
    The logging industry and flooding frequency 
    The word anthropogenic has been joined at the hip with climate change because unlike previous dramatic shifts in the earth’s climate going back hundreds of millions of years, today’s shifting climate is being driven by human activities. 
    But there are also more immediate human activities to be concerned about. One of the biggest in a mountainous, once extensively and naturally forested province is clearcut logging and related road-building activities. 
    In recent decades, logging rates have accelerated to unprecedented levels, particularly in BC’s vast interior region, where the provincial government actively encouraged the logging industry to dramatically increase logging rates starting more than 20 years ago.
    The pretext for what became known as “the uplift,” was that mountain pine beetle populations had exploded in number thanks to generally warmer winters and killed tens of millions of lodgepole pine trees - the most prevalent tree species in BC’s interior region. 
    “Salvaging” those dead trees before they lost their value became the goal, with the government giving industry the green light to log an additional 11 million cubic metres of trees per year. But turbo-charging logging rates had serious ecological and hydrological consequences as droves of healthy, living trees were cut down along with the beetle-attacked ones. By the time all this bonus logging was done, up to 63 million cubic metres of additional trees were logged, enough to fill a line of logging trucks bumper to bumper from Vancouver to Halifax five times over.
     
    Timelapse images of logging in the Coldwater River Watershed, 1984-2020, including an area later burned by the July Mountain Fire in 2021.
     
    Not surprisingly, by the government’s own admission logging rates are now poised to crash, much like the ecosystems that once supported healthy forests. 
    Younes Alila is a hydrological engineer and professor at the University of BC who specializes in forest hydrology and watershed management issues. Over years of study, he has concluded that “the flood regime in BC is super-sensitive to disturbances of any kind,” including logging activities, wildfires and climate change. Such disturbances are likely to result not just in the increasing severity of future floods but in their increased frequency. And their impacts, Alila warns, will be long-lasting. 
    “British Columbians are in for a hell of a ride for decades to come,” he predicts.
    In the 1990s, when he joined UBC’s Faculty of Forestry, Alila recalls there were limits on the amount of logging that could occur in any one watershed, the limits generally 25 per cent. But that subsequently went out the window in the logging free-for-all that followed. 
    “That threshold is not used anymore,” Alila said during an interview with CBC Radio a few weeks after last November’s floods. “Over the last 20 years, we have been  clearcut logging watersheds across all sizes by as much as 40 per cent, 50 per cent, 60 per cent and even more, which, of course, increases substantially the risk of flooding. My research shows that the flood regime is highly sensitive to clearcut logging in both small and large watersheds. As little as 20 per cent logging in large watersheds causes a 20-year, a 50-year and a 100-year flood event . . .  to become four to 10 times more frequent.” 
     
    A sensitive and fragile flood regime 
    “Entire ecosystems,” are being impacted by logging at such a scale, Alila warned, noting that if you could drop a hat out of an airplane flying over parts of the province today there is a 90 per cent chance it would fall in an area of forest that had been logged. 
    Alila says that restoring more natural water flows in logged BC Interior forests takes a very long time. In the first 20 years following logging and replanting, only 20 per cent of the “hydrological functionality” is restored. (Logging roads and the threats they pose to landslides and altered water flows are discussed in a second piece that focuses on the tragic deaths of five people on the Duffey Lake Road during last November’s heavy rains.) 
    “The way that we have been logging and increasing the cut rate and increasing cutblock size in my opinion does not reflect an industry or even a government that appreciates how sensitive and how fragile the flood regime in BC is to land use change and global warming,” Alila told CBC’s Chris Walker, adding that nothing less than a “complete paradigm shift” is needed to the way we manage forests. 
    In his analysis, Chapman also focuses on logging and related logging road densities in the Coldwater, Nicola and Tulameen river basins. His conclusion is that “there is a strong possibility for historic forestry activity to be associated with the extreme peak flows in those rivers and the flood-related damage to follow. 
    “Clear-cutting and forest fires encompass 35% of the basin of the Tulameen River at Princeton, and 41% of the basin of the Coldwater River at Merritt. Road densities are also very high at 1.85 km/km2, and 1.5km/ km2, respectively in the two basins, potentially augmenting the rapid movement of storm rainfall into stream channels, causing peak flows to be increased,” he wrote. 
    Alila subsequently outlined numerous things he feels must change in revised provincial forestry legislation. 
    An overhauled system should require a watershed assessment to be done prior to logging permits being issued. This includes projections of how logging may impact such things as floods, droughts, landslides and water yields, as well as considering the impacts of logging against the backdrop of a changing climate, Alila says. 
    He also recommends that thresholds be reinstated placing strict limits on the overall area of forest in a watershed that can be logged and that priority should be given to community watersheds, which are often critical to the provision of clean drinking water, watersheds with high fisheries values and large watersheds that drain into urban and semi urban areas, some of which may be on floodplains and therefore extremely vulnerable to flood-related damage. 
    “We cannot continue to log as if there is no connection between what we do to the landscape in the upland and downstream lowland values, especially when human lives and costly infrastructure are in harm’s way,” Alila says. 
    He would also like to see the important hydrological functions performed by forests embedded into the critically important allowable annual cut decisions made by the province’s chief forester. 
    Those decisions set the maximum logging threshold in various timber supply areas in the province and, in Alila’s view, have never properly accounted for the important hydrological role played by forests or how long it takes logged forests to recover once they have been logged. If such accounting happened, less forest would be logged.
     
    Cumulative impacts 
    Lastly, Alila says successive governments have failed to grapple with the outstanding issues of cumulative impacts of multiple industrial operations—logging, mining, natural gas—in watersheds over time.
    “For decades, no considerations have been given in BC to cumulative effects of land use,” Alila writes, noting that cumulative effects can apply to the forest industry itself, as is often the case because many logging companies may operate at the same time in the same watershed “with little or no coordination” from the government. 
    “In a nutshell, forest management in BC has never been conducted in ways that portray an appreciation of the value of forest cover in maintaining the overall health of the ecosystem,” he says. 
    In northeast BC, the overall health of the forests was understood by First Nations in the region because from one generation to the next they hunted wildlife, caught fish, trapped fur bearing animals, harvested berries and gathered medicinal plants. 
    When their leaders signed Treaty 8 in 1899, the agreement recognized the rights of First Nation members to continue to be able to hunt, fish and trap as before. 
    More than a century later, when members of the Blueberry River First Nation realized how multiple industrial developments—including clearcut logging, hydroelectric dams, natural gas drilling and fracking operations—had so fragmented their lands that they could no longer carry out their treaty-protected rights over much of their traditional territory, they went to court. 
    In a landmark decision last year, the BC Supreme Court ruled the provincial government had unjustifiably infringed on their rights through the cumulative effects of numerous government-approved industrial developments. The ruling effectively brought a great deal of industrial activity in the Nation’s traditional territory to a standstill, pending a court-ordered negotiation between the provincial government and the Nation. 
    The Supreme Court decision may only foreshadow what is to come. In addition to being named in the class action suit in Sumas Prairie, another class action naming the provincial government has been launched by citizens in the Grand Forks area who were flooded out of their homes a few years ago, and who blame the cumulative impacts of government-approved logging and logging road developments in the Granby and Kettle watersheds for the devastation that befell them. 
    Years of approving one industrial development after another and disregarding cumulative impacts are coming back to haunt the provincial government in a big way as residents, businesses and Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities alike across the province deal with the fallout. The bills for the destruction wreaked last November now approach $9 billion, and who knows what costs may be added into the mix as a result of the class action suits the government now faces. 
    Climate change is making a bad situation of the government’s own making even worse. Highlighting, again, the need for corrective action.
    Ben Parfitt is a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and a longtime investigative writer.

    Ben Parfitt
    With the best trees gone and revenues plummeting, what’s next?
     

    Extensive old-growth logging on Vancouver Island. (Photo: Russ Heinl)
     
    LAST YEAR, as hundreds of protesters were arrested at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island for trying to stop logging of old-growth forests, the BC government raked in more money from companies doing such logging than at perhaps any point in history.
    In total, it collected more than $1.8 billion dollars in stumpage fees—a number that would have been higher still but for the protests.
    Nothing in the past 15 years comes remotely close to that revenue benchmark, a figure that underscores that it is not just the logging companies who benefit financially from logging old-growth or primary forests, but the provincial government as well.
    New research by the BC office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows, however, that the whopping stumpage revenues of last year mask trouble ahead. The high revenues were only made possible by an unprecedented run-up in lumber prices and the extraordinary value of the older trees that are the chief target of BC logging companies.
    With those trees disappearing as quickly as Newfoundland’s cod once did, the provincial government belatedly announced last year that it would defer logging in a portion of remaining old-growth or primary forests for two years, pending negotiation with affected First Nations.
    The fear now is that the government’s deferral announcement will be scapegoated as the cause of a coming crash in logging rates, as opposed to government forest policies that encouraged both the rapid depletion of BC’s once-bountiful old-growth forests and the production of low-value forest products that put few people to work.
    “The proposed deferrals have become the bogeyman, not the industry’s over-cutting, or its exports of raw logs, or the undisclosed huge number of logs being consumed by wood pellet mills—a forest and job killer if ever there was one,” says Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee.

    And we all fall down
    The long predicted “falldown effect” is here: logging rates are plummeting as old-growth or primary forests never before subject to industrial logging disappear.
    Many rural communities—Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike—have paid the price for that. The forests nearest to them are long gone. Local mills have closed. Many more soon will. Meanwhile, the prognosis for forest ecosystems is dire, with some globally rare forest types like the interior rainforest now so depleted that they are on the verge of ecological collapse.
    The companies who run the sawmills that remain know the jig is just about up. Consider BC’s biggest forest company, and one of the province’s biggest lumber producers, Canfor Corp. Where has it made new investments in recent years? Not in BC where it has sold one distressed asset after another, gut-punching communities like Mackenzie and Canal Flats in the process, but in the US states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Or, next door in Alberta. Or, overseas in Sweden.
    “Canfor’s obviously seen the writing on the wall. If the worst is to be avoided, we need to scale back the number of trees logged and then do everything we can with the wood from those trees. But we see no sign that the government is serious about making that happen. Millions of trees continue to be cut down every year, only to be shipped as raw logs to China, Korea and Japan. And millions more are cut down simply to be turned into wood pellets, in one of the lowest value, poorest job-generating enterprises of any in the forest industry,” says Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the national president of Unifor, the largest private-sector union in Canada, and one of three unions representing forest industry workers in BC.
     
    The monster year that was
    To arrive at its numbers, the CCPA used a searchable government database to look at logging rates and stumpage revenues over the 15 years ending in 2021. The analysis shows that last year’s whopping stumpage revenues happened even as logging rates were falling. Typically, declines in logging should correlate with declines in revenue. But last year, things were flipped on their head. Why?
    In a nutshell, much of it traces to COVID. As the global pandemic spread and people isolated at home, those with means plowed money into renovations or purchased new homes, which sent lumber prices soaring to record highs.
    Since stumpage payments—the money companies pay to the government when they log trees on “Crown” or public lands—are pegged to markets, it was only a matter of time before the government’s stumpage account swelled to its heady height.
    The more than $1.8 billion in stumpage fees collected by the province in 2021 ended up being $600 million more than the next closest year, which was 2018, the only other year in the timeframe examined by the CCPA when stumpage revenues exceeded $1 billion.
    But the kicker in 2021 was that the $1.8 billion in revenue was generated on the logging of roughly 58.2 million cubic metres of trees. In 2018, by comparison, logging companies cut down 70.7 million cubic metres of trees, while paying $1.2 billion in stumpage. In other words, last year the government collected 50 per cent more in revenues than the previous highest year even though Canfor and other companies logged nearly 20 per cent fewer trees.
    Something else also drove those revenues up. The government’s own data underscores that in recent years the majority of trees logged were of the highest quality—an indication that the industry, with the government’s blessing, targeted the healthiest older forests for logging, leaving behind not only fewer forests, but more impoverished forests.
    And that spells trouble ahead for the industry and the province, because lumber and other wood products made from higher-quality old-growth trees command price premiums.
    Those price premiums translate into higher stumpage revenues, which the government in turn channels into various programs and services including healthcare and education.

    Logging rates halved in just 15 years
    The monster revenues of 2021 won’t be repeated, and the government has admitted as much in its recent budget document, saying that forestry revenues will fall by nearly 40 per cent this fiscal year due to declines in “historically high” lumber prices.
    But it’s what the government says next that is more crucial. While lumber prices are projected to decline, what’s really heading south is logging rates, which have already dropped off significantly from their levels of just a few years ago.
    According to the provincial budget, logging rates will fall to 39 million cubic metres annually within three years. That, according to the data analyzed by the CCPA, would mean a near halving of the logging rates recorded 15 years ago.
    What the budget document doesn’t do, however, is level with the public about the kind of logging that has taken place in recent years, where the biggest revenues were generated, and what that says about what remains of our forests.
     
    A hollowed out coast and a hollowing out interior
    Because of BC’s size and spectacular diversity, its forests are best divided into three broad zones —the coast, which includes everything from the coastal mountain ranges west to the ocean and all of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii, and the northern and southern interior regions, which are divided by a line that bisects the province east to west roughly near the community of Quesnel.
    For more than a century, the coast with its treasure chest of massive and ancient cedar, spruce, Douglas fir, hemlock and other trees was the economic driver of BC’s forest industry. But that chest has been looted. Most of what remains is either smaller old-growth trees in higher, more remote terrain or, increasingly, second-growth and third-growth trees. As a result, the coast is no longer the driver of industry profits and stumpage revenues it once was.
     

    Forest companies say a government decision to defer logging in certain old-growth forests will cause massive job losses. Conservationists say over-cutting is to blame. (Photo: Blake Elliot/Shutterstock)
     
    Complicating matters, the coast has large tracts of privately owned forestland. Trees logged on private lands as opposed to public lands are exempt from stumpage charges. As a result, the biggest private forestland owners like TimberWest and Island Timberlands tend to take advantage of the lower costs by loading millions of raw, unprocessed logs into the holds of ocean freighters and shipping them offshore—a practice that comes at the cost of thousands of foregone local manufacturing jobs.
    The vast northern and southern interior regions are different from the coast in numerous ways. A big difference is that industrial logging in the interior regions only really gathered steam 50 years ago and everything logged since has effectively been in old-growth or “primary” forests where industrial developments had not previously occurred. Privately owned forestland in the interior is also negligible, which means far fewer log exports.
    The southern interior region is also home to the globally rare inland temperate rainforest, where wet coast-like conditions make for ideal growing conditions resulting in long-lived trees of a size and quality that approaches what was once the norm on the coast.
    The logging of these rarest of rare forests has accelerated dramatically in the past decade—particularly as highly inflated and unsustainable “salvage logging” in other pine beetle-ravaged areas declined because the industry had either effectively logged out such forests or the trees that remained had lost too much economic value following the beetle attack.
    As economically accessible old-growth forests have been logged out of existence on the coast, more and more industry profits and government revenues have come from logging the interior’s primary forests.
    Consequently, nearly twice as many trees were cut down in the interior regions last year than was the case on the coast. And the interior as a whole generated five times more in stumpage revenues than its impoverished coastal cousin.

    Feasting on the best wood
    The much higher revenues in the interior where some of the biggest sawmills in the world operate are almost entirely the result of the logs that go into sawmills. The best of those logs are assigned Grades 1 and 2.
    Such logs generally come from older trees that are healthy and alive before they are cut down. Such trees also have typically fewer defects such as checks, cracks or knots, and have sustained minimal to no damage from tree diseases or insect attacks. These logs generate higher stumpage charges than lower quality logs.
    In the last five years, the Grade 1 and Grade 2 logs coming out of the interior’s primary forests constituted 57 percent of everything logged, while generating 82 percent of all the stumpage fees paid, a clear sign of their value to the region’s big lumber producers, like Canfor, which last year posted a record $1.5 billion in net earnings.
    These outcomes matter, because as anyone paying attention knows, the forests in BC’s interior regions have been hammered by intense infestations of mountain pine beetles and other insects as well as tree-destroying blights, droughts and intense wildfires, leaving behind a landbase depleted of much of its commercially attractive trees.
    Yet in the face of growing scarcity, Canfor and others somehow managed to find the best possible stands of remaining trees to log. And the government helped make that happen, through an obscure subsidy program known as “crediting,” a program that its critics call a Ponzi scheme.
     
    “Perverse subsidies”
    Now in its 17th year, the crediting scheme works like this:
    Companies that deliver “lower quality” logs from forests to wood pellet mills or pulp mills can apply to the government for credits that allow them to go back into the forest and log an equivalent volume of trees again.
    This is a big incentive because the companies that obtain the credits for delivering lower quality logs can then go back into the forest a second time to get even more of what they really want, which is the higher quality Grade 1 and Grade 2 logs from primary forests.
    The government itself warned last year that its crediting scheme may be accelerating depletion of the province’s forests. Yet, incredibly in this digital era, the government claims that most of the credit transactions exist on paper only. Because of this, the government says it will not or cannot provide a figure on the overall number of additional trees logged under the subsidy scheme without receiving a formal Freedom of Information request—a process that often takes years to conclude.
    Herb Hammond is a professional forester and longtime advocate of ecosystem and conservation-based forestry, which allows for some low-impact selective logging while leaving behind forests that continue to function much as they would had no logging taken place. Hammond says the credit scheme has propped up a house of cards and that there will be an inevitable crash, as he and others predicted decades ago.
    “Government and timber companies, aided and abetted by forest professionals in their employ, have overestimated a sustainable rate of cut and focused on progressive high-grading of remaining old-growth and other primary forests. Perverse subsidies like the ‘log credit’ program only postpone the inevitable. The only winners in this Ponzi scheme are corporate timber companies, who are collecting the last of the gold from BC’s forests on their way out the door to fast-growing tree plantations elsewhere,” Hammond wrote when details of the subsidy program were revealed late last year.
    The Science Alliance for Forestry Transformation, a group of top forest ecologists who joined forces in 2021 to  “debunk myths” and provide information on alternative, more ecologically sound approaches to forestry in the province, recently released a video that dissects the credit program and how, in particular, it has fueled a troubling growth in the wood pellet industry, which has increased its output fourfold since the credit scheme began.
    In another related video, Michelle Connolly, director of Prince George-based organization Conservation North, warned that the surge in wood pellet production in BC has had grave consequences for interior forests because, contrary to the industry’s claims that sawmill waste is used to make wood pellets, whole tracts of forest are now being directly logged to make a product that is then burned.
    “The pellet industry in BC is set to expand in a big way,” Connolly warns in the video. “And the only way they can do it is if the BC government continues to allow the logging of primary forests for this purpose. And this has to stop.”
     
    The old-growth blame game
    To understand the coming crash it helps to go back to events in the interior regions in the early 2000s when an epic infestation of mountain pine beetles killed hundreds of millions of lodgepole pine trees, briefly becoming front-page news in the province.
    The government encouraged the logging industry to cut down as many of the attacked trees as possible so that the companies and government alike could reap a short-lived economic windfall by “salvaging” them before they lost their value.
    At its height, the inflated logging rates approved by the government allowed the companies to cut down an additional 11 million cubic metres of trees per year. The result was that as many as 63 million cubic metres of additional trees were logged, enough wood to fill a line of logging trucks lined bumper-to-bumper from Vancouver to Halifax five times over.
    The consequence of the decision to turbocharge logging rates is the falldown effect.
     

    A wall of logs await conversion to wood pellets at a mill in Houston, BC. (Photo: Stand.earth.)

    Complicating matters greatly is the provincial government’s belated decision in November to defer the logging of 2.6 million hectares of at-risk old-growth and primary forests. The government said the decision could eventually lead to outright protection of those forests, but that will depend on consultation with affected First Nations.
    Dave Daust, one of a number of scientists appointed to the old-growth advisory panel whose report guided the government in its deferral announcement, says that if every one of the areas proposed for deferral is eventually protected permanently—a far from certain outcome—it would result in a six percent decline in the overall land base currently considered available to log.
    The deferral decision pleased no one.
    The Council of Forest Industries (COFI) immediately warned of economic carnage, claiming that 18,000 jobs were at immediate risk—a claim it did not support with any backing documentation of how much logging rates would fall or where the biggest declines might be.
    Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, presented a much lower but still humbling projection of 4,500 jobs lost. She, too, did not elaborate on how she arrived at her number.
    On the environmental side, organizations that had long campaigned to protect remaining old-growth and primary forests pointed out that deferrals are just that. Outright protection may or may not occur down the road.
    Meanwhile, many of the most at-risk older forests will continue to be logged, with the industry claiming that any limitation will have catastrophic consequences.
     
    Consent by coercion
    Placed squarely in the hotseat in all of this are the First Nations on whose traditional lands all of the logging to date has taken place—sometimes with the active involvement of First Nation members and businesses and sometimes not.
    After the deferral announcement on November 2 of last year, the government gave First Nations just 30 days to respond to specific deferrals proposed on their traditional lands. When that month came to an end, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs decried the untenable position the government had placed First Nations in.
    “The provincial government made its announcement to much fanfare on November 2nd, but a month later First Nations are still lacking supports, and threatened old-growth forests continue to be destroyed,” UBCIC president and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said before adding:
    “The Horgan government is abdicating its responsibility to protect old-growth, is pressuring First Nations into making critical decisions regarding the territories and forests they have stewarded over since time immemorial and is continuing to deny the fact that they must immediately provide substantial resources to support First Nations towards this goal—this is consent by coercion.”
    Predictably, the doomsday numbers advanced by COFI and the general lack of enthusiasm with which the government’s old-growth deferral decision was received were grist for the mill for media pundits following the release of the provincial budget document.
    In his reporting, post-budget, Black Press’s Tom Fletcher wrote:
    “Projections in Tuesday’s BC budget show a decline in provincial revenue from timber cutting, from $1.8 billion in the current year to $1.1 billion in 2024-2025. The drop is mainly as a result of province-wide deferrals of harvesting in areas identified as rare and threatened old-growth forests, Finance Minister Selina Robinson said Feb. 22.”
    But a read of the budget document itself reveals that the primary reasons for the staggering revenue declines are an entirely predictable cooling off of over-heated lumber markets and a relentless decline in logging rates that “includes” projections associated with old-growth logging deferrals, which may or may not happen.
    To suggest that responsibility for the downfall ahead lies solely with the government’s decision to defer logging of some old-growth forests pending negotiation with First Nations is a gross mischaracterization.
    In 15 years, logging rates have fallen 25 per cent. In three more years, they will be nearly half of what they were in 2007, and only some of that coming decline will “include” the impacts associated with old-growth deferrals.
    We have stripped our forests of much of their green gold. Government subsidies have encouraged that tragic outcome. And the long-predicted decline has begun.
    Ben Parfitt is a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and a longtime investigative writer.

    Grace Golightly
    Some scientists consider them functionally extinct—but critical nesting habitat is still not protected.
     

    Marbled murrelets can fly at speeds up to 180 kph for short bursts, and their regular “cruising speed” is about 80 kph. (Photo: Deborah Freeman)
     
    THE MARBLED MURRELET LOOKS A BIT LIKE A PENGUIN, but is only the size of a plump robin. 
    Like a penguin, it uses its wings to ‘fly’ underwater to catch fish—to depths as great as 27 metres. 
    However, unlike penguins, its wings can also achieve great speed in the air. The motivation of life and death lies behind that speed: As one federal researcher explains, marbled murrelets “are essentially 220-gram balls of fat and muscle that have to fly from the sea to the forest, where they can be attacked by all kinds of raptors.” 
    Marbled murrelets fly with an average cruising speed of about 80 kph, he said, but some have been clocked as fast as an amazing 180 kph. (A “jet plane” sound has even been heard when some make a rapid descent from a high altitude.) 
    This quirky little sea bird can avoid or outrun a great many of its predators. But speed can’t help it escape one of its biggest threats—logging of its irreplaceable nesting habitat. 
    It is the species’ great misfortune that they require wide, tall trees in old-growth forests in order to nest and reproduce. And not just a few. Researchers suggest each nesting pair requires at least 37 to 50 square hectares. They find greater safety by avoiding each other, rather than hanging out in colonies.
     

    Marbled murrelets nest on wide branches, high above the forest floor, and lay only one egg. This chick was rescued after falling off the nesting platform. Most chicks, however, would not survive the fall. (Photo: Peter Halasz)
     
    The birds’ lives are largely spent calmly at sea, along the west coast from Alaska down to California. But this species’ need for safety in two different habitats—both sea and forest—and its slow reproductive rate, make it extremely vulnerable. Each mated pair may lay only one egg per year.
    Ironically, despite the continued destruction of their breeding areas, marbled murrelets are ‘protected’ by several governments. 
    It’s been more than 100 years since the United States and Great Britain (on Canada’s behalf) first decided to protect marbled murrelets and other migratory birds. 
    That agreement reads in part that the two countries: “… being desirous of saving from indiscriminate slaughter and of insuring the preservation of such migratory birds as are either useful to man or are harmless, have resolved to adopt some uniform system of protection which shall effectively accomplish such objects...”
    The Migratory Bird Convention of 1916 is still in effect, now amended by a 1995 Protocol. And other countries have joined over the years: Mexico, Japan, and Russia. But are these agreements as effective as they were intended to be?
    In the US, the Migratory Bird Act based on that treaty, along with the Environmental Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and individual states’ laws, may protect somewhat more habitat than has been the case in Canada. 
    In one example, Pacific Lumber was permanently prevented from harvesting old-growth timber in its own privately owned forest, in an area called Owl Creek in Humboldt County, CA in 1995. 
    The case noted approximately 100 observations of marbled murrelet nesting behaviour in that forest, as well as the fact the entire population could be wiped out by a single oil spill at sea. 
    Even partial logging of the area would dangerously increase access to raptors that prey on murrelets and their eggs, it was stated. That case has since been used as a precedent in several other situations.
    Canada, however, has been slower to provide much real protection. Federally, marbled murrelets have been listed as threatened since 2003. In BC, it is blue-listed, meaning it is a “species of concern.”  Yet all these policies have not paid off in large vistas of untouched habitat for marbled murrelets in BC. 
    For instance, despite a 2005 report stating that “large numbers of murrelets” were discovered flying into the San Juan River drainage area on southern Vancouver Island, where logging was ongoing, no harvesting was stopped then, or since.
     

    Federal mapping of marbled murrelet critical habitat (yellowish areas) in an area typical of TFL 46. That habitat is being steadily converted to clearcuts and tree plantations in TFL 46 and elsewhere on the coast. (BC government Data Catalogue)
     
    Now, 17 years later, Fairy Creek is the only remaining relatively intact watershed within the entire San Juan system. 
    “Many would argue that marbled murrelets—and other species like mountain caribou—are already functionally extinct,” says Dr. Tara Martin, a UBC professor of conservation science. “They’re at such low numbers that they’re no longer performing their ecological functions.”
    How did this happen, when Canada agreed and planned to conserve them for more than 100 years? Both levels of government must bear some responsibility.
     

    UBC professor of conservation science Dr Tara Martin
     
    Martin explains that the province of BC has the richest biodiversity in Canada, and more species at risk than any other. But it is one of only three provinces with no legislation to protect its threatened species. 
    Enacting legislation to protect endangered species was promised in the NDP’s 2017 election campaign. Premier Horgan’s first mandate letter to environment minister George Heyman included the instruction to create it. But the legislation is yet to appear.
    The federal government, too, has let wildlife down. Martin explains that although the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada declared the species endangered in 2003, the marbled murrelet recovery plan was not written for another 11 years. Worse, an action plan is still awaited. Without it, “there is little in the form of recovery,” she says. 
    “The action plan provides the details of the actions to undertake to recover a species,” Martin explains. She feels the federal process should be revised to develop action plans soon after species are listed—not years later. 
    The sad but inevitable result is that, although marbled murrelets’ critical habitat areas are identified, most of it is still not protected from logging.
    “There has been no actual designation of specific stands of forest as critical habitat,” says Dr. Alan Burger. The University of Victoria adjunct professor and wildlife consultant is known for his decades of research and field studies on marbled murrelets. 
    “That is a major failure of the Recovery Strategy and the response by both federal and provincial governments,” he said. “There is ongoing logging in much of the forest which has been mapped as potential critical habitat.”
    Yet the goal of species protection laws “is to maintain this species as a common breeder throughout its current range in BC.”
    Indeed, marbled murrelets are not the only species receiving far less government support than they actually need. In a 2015 report about the lack of designated critical habitat for listed species in Canada, UBC professor Dr. Karen Hodges wrote: “The majority of species are not being afforded the protection the law is required to offer to them.”
    During the past year, UBC professor emeritus in chemical and biological engineering Dr. Royann Petrell and a team of citizen scientists recorded 115 marbled murrelet sightings just outside Fairy Creek, in the next watershed over, called upper Granite Creek. Most were seen in an area Fairy Creek protestors had dubbed “Heli Camp,” on the face of a mountain which slopes into Granite Creek drainage on one side, and Fairy Creek drainage on the other.
     

    Dr. Royann Petrell (right) and citizen scientists examine images taken in unprotected forest in the Walbran Valley. (Photo: Deborah Freeman)
     
    Since August 2020, protestors had established several camps to protect these remaining old-growth forests, which grew uninterrupted down the slopes from Fairy Creek. Nearly 1,200 were arrested after Teal Jones was granted an injunction against protestors in its Tree Farm Licence 46, which includes Fairy Creek and much of the remaining old growth forests in the area. After the camps were routed in early August, the rate of logging increased.
    Petrell described Heli Camp as “perfect marbled murrelet habitat,” with good cover to protect the birds as they fly upstream on daily fishing trips from the ocean, and wide, mossy platform-like limbs high up in towering old-growth trees, where their single precious egg might be safely hidden.
    But since then, 90 per cent of the Heli Camp cutblock has been logged. (In addition, the clear-cutting destroyed most of a colony of rare, at risk, Old Growth Specklebelly lichen—which was likely the largest population ever recorded in BC.)
    Of Petrell’s sightings, Martin says, “This is the remarkable thing: if that was federal land, it would be designated as critical habitat.” But because it is BC Crown land, which falls under provincial jurisdiction, it was not.
    She adds that if a nest is identified in a tree, there is some protection—but only till the end of nesting season. Then the tree could still be cut down. (Regardless, it is next to impossible to find marbled murrelets’ nests, high up on wide, mossy branches in tall trees.) 
    As Martin sums up, “These rules are absurd. They do not do anything to protect birds or other species in the long term.”
    Marbled murrelets are known to return year after year, to nest in the same stand of ancient trees. Scientists call it “high site fidelity.” 
    “We don’t know what happens if their nest stand is lost. But if they are like other Alcids [a family of marine birds which includes puffins and murres] in some instances, they may not breed again,” says Oregon University professor Kim Nelson. 
    “If the whole stand is lost to fire or logging, we really don’t know if they move to new stands. What if the nearby stands are already full of murrelets?”
    Marbled murrelets do not build nests. Instead they lay their single eggs in thick, mossy depressions on wide branches. These nesting “platforms” don’t exist in smaller trees—only big, wide trees, usually of a great age, can grow such wide branches. If there is no alternative but to nest on smaller branches, eggs or chicks can fall to their deaths.
    Both Burger and Martin are enthusiastic about the potential of a November 2021 ministerial order to protect marbled murrelets—except for the fact that logging is still happening in the areas it mentions.
    As the situation stands, Petrell’s 115 sightings—confirmed by radar—will not save the remaining nesting habitat in the Heli Camp area, nor any of the other old-growth forest fragments nearby.
     

    Heli Camp area—until it was logged, this old growth forest was largely intact and continued over the mountain and into Fairy Creek. (Photo: Will O’Connell)
     
    As part of Teal Cedar’s Tree Farm License 46, almost all of these last iconic old-growth trees are slated to be clear-cut within 15 to 20 years, at most. The company’s stated harvest flow objective is to keep cutting “until all the old growth is exhausted.” 
    This year’s cutblocks have been authorized, and logging has begun. Roads to the cutblocks, though public, are now blocked by newly installed gates. 
    The gates are authorized by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development in response to Teal Cedar’s requests to restrict public access for the purpose of “protecting logging operations.” A private security firm was hired to guard the gates.
    Closing or restricting the usage of roads is permitted by the ministry if property, public health, or public safety might be endangered. 
    Last year, similar gates and RCMP officers prevented Petrell and her team from surveying birds and their habitat at Fairy Creek and other nearby old-growth forests such as Eden Grove, Bugaboo, Walbran and Caycuse. 
    This year, Petrell is fighting back. Earlier this month, Ecojustice environmental law charity announced it will challenge at least eight of the road closures in TFL46 on her behalf. 
    “By closing access to roads that have been used regularly by the public, Teal Cedar has effectively turned wide swathes of public lands into private property,” the Ecojustice news release stated. 
    It also noted that the ministry’s approvals for the gates did not require Teal Cedar to maintain reasonable public access.
    “The gates in TFL 46 prevent citizen scientists from identifying and protecting at-risk species in areas where logging is imminent,” Petrell said. She added that the wildlife surveys these volunteers are trying to carry out should have been done years ago by the BC government—before it approved any logging.
    “At a time of biodiversity crisis,” Ecojustice lawyer Rachel Gutman added, “we need scientists like Dr. Petrell to be able to carry out their important work of mapping species unimpeded. Logging companies shouldn’t be able to stand in their way.”
    Until the case is heard, however, no one is likely to be permitted to check first for signs of marbled murrelets, or their nests, in the stands of old-growth forest being destroyed in TFL 46.
    At this point, the marbled murrelets’ best hope may lie with Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent mandate letter to Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change: “Work with the Minister of Natural Resources to help protect old growth forests, notably in British Columbia…” 
    The letter asks Minister Guilbeault to reach a nature agreement with BC, establish a $50 million BC old growth nature fund, and to ensure that First Nations, local communities and workers “are partners in shaping the path forward for nature protection.” 
    This is all a tall order. Premier Horgan has already indicated that $50 million would not be nearly enough money. Last year when the fund was announced, he suggested the federal government should “add a zero.”
    Meanwhile, marbled murrelets are still listed as a threatened species in BC and Canada. And logging of their known and rapidly diminishing critical habitat continues—despite intentions to protect them that date back more than one hundred years.
    Grace Golightly (her name since birth) is a freelance writer interested in the protection of nature and human rights.

    Judith Lavoie
    The BC Court of Appeal has reversed earlier decisions and cleared the way for a civil action brought by professional forester Martin Watts against the Provincial government.
     

    Martin Watts alleges that his criticism of ministry of forests’ growth and yield models and data resulted in ministry employees limiting his access to ministry contracts and data necessary to conduct his forestry consultation business. (Photo by David Broadland)
     
    WITH FOREST FIRES, stifling heat, floods and landslides focussing public attention on BC’s forestry practices, consultant Martin Watts is hoping his lawsuit will push the province to ensure vital forestry decisions, such as establishing cut rates, are based on accurate data and scientific information.
    That has not been the case for at least the previous two decades, according to Watts, who says that, during his years of undertaking contracts for the ministry of forests, he found inaccurate data and faulty modelling and monitoring methods were being used to estimate forest growth rates and that faulty information was informing the rate of cut in provincial forests.
    However, efforts to point out gaping holes and inaccuracies in data and models used by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch did not go down well in the ministry and eventually cost him his livelihood as his company, FORCOMP Forestry Consulting Ltd, was then cut out of contracts, he said.
    It has been five long and expensive years since Watts launched a civil suit against the Province and four ministry of forests employees and, after facing appeals, delays and setbacks—all of which came on the heels of more than a decade of presenting his case to various government boards—the BC Court of Appeal has cleared the road for the case to proceed.
    A ruling by three judges, with written reasons by Justice Peter Voith, overturns a previous ruling that struck the claims and were described by a judge as “unnecessary, frivolous and an abuse of process.” The new judgement will allow claims of misfeasance in public office, conspiracy and breach of the Charter to proceed, but not Watts’ claim of blacklisting.
    Before the case is heard, Watts, who is using his retirement savings to fund the case, must deposit $20,000, as security for costs, within the next two months.
    The province has 20 days to deliver their response to the civil claim, said lawyer Peter Waldman, who is acting for Watts.
    “But, it has taken over five years and they haven’t delivered their defense yet,” he said.
    “What we are out to prove is that they didn’t like being criticized and so they did all kinds of things (to Watts) and what we are putting forward is that’s not how government officials are supposed to behave,” Waldman said.
    Governments, whether in the form of politicians or bureaucrats, are not supposed to use their positions to attack people—a concept that is a cornerstone of democratic government, Waldman said.
    Watts’ complaints started under the Liberal government and, since then, there have been two NDP governments, but nothing has changed, Waldman pointed out.
    “All three of these versions of BC provincial governments are perfectly ready to try and stop Martin Watts from getting a remedy,” and that begs the question of whether politicians or bureaucrats are in charge, he said.
    A ministry of forests spokesman said that, as the issue is being appealed “we cannot speak to an ongoing court proceeding.”
    Prior to 2003, Watts, who specializes in tree growth and yield, was given frequent contracts by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch, but, after pointing out that information being used as the basis for setting BC’s annual allowable cut was corrupted, monitoring programs were not working and unvalidated computer models were being used in the timber supply review process, the work disappeared.
    Government contracts were written in ways that excluded his company and he was blocked from accessing data that was essential for private sector contracts.
    Statements to the court say problems between Watts and FAIB started after the Gordon Campbell Liberal government cut the ministry’s budget and staff in 2002.
    During the previous decade, FORCOMP’s provincial contracts earned the company about $132,000 a year, but, by 2003, the contracts disappeared and Watts was unable to access provincial data he needed to bid on private sector consulting contracts.
    The four people named in the lawsuit are Albert Nussbaum, Jon Vivian, Patrick Martin and Sam Otukol, two of whom still work for the ministry. In statements to the court, Watts alleges they conspired to exclude his company from obtaining contracts.
    For example, FORCOMP was excluded from the 2011-2014 qualified contractors list, even though the company had been included on previous lists.
    As Watts’ company foundered, he began a battle to try and regain his career and to bring attention to problems which he believes inevitably led to over-harvesting.
    “The bad modelling is over-predicting the growth of the forest. There’s a lot of uncertainty and they don’t consider that uncertainty,” said Watts, adding that, especially as the province is facing extreme weather from climate change, it is essential that basic information is accurate.
     

    The graph above is from the 2004 Ministry of Forests “State of the Forests” report signed by then BC Chief Forester Jim Snetsinger (the “Actual cut in 2020” reference has been added by Evergreen Alliance). The ministry’s prediction of future timber supply, which helped to determine the allowable annual cut, was based on data from computer models created by the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch (FAIB). This prediction was made at a time when the ministry expected the impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle to be greater than it turned out to be. Even so, the ministry greatly over-estimated future timber supply. Martin Watts alleges that after he pointed out errors in the data used by the models, and problems with the models themselves, employees of FAIB conspired to prevent him from receiving further contracts or access to the data.
     
    Some of the recent floods and landslides in BC have been linked to road-building and clearcuts on steep slopes, while researchers have said that removing the forest canopy and cutting old-growth forests results in increased local temperatures.
    Climate change means that uncertainties about how a managed forest will grow, are magnified, Watts said. “When you have a lot of uncertainty you take a precautionary approach and they are not doing that and it’s leading to over-harvesting,” he said.
    The culture within the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch means they are continuing to work in the same way, so problems identified almost two decades ago still exist today, Watts said.
    “The information is not good enough, but they keep trying to use it and they use it incorrectly,” said Watts.
    “The worst kind of sampling you can have is what you can afford to do. What you end up with is not enough information, but you are obligated to try and use it because you have spent the money,” he said.
    There are also questions about the timeframe used to determine the annual allowable cut in each of the province’s 37 timber supply areas and 34 tree farm licences, Watts said.
    Under the Forest Act the chief forester must determine the cut at least every 10 years.
    “It was supposed to be 5 years and then they moved it to 10 and, a lot of times, the chief forester can defer it,” Watts said.
    But, as the last year has proved, many changes can happen in 10 years and, by the time the cut is reviewed, it might be too late to correct any errors.
    Former professional forester Anthony Britneff, who worked in the BC Forest Service for 40 years, agrees that there is a reluctance within the ministry to change methods or to accept criticism from outsiders.
    “We are talking about arrogance,” said Britneff, who has supported Watts in his battle to restore his career.
    “The concern here is not so much about inaccuracy—there will always be inaccuracy. The problem is not acknowledging inaccuracy and in not taking a more precautionary approach,” he said.
    Retired forester Fred Marshall, a woodlot owner and forestry consultant, believes faulty data is at the root of over-cutting in some regions of the province, and, despite numerous letters sent to provincial staff and politicians, he has not received satisfactory answers.
    “I’ve written many times to (Chief Forester) Diane Nicholls and her staff and have also talked to them and have always received answers that proclaim that everything they do associated with the timber supply review process is perfectly correct. They are dogmatically adamant in this belief,” said Marshall, who has asked for a formal review of the process.
    “Such a review is desperately needed and certainly in the best interests of the people of BC,” he said.
    Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner, said the myopic view taken by the Province is that forests can be clearcut and they will grow back like a corn field.
    Provincial modelling does not take into account the complexity of the forest ecosystem and the intricate web of life supported by intact forests, Wieting said.
    “Even before climate change became a major issue, there were many surprises for foresters as forests would not grow back as expected,” he said.
    “We will never have the same volume or quality of timber again in this province, based on the fact that we have continued with this industrial model, replacing volume-rich old growth with young forests and then clearcutting the younger second growth in short rotation,” he said.
    Now, on top of over-cutting, there is a climate crisis that is threatening not only forestry and entire ecosystems, but the entire economy, Wieting said.
    Meanwhile, Watts is relieved his claims and concerns will finally be aired in court, although no date has yet been set.
    Although he launched the case as a matter of principle, it now also has a financial imperative as work as a forestry consultant continues to be scarce and the legal fight is extremely expensive, Watts said.
    “I ended up in the courts as a kind of last resort… This is good news. It’s great actually, but it is frustrating that I had to appeal it twice to get here,” he said.
    Judith Lavoie is a freelance journalist who enjoys exploring stories about the natural world.
    This story was originally published at EvergreenAlliance.ca which is a website created by the publishers of FOCUS and dedicated to greater conservation of BC forests.

    Ben Parfitt

    The Great Tree Robbery

    By Ben Parfitt, in Forests,

    As more old-growth trees topple and forest industry jobs plummet, an obscure government subsidy scheme fuels the collapse.
     

    Thanks to generous BC government subsidies, wood pellet mill yards are overflowing with logs culled from the interior region’s primary or old-growth forests. Photo: Stand.earth.
     
    FOR MORE THAN 15 YEARS, the BC government has rewarded logging companies with millions of additional old-growth trees to chop down thanks to an obscure “credit” program that allows companies to log bonus trees that don’t count toward their licensed logging limits.
    The virtually unheard of program was noted briefly in a report released by the government in June following a press conference in which Premier John Horgan boasted of his government’s efforts to protect more old-growth forests even as protesters were being arrested in his own riding for blockading logging roads leading into ancient stands of trees.
    Despite being a fixture of government policy for a decade-and-a-half, the credits or subsidies, which one former senior-ranking civil servant in the provincial Ministry of Forests likens to a Ponzi scheme, have flown almost completely under the radar.
    Under the scheme, which applies across BC’s vast interior region, logging companies that truck lower value trees to wood pellet mills and pulp mills receive credits from the government that allow them to go back into the forest and log as many trees again.
    In addition to accelerating the loss of irreplaceable old-growth ecosystems, the bonus logging is certain to fuel even more job losses in BC’s battered forest industry, where 40,000 workers have lost their jobs in the past 20 years. But a new investigation by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds even more to be concerned about including:
    • No record of how many millions of additional trees have been logged since the subsidies began in 2006, and government refusal to provide such information short of a formal Freedom-of-Information request, which could result in months if not years delay.
    • More than $37 million in taxpayer dollars given directly to wood pellet and pulp mills or their suppliers to help underwrite their costs of purchasing lower-quality wood fibre.
    • Rapidly rising demand for lower-quality logs from BC’s wood pellet mills, which further threatens old-growth forests, despite the industry’s claims to the contrary.
     
    Double-dipping
    The credits effectively amount to a government-sanctioned double-dip for the logging companies. But the biggest consequence may be that the bonus logging is off the books.
    In its June report, the government disclosed that the credit logging doesn’t count towards a company’s logging entitlement, known as its Allowable Annual Cut or AAC. That means that one of the only tools the government has to control logging rates—a cap—is badly compromised.
    Despite the government acknowledging that the subsidies will accelerate “declining mid-term timber supplies,”—a euphemism for running out of trees—it cannot or will not say how many millions more trees have been logged as a result of the credits.
    It’s certain, however, that the number is high. In the Prince George area alone, a 2017 report by the province’s chief forester, Diane Nicholls, found that in just one five-year period, logging companies cut down an additional 2.4 million cubic metres of trees under the credit scheme, with much of the downed trees going to the region’s wood pellet mills, a bottom-feeding industry that cares not a whit whether its wood comes from centuries-old or 20-year-old trees.
    In the same report, Nicholls, who occupies one of the highest positions in the provincial Ministry of Forests, noted that it is possible that the rate of credit logging will increase even further, resulting in a greater area of forest logged each year. However, she said, the additional logging was an “important tool” to keep lower quality logs flowing to the region’s wood pellet mills, and therefore she would not adjust future logging entitlement (AAC) downwards to reflect the additional number of trees being logged under the subsidy scheme.
    In an interview, Anthony Britneff, a former registered professional forester who held senior positions in the same ministry during his nearly 40 years of public service, called the credit scheme “a secretive, fraudulent Ponzi scheme in which the public’s timber is being allocated out of the legislated AAC process.”
    He said all British Columbians will be the victims, since the credit logging is happening in publicly-owned forests, “and that those responsible should be held accountable.”
     
    “A crime against the province”
    Arnold Bercov, a former president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, said he is deeply unsettled by the subsidy program’s implications. He fears the credit logging will further deepen problems for already stressed forest ecosystems, community watersheds, rural First Nations, non-Indigenous rural communities, and forest industry workers alike.
    “It’s so bad what we’re doing. We’re liquidating what’s here. That’s what’s going on. And that’s just a crime against this province,” Bercov said.
    The union is one of three representing forest industry workers in BC and has been vocal about the need to protect more old-growth forests, and ensure that much higher value is added to whatever trees are logged in the province’s forests.
    While Bercov says the credit program poses risks to forests and forest workers alike, its biggest victims will be First Nations on whose ancestral lands all the bonus logging is taking place. “Ultimately, it won’t matter about First Nation land claims. In a few years, it won’t matter if they win or lose because there won’t be anything left to win,” Bercov says.
    “Here we are speeding down a climate emergency and we are putting holes in our only lifeboat,” says Suzanne Simard, a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia and author of Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.
    Simard said she wonders now how many of the logs “trundling out of the woods daily” near her home community of Nelson in the West Kootenay region may be a result of the credit program, including trees from the interior rainforest, one of the rarest forest ecosystems on earth.
    Simard’s concerns are shared by Michelle Connolly, director of Conservation North, an organization devoted to trying to protect the interior region’s primary forests, those forests not disturbed by logging, mining or other industrial activities.
    “The BC government is targeting natural hemlock forests in our inland temperate rainforest for pellets even though this ecosystem is red-listed,” said Connolly. “Now we find out that the direct destruction of these rare forests is being subsidized with public money and packaged as a bioeconomy. I really want to know how decision-makers sleep at night endorsing this and calling it clean and green.”
    Connolly’s and Simard’s concerns appear to be borne out by data analyzed by the CCPA showing escalated the logging of old-growth cedar and hemlock trees, a clear sign of increased logging in wetter forests where such trees are found.

    Where the trees go, the jobs go
    Despite such concerns, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, says that it cannot say how many trees have fallen as a result of the credit program. In an emailed response to a written request from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives or CCPA, the ministry said that information on credit applications and approvals is largely confined to paper documents and therefore not available. To arrive at a rolled up figure for the total number of credits granted would involve a “large and complex” search that the government won’t even consider doing until it receives a formal Freedom-of-Information request.
    “Although some of the information is available electronically, most is housed in other forms that will take time to research and compile,” Doug Kelly, the ministry’s acting executive director of safety, engineering and tenures said in an email.
    Short of waiting months if not a year or more to learn how the government would respond to an FOI request and what, if any, documents it would release, the CCPA has tried to gauge the potential scale of the credit program by analyzing publicly available logging data in BC’s interior region for each of the years from 2006, the year the credit began, through 2020.
    The vast interior region stretches east of the coast mountains to Alberta and everywhere between BC’s southern and northern borders. Some of the largest sawmills in the world are located in the region, along with pulp mills and a growing number of wood pellet mills.
    The combined horsepower of all those mills has escalated demand for trees from the region’s forests, which have been extensively logged for decades as well as being hammered by wildfires and massive beetle attacks that prompted even more logging.
    The CCPA analysis identified three notable trends including:
    A 50 per cent increase, on average, since 2006 in logs that could potentially trigger credits. These logs are identified in the database as Grade 4 logs. Steady logging of the highest value trees, which yield Grade 1 and Grade 2 logs. Under the credit scheme, a company receiving credits for delivering low-value logs can then use those credits to log higher-value trees. A decline in the logging of higher-quality pine trees, and increases in the logging of higher-quality spruce, fir, cedar, hemlock and balsam trees. The drop in logging of higher-quality pine trees suggests that logging companies have effectively run out of many forests where healthy pine once dominated, and are making up the shortfall by intensifying logging elsewhere, including the rare inland temperate rainforest, which scientists warn is on the verge of ecological collapse.
    Collapse, also neatly summarizes forest industry employment, which in 20 years has plummeted from 91,000 jobs to just 49,000 today.

    A beetle attack, logging frenzy and mounting wood waste
    The credit program has its origins in the epic mountain pine beetle infestation that gathered steam in the interior more than 20 years ago and that killed hundreds of millions of lodgepole pine trees.
    The scale, severity and duration of the infestation was made far worse by climate change, but infinitely worse by ill-advised, government-approved clear-cutting and tree-planting programs.
    Those programs saw vast swaths of forest logged and replanted primarily with tiny nursery-raised lodgepole pine seedlings, even though in many cases the forests that had been logged contained a mix of tree species.
    Forest scientists including Alex Woods, David Coates and Andreas Hamman were among those to warn early on that the overreliance on clear-cutting and pine-planting was a mistake, because the plantations would act as magnets not just for mountain pine beetles but tree-killing blights such as Dothistroma.
    As more and more of those vulnerable pine plantations began to fail, making a mockery of computer models that confidently predicted that they would maintain their health and vigor, the scientists warned that such plantations had become “a major restoration liability” and would remain so for years if not decades to come.
    In response to the epic infestation, the government decided to open the floodgates and allow logging companies to dramatically escalate clear-cut logging in the name of “salvaging” millions of the beetle-attacked trees before they became unusable as feedstock for two-by-fours and other lumber products. But data maintained by the BC government showed that it wasn’t just damaged pine trees that were logged, but millions of healthy spruce, fir, cedar, balsam and hemlock trees as well.
    The salvage logging was a bonanza to the interior forest industry and its two undisputed powerhouses, Canadian Forest Products or Canfor and West Fraser Timber, which own and operate some of the biggest lumber mills on the planet.
    But it also fueled a surge in wood waste, as millions more trees fell, only to be rejected for hauling to the nearest sawmills because they allegedly lacked the highest quality wood fibre. Making it easier for the companies to leave the rejected logs behind, provincial timber-pricing policies required them to pay just 25 cents—the bare minimum —for each cubic metre of lower quality logs left behind, even though many of those same logs could have been made into lumber.
     
    Waste Away
    The credit program emerged in response to the mountains of wood waste, but it also had roots in the growing demand for wood fibre from an aggressive new player in the forest industy.
    In 2006, the nascent wood pellet industry had eight mills in the province and was consuming roughly 2.5 million cubic metres worth of wood fibre a year. In the years to follow, it would grow to 13 mills and its appetite for wood would increase fourfold. And the industry isn’t done growing. Witness a proposal to build what would be the largest pellet mill in Canada in Fort Nelson, a mill that would require the logging of an additional 1.5 million trees per year.
    Traditionally, pulp and paper mills relied mostly, but not exclusively, on the mountains of wood chips and sawdust generated at sawmills, where, as a consequence of round logs being turned into rectangular products, only about half of each log ends up as lumber.
    But with surging wood pellet production putting the squeeze on a finite wood supply, it wasn’t long before both pellet mill and pulp mill owners were clamoring for huge numbers of whole logs. With droves of trees being cut down and left where they’d fallen, the challenge became how to convince Canfor, West Fraser and others to bring those logs into town.
     
    Enhancing business conditions
    The credit program effectively put fuel in logging truck tanks by rewarding logging companies with the promise of more trees to come.
    But there were even more tangible ways that the government subsidized or accelerated old-growth logging. It put money directly into the pockets of the major logging companies and sawmill operators, as well as the wood pellet and pulp companies.
    In 2016, a program unveiled by the provincial government created a new entity called the Forest Enhancement Society with an initial infusion of $85 million in taxpayer dollars, later topped up with a second installment of $150 million.
    The society is chaired by former provincial chief forester Jim Snetsinger, who is now a forestry consultant based out of Prince George.
    Over the years, the society has doled out money to reforestation and reclamation projects that rehabilitate lands damaged by wildfires and insect attacks. But it has also channeled significant funds into projects that it claims will substantially reduce carbon emissions by bringing lower quality logs and logging debris in from the bush, rather than seeing those logs burned.
    After reviewing the society’s lengthy list of funded projects, the CCPA estimates that at least $37 million in taxpayer dollars went directly to wood pellet mills and pulp mills or to companies working to bring lower quality logs and wood fibre into mill towns.
    Notable recipients of those public funds included:
    $4.37 million to BC’s biggest wood pellet company, Pinnacle Renewable Energy. Pinnacle is now owned by Drax, a UK company that burns 10 million tonnes of imported wood pellets per year to generate electricity. $2.18 million to Pacific Bioenergy, another large wood pellet producer based out of Prince George. $1.5 million to the Prince George Pulp and Paper mill. $1.25 million to the Domtar pulp mill in Kamloops. $3 million to Mercer’s Celgar pulp mill in Castlegar. In its 2020 “accomplishments” report, the Society states that “one of the biggest challenges” with lower quality logs left behind at logging operations “is that the value of the wood waste is lower than the cost to haul it to a facility like a pellet plant, co-generation electrical plant, or a pulp mill.”
    “Through grants that help cover transportation costs, we support organizations and companies who want to use that leftover wood fibre...instead of burning slash piles, the wood fibre is put to good use and supports our province’s bioeconomy and climate change goals.”
    Left completely unsaid is how saving wood from being burned at logging sites only to deliver it to pellet mills that make a product that is then burned equates to a climate benefit. Also left unsaid is the sweet deal that the combined Forest Enhancement Society and credit program subsidies bestowed on the companies involved.


    Old-growth cedar logs from one of the world’s most unique and imperilled forest ecosystems—BC’s interior rainforest—make their way into a wood pellet mill yard in Prince George. Photo: James Steidle.

    Take as one example, Canfor. Canfor is a partner in the Pacific Bioenergy pellet plant. It also owns the Prince George Pulp and Paper mill.
    Through grants received by the society, Pacific Bioenergy and Prince George Pulp and Paper got to underwrite their log purchase costs at taxpayer’s expense thereby increasing their profits.
    Then, after delivering such logs to those facilities, Canfor could apply for credits allowing it to log even more trees, including the higher-value trees that it covets for its sawmill operations.
     
    Credits equal further losses of remnant old-growth
    On BC’s coast, the earliest commercial logging dates back to the 1820s, when a sliver of the forest’s tallest and straightest old-growth fir trees were cut down to make ship’s masts. Since then, significant tracts of coastal forest have been logged two or more times. But in the interior, the commercial logging of “primary” or “old-growth” forests, which have never before been clear-cut, really only got seriously underway half a century ago.
    Because many interior trees are smaller than on the coast, the area of land cleared to yield a similar volume of wood to that on the coast is far greater.
    The interior region is also much more conducive to clear-cut logging on a vast scale due to its generally gentler terrain, which is not the case on the more mountainous coast. That reality, combined with the interior’s proximity to the United States’ lucrative housing market, made the region a magnet for lumber producers.
    When the first significant modern era pine beetle infestations began in the late 1980s on the vast Chilcotin plateau west of Williams Lake, the combination of big sawmills and highly automated logging equipment in the form of feller buncher machines resulted in a rapid increase in clear-cuts. The even more consequential beetle attacks that followed 20 years later only accelerated the deforestation because by then the sawmills were even bigger.
    The consequence? In just 50 years much of the interior’s once-bountiful primary or old-growth forests are gone, with horrendous consequences for endangered wildlife species such as woodland caribou, who need all that the forest contains and where a “low-quality” tree for lumber may be the highest-quality tree for lichen, without which caribou cannot survive. The additional forest losses associated with climate change and its role in fueling more prolonged and intense wildfires, tree-killing droughts, insect attacks and tree diseases, have further speeded the losses, leading to the deepening ecological and economic crisis.


    The BC government, which regulates the forest industry, says it cannot say how much government subsidies may be contributing to logs showing up at pellet mills, like this one in Burns Lake. Photo: Stand.earth
     
    Double trouble
    Earlier this year, the environmental organization Stand.earth released photographs and video footage showing pellet mill yards in Smithers, Burns Lake and Houston filled to overflowing with towering walls of logs.
    The images confirmed that contrary to the pellet industry’s assertions that “residual” wood chips from nearby sawmills were the primary feedstock for pellet mills, it was massive numbers of whole logs that kept such operations afloat.
     
    Provincial government subsidies have fuelled additional logging in the Houston area, where logs like this await conversion into wood pellets. Photo: Stand.earth
     
    Two of those pellet mills—in Burns Lake and Houston—are in the Nadina Natural Resource District, which is administered by the provincial forests ministry.
    In addition to the two large pellet operations in the Nadina district, Canfor operates a sawmill in Houston that was the largest mill in the world when it opened its doors in 2004 and remains one of the biggest lumber mills on the planet.
    The CCPA analyzed five years of logging data in the Nadina and found that on average the region’s logging companies extracted 14 per cent more trees from the region’s forests than they were entitled to cut under their Allowable Annual Cuts.
    Nearly one in every three trees logged during that timeframe were “lower quality” logs that could be used to generate credits. Although just how many actually resulted in credits being claimed is unknown because of the government’s refusal to release such information.
    Because we don’t know that number, we also cannot say to what extent Canfor and other companies operating in the Nadina may have used the credits as collateral or leverage to get what they really wanted, which was access to the highest-quality old-growth trees.
    But what can be said, because the data supports it, is that Canfor and others logged the region’s richest forests at a prodigious clip with two out of every three trees extracted producing Grade 1 and Grade 2 logs.
    What can also be said is that any lower quality logs claimed as credits by Canfor in the Nadina district provided a double economic benefit to BC’s largest forest company. As is the case in Prince George, where it is a partner in the Pacific Bioenergy pellet plant, Canfor has a stake in the Houston pellet mill, where it is a co-owner and operator along with Pinnacle Pellet and the Moricetown Indian Band.


    In Houston, Canadian Forest Products (Canfor) operates one of the world’s largest sawmills and is also a partner in the local wood pellet mill. Logs seen here will be chipped to make wood pellets at the Houston pellet mill. Photo: Stand.earth

    In the absence of a proper accounting from the government, it remains uncertain how much the credit program contributed to the Allowable Annual Cut being exceeded for five years running in the Nadina district. It is also uncertain how much the credit program has contributed to the increasing clip at which logging companies throughout the entire interior region have cut down the highest quality trees. In 2011, 39 per cent of all the trees cut down by Canfor and others yielded the highest quality logs. Every year thereafter that number increased to reach 59 per cent of the total at the end of last year.
    But what is certain is that logging more trees today means logging less trees tomorrow. A fall down in future logging rates is guaranteed for the simple reason that the industry is running out of the most desirable trees to cut down. And when the fall down comes, don’t expect any of the region’s major logging and sawmilling companies to stick around. Both of BC’s lumber giants, Canfor and West Fraser, have invested heavily in mills and forest assets in the US South, a hedge on the day when BC’s interior forests are thoroughly depleted.
     
    And we all fall down
    At more than 6.4 million hectares in size, the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area surrounding much of the massive Williston Reservoir is one of the largest forested administration zones in BC and larger in size than many European countries.
    But the once prosperous community of the same name is a shadow of its former self.
    As Mackenzie’s forest industry built up in the 1970s, jobs were so plentiful that workers were firmly in the driver’s seat. They could quit a job in one of the town’s mills in the morning and be working at another mill in the afternoon.
    Nearly 2,000 workers were once employed in one of Mackenzie’s five sawmills, two pulp mills, one paper mill, a value-added mill and a chip plant.
    Today, only one sawmill remains employing roughly 300 people (although the mill has been taking periodic shutdowns) along with the value-added mill, which employs a little more than 100 people in an operation that takes short trim ends from lumber mills and fits and glues them together in a process called “finger-jointing” to make longer finished boards.
    So decimated is Mackenzie’s once vibrant forest sector, that the value-added mill now imports trim ends from mills eight or more hours away.
    Peter Merkley is president of Local 18 of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, which recently lost 211 members who worked at Canfor’s last remaining sawmill in Mackenzie. The mill closed its doors for good on June 17, 2019.
    The union used to represent upwards of 800 mill workers in Mackenzie. Today, not a single union member is employed in the town.
    Adding to the angst of those who cling to the increasingly dim hope of a resurgence in local forest industry activity, Mackenzie’s remaining residents watch as logging trucks by the thousands truck logs past their doors to sawmills starved for logs in Prince George, Quesnel and elsewhere.
    Last year, according to data analyzed by the CCPA, Canfor pulled more than 425,000 cubic metres of logs out of the Mackenzie TSA, with a healthy 43 per cent of all those logs being the highest quality Grade 1 and Grade 2 logs.
    Merkley equates the activity to strip-mining. And he now fears no forest or community will be spared.
    “It’s going to happen everywhere, without a doubt, until there’s nothing left. And then, the companies are going to be out of here. It’s disgusting. And our government’s letting it happen, which is beyond me.”
    Ben Parfitt is a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and a longtime investigative writer.

    David Broadland
    Climate change helped transport the water from there to here, but the extent of the damage done is mainly the responsibility of BC’s out-of-control logging industry. 
     

    A short-wave infrared image of this summer’s 20,000-hectare July Mountain Fire (reddish brown area). The Coldwater River snakes along the fire’s lower edge on the left and then punches through the centre of the burn as it heads toward Merritt.
     
    LET’S SURVEY SOME OF THE DAMAGE and the circumstances that led to the Lower Mainland being cut off from the rest of Canada and the flooding of Merritt and Princeton in mid November.
    The Tank Hill Underpass, just east of Lytton, was built in 1957 to allow the newly widened Trans Canada Highway to pass underneath the CPR Railway. In all the years since, there’s no record of the culvert below the highway not having enough capacity to safely transport water under the structure. In February of 1963, for example, the structure survived a 24-hour rainfall of 69.9 millimetres (2.8 inches) that washed out both the highway and railway at a point closer to Lytton. In the “Great Coastal Storm” of 2007 that hit BC, Washington and Oregon in early December, Lytton recorded a 24-hour rainfall of 106.9 millimetres and the underpass was unscathed. But on November 14, 2021, the structure washed out after the fall of 61.9 millimetres of rain in the previous 24-hour period. What had changed?
     

    The washed-out Tank Hill Underpass (Photo: BC Ministry of Transportation)
     
    The 807-hectare watershed above the underpass was severely burned during last summer’s 84,000-hectare Lytton Creek Fire. The ministry of forests’ historical record of forest fires shows that watershed had no previous record of fire. This summer’s fire, rather than the quantity of rain that fell, may have determined the underpass’s fate.
    The hydrological impact of forest fires is well understood. A 2011 study, conducted by US Forest Service scientists, noted: “Basins with high-burn severity, especially those with steep, previously forested terrain, have flashier hydrographs and can produce peak-flows orders of magnitude greater than pre-fire conditions.” (See report attached at end of story.)
    Note the scientists’ use of the expression “orders of magnitude greater.” As you know, one order of magnitude means 10 times greater. Two orders of magnitude means 100 times greater. And so on.
    Why would a forest fire have such a large impact on the hydrological function of a forest? Here’s the short answer from those scientists: “This is due to fundamental changes in the hydrology of burnt watersheds, especially in the short term (1-3 years). Consumption of the canopy and forest-floor organic horizon that formerly intercepted precipitation, moderated infiltration, and protected mineral soil, results in decreased evapotranspiration and infiltration, and increased runoff. Further, newly exposed soil surfaces are subject to rain-drop erosion, which may be exacerbated by fire induced soil-water repellency. Though the hydrologic impacts of high-severity wildfire have been well documented in the scientific literature, the socio-political ramifications of a latent, continuous, and highly unpredictable disturbance regime (i.e. post-fire flooding and sedimentation) has not been addressed.”
    At about the same time as the Tank Hill Underpass was washing out, more serious trouble was brewing 50 kilometres to the east. The Coldwater River began to surge over its banks where it joins the Nicola River at Merritt. The west end of the town was flooded above the level that hydrologists had determined would likely be the worst case scenario—the 200-year flood plain—for future floods from melting snowpack. No one foresaw Merritt being flooded by a mid-fall rainstorm. As many as 7000 residents were forced to evacuate. Yet Merritt itself recorded only 31.4 millimetres of rain (1.2 inches) in the critical 48-hour period on November 14 and 15. By way of comparison, a total of 28 millimetres fell in a 48-hour period on November 24 and 25, 1962 and no flooding was reported. Similarly, 36 millimetres fell on Merritt in a 48-hour period during 2007’s Great Coastal Storm, yet no flooding occurred.
    The Merritt flood was obviously the result of rainfall, but where did that rain fall? The town is near the junction of the Coldwater and Nicola rivers and just downstream from where Clapperton Creek—which drains the Nicola Plateau—joins the Nicola.


    Flooding in Merritt, looking southeast across the west end of town. The Coldwater River cuts across the centre of the photo. The smaller Nicola River is in the foreground. One of the town’s mills is visible in the background.
     
    Photographs of the Merritt flood posted online show that the Coldwater River was swollen and moving much faster than the meandering Nicola River. While not much rain fell directly on Merritt, precipitation was even lower towards Kamloops. The wave of water, then, likely originated south of Merritt near the headwaters of the Coldwater. That area, too, experienced a large forest fire last summer. The 20,000-hectare July Mountain Fire was contained almost entirely within the Coldwater River’s watershed.
    The same physical factors associated with severely burned forest that may have caused the washout of the Tank Hill Underpass were also in play in the July Mountain Fire area, but in this case the burned area was 25 times larger. As well, there was a much larger area of recent clearcuts and young plantations in the watershed that had severely diminished the watershed’s natural ability to slow the rate at which water could move over the land before it reached the creeks and rivers that led to Merritt. UBC forest scientists XuJian Joe Yu and Younes Alila have found that removing forest in BC has a much greater impact on flooding than previously believed. They found, for example, that even small rates of logging can double the frequency of flooding and large rates of forest removal can result in up to fourfold increases in the frequency of large floods.
    Extensive clearcut logging has been allowed throughout the watershed since the early 1980s, but the rate of logging accelerated dramatically after 2009 when the ministry of forests introduced a salvage logging program. The program’s objective was to remove lodgepole pine killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle, but the logging companies were permitted to remove all trees. In the Lillooet and Merritt Timber Supply Areas, only 20 percent of the logging between 2010 and 2019 was related to salvaging dead pine. To make the salvage logging more commercially attractive, companies were permitted to take stands of any species of healthy trees as well. The result was widespread devastation of healthy primary forests and loss of hydrological function in the Coldwater watershed. The time-lapse video below, which runs from 1984 to 2020, shows a portion of the Coldwater River’s watershed that was burned by the July Mountain Fire. Watch for the sudden acceleration in the cut that occurs in 2010.
     
    Time-lapse video of logging in the area of the Coldwater watershed that was subsequently burned by the July Mountain Fire (Google Earth Time-lapse generator)
     
    Seventy-five kilometres southeast of Merritt, Princeton also flooded. It lies at the confluence of the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers. The town saw 66 millimetres of rain—just over 4 inches—over the 3-day period between November 13 and November 15. The last big flood there occurred in 1972, but that event was dramatically different from the November 14 flood. 1972’s soaking was the result of warm temperatures quickly melting a huge winter snowpack in late May. No record of a November flood ever occurring in Princeton could be found by this reporter. But, like the Coldwater, the Similkameen watershed experienced a large forest fire this past summer, entirely within its watershed—the 15,000-hectare Garrison Lake Fire—and extensive clearcutting has been allowed throughout the watersheds of both the Similkameen and the Tulameen. The time-lapse video below records the logging from 1984 to 2000 in the area of the Similkameen’s watershed that was burned by the Garrison Lake Fire.
     
    Time-lapse video of logging in the area of the Similkameen River watershed, 1984-2020, that was subsequently burned by the Garrison Lake Fire in 2021 (Google Earth Time-lapse generator)
     
    If forest fires are an important factor in flooding and water damage to infrastructure—and the scientists tell us that they are—then BC is likely in for a hell of a ride in the coming years. The current forest policy of liquidating as much primary forest as is necessary to compete in the export market for wood products—80 to 90 percent of logging in BC is for exports—is creating roughly 250,000 hectares of new clearcuts each year. Clearcuts and plantations have a higher fire hazard than primary forest, and as the fraction of BC that’s covered by clearcuts and plantations grows, forest fires are becoming larger. More and more of BC will be in that state that the forest scientists described as having “flashier hydrographs” and “can produce peak-flows orders of magnitude greater than pre-fire conditions.” More and more of BC will be unable to control movement of water across the landscape, whether it has burned or not. In short, the government’s current obsession with “export competitiveness” is leading directly to hell.
    You can see where all this is heading, can’t you? The cost of the flooding in Merritt and Princeton alone will likely be in the hundreds of millions. The cost of repairing the highway infrastructure and making it more flood and landslide resistant could be of a similar magnitude or greater.
    The wise thing to do next—now that we can see how climate change and the current forest management regime in BC are going to synergistically combine to produce physical chaos and social misery—would be to reduce the amount of logging in BC. Let the Chinese and American buyers of BC forests figure out some other way to grow. Instead, the logging companies will keep denuding the land as quickly as the export market will allow. The political class will decide that highways and bridges and flood-prone communities will now need to be reengineered and rebuilt to withstand higher levels of water and sliding hillsides, at whatever great cost. The financial and emotional costs of flooded-out lives will just have to be paid. But who will pay?
    Not the logging companies who caused it. Not the American or Chinese consumers of our forest products. Not the government officials who allowed it to happen.
    The cost of mitigating against climate change will become just another part of the immense public subsidization of the logging industry in BC. The blissfully unaware public will pay whatever is needed without even knowing they are paying for it.
    This story was edited on November 25, 2021 to reflect updated data for the record of precipitation that fell on Lytton and Merritt, including the historical data. The information that the ministry of forests’ record of historical forest fires showed no previous fire had occurred in the Tank Hill watershed was also added at that time.
    Please also see the note below in the comments section about rainfall amounts in the “Great Coastal Storm” of 2007.
    Hydrological Impacts of forest fires.pdf
    David Broadland does not consent to the destruction of life on Earth. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.

    Roger Wiles
    A visit to Fairy Creek reveals a place of peace and more shades of green than any painter’s palette.
     
    A SOLO VENTURE up the contested Fairy Creek opened my eyes to a territory unknown. One approaches this small watershed through the vast desolation of the Cowichan-Port Renfrew corridor; the scene of a 100-years of cumulative clearcuts.
     

    The ancient canopy closes to a thin blue ribbon of sky above (photo by Roger Wiles)
     
    Ascending the creek bed from Fairy Lake the landscape transforms from one of human dominance to a spectacle of nature unseen and unmolested. Up here you see no stumps with springboard notches, flagging tape boundaries, or even the telltale human debris of plastic twist-ties, broken glass, beer tabs, and cigarette butts. The steep moss-clad valley narrows and the ancient canopy closes to a thin blue ribbon of sky above.
    In the language of corporate managers, this complex ecosystem is termed “decadent forest”—so full of rot and decay that it should be condemned for clearance to improve its health and productivity. In fact, I recently heard a company spokeswoman, in all seriousness, describe this complexity by saying, “forests are made up of a great many kinds of sawlogs.”
    Up here the creek flows gently from pool to pool even as the greater region has been desiccated by unrelenting weeks of drought. In this cloistered low-elevation watershed there is no snowpack or glacier to modulate the summer base-flow. Yet flow it does, even in August after a dry summer, as the shaded walls of the canyon trickle and the fractured shales weep moisture. Six-inch trout dart about in the clear emerald deeps.
    This is a place of peace away from the noise and madness of humanity, teeming with the biodiversity needed to heal our ailing planet, a place of fallen nurse-logs, water ouzels, and striders, and here too be dragonflies. These vertical walls are cloaked in elder and salmonberry, goat’s beard, maidenhair and deer fern, foam flower, fungi, myriad invertebrates, mosses upon mosses, and more shades of green than any painter’s palette.
    Truly this is a forest worth more standing!
    Roger Wiles lives in North Cowichan, BC and serves on the board of the non-profit Cowichan Community Land Trust.

    Lannie Keller
    Most of the magnificent trees in Cathedral Grove would not meet the strict criteria for being protected under BC’s regulations.
    By Johanna Paradis and Lannie Keller
     
    THE BC GOVERNMENT’S RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT of deferrals on 2.6 million hectares of forest reminds us of other commitments to protect some of the remaining big trees in the province. On the surface, the new plans sound encouraging but as with other protection proposals, the devil will be in the details.
    On our home islands at the top of the Strait of Georgia, the landscape is in various stages of clearcutting and recovery. In the newer cuts, the alder and salmonberry grow up and thin, revealing enormous stumps that are the dwindling evidence of what-once-was. Two hundred years ago, the Discovery Islands’ forests were very different: magnificent cathedrals of green, light and shadow, columned with massive giants of fir, cedar and hemlock. 
    These islands have some of BC’s best growing conditions for coastal Douglas-fir. We stand in awe of our largest veterans—for example, the cedar that takes all of our elementary school students to link hands around, and the Douglas-fir mother-tree that presides over salmon-bearing waters. 
     

    School children from Surge Narrows visit the White Rock Cedar on Read Island (photo by Lannie Keller)
     
    When we were looking into protection for these last big old trees in the Discovery Islands, we learned about some programs recently touted by the BC government.
    In January 2018, BC Timber Sales (BCTS) announced a “Coastal Legacy Tree Program” for its management areas, about 20 percent of BC’s Timber Supply Area. This voluntary option for protection was available for trees exceeding specified diameters, and offered a 56-metre buffer (about 1 hectare) surrounding the tree. At the time, the BC government (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) promised additional regulation through the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA). They stated that, “The [BCTS] policy will be reviewed to make it stronger.”
    However, in September 2020, when the BC government presented its “Special Tree Protection Regulation,” they weakened the possibility of protection by increasing tree size requirements. Previously identified Coastal Legacy Trees which fell short of the new requirements lost their protection. As well, logging companies could file for a permit to cut an identified Special Tree and/or its supporting trees. 
    It is not clear why government increased the required diameters, or who influenced those changes. We do know that the Coastal Legacy Tree minimum diameters were arbitrarily determined by dividing in half the diameters of the largest known specimens in the province, and these size requirements were upped by the forests ministry. It is noteworthy that tree diameter, as the defining criterion, entirely disregards tree age, height, growing conditions, and other characteristics.
    So, with BC’s new Special Tree Regulation in hand, we headed out to measure our islands’ first growth. To our dismay, we soon realized that none of the few remaining giants, nor any of the first growth stumps were big enough to qualify for provincial protection. 
     

    Johanna Paradis recording trees in the Discovery Islands (photo by Lannie Keller)
     

    David Broadland measures a large Douglas fir on Quadra Island. With a diameter of  257 centimetres, it’s too small to be on a tree registry. (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    The Discovery Islands are blessed with mild climate, rich soils and abundant precipitation, some of BC’s best growing conditions for coastal Douglas-fir. If Special Trees don’t grow here, where could we find them? And how many trees in BC actually qualify to be Special Trees? 
    That led us to visit Cathedral Grove. 
     
    VANCOUVER ISLAND’S BEST KNOWN and most-visited big trees are at Cathedral Grove in MacMillan Provincial Park on Highway 4 en route to Port Alberni. Surely those trees would meet BC’s Special Tree criteria? On a rainy day in early October, a few of us from the Discovery Islands met at the Grove to measure its very biggest trees. Of 14 Douglas-fir trees, only 3 were big enough to qualify for protection, 2 of them just-barely. Of the biggest cedar trees, none were big enough to win BC Special Tree Protection status. If Cathedral Grove wasn’t a park, only 3 trees and an adjacent 3 hectares of land would be protected.
     

    The largest Douglas fir in Cathedral Grove qualifies for Special Tree status (photo by Lannie Keller)
     

    This Douglas fir in Cathedral Grove, with a diameter of 266 centimetres (short of the required 270), does not qualify (photo by Lannie Keller)
     

    This Cathedral Grove red cedar doesn’t qualify—it’s diameter is 290 centimetres and the requirement is for 385 centimetres (photo by Lannie Keller)
     
    The BC government estimated its Special Tree Protection Regulation would identify about 1500 trees, resulting in a total protected area of 15 square kilometres [0.0016%] of the provincial land base. But in fact, far less will gain protection because many of the legacy trees are already safe in parks and ecological reserves. The Big Tree Registry (begun in 1986, now managed by UBC) includes all of BC’s identified large trees to date. It lists 457 trees, but 253 are in already-protected areas, and not all of the remaining 204 actually meet the Province’s new requirements. We wonder, if it took 35 years to find and list 457 trees, how long will it take to achieve the new provincial objective of 1500—and who will do it? 
    BC’s Special Tree Protection Regulation describes an intention to protect big trees, but no plan for implementation. Logging companies are bound by law to record Special Trees, but that industry’s self-regulation and professional reliance have a woeful track record. Log scalers (who evaluate harvest volume) could check for infractions; however, their latest manual makes no reference to the Special Tree Protection Regulation. Will it again be concerned citizens who are tasked to find, measure, verify, and register the additional 1296 trees that are supposedly somewhere in BC’s clearcut landscape? 
    Clearly, BC’s big tree protection strategy is not a forest protection strategy, or an old growth protection strategy.  Its 56-metre buffer amounts to a handful of “supporting” trees protected around a Legacy Tree. The result is lonely old trees isolated in a clearcut—nothing like the interdependent forest ecosystem that was before. Trees need to be part of a forest of sufficient size in order to be resilient to catastrophic events like wind storms, fire, drought, disease and insect invasions. As we are witnessing, these events are becoming more frequent and more intense. Single tree protection is hopelessly inadequate, and the lonely legacy trees are a depressing reminder that we are losing the expansive forests which made BC famous.
     

    Big Lonely Doug near Eden Grove in the Fairy Creek area is aptly named (photo by David Broadland)
     
    The Special Tree Protection Regulation is a token gesture by a business-as-usual government that is attempting to placate the public into thinking it is addressing the issue of disappearing old growth. In actual fact, more than 97 percent of BC’s rich lower elevation forests have been logged. Less than 3 percent of the habitats required for growing legacy trees remain intact
    If BC’s government was genuinely concerned about protecting big trees, they would have listened to experts and citizen concerns, and at the very least they would have reduced the size requirements. Government did the opposite, with a public relations stunt that serves the logging industry, and diverts public attention away from the real issues of deforestation, habitat destruction, and loss of old growth and biodiversity. The real and urgent need is to protect BC’s remaining old forests, and to create an effective plan for ensuring the recruitment of younger forests as future old growth.
    The Big Tree Protection program demonstrates yet again how BC’s government disregards forests and democracy. The overwhelming majority of British Columbians want to protect all remaining old growth. We desperately want to believe that government is doing the right thing, following through on promises, waking up to the urgent needs of today, and heeding science. But, the NDP’s newest deferrals are vague and untested. This time, let’s keep the pressure on government to be honest and responsible to the land and its people.

    Lannie Keller is grateful for the beauty of living in a forest by the sea. She and her family run a kayaking company from their homestead in the outer Discovery Islands. Johanna Paradis has a technician background in Fish & Wildlife work. She has spent the last 13 years homesteading and raising wild kids on a remote coastal island. Lannie and Johanna, along with a score of others, work together on local forestry issues.
     

    John Neilson
    British Columbia still has no species at risk legislation. 
    By John Neilson and Loys Maingon
     

    A few of the species in BC that continue to be unprotected by a provincial Species at Risk Act—because there isn’t one
     
    AMONG CANADIAN PROVINCES, BC has the greatest biodiversity and number of species at risk. British Columbians reasonably expect that the Province has powerful legislation to protect plant and animal species and their habitats. But in spite of the current government’s promises, BC still does not have a Species at Risk Act. It remains one of only a few provinces not to have one. As a poor alternative, it has a truncated list of species that receive some modicum of conservation attention identified in the Forest and Range Practices Act or the Wildlife Act. Even then, the Forest and Range Practices Act prohibits the Province from protecting wildlife and habitat if doing so “would unduly reduce the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.” In consequence of this weak framework, BC recognizes only a tiny fraction of its species at risk, and lacks enforceable legislation to protect and recover them.
    As part of the long-promised forestry review, the government of BC should commit to:
    1. A comprehensive and enforceable provincial Species at Risk Act.
    2. Remove language in legislation that favours industrial activity to the detriment of populations of plants and animals.
    3. Commit to open and effective science-based decision-making for forestry operations.
    4. Recognize that short-term deferrals are no panacea for the extinction of animal and plant communities.
    Let’s make more room for science and nature in Super, Natural BC.
    John Neilson (BSc., MNRM, PhD) is Past Co-Chair (2016-2019), Marine Fishes, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and Past (2013-2016) Scientist Emeritus, Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Loys Maingon (MA, PhD, MSc, RPBio) is Research Director, Strathcona Wilderness Institute and BC Director, Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists.

    James Steidle
    News of old-growth deferrals has set the press on fire with fears of catastrophic job losses.
     

    The sawmill at Clear Lake south of Prince George, closed in 2011, once supported about 200 workers
     
    BESIDES THE FACT we will suffer catastrophic job losses one way or the other, when the rapidly dwindling accessible old-growth is extirpated, missing from this discussion is the fact many communities have already suffered tremendously. But the perpetrator wasn’t conservation. It was “progress,” or in other words, unrestrained capitalism.
    Between 1997 and 2017 we lost around 50,000 forestry jobs, almost half the entire forestry work force in this province. Whole communities were scattered to the wind overnight. Conservation had nothing to do with these job losses. Consolidation of mills, automation, and “investment” did. 
    Take Clear Lake, for example, a small mill south of Prince George where I worked as a teenager that produced 120,000 board feet a shift with around 200 workers. That’s around 10 logging truck loads a shift to employ 200 people. It was the most inefficient mill in BC, with green chains, human lumber graders, and community spirit. It never lost money. It was shut down in 2010 and production shifted to Canfor’s super mill at Bear Lake, a place that produces 10 times the lumber (1.2 million board feet a shift) with probably half the workforce.
    In other words, we lost a mill that provided 20 times more jobs per unit of public timber cut compared to the heavily capitalized, heavily automated mills that remained open.  This story has been replicated across the province. Combined with bigger equipment, trucks with eight and even nine axles compared to the old five axle trucks, the huge processors, the feller bunchers, industry has shed thousands of good paying, satisfying bush jobs due to “investment.” 
    We hear a lot about how important “investment” is in the forest industry. We hear about companies like Canfor taking their “investment” to other jurisdictions as if this is a mortal threat to our forests and our forest workers. The reality is, “investment” has been the primary cause of job losses. Sawmilling is fundamentally primitive. The more technology invested, the fewer workers there are. None of this is necessary.
    The value is in the public timber.
    You can make money hauling logs out of the bush with a four-wheeler, a $400 chainsaw, and cutting it on a $30,000 woodmizer and planing it on a $20,000 four-sided logosol planer. We have invested our way out of a sustainable industry that once provided enormous public and social benefits and instead chews through our forests at an unbelievable pace with a fraction of the previous work-force to maximize profits for global shareholders while leaving communities decimated in their wake.
     

    Smaller mills cutting only what BC needs for its own use could employ more people than the super mills built for the export market 
     
    As a society we need to ask ourselves why putting 50,000 people out of work to maximize corporate profits was apparently acceptable, while saving the last of our old growth for far fewer job losses is not. Furthermore, we don’t even need to lose jobs. We need to go back to small mills and more diverse ownership, break up the monopsonies and monopolies that we no doubt suffer under, and reclaim some of those 50,000 jobs that were lost so the big companies could earn record profits. 
    The fact we cared nothing for those 50,000 lost jobs, and are red-faced in anger at the fact the head offices can’t decimate the last of our productive old growth, speaks to a fundamental intellectual and moral impoverishment amongst us. We ought to be red-faced in shame for not making a bigger stink about the gutting of our communities and the ripping off of public resources by out-of-control capitalism over the past 20 years, on the mistaken premise that that’s just “progress.” I suggest we take a good hard look at where progress has gotten us: denuded landscapes, red-listed species, shut down mills, ghost towns, and ever more unequal wealth distribution.
    James Steidle is a forest defender living in the Prince George area. He is the founder of Stop the Spray BC.

    David Broadland
    THE SCIENTIFIC ANALYSES that have led to the provincial government’s recently announced old-growth logging deferrals were first developed by Dr Karen Price, Dr Rachel Holt and forester Dave Daust. Their 2020 peer-reviewed study, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, estimated that 33 of BC’s 36 forested biogeoclimatic zone variants have 10 percent or less remaining forest containing large or very large trees.
    Because of the physical and biological characteristics of old-growth forests containing large trees, they support high levels of biodiversity. But Price, Holt and Daust have pointed out that when the extent of such old forest in a biogeoclimatic zone variant falls below 10 percent, that zone falls into a high risk category for loss of biodiversity. The result? Most of BC is now teetering on the brink, beyond which extinction of plant and animal species will surely accelerate. (Story here).
    The three are also founding members of the Science Alliance for Forestry Transformation (SAFT). SAFT’s public outreach includes video presentations on the subject, including the one below in which Price explains why we need to end logging of old-growth forests containing large and very large old trees.
    A Last Stand For Biodiversity (2020).pdf
     

    David Broadland
    A high-level ministry of forests official implied that logging will be allowed in recently announced old-growth deferral areas.
     
    JUST BEFORE FORESTS MINISTER KATRINE CONROY announced 2-year deferrals on logging of old growth in 2.6 million hectares of BC forest, a virtual “technical” press briefing was held. The presenters were high-level officials of the ministry of forests. The ministry didn’t want reporters to actually report on what was said at that event, and the regular contingent of pundits and reporters who attended appear to have obediently complied with the “not for attribution” proviso. With respect, I decline to be obedient—or fooled again.
    One of the questions asked by a reporter—and the response from Assistant Deputy Minister David Muter—was so informative that I feel compelled to report what I heard (and recorded). Below is the reporter’s question followed by Muter’s response.
    Reporter: “In the past, old-growth deferral areas still allowed for logging of second growth, cutting new forestry roads, that type of thing. People saw some major activity in and around some major trees. Is that still allowed here? Is it still allowed to have activity in deferral areas, logging in and around the rare and ancient trees?”
    Assistant Deputy Minister David Muter: “I think you are asking about the deferral areas done in September 2020, and those deferral orders prevented the harvest of old growth within the identified areas. That was just under approximately 200,000 hectares of old growth identified and the order prevented the harvest of old growth in those stands. There were some specific exemptions in the minister’s order for cultural harvest to support Indigenous nations and I think there was some specific aspects that allowed the removal of hazardous trees. But these orders prevented the harvest of old growth within identified areas.”
    Muter then paused, long enough for the facilitator to think he had finished. Perhaps realizing that he hadn’t actually answered the reporter’s question, Muter went on: “The recommendations from the panel are to prevent the harvest of old growth in these identified areas of 2.6 million hectares and that’s going to be the focus of our discussions with Indigenous nations based on that recommendation.”
    In the end, Muter didn’t answer the reporter’s question directly, which was: Is logging of “second growth” trees and development of logging roads in the deferral areas going to be allowed? Muter’s response was that “harvest” of old-growth in those areas would be deferred.
    I emailed Muter asking that he clarify whether logging would be allowed in the deferral areas. He didn’t respond by my deadline. Instead, a public affairs officer sent a 136-word email that avoided addressing the question.
    My read of Muter’s response to the reporter’s very specific question is that logging will be allowed in these deferral areas. Within a deferral area, unless a tree is “old growth,” it would appear it can be logged. Muter made it clear that this is the case for the “200,000 hectares” where logging of old growth was deferred last year.
    Following Conroy’s public announcement about the deferral areas, I contacted forest scientist Rachel Holt, who was one of five people on the old-growth review panel that had recommended the 2-year logging deferrals on 2.6 million hectares. Holt had not been in attendance at the press briefing.
    I read her the reporter’s question and Muter’s response. Did the issue of whether logging would be allowed in the deferral areas even come up in the months-long discussion with the ministry? It had not, she said, but she didn’t believe that it was the intention of the ministry to allow logging of younger trees around the old-growth trees. Yet that had clearly been the intention of the ministry in its 2020 deferral areas, and it didn’t make that clear at the time, either.
    Holt, along with forest scientist Karen Price and forester Dave Dauss, authored the seminal BC’s Old Growth Forests: A Last Stand for Biodiversity. That report, published in mid-2020, warned of the high risk of biodiversity loss BC faces as a result of over exploitation of old-growth forests. I asked Holt if leaving old trees standing but logging everything between them would provide protection for biodiversity. “No,” she said.
    To give you a picture of what loggable deferrals might look like on the ground, consider the image below. I photographed this group of 250- to 400-year-old Douglas firs in TFL 47 on Quadra Island. The largest tree in this small grove measured 22.5 feet in circumference at breast height. Every single small tree between them, save one, had been removed.
     

    This is how old growth forest is managed for biodiversity on Quadra Island, which is a Special Management Zone under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan (Photo by David Broadland)
     
    Old-growth forests are almost always a mix of different tree species of different ages. The younger trees are not plantation regrowth, or “second growth.” They are an essential component of an old-growth forest, which is a dynamic process that can go on for thousands of years. On Quadra Island, like elsewhere, the plants and animals that live in these forests are not found in plantations created by humans following clearcutting: The Northern Goshawk, the Marbelled Murrelet, the Northern Red-legged Frog, the Northern Pygmy Owl, the Wandering Salamander, and so on. They all need a complete old-growth forest to survive, not just the big, old trees.
    In the—let’s call it the old-growth deferral area—on Quadra Island, the ground was littered with logging slash and several unburned piles remained. The land between the trees had been heavily disturbed and machinery had been driven through a small creek; the creek passed through a culvert under a branch of the main road. The road was heavily ballasted with rock which had been obtained by blasting bedrock in the deferral area. Roads like this are unlikely to ever support trees, let alone biodiversity.
    I photographed this area on June 22, just as the “heat dome” was building over the Pacific Northwest. The temperature in the deferral area was almost unbearable, yet intact forest nearby remained cool.
     

    Managing for old-forest retention and biodiversity in a Special Management Zone means clearcutting around old trees and leaving slash piles, permanent roads and damaged hydrological function (Photo by David Broadland)
     
    Why were these old trees left by the logging company, TimberWest? This area of Quadra Island was given rare “Special Management Zone” status under the 2004 Vancouver Island Land Use Plan. The main objective of SMZ 19 was to “sustain forest ecosystem structure and forest attributes associated with mature and old forests.” Driving that was recognition of the need to preserve “structural forest attributes and elements with important biodiversity functions.” The trees were left to protect against loss of biodiversity, in particular the species listed above.
    Most of the requirements established for SMZ 19 have been ignored by the company and ministry, and the community has lost track of what was supposed to happen.
    Given Muter’s response to the reporter’s question, this appears to be what the ministry of forests has in mind for the 2.6 million hectares of forest that has been mapped as “deferral areas.”
    I asked forester Herb Hammond what effect logging between old trees would have on those forests. Hammond is a well-known advocate for creating a new, ecologically-based relationship between humans and forests.
    Hammond replied, “Logging in old-growth forests destroys old-growth attributes, like multi-layered canopies, irregular canopy gaps, lichen populations throughout the canopy and on the ground, decayed fallen trees. All of these components of an old-growth forest play vital roles, from interception, storage, and filtration of water to provision of unique habitats for specialized species that only live in old-growth forests, like carnivorous beetles necessary to keep herbivorous beetles in check in the surrounding landscape. Simply put, logging in an old-growth deferral area eliminates old-growth protection in that area and just moves us closer to the travesty of losing the benefits of old-growth forests that are vital to maintaining forest integrity, both in the old forests and in the young forests beyond. Logging and old-growth forests is an oxymoron and the height of human-centred thinking.”
    Rachel Holt says: “I feel really positive with where we’re at.” But she also says, “the proof is in the pudding.”
    It is going to take a large, dedicated community of forest watchers to monitor the making of the pudding. The ministry itself is under immense pressure from the logging industry to permit removal of as much of the remaining old-growth forests in the timber harvesting land base as is physically possible. It’s up to the rest of us to guard the larger public interest—protection of our life support systems.
    Read more of David Broadland’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.

    David Broadland
    The old-growth logging blockades in TFL 46 have impacted Teal Cedar’s logging far more than anyone apparently wants to admit.
     

    Ordinary British Columbians march across the wide exclusion zone set up by the RCMP at Fairy Creek Rainforest (Photo by Alex Harris)
     
    A FEW WEEKS AGO, just before BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson denied an extension of an injunction against old-growth forest defenders on southern Vancouver Island, climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke at a Youth4Climate event in Milan. Yes, there is a connection.
    Thunberg’s much-quoted speech went like this: “There is no Planet B. Blah, blah, blah. Build Back Better. Blah, blah, blah. A green economy. Blah, blah, blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah. Our hopes and dreams drown in their empty words and promises. Of course we need constructive dialogue. But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah. Where has that led us? Over 50 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions have occurred since 1990, and one-third since 2005. If this is what they consider to be climate action, then we don’t want it. They invite—cherry pick—young people to meetings like this to pretend that they are listening to us. But they are not. They are clearly not listening to us, and they never have. Just look at the numbers. Emissions are still rising. The science doesn’t lie.”
    Even as Thunberg heaped scorn on governments around the world for their inaction, forest activists in BC were successfully cutting the immense carbon emissions caused by a single logging company, Teal Cedar Ltd. How do we know this?
    Buried in a BC government database is an interesting record that should give the Fairy Creek forest defenders and climate activists a moment of pride and hope. The numbers show the defenders have gone far beyond institutional blah, blah, blah and are now deep into the realm of effective action to reduce emissions. In fact, they may be pioneering the kind of action that is apparently going to be needed—given institutional failure to act—to actually reduce carbon emissions.
    Like all other companies logging publicly owned forest on Crown land in BC, Teal Cedar’s cut is tracked by the ministry of forests’ Harvest Billing System. The volumes it records are made public. The ministry’s records show that in the first 8 months of 2021, overall logging by all companies on the BC coast was up by 40 percent over the same period in 2020. That’s because there were extraordinarily high prices for lumber at the time. But Teal’s own volumes were down 40 percent over the same period in 2020. Effectively, Teal’s logging volume was down 80 percent from what we would have expected.
    This decline in Teal’s operations occurred both on its Tree Farm Licence 46 on Vancouver Island and in Timber Supply Area 30 in the Chilliwack Natural Resource District. Teal’s decline on the mainland, where there were no blockades, was smaller than the decline on Vancouver Island where the blockades have occurred, but it was still substantial. Yet in its application to the BC Supreme Court for an extension of the injunction against the blockades, Teal didn’t mention this huge decline in its logging. Instead, in making a case that the blockades were harming the company economically, it focussed on the much smaller decline in its operation that resulted from not being able to access trees behind blockades.
    We can speculate on why Teal experienced such a dramatic decline in its logging operations, but we don’t know for sure. Teal and the lawyer handling its injunction extension application did not respond to repeated requests for information. One possibility is that Teal was unable to assure its logging contractors, both on Vancouver Island and the mainland, that their operations wouldn’t be subject to blockades. With plenty of other logging occurring in a red-hot lumber market, those companies may have opted for less controversial settings in which to work. Another possibility is that the negative publicity Teal’s old-growth logging has received internationally has affected its ability to sell products that use old-growth forests, like cedar shakes and shingles.
    The decline in Teal’s logging is unexpectedly good news for those British Columbians concerned about the province’s outsized contributions to the climate crisis and the collapse in biodiversity. Clearcut logging significantly exacerbates both those growing threats to civilizational stability. Consider the impact on emissions from the reduction in Teal’s logging.
    If Teal had performed as well in the first 8 months of 2021 as did other coastal logging companies, the carbon emissions associated with its logging would have been approximately 692,000 tonnes higher than they were. (See the methodology we used for this calculation.) That’s roughly equivalent to 70 percent of the emissions attributable to annual cement production in BC, and it’s equivalent to taking 150,000 typical passenger vehicles off the road for a year in BC. That’s real action.
    The blockades, it turns out, are the opposite of “blah, blah, blah.”
    Although it’s not clear why the blockades had such a dramatic effect on Teal’s logging, it’s apparent that this is a far more effective way to reduce carbon emissions than any of the blah-blah-blah schemes dreamed up so far by the provincial government. The most recent data shows provincial emissions rose from 66 megatonnes in 2017 to 68.5 megatonnes in 2018. Those numbers, though, don’t include emissions resulting from forest removal or the impact on atmospheric carbon from the loss of carbon sequestration capacity caused by logging. Nor does it include the emissions from forest fires that have been made worse by the growing area of clearcuts and highly flammable plantations that now dominate the southern half of BC.
    While our political institutions are failing to reduce emissions, the blockades are succeeding.
    The public, it would seem, has found an effective way to counter the damage being done to an important public interest—climate stability—by a private company whose damaging activity is sanctioned by the BC government.
    This has created an interesting tension between the judicial system and the political system. Instead of resolving the old-growth logging issue in a substantive fashion like Premier Horgan said he would during last year’s election campaign, the premier and his cabinet decided to kick the issue into the judicial system and let the RCMP knock some sense into the old-growth defenders. But the depth of commitment of the Fairy Creek forest defenders to the larger public interest involved—protecting the planet’s life support system—guaranteed Horgan’s maneuver wouldn’t work. So when Teal sought to extend the injunction, the court tried to kick the issue back where it belongs. 
    In his written decision, Justice Thompson wrote, “While a powerful case might be made for the protection of what remains of British Columbia’s old growth temperate rainforests, and this issue is of considerable public interest and importance, the evidence marshalled to support this argument cannot be considered. With due respect for the forceful submissions I received to the contrary, I conclude that to take account of this type of public interest would amount to contempt of constitutional constraints on judicial powers.”
    Instead of the public interests that motivated the forest defenders to set up the blockades, Justice Thompson focussed on what he called “legally relevant public interests.” For Justice Thompson this boiled down to the controversial behaviour of some members of the RCMP enforcing the injunction and, arising from that behaviour, “the public interest in protecting the Court from the risk of further depreciation of its reputation.”
    Thompson declined to extend the injunction based on his concern for the court’s reputation. That would have created more pressure on Horgan to take more substantive action to resolve the conflict. Ironically, the court’s reputation was further depreciated by the subsequent stay on Thompson’s decision granted by Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein.
    This is a remarkable frustration of the public interest: On the one hand we have the actions of a small but courageous group of BC citizens that have caused the emissions associated with a logging company’s operations to decline by over 690,000 tonnes. On the other hand, we have the court making a decision based on its concern about its public image being damaged by the RCMP, followed by a quick, image-damaging reversal of that decision.
    Which of these two actions—the blockaders reducing carbon emissions or the justice system tripping over itself—is most likely to produce a result that’s truly in the public interest?
    Before you answer that question, take a moment to consider how far off course BC has drifted from doing anything about reducing its carbon emissions, which are threatening the planet’s life support system.
    According to the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, humanity can only emit an additional 460 billion tonnes of carbon and still have a 50 percent chance of staying below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. How much of that 460 billion tonnes can be emitted in British Columbia? Although per capita emissions in BC are, historically, amongst the worst in the world, let’s just assume that of the remaining carbon budget, we have the same right, per capita, as any other people to emit more carbon. If you do the arithmetic, BC’s remaining carbon budget would be about 299 megatonnes. That would have to last us until we reached the magical state of net-zero emissions, supposedly in 2050. So that 299 megatonnes needs to last another 29 years. Will we be able to keep within our budget? Definitely not.
    BC emitted 68.5 megatonnes in 2018 from just the sources for which we are currently counting emissions. This does not include, however, emissions caused by logging roughly 250,000 hectares of forests each year. For 2018 the Province put “forest management” emissions at 237 megatonnes. In 2018, then, BC went through its entire 29-year carbon budget. And it’s very likely going to get worse if we stick with our current destructive use of forests. By the way, 80 percent of that destruction occurs so BC can export forest products to support economic growth in China, Japan and the USA. The USA and China are the planet’s worst emitters. Japan is fifth on that list.
    Justice Thompson couldn’t cut through the blah, blah, blah of provincial inaction. He was limited to worrying about the court’s reputation being besmirched by the brutality committed by the RCMP in its BC-government-sanctioned action to crush the people’s rebellion against climate change and biodiversity loss.
    These circumstances don’t exactly instil one with confidence that the institutions that are supposed to guard the public interest have a clear idea of what needs to be protected first and foremost. If our life support systems are dead, the court’s reputation won’t matter. What’s desperately needed are more actions like those taken by the forest defenders at Fairy Creek. Anything else is just going to be more blah, blah, blah.
    David Broadland is grateful for the selfless efforts of all the people who have visited the blockades and participated in defending the old-growth forests at Fairy Creek and the Argonaut Valley this year.

    Ben Barclay
    And he learned so much that we now celebrate “John Horgan Day”
     
    I HAVE A DREAM.
    I woke up this morning with a dream, that John Horgan, Dr Suzanne Simard, Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones, and I, were all walking up (Ada-itsx) Fairy Creek valley together, on a pilgrimage to the headwaters. 
    In my dream, we walked with bare feet, opened our hearts, and talked about the things we need in our lives.  
    All around us, spirits were moving through the trees like morning mist. I saw Joni Mitchell in conversation with Gandhi. A rufous hummingbird flitted by. 
     

    When we clearcut forests, rufous hummingbirds have nothing to perch on, and go extinct. 
     
    By the time we climbed up among the firs “where it smells so sweet,” we found a way for each of us to get our needs met. 
     
    UNFORTUNATELY, JOHN HORGAN lives in a golden cage of power, frittering away his leadership gifts on getting elected. In 100 years, he will be a footnote in a sad list of lost opportunities. 
    Unless we can get him out into the forest, for a day.  
    BC’s forests are a significant chunk of the Earth’s biodiversity and planetary health. The decisions John Horgan makes will save or exterminate thousands of species and whole ecosystems. Humans are one of those species.  
    John, will you walk with us? Solving the forestry puzzle in BC will create a template for humans to stop global warming and biodiversity loss. 
    I dream of Dr Simard, because her Mother Tree Project is writing the blueprint for weaving jobs, revenue, and forests into harmony. She’s healing clearcuts back into old growth. I wish her Project could include every tree in BC, and Fairy Creek could be her benchmark old growth watershed. She could manage complexity for us. 
    I dream of Bill Jones guiding us, because his ancestors have lived in the forest since salmon began to swim. Bill Jones is a great leader, whose gift is bringing people’s hearts back home to the land, where they belong. He likes to say: “Get out to the woods.” His dream is that our children will have woods to walk in, forever. 
     

    Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones (at BC Legislature) invites you to come to Ada-itsx and “Get out to the woods” (photo RFS)
     

    John, please stop seeing Fairy Creek as a problem, and grab the opportunity.
    Premiers live in a paradigm of “Jobs vs. The Environment,” in an electoral hall of mirrors. They know little of forests, climate change, and biodiversity. In my dream, we climb the valley together, laying out the logistics of using wood in our lives without clearcutting forests, so they can sequester 65 million more tons of carbon a year for us.
    First we have to develop a reciprocal relationship with them. 
    In a woodlot, trees grow every year, and managers never cut the principle, only the interest. BC could be one big wilderness woodlot full of salmon, eagles, and bears, with people hiking down tiny skidder trails, and local sorting yards turning every forest gift into local jobs. 
    By retaining ownership of the trees further up the food chain, we could share billions of dollars in revenue between our First Nations and our Second Nation, the Province. 
     

    This log was given by the Province to a logging corporation for $28 a cubic metre, and sold by the logging corporation to a mill for $700 a cubic metre. (Lorna Beecroft Photo)
     
    But we won’t get there with “talk and log,” only with legislation. The only reason women can vote, is legislation. We only got that legislation through civil disobedience. The legislation we need is this: 
    It is illegal to harvest timber in any way that reduces the biomass that exists in each and every watershed. 
    No clearcutting, just hand logging. If we had passed that legislation in 1940 we would still have all our old growth, at the stroke of a pen. No cost to taxpayers. Twice the forestry jobs. The RCMP home to their families. Tree sitters down for a hot bath and some hugs. True reconciliation with First Nations. 
    Reconciliation with Life. Who wouldn’t vote for that? 
    Without legislation, we’ll have to keep getting arrested and go to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling. If you make us do that, John, you will hasten your place in history as a footnote. 
    I’d so much rather that someday the world will celebrate “John Horgan Day” and tell the story of how a man broke his way out of his golden cage, to walk up a valley, absorbing the teachings of an Indigenous elder, a scientist, and a forest.
     

    Grandfather tree near Fairy Creek (photo Aaron Yukich)
     
    The UN Report on Biodiversity states that unless we stop deforestation, we will cause 1,000,000 species to go extinct, and make “Organized human life untenable” in 100 years.
    Not on our watch. 
    Ben Barclay has been defending forests by practicing ecoforestry for 40 years. He has spent many weeks at Fairy Creek over the past six months.

    Loys Maingon
    The provincial government, by ignoring science, has fostered social unrest.
    By Loys Maingon and John Neilson
     
    GOVERNMENTS THAT IGNORE SCIENCE imperil the public interest, as we have seen nationally with COVID. BC Supreme Court Justice Thompson found that for the past six months, RCMP activities at Fairy Creek, supported by BC’s government, defied the public interest. Where was science at Fairy Creek, and, as it fostered social unrest, did BC’s government listen to science?
    The stand-off in the rapidly-disappearing old-growth forests of southern British Columbia has resulted in over twelve months of public protest, five months of unwarranted RCMP violence, the arrest of over 1100 citizens, as well as the destruction of populations of endangered species. Yet the BC government has shown no leadership in resolving the crisis. We argue that the BC government showed utter disregard for the role of science, and in doing so, it ignored the crucial socially-unifying role of science that could have resolved contentious issues.
    Science is our collective common ground. You cannot argue against the facts. Science is neither a government plot nor an individually-held set of beliefs. Science is an objective set of established facts in which diverse communities can find common ground. It is a good government’s obligation to find common ground for all citizens. As noted recently by John Kerry: “Science delivers the clarity of knowledge.”
    Justice Douglas Thompson’s ruling has ended an injunction that brought the law, and science, into disrepute. The abhorrent spectacle of public unrest and police violence that British Columbians have witnessed over the past year at Fairy Creek as well as the associated taxpayers’ costs of an extended police presence, were totally avoidable, had the government of BC respected its own forestry and environmental guidelines, and collected minimal scientific information before authorizing logging operations.
    In May of this year Dr. Royann Petrell documented the presence of a hitherto undocumented population of an at-risk species, Western Screech owl (Megascops kennicottii) in the Caycuse to Port Renfrew region. That new knowledge alone should have triggered a pause and review of logging plans. As scientists, it signalled to us the need to review all available information on other species at risk that could be affected.
     

    A Western Screech owl. This blue-listed species was found nesting in the vicinity of Teal Cedar logging operations. (Photo by Dominic Sherony via Wikipedia)
     
    A search for information about species-at-risk in the Fairy Creek area revealed that no biological survey had actually been carried out prior to the issuance of logging permits. There was no knowledge of what species might be extirpated or destroyed by clearcutting. The government, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) and the industry were proceeding without any “clarity of knowledge.” Regrettably, that seems to be routine practice. In BC, logging proceeds without clear knowledge of its impacts on biodiversity, as determined in the recent BC Forest Practices Board’s Nahmint decision.
    We formed a group of professional scientists and naturalists to carry out a rapid, systematic survey of the Fairy Creek watershed in mid-May. As we were denied access by the RCMP we informed the minister of FLNRO of our concerns and sought ministerial permits to obtain objective information. A dismissive response was only had after an Ombudsman complaint. Nevertheless, access was facilitated by Chiefs Bill Jones and Victor Peter, and we were able to carry out two short surveys. The results can be found on the INaturalist website “Fairy Creek Research” where we document the presence of 325 species.
    In spite of limited access, we readily identified 16 previously undocumented listed species-at-risk, ranging from Little Brown Bats ( Myotis lucifugus) to the rare blue-listed oldgrowth specklebelly lichen ( Pseudocyphellaria rainierensis ). This is a species of lichens for which BC has committed to the federal government “to secure long-term protection for the known populations and habitats.…”  A young artist/naturalist, Tasha Lavdovsky, found this unique population in June on both living trees and trees felled by Teal Cedar in contravention of FLNRO guidelines for this vulnerable species.  We informed Teal Cedar, FLNRO staff and the minister via the BC Forest Practices Board. Teal Cedar responded, acknowledging its receipt of the “important information,” but no plan was offered by either Teal or the provincial government on how they intended to protect the rare species. Incredibly, Teal Cedar has now resumed its logging operations in the immediate vicinity of the rare lichens, and reports from the field indicate that more host trees have been destroyed.
     

    Natasha Lavdovsky looking at oldgrowth specklebelly growing side by side with Lobaria linita (the greener lichen), on a tree marked with falling boundary tape, indicating the edge of a future clearcut beside a creek/riparian reserve (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
     
    It is doubtful that many British Columbians would approve of the needless destruction of endangered species. Yet, it happens all the time and is facilitated by a government that has failed to meet its 2017 promise that it would enact species-at-risk legislation. This same government also campaigned in 2020 on the promise that it would implement every recommendation of the Merkel/Gorley report on old growth, A New Future for Old Forests, submitted in April 2020. Since early August 2021, the cabinet has been in possession of the report of the “Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel.” Yet this government continues to display a collective amnesia concerning its past public promises to improve its forestry practices and commitments to protect biodiversity.
    By its own inactions, BC’s government has denied itself and all British Columbians the benefits of clarity of knowledge. A government that proceeds without clarity of knowledge can only lay the foundation for social chaos and conflict.  This summer’s events at Fairy Creek are a confirmation of that. The end of the injunction provides an important opportunity for all parties to work together to reach mutually-agreeable conclusions. We call on this government to act on science to find common ground for all British Columbians.
    Loys Maingon (MA, PhD, MSc, RPBio) is research director of the Strathcona Wilderness Institute and BC Director of the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists.
    John Neilson (BSc., MNRM, PhD) is the past co-chair (2016-2019) for Marine Fishes, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and past scientist emeritus (2013-2016) with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

    Taryn Skalbania
    The logging industry's "solution" to forest fires will make them worse
     

    The growing extent of clearcuts and plantations in BC is resulting in larger forest fires (BC Wildfire Service photo)
     
    IN ADVOCATING FASTER CLEARCUT LOGGING to deal with out-of-control wildfires, the forest industry and its advocates ignore the fundamental reasons for the Okanagan region turning into a tinderbox. The industry’s prescription of “chainsaw medicine” to remedy the situation will only make matters worse.
    Three key reasons that have turned the Okanagan into a tinderbox fueling the megafires of today are: fire suppression, the rate of clearcutting and global warming.
    Decades of fire suppression and prohibition of indigenous, traditional “cold burns” have allowed dead fuel to accumulate.
    The rate of clearcutting results in ever-increasing expanses of dry soil and woody debris and in vast areas of young plantations less than 25 years old. Scientists Meg Krawchuk and Steve Cumming tell us that fire ignition by lightning is more likely to occur in a clearcut than it would in the forest that the clearcut replaced.
    Young plantations are highly flammable and contribute to the rate of spread of recent large fires. Together, clearcuts and young plantations are the driver of recent megafires made worse by global heating.
    Scattered parks, a few protected areas, and remaining old-growth forests are not the problem.  In fact, they are part of the solution, being relatively fire-resistant and storing large amounts of carbon when compared to the flammability of clearcuts and young plantations.
    The forest industry would have us increase the rate of clearcutting under its fear-mongering mantra of “cut it down or let it burn.” This reasoning is bewildering because, if true, all BC’s magnificent forests would have burned millennia ago.
    The forest industry uses every crisis—whether it be insect infestations, tree diseases, or wildfire—to advance its agenda of increasing the rate of clearcutting (profit) with no regard for the social, economic and environmental consequences of its self-serving actions.
    Those consequences include, among many others: An increase in the frequency, magnitude and duration of major floods, severe droughts and mega-fires, contaminated drinking water, biodiversity loss, destruction of property, smoke-induced health issues, and death of domestic animals—all directly or indirectly related to clearcutting, and made worse by global heating.
    But global heating itself is made worse by clearcutting. In fact, wildfires in BC have increased in size, frequency, duration, and intensity so dramatically that they, together with clearcut logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.
    So industrial forestry is feeding a deadly cycle: clearcut logging worsens wildfire, which in turn exacerbates global heating, which intensifies wildfire. We need to break this cycle of destruction and death.
    Climate change is the defining issue of our times. Within a societal context, our choice is between life and money. Within the context of BC forestry, the choice is between profit (driven by clearcutting) and community safety and health driven by a new paradigm of forest management based on ecology and conservation.
    Taryn Skalbania is a farmer in the Okanagan valley. Severe wildfires forced Taryn to evacuate her farm in 2017, 2018 and 2021. She spent much of the 2021 fire season providing a safe haven for animals from neighbouring farms threatened by megafire. Many farm animals were not so fortunate and had to be shot. Taryn is a co-founder of the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance with which she is presently the director of outreach.

    Patrick Wolfe
    BC logging practices are increasing fire hazard and destabilizing our climate

    A forest fire in a clearcut on Vancouver Island. It’s going to get much worse unless the rate of logging is reduced in BC. (BC Wildfire Service photo)
     
    ANTHONY BRITNEFF’S astounding statements  in “There’s an urgent need to reduce BC’s logging industry,” should be shouted from the rooftops: “wildfires … together with logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.” He also points out that the British Columbia government’s carbon accounting ignores “carbon emissions from logging and wildfire.”
    During the record-shattering late June heat dome, Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said, “We ain’t seen nothing yet. This is chump change compared to where we are heading.”
    Had the world’s governments heeded climate change warnings in the 1980s and 1990s, we wouldn’t be in our present dire predicament, which makes the next few years critical if we are to have a chance to prevent runaway global warming.
    In the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the August 2021 Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) constitutes a “code red for humanity.” Since the first IPCC report in 1990, “annual global emissions have nearly doubled, and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere put there by humans has more than doubled,” according to The New Yorker. That magazine also described one of five possible futures considered by the IPCC’s most recent report as “a not-at-all-implausible scenario [in which] temperatures will rise by 3.6 degrees Celsius –or 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit—by around 2090.”
    But other voices are expressing concern that the report is too conservative in its projections. Greta Thunberg calls it a “solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.” Based, in part, on the Job One for Humanity website, psychotherapist, author, and activist Jonathan Gustin maintains that temperatures will rise 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and 14 or more degrees by 2100. He also says IPCC projections don’t include feedback loops such as methane “burbs.”
    In December 2004, the Baltimore Sun reported, “There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere…. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and ‘burp’ into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on…. Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren’t talking about.” As a greenhouse gas, methane is many times stronger than carbon dioxide; Gustin says it’s 86 times more potent. He adds that “a full summer arctic ice melt” could trigger a massive methane release and that such an arctic ice melt could occur as soon as five years from now.
    Given how acutely imperilled human civilization is, the answers to the questions Britneff poses should be a resounding “yes” in both cases.
    Yes, it is “in the public interest to ban clearcutting and substantially lower the allowable annual cut, thereby reducing the export of raw logs and forest products and cutting back the labour force in the forest sector.”
    Yes, we should transition “40,000 forestry jobs into non-destructive forest and value-added enterprises, and into other economic sectors in order to mitigate a global climate emergency.”
     

    A mid-August forest fire in a clearcut spreads to nearby forest in BC’s Interior (BC Wildfire Service photo)
     
    In an earlier commentary, “How to protect forest-dependent communities”, Britneff advocated revamping the current working forest or tenure system, taking control of public forests away from “an oligopoly of multinational corporations,” and placing it instead “in the hands of local forest trusts.”
    Will the BC government act or will it, like so many governments, persist in dragging its feet as it bows down to the status quo? Refusing to seriously engage with the consequences of climate change is like refusing to vote or get vaccinated, all of which are passive ways “of empowering the status quo.” Such refusals are increasing the likelihood of unimaginable catastrophe.
    Inspired by the urgent example of Greta Thunberg, Patrick Wolfe has been writing about climate change since January 2019. He is the author of the forthcoming book, A Snake on the Heart – History, Mystery, and Truth: The Entangled Journeys of a Biographer and His Nazi Subject.

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic
    On her first trip to Fairy Creek, the author finds her daughter coping with the violent pepper-spraying of the RCMP earlier that morning.
     
    ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 21, I WENT TO FAIRY CREEK to participate in a circle ceremony hosted by Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones. I was hitching a ride with my daughter Caroline, and we were going up for the day. 
    We had arranged to meet my other daughter Laura at the recently installed red gate across the main entrance to several of the forest defenders’ camps on the logging road into Fairy Creek. From there we would walk together to the ceremony site a bit further in. Laura and her partner Pat are devoted environmentalists who’ve given much of their last five months to the Fairy Creek protest, their careers as musicians and their band, Carmanah, having been sidelined by the pandemic. 
    Caroline and I had long been wanting to go to Fairy Creek, and today was the day. We chatted lightly on the way up but grew sombre when the landscape began including hillsides that looked as if they’d been buzzed with giant clippers. 
    Also worrying was the RCMP’s increasingly hard-hitting tactics at Fairy Creek as of late, perhaps spurred on by an aggressively impatient industry, or perhaps by their own frustration over having failed to banish the protesters in short order, despite being the ones with all the training, legal power, muscle and gear including helicopters and ATVs. Helicopters delivering ATVs, to be exact. It was they who had the seemingly unlimited budget and fresh recruits daily, including specialized teams for when the going got tough. 
    Whatever the reason, these last few weeks had become increasingly volatile and dangerous, and more protesters were being injured.
     
    LAURA HURRYING ALONG THE ROAD to where her truck was parked was the first sign that something was amiss. By the time we caught up with her, she’d climbed into the back and was rummaging through a backpack. 
    “Pat’s been pepper-sprayed and needs a clean shirt,” she said. “They were all pepper sprayed earlier this morning, it’s unbelievable.”
    Wordlessly we follow her back to the gate, where two ambulances are attending to the last of the injured. People stand milling on both sides of the highway, many still dazed, clutching water and dousing eyes. 
    Pat puts on his shirt; his shoulder-length hair still drenched. It seems they spray the hair so it drips into the eyes to prolong the temporary blindness, not to mention the excruciating pain. “I guess they thought I needed my hair washed because they just kept spraying my head,” he jokes, but his eyes are red and sad. 
     

    Laura Mitic tending to victim of pepper spraying by RCMP (photo by Shaena Lambert)
     
    A group of day visitors wait near the gate for the Elders to arrive and lead them through. Someone keeps reminding everyone to stay off the pavement, this being the highway from Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan. To step on it is to risk being arrested for impeding traffic, and this is not where the protesters want to waste their strength and numbers.
    A line of black motorcycles keeps cruising by ominously, back and forth. The black-clad riders are not out on a casual drive. We note their thumbs-up to the RCMP. And their Quebec license plates. There are many influences in this struggle, perhaps more than we know. The hairs on the back of my neck stir a little. 
     
     I’M STILL TRYING TO GET MY BEARINGS. “Why did this happen?” I ask Laura.
    She doesn’t know, it’s impossible to know. Pent up exasperation, maybe. The RCMP had arrived angry and aggressive that morning, which was verified in videos I pored over later. It was expected they would go to River Camp that day—one of the last stands in that touch-and-go weekend—to finish mincing it into the ground. (Yes, literally. Pounding it down with the bucket of a backhoe.) 
    Maybe they hadn’t anticipated the tight knot of 60 or so people blocking their access at the red gate. In one video, a member of their District Liaison Team—the DLT—can be heard saying they had not expected a group that large. 
    Instead of dealing with the blocked gate, the RCMP pulled out their chainsaws and felled enough nearby saplings to open an alternate access route. Then those headed for River Camp drove their vehicles through and vanished up the logging road. A dozen or so officers, maybe more, stayed behind and turned their attention to the gate.
    The group’s efforts there were now moot, but still they clung together and resisted efforts to pry them apart. Red spray cans appeared and were portentously shaken. The alarm was sounded among the defenders, who tightened themselves up and lowered their heads. The spraying began and mayhem ensued.
     
    Video of pepper spraying event just before Trudy arrived.  
     
    IT’S ALMOST NOON when the RCMP allow us through the gate, but no further today: The ceremony will have to take place in this gravel clearing, right off the highway. At the back of the clearing, where it narrows back into the dirt road, RCMP members now stand behind yellow tape to keep us contained.
     

    RCMP (with Teal security employee) keeping defenders in check (photo by Caroline Mitic)
     
    Security guards for Teal Jones shuffle between the RCMP stronghold and the gate, the dust rising off their boots.
    While we wait for the Elders to settle themselves in, we speak in hushed tones, and note that everyone else is doing the same. It feels like a requiem for irretrievable loss, for best efforts that are still not enough, for justice that fails when the well-heeled aren’t looking. It feels hopeless, truth and righteousness having been buried too deep under the weight of self-interest, ulterior motives, voracious greed, blind allegiance and pride, campaigns of misinformation, a deeply flawed political system still steeped in colonialism, and yes, racism. Everyone seems to be processing thoughts.   
    When does a scrap of gravelled, besieged earth become hallowed ground? When the Indigenous Elders begin speaking. The aged among them may look frail, but their words are clear and unhurried, formed by the laws of the land, the reverence for it, and centuries of accumulated experience in nature. Their eyes seem to burn when they speak, not with animosity but with absolute conviction. Up until now, nature’s truth hasn’t changed much from century to century.  
     

    Elder Bill Jones with Rose Henry (photo by Caroline Mitic)
     
    Elder Bill Jones extends a generous welcome, in this clearing surrounded by trees that are tall but still only juveniles compared to their ancestors up the hill. In measured tones, he rebukes the work of the RCMP but not the members themselves, reminding them that this special place is for them and their children too. He thanks and comforts the mostly young defenders who, for the love of the planet and life itself, found themselves assaulted just hours earlier in a manner usually reserved for hardened criminals.
    The elders ask all older visitors to come form a circle. My girls nudge me forward. Now the drumming and singing starts, and the stories about healing and medicine and the gifts and powers of the cedar tree pour out. Cedar is so central to traditional life that it provided almost every need, yet rarely did a tree have to be cut down. 
     

    Elders circle ceremony (photo by Caroline Mitic)
     
    “We are an ingenious people,” proclaims the elder Chiyokten (Paul Che’ oke ten Wagner) in summary. He is a master of story and song from the WSANEC nation, and next he introduces the cedar brushing ceremony, for cleansing, rejuvenation, purification and healing. Cedar boughs are dipped in water and then gently brushed over recipients, starting at the head and ending at the feet.
    Everyone is invited to receive the brushing, starting with the frontline defenders. On this day, they need it the most. Afterwards they walk around the inside of our circle as we murmur our thanks and support. Some cry silently. Some are steady-eyed and resolved. Everyone is processing; no one is capitulating today.  
    Now it’s our group’s turn, and as the cedar is gently brushed over me, I think about the many layers of my society that keep me separated from the natural world. I become aware of a deep impoverishment.
    At one point a security guard approaches me on the sidelines and softly asks how he can get to the gate without interrupting the ceremony. I suggest he wait until the dancing stops, and then ask him about his job.
    “I open and close the gate, that’s all,” he says, and then unexpectedly asks, “Why do they want these trees anyway?” He has no idea. 
    “I don’t follow the news much,” he admits apologetically. He’s from Vancouver, but his company is currently providing security for Teal Jones. He’s worked 20 days straight and wants to go home.
    “Maybe I need a new job,” he concedes, adding that it’s not easy finding meaningful work these days. 
     
    THE ELDERS HAVE FINISHED brushing everyone and now make their way to the yellow tape. They invite the four officers standing behind it to be brushed as well, reiterating the benefits of cleansing and healing and opening the heart to this moment. The officers agree somewhat awkwardly—granted, it’s a fine line—and step in front of the tape. The tape itself is brushed as well. In that moment, it looks like reconciliation gaining ground.
    But reconciliation is a dodgy target, to be recalibrated again and again. It will suffer setbacks, perhaps as soon as tomorrow. Or later in the day, when the DLT member interrupts the ceremony—not rudely—to ask everyone to make way so the River Camp arrestees can be driven through and taken away. The speaker stops, the crowd complies. 
    Then the officer says, “It’ll be another 15 minutes.” 
    “They do this all the time,” Laura sighs. “They get us ready, then keep us waiting. It’s all on their terms, to show their power, to intimidate us and wear us down.”
     

    Laura Mitic on logging road at Caycuse Camp in April 2021 (photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    The arrestees will be worn down too, having been locked in a van for hours, possibly injured and with no medical care. (The RCMP medic, I now realize, is a medic for his colleagues only. Since that morning, he’s gained notoriety—not for his deftness with splints and bandages, but with a canister of pepper spray.) 
     
    LATE IN THE AFTERNOON we step back again to let the entire RCMP convoy through—they’re calling it a day. It’s an interesting if disquieting spectacle, vehicles for every possible scenario, 17 in total. The stone-faced occupants all stare straight ahead; some are filming us. When the twin, windowless paddy-wagons roll by, a roar of support rises from the crowd. 
    Caroline and I start heading for home, though we move slowly, against the tug of this beautiful wilderness, its storehouse of wisdom, the struggle for its survival. Laura is staying but understands the yen, having slept under the stars here many times over the summer. 
    “Returning to the city feels like I’m on an episode of the Truman Show,” she writes to me a few days later. “You realize just how make-believe our society is. It makes sense for humans to live together in a cluster, in community, and let nature be elsewhere, but we’ve become too far removed from the outside world. That’s made us apathetic and unaware, and our governments have exploited that. So now here we are, struggling for nature against the very systems and values we have produced.”
    The setting sun pours liquid amber into the forests as we pull away. The beauty of it takes my breath away. It fills me with hope, resolve and gratitude. For Nature, more beautiful than anything we’ve ever created. For the Indigenous elders who are unfailingly generous and patient. For the activists who dare to defy. For the old-growth forests and their first lesson: We need them if we ourselves are to survive.
    In the haze of the conflict at Fairy Creek, Trudy would like to clarify that civil disobedience is not a criminal offence, and that it has played an important role in protecting our rights and freedoms in Canada, according to the BC Civil Liberties Association. For more information, check the BCCLA website.
     

    Jens Wieting
    Report card raises alarm about predatory delay contributing to climate and extinction crises, lack of support for First Nations and forestry reforms, fuelling Canada’s biggest act of civil disobedience.
     
    Click the report card to enlarge:

     
    Press release from Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee: 
    VICTORIA (Unceded Lekwungen Territories) — One year after the B.C. government shared its Old-Growth Strategic Review (OGSR) report and Premier John Horgan committed to implementing all of the panel’s recommendations, Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee have released a report card assessing the province’s progress on their promise to protect old-growth forests.  
    The OGSR’s report, made public on September 11, 2020, called on the province to work with Indigenous governments to transform forest management within three years. 
    The panel recommendations include taking immediate action to protect at-risk old-growth forests and a paradigm shift away from a focus on timber value and towards safeguarding biodiversity and the ecological integrity of all forests in B.C. However, old-growth-related headlines in recent months have been dominated by police violence and arrests of forest defenders, rather than protection. As of this week, with at least 866 arrests, the fight to save what is left is now Canada's biggest ever act of civil disobedience.  
    “The tough reality is that thousands of hectares of the endangered forests that Premier Horgan promised to save a year ago have been cut down since then,” said Torrance Coste, national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee. “We’ve seen pitifully little concrete action to protect threatened old-growth, and ecosystems and communities are paying the price for the BC NDP government’s heel-dragging.”
    In their report card, the organizations issued new grades on the B.C. government’s progress in five key areas, crucial for the implementation of the panel recommendations: immediate action for at-risk forests (F), the development of a three-year work plan with milestone dates (D), progress on changing course and prioritizing ecosystem integrity and biodiversity (F), funding for implementation, First Nations and forestry transition (D), and transparency and communication (F).
    “Our assessment is as devastating as a fresh old-growth clearcut. The ongoing ‘talk and log’ situation combined with police violence and the escalating climate and extinction crisis can only be described as predatory delay,” said Jens Wieting, senior forest and climate campaigner at Sierra Club BC. “Premier Horgan’s failure to keep his promise has now fuelled the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada’s history, larger than Clayoquot Sound, with no end in sight. People know that clearcutting the last old-growth is unforgivable”
    “In the last six months, the B.C. government has failed to allocate any funding toward protecting old-growth, instead funnelling millions into police enforcement to clear a path for old-growth logging,” said Andrea Inness, forest campaigner for the Ancient Forest Alliance. “Without funding to support old-growth protection, the BC NDP government is forcing communities to make the impossible choice between revenue and conservation. They’re choosing inaction while the conflict in B.C.’s forests worsens.” 
    In July, the province created a technical expert panel to inform the next announcement of old-growth deferral areas. Repeated government remarks about new deferrals in the summer, that are yet to be announced, have sparked a glimmer of hope for science-based interim protection for all at-risk old-growth forests in B.C. in the near future.
    Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee will continue to mobilize their tens of thousands of supporters and hold the government accountable for its old-growth promises. The next report card will be issued on March 11, 2022.

    Anthony Britneff
    Logging in BC releases immense quantities of carbon emissions, degrades needed ecosystem services, destroys habitat for at-risk wildlife and creates conditions that allow larger and more intense forest fires. It’s time to downsize the industry to a level that meets BC’s own needs and no more.     All large forest fires in BC involve many thousands of acres of clearcuts and plantations, both of which have a higher fire hazard rating than primary and mature forest (Photo: BC Wildfire Service)       JOBS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA’S FOREST SECTOR have become a talisman exploited by the forest industry and its associations in persuading politicians of the importance of the sector to the provincial economy.    As forestry jobs have steadily declined, industry lobbyists like the Council of Forest Industries, Resource Works and the Truck Loggers’ Association have become increasingly creative in overstating the contribution of the forest sector to the provincial economy by, for example, inflating job numbers with indirect jobs. If Statistics Canada were to count jobs this way, we would have many more jobs than there are residents in the province.    Between the years 2000 and 2019, the forest sector of British Columbia shed 50,000 direct jobs largely due to mechanization and depletion of old growth forests. About the same number—50,000—remain, mostly in manufacturing.         So let’s question the talisman. Is it that ridiculous to shed the remaining number of direct forestry jobs in the woods and manufacturing by, say, 40,000?  Perhaps not. Let’s examine some of the compelling reasons for a reduced workforce in forestry:    Tree cover loss expressed as area per capita is greater in BC than in most forested countries of the world; greater than in Brazil, Indonesia and Russia. This rate and extent of clearcut logging has a large carbon footprint. The prevalence of highly flammable clearcuts and young plantations (less than 25 years) has become a significant driver of the size of wildfires…the mega fires of recent years that destroy homes and impact air quality so badly that our health is endangered, including the spread of COVID.     In fact, wildfires in BC have increased in size and intensity so dramatically that they, together with logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon. You won’t find this in the provincial government’s carbon accounting because it has deftly chosen to ignore carbon emissions from logging and wildfire.     Consequences of clearcut logging more familiar to the reader include: the loss of the little remaining old-growth forests growing in ecosystems rich in biodiversity; the destruction of fish and wildlife habitat (salmon, caribou and grizzlies); and the relentless extermination and extirpation of animals, plants and fungi.     In many ways, climate change in BC is all about water. Here, clearcutting is instrumental in contaminating the drinking water for many rural communities; in depleting groundwater causing more frequent and prolonged drought events; and, of huge concern to the residents of Grand Forks and the Okanagan Valley, in increasing the frequency, magnitude and duration of major flood events.   The excessive rate of clearcutting is permitted by a grossly inflated allowable annual cut (AAC). But the question is: to what end? Only 20 percent of the forest products derived from clearcutting are destined for our domestic market. The remaining 80 percent satisfies export markets mostly in the United States, China and Japan—all of which have higher standards for the conservation and protection of old-growth forests than does BC. This means that those three countries are conserving their ecosystems at the expense of the degradation and loss of our ecosystems.     In spite of the high level of exports of forest products, the forest sector contributes a meagre two per cent to the provincial gross domestic product (GDP) and only two per cent to the provincial  labour force. In other words, our provincial economy is sufficiently robust and resilient to absorb further job losses in forestry and reduced exports of raw logs and forest products.           Accordingly, would it not be in the public interest to ban clearcutting and substantially lower the allowable annual cut thereby reducing the export of raw logs and forest products and cutting back the labour force in the forest sector?    If we as a society in BC can shed 400,000 jobs in two months of 2020 to deal with a global pandemic, is it that ridiculous to transition, say, 40,000 forestry jobs into non-destructive forest and value-added enterprises and into other economic sectors in order to mitigate a global climate emergency already having such profound consequences for BC's environment and residents?    Anthony Britneff worked for the BC Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.

    Herb Hammond
    Professional forester calls for an end to clearcutting in BC and a reduction of the allowable annual cut to less than half its current level.
     

    A clearcut in the Prince George area (Photo by Sean O’Rourke, Conservation North)
     
    AS A REGISTERED PROFESSIONAL FORESTER, I have received many email invitations from the Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP) promoting a “Free E-course” which purportedly will explain my profession’s Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct. Ethical behaviour and professionalism are not taught. They are inherent values of honest, compassionate, and thoughtful individuals. The ABCFP would do better to address the endemic problems of forestry that are exacerbating both the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis than to give the illusion of ethical professionalism.
    The Code of Ethical & Professional Conduct states, in part under Section 2, Independence: “Registrants exhibit objectivity and are professionally independent in fact and appearance, and must: a. uphold the public interest and professional principles above the demands of employment or personal gain…”
    Nothing could be more important and essential to upholding the public interest than acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and to slow loss of biodiversity. Yet, standard industrial forestry practices of clearcuts and short-rotation tree plantations do the exact opposite.
    Industrial forestry degrades water and watersheds through the destruction of old, intact primary forests that produce the highest quality water in moderate flows, and the destruction or removal of fallen trees that store and filter water. These same old, primary forests are necessary to conserve water, particularly under the stresses of heat and moisture loss that get progressively worse with global heating. The fallen trees build future moisture- and nutrient-sufficient soils.
    Old-growth forests are critical storehouses of carbon, sequester the most carbon compared to other forest phases, produce the highest quality water, and harbour the highest levels of biological diversity, including specialist species found nowhere else. Not to mention the vital cultural importance of these forests to Indigenous people, and to a growing number of non-Indigenous people.
    Yet, driven by its commitment to a short-term, timber-extraction bias, the forestry profession consistently discounts the importance of old-growth forests for other than required timber supplies. This bias for timber extraction at the expense of all other forest values has been supported by spokespeople for the ABCFP and even by forestry academics who proclaim, in the face of scientific studies showing the opposite, that there is plenty of old-growth already protected in parks and other protected areas. These false claims expose a willful ignorance of the difference between old-growth forests that grow on deep, moist soils, compared to old-growth forests that develop in bogs, on shallow moisture-deficient soils, and at high elevations.
    The Fairy Creek rainforest is but one example of the endemic problems with professional forestry. Who are the forest professionals that designed clearcuts in old-growth forests that contain the blue-listed specklebelly lichen?  In another example, what about the ongoing decline of woodland caribou that depend upon old-growth forest habitat? This dependence of woodland caribou has been known for decades. Yet, during that time forest professionals have continued to authorize logging plans that destroy caribou habitat.
    We will never know how many threatened and endangered species have been wiped out by “professional” forestry, because no one bothered to ask if they existed before exploiting the forest for timber in the first place. If you don’t ask the question, you don’t need to worry about the answer. Does that approach uphold the public interest? Is that approach an example of ethical professionalism?
    Forestry is a significant player in the shift of British Columbia’s, and Canada’s forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources. While wildfires may make up the largest part of that shift, logging, slash burning, and the production of short-lived wood products are significant contributors to forests being the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions of any economic sector in BC. Also, important to note is that clearcuts and tree plantations are highly flammable, increase wildfire risk and cause large, intense wildfires.
    When it comes to the public interest, foresters have a professional obligation to recognize that, among “the multiple values that society has assigned to BC’s forests,” protection of a livable climate and the biodiversity that sustains all life on Earth are paramount values, without which the other values will cease to exist. As a first measure towards climate correction, the provincial government needs to stop clearcutting all forests, particularly old primary forests on Crown land and reduce the provincial allowable annual cut by more than half.
    Herb Hammond is a Registered Professional Forester and forest ecologist with over 40 years of experience in research, industry, teaching and consulting. Currently his work is carried out through Silva Ecosystem Consultants and the Silva Forest Foundation.

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic
    Two years ago John Horgan commissioned an updated report on the status and management of old growth forests in BC. Now he’s cherry-picking it to his own advantage.
     
    WHEN PREMIER JOHN HORGAN CALLED called a snap election last fall, he found himself promising, if re-elected, to implement all 14 recommendations of A New Future for Old Growth, a recently released report by an independent review panel consisting of expert foresters Garry Merkel and Al Gorley.
    For Horgan, it was a case of promise now, to get the Green Party off his operating ticket, and worry about the logistics later, once his desired majority had been achieved. The tactic worked, at least in the short run.
    Horgan himself had commissioned the report in 2019, tasking the panelists to “engage British Columbians and collect their views on the importance and future of old growth in the province.” The response from all over was clear, the government declared on its website: “It is time for change.”
    To those wanting the ancient and increasingly rare temperate rainforests permanently preserved and protected, the report flickered hope and perhaps—finally—some meaningful action. The authors reminded the government that this wasn’t the first report on old growth management. An Old Growth Strategy for British Columbia had been released in 1992 but many of its recommendations had either been only partially fulfilled or become political flotsam along the way.
    Had that report been fully embraced, Merkel and Gorley wrote, we would now likely not be facing “high risk to loss of biodiversity in many ecosystems, risk to potential economic benefits due to uncertainty and conflict, [and] widespread lack of confidence in the system of managing forests.”
    This time around, they advised, all 14 of the report’s recommendations must be implemented as a whole within three years’ time.
    Essentially, the authors warned the government not to pick a recommendation or two to chew on in isolation—a widely tried and tested political tactic for stalling while appearing to be busy as gangbusters.
    The authors would have known what they were up against. Garry Merkel, himself a member of the Tahltan Nation, told the media in late 2020 that in BC, “we’re [still] managing ecosystems—that are in some cases thousands of years old—on a four-year political cycle.”
     

    The decline in old-growth forests in Fairy Creek area: “non-renewable in any reasonable timeframe” (drone photo by Alex Harris)
     
    Throughout their report, the authors emphasized the alarming rate of decline in old-growth forests as well as their intrinsic value and irreplaceability. On page 14: “Old forests, especially those with very large trees…anchor ecosystems that are critical to the well-being of many species of plants and animals, including people, now and in the future. The conditions that exist in many of these forests and ecosystems are also simply non-renewable in any reasonable timeframe.”
    On page 27 they identified 13 of the “many values of forests with old and ancient trees” including unique, essential and undiscovered biodiversity, resistance to fire, and intrinsic value for human well-being and perpetual tourism.
    For years the Province and closely-aligned industry (too close, as David Broadland has shown in Focus) have narrowly defined old growth as trees that, in the Interior, are more than 140 years old, and on the coast more than 250 years old. But that’s been an inadequate and industry-serving definition, the authors explain. Every inaccessible (and therefore never logged) forest in the province will contain trees of all ages, from the saplings to the ancients, so under that definition, these can all be called old-growth forests.
    This classification helps to inflate old-growth inventory and mislead the public. When you can dump all of the province’s stunted, out-of-reach forests in with the salient and accessible rainforest giants without specifying the difference, it’s easy to fool the public into thinking we’re so flush with forests like Cathedral Grove that unfettered logging of coastal old growth is not an issue.
    But the authors are tolerating none of that, and in the report, they carefully and systematically show how little of the unprotected intact, coastal old growth is left.
    “We often hear that, ‘oh, we have nothing to worry about because we have 50 percent of our old-growth left,’” Merkel told the media in an interview last January. “And I think some of the people who are saying that actually believe it because they don’t understand the science. Very few people understand the science. And so, then it just becomes a big numbers game. But almost all of that 50 percent [of alleged old growth] right now is at the tops of mountains and has tiny little trees.”
    What’s especially troubling—and classic stonewalling—is that Horgan tacitly continues to let these distorted perceptions float around in the ether, despite hard evidence to the contrary in his own commissioned report.
    Misleading the general public is disgraceful enough, but allowing the false narrative of a plumped-up inventory to percolate through the industry and among its employees for the purpose of riling them up against folks who would rather see the forests preserved, is deliberately pushing the dirty work down the line.
    All the way down to the impasse, where the logger waving a “Forestry Feeds My Family” placard stands glaring at an activist gripping a “Worth More Standing” banner.
    Where unarmed Indigenous youth on their territory are roughed-up and, in at least one case, injured by swearing, enraged loggers “just trying to do an honest day’s work,” as the cliché goes.
    Where blinkered law enforcement follows orders that reek and will inevitably result in serious harm at some point.
    Where a logger’s wife, incensed by the blockaders keeping her man off the job, shouts into a television camera to, “bring in the forces, bring in the military, clear their asses out…,” her pointing finger stabbing the air in every direction. She then asks darkly, “How far can you push a family man?”
    There’s scant room for exploring real solutions when you’re working with blatantly inaccurate information.
     
    EQUALLY GUILEFUL is how the government has chosen to interpret the report’s 14 recommendations, which the authors grouped under four headings. The first five on the list are under the heading:“On conditions required for change.” The first of these—Number One on the list—is to “Engage the full involvement of Indigenous leaders and organizations to review this report and any subsequent policy or strategy development and implementation.”
    A chart in Gorley and Merkel’s report summarized these recommendations:
     

    Page16 of A New Future for Old Growth
       
    While Indigenous involvement is certainly a top priority, the authors make it clear it’s not intended to stall everything else on the list until fulfilled. Considering the centuries of chronic colonial wrongs, and all the bungling ways in which successive governments have dealt with that, Horgan and his cohorts would be stuck on this one well beyond the three-year timeframe. Nearly a year has already passed if you’re counting from the election date, nearly a year and a half if you’re counting from the report’s release date. All this to say that the other 13 recommendations would almost certainly be left unfulfilled.
    Nonetheless, Premier Horgan and Katrine Conroy, minister of forests and so much more, are sticking to their message that this is the most important item on the list—it’s the first!—and they seem happy to hang their hat there for the long haul. Whenever they appear in front of a mic, it’s always the same stalling talk that comes out—about the need to first consult with First Nations, about respect (which they have yet to translate into anything economically meaningful), and about all the work to be done, getting the work done, and doing the work.
    It’s a good place to be stuck if you don’t want to tackle anything else in the report. No critic would be so politically gauche as to challenge this effort, especially now, with the discovery of all those graves.
    It’s a very good place to be stuck if you want to keep your eyes averted from the two urgent recommendations singled out For Immediate Response: Numbers Six and Seven state in full: “[6] Until a new strategy is implemented, defer development in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss. [7] Bring management of old forests into compliance with existing provincial targets and guidelines for maintaining biological diversity.”
    To legitimize #1 as the top priority and deflect anticipated outrage—especially since old-growth management is the heart of the report, and stopping the saws is an escalating public demand—the ministry tweaked the panel’s chart so as to be better aligned with it. The revised chart on the forests ministry website appears below. (Keep in mind that the election promise was to accept the recommendations, not modify them to better fit the government agenda.)
    The new heading—Prioritizing the Panel’s Recommendations—is the first sign that things have been rearranged. The banner is gone, and the Conditions Required for Change have been individually redistributed under the other three headings that have also been altered. Where did the first Condition land? Exactly where the government wanted it—still Number One on the list of 14 but now also leading the list of Immediate Measures (formerly For Immediate Response). Now it unabashedly presents as the government’s top priority.

    The government’s re-do of the A New Future for Old Growth report recommendations
     
    As for Number 6, the immediate deferral of logging “in old forests where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk of irreversible biodiversity loss,” Horgan and Conroy made a few failed and farcical attempts to lock in the perception that old growth was now adequately protected. Last fall they announced protection for nine supposedly old-growth areas, and this spring they deferred logging for 2 years on 2000 hectares in Fairy Creek. Under closer scrutiny, both of these announcements swiftly shrank to almost nothing (see here and here).
    If the Ministry was really serious about partnering with First Nations on the management of old growth, you’d think it would actually listen to First Nations. To people like Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who, in a recent Stand.earth video, had blunt advice for Horgan: “If you’re committed to working with Indigenous peoples, stop the logging of old growth immediately.”
    You’d think the ministry would stop talking at Indigenous people, given how they’ve so publicly embraced Recommendation #1. But no. A new Forestry Intentions Paper—another paper!—drew reproach just days ago from the Tŝilhqot’in, Lake Babine and Carrier Sekani First Nations, who in a joint letter panned the government for developing yet another forest policy paper without Indigenous participation. “This is not a roadmap for a more just and robust future together,” wrote Chief Murphy Abraham of the Lake Babine Nation, “but rather a ringing endorsement of the status quo that ensures continuing conflict and uncertainty in our forests.” 
    You’d think the government would also note that 85 percent of British Columbians now support an immediate end to old-growth logging. That support will only increase, thanks to the government-orchestrated fiasco at Fairy Creek, where blockaders tenaciously defending humanity’s right to preserve a healthy and diverse environment have experienced needless hardship and suffering at the hands of the RCMP, especially in the last few weeks. They’ve been unfairly portrayed, vilified and shrugged off by the various Goliaths in this saga, and from the media they’ve received a wall of indifference. Regardless of how this eventually unfolds, the RCMP is set to fall even further from grace, and the NDP brand will be the biggest casualty of all.
     
    Video clip of RCMP assaulting Fairy Creek forest defenders with pepper spray
     
    AFTER 71 PAGES OF MAKING A BALANCED CASE for preserving the old forests, the authors concluded their report this way: “Our ever-expanding understanding of forest behaviour and management, as well as the effects of climate change, have made it clear that we can no longer continue to harvest timber and manage forests using the approaches we have in the past while also conserving the forest values we cherish. We therefore have to be honest with ourselves and collectively and transparently make the difficult choices necessary to ensure future generations of British Columbians can enjoy and benefit from our magnificent forests, as we have done.”
    The government remains unmoved.
    Or maybe not. In June, after an onslaught of criticism, Minister Conroy selected yet another panel of experts, this time a five-person “Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel” to help further identify the most at-risk old growth forests. The panelists are a stellar group and include the indefatigable Garry Merkel. Maybe it’s a sign more deferrals are coming. Maybe it’s another round on the carousel to nowhere. Maybe it’ll be another report to tweak when nobody’s looking.
    In the meantime, the talking continues over the whine of the saws. For now, the government still believes it can have it all while leaving the rest of us in the sawdust.
    Trudy is feeling the mental strain of climate change, environmental degradation and irretrievable biodiversity loss, and finds it distressing to know there are people who still believe the government will fix everything. She’s thankful for the garden, nature and the people in her life who help her keep it all together. She may yet become a raging granny.

    Ben Barclay
    The RCMP’s continued flouting of the BC Supreme Court ruling on exclusion zones corrodes faith in the justice system.
     
    ON A LOGGING ROAD NEAR ADA-ITSX/FAIRY CREEK watershed, an RCMP police sergeant and a forest defender are holding hands, with tears in their eyes, having a deep conversation about civil liberties, and the price of democracy.
    They each share the most intimate moment about their family histories.
    Mist is a middle aged woman who feels that ruthless deforestation has turned her province into a tinderbox. She feels responsible, as an older person, to “do something.” 
    “The Sergeant” is an RCMP officer, whose job is to enforce a BC Supreme Court injunction against citizens interfering with active logging in TFL-46. The Sergeant wants to know why Mist is so determined to cross the police line and get arrested.
    She replies, “My Jewish ancestry contains generations of survivors, who fought hard and took tremendous risks. If they didn’t have a tradition as justice fighters, I wouldn’t be here.”
     

    Mist, on far left, with Lady Chainsaw, and members of the RCMP (RFS photo)
     
    The Sergeant softens. “I came to Canada from a war-torn country, where members of my family were raped and murdered. All the ‘protest’ we were allowed was to go and light candles outside the door of the church.”
    Mist and the Sergeant share a long, quiet moment together. Mist says: “I’m sorry, I’m deeply sorry—but how did that work out for you, just lighting candles? If I were to go Downtown and light a candle, and wait for the wheels of justice to turn, all of the ancient forests would be liquidated.” 
    “Understood,” says the Sergeant.
    “How can I stand by and watch the insanity of clearcutting ancient old-growth forests in the midst of a climate emergency and biodiversity collapse? In Canada, we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. How can I not try to use them?”
    “Understood. Understood.”
    “Officer, the RCMP are complicit in the liquidation of the very last old growth watershed. Look me in the eye and tell me whether you don’t think protecting the last 3 percent is reasonable?” 
    “Yes, saving the last 3 percent is reasonable, but you’ve made your point. Why can’t you just protest outside the exclusion zone?”
    Exclusion zone? Mist and the Sergeant are miles away from active logging, at an RCMP roadblock. The RCMP have been using an arbitrary series of “exclusion zone” checkpoints as a nuisance tactic to stop media, lawyers and citizens from witnessing the arrests of tree sitters and other blockaders.
    The tactic has been incredibly successful, as it forces blockaders to hike many kilometres in to even approach active logging. Without the public there to support them or witness police action, camp after camp gets isolated and rolled up by the RCMP tactical squad, and hectare after hectare of old growth falls to the saws.
    Normally, exclusion zones are a police privilege used to keep the public safe at disasters, and allow officers a safe place to operate. A reasonable exclusion zone in TFL-46 would be 10 metres back from Justice Verhoeven’s “50 metres from active logging”—not 10 kilometres.
    For Mist, the whole legal process lost all credibility when the RCMP started using the zones to circumvent enforcing the injunction as laid out by Justice Verhoeven, which specifically stated that citizens have “rights of public access, and the right to participate in lawful protest”.  
    “Why don’t you make the whole Province an exclusion zone, except a one-foot square in my kitchen, for me to stand in with a cardboard placard?”
    The Sergeant looks down. He knows the zones are unreasonable, but his boss will fire him if he doesn’t follow the instructions.
    She takes a step forward, and takes his left hand in her right, and holds it for five minutes. The two of them stand there in silence, trying to find a dignified way forward.
    Mist says, “I want you to know I am so so sorry about what happened to your family, and if I had been there, I would have stood in front of them to protect them.”
    The Sergeant’s voice cracks, and he glances up and says: “Thank you.”
    Their eyes hold each other. For a moment, it all seems to hang in the balance. He takes a stick, and draws a line in the dusty road. “Please, this is your last chance, will you go back, just behind this line. Please.”
    Mist puts her arms out and says “Cuff me.” A moment later, she is locked in a paddy wagon for crossing an imaginary line. On what charge is she arrested? None. She will not be charged.
    The defenders call this practice “catch and release.” The lawyers call it “unlawful arrest.” The RCMP know full well that a charge of breaking the injunction 10 kilometres from active logging will not hold up in court.
    It might even get them held in contempt of court, but we will never find out, because catch and release also robs citizens of their legal right to appear before Justice Verhoeven, and tell him how the RCMP are making a mockery of his injunction.
     

    Indigenous protesters face down RCMP on logging road near Fairy Creek (Photo: @arvinoutside)
     
    Canada needs a feedback loop, so judges can keep an eye on how their court orders are being enforced, but we don’t have a process for that. Instead, we have 500 forest defenders spending long, hot days in paddy wagons, talking about how they feel about all this.
    Forest defenders feel that the laws of our country are being twisted and abused, not even for any public good, but so corporations can make obscene profits. They feel that the RCMP are acting like vigilantes. The consensus of the entire old-growth protection movement, is that “TFL-46 has become a police state.”
    Are we trying to save the last old growth, or democracy?
     
    WHILE MIST AND THE FOREST DEFENDERS continue to light their candles, the wheels of justice turn, ever so slowly. 150 arrests later, on July 20th, BC Supreme Court Justice Douglas Thompson rules that “The RCMP’s geographically extensive exclusion zones and checkpoints are not justified.”
    He clarifies that the RCMP may only arrest and remove people who actually violate the injunction by approaching within 50 metres of active logging, and states that “important civil liberties were being compromised by the RCMP’s enforcement actions.”
    But the trees keep falling, and the paddy wagons keep filling.
    Between Mist’s arrest, and Judge Thompson’s statement, an area twice the size of Nanaimo is clearcut, and millions of tonnes of carbon are pumped into the atmosphere, that the forests of BC would have captured, had they been left standing.
    Lytton sets the record for Canada’s hottest temperature, and burns to the ground. Seventy percent of the oysters off the Sunshine Coast cook in their shells. During the worst fire season in history, the forest defenders ask for a logging “cease fire,” and are refused.
    Premier Horgan continues to hide behind a wall of silence. Greta Thunberg urges him to pass the recommendations of his own old-growth panel. No reply. BC’s world-renowned forest ecologist Dr Suzanne Simard offers to show him how to protect old growth and create jobs. No reply.
    The exclusion zones are still being used, and the trees continue to fall.
     
    AUGUST 9th ROLLS AROUND—the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. It’s also the one-year anniversary of the blockade, and forest defenders flock to Victoria to hear Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones, Dr Suzanne Simard and many others speak. After a year of living in tents, the defenders want to connect with the 85 percent of British Columbians who agree with them. A hot bath would be nice too, maybe an ice cream, and a day off! 
     

    The rally/celebration at the Legislature on August 9, 2021 (photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    The RCMP use the opportunity of the small camp presence to drop SWAT teams at three camps, to destroy people’s property, and arrest citizens for, well, who knows? Perhaps camping without a permit?
    The officers read out Justice Verhoeven’s injunction as justification for their actions, although the BC Supreme Court has twice told them that what they are doing is unlawful.
    A forest defender is shoved into the bushes, and then kicked to the ground. A witness asks, “Did you assess him for injury?” The RCMP reply, “He is a grown man, he just fell down.” The protester has a broken ankle. A volunteer medic gives him crutches and escorts him to safety. 
     

    Heli Camp after RCMP destroyed it Monday. RCMP raided HQ, River and Heli Camps simultaneously, using ATVs to drive up to Heli Camp. Three ATVs are seen parked at the right in the photo. RCMP destroyed the camp, including the kitchen structure, tents, etc. (photo courtesy of Rainforest Flying Squad)
     
    The RCMP are targeting First Nations youth, as they always do, and many officers are wearing the “Thin Blue Line” insignia which the RCMP banned in 2020. Indigenous leader Rainbow Eyes, one of the 90 arrested on August 9th, says: “The Thin Blue Line badges they wear on their uniforms are a symbol of hate and the oppression of my people. I have zero percent trust in the RCMP in terms of my safety and the safety of my Indigenous brothers and sisters.”
     

    Rainbow Eyes just before her first arrest in May 2021 (photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    She notes, “We are a nonviolent movement here to save ancient forests. Why are we subjected to RCMP who wear banned symbols of racism? Do they think they are above the laws they are employed to enforce?”
    The RCMP are breaking into parked cars, and stealing cell phones and laptops. They use a bulldozer to take down the camp kitchen, and chainsaws to cut down trees with tree-sits in them. None of these activities were authorized by Justice Verhoeven. 
    And where are the media? 
    Due to the surprise nature of the 8 am raid on August 9th—and the illegal use of an exclusion zone—there are no media present.
    Defenders in Victoria shorten the celebration and flood back to the forest, hiking around the illegal exclusion zones, to pick the wreckage of their vandalized tents out of the bush and start the cleanup.
    If the RCMP won’t follow the explicit instructions of two BC Supreme Court judges, what are we to do? Our “first past the post” political system has failed us, and now, the only resort we have left, our justice system, has failed us too. 
    Ben Barclay has been defending forests by practicing ecoforestry for 40 years.
     
     

    David Broadland
    Our investigation found the ministry of forests with its collective head in the sand and the logging industry feeding on the huge public expenditure of money used to fight the fires.
     

    The Doctor Creek fire, the largest in the province in 2020. This BC Wildfire Service photo shows all three fuels BC’s forest fires are burning: Mature forest, plantations and clearcuts.
     
    WHY ARE THERE SO MANY LARGE, OUT-OF-CONTROL FIRES burning in BC’s Interior this summer? It’s partly the result of extreme hot weather made worse by climate change, but testimony provided to an Oregon court in 2019 revealed that clearcut logging, followed by replanting, creates fuel conditions that make fires easier to ignite and harder to control. These effects persist for decades. Since the area being logged each year in the Interior has more than doubled since the 1970s, southern BC has become a Molotov cocktail of clearcuts and young plantations ready to explode into flames with the first lightning strikes of summer.
    The Oregon testimony arose because a land conservation organization, Oregon Wild, sued the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failing to disclose the extent to which logging on public land near an Oregon community would raise forest fire hazard. The Oregon case included written testimony from a BLM fuels specialist, provided under oath, that stated that logging and plantations increase forest fire hazard. Those two fuel conditions make a fire easier to ignite and harder to control.
    Here’s the relevant testimony by the BLM fuels specialist (we quote from the court judgment record): “The change from a ‘mature’ to an ‘early successional’ stand structural stage would change the associated stand-level hazard from low to moderate/high. The stands would go from a timber model to a slash fuel model with higher predicted flame length, fire duration, and intensity and decreased ability to control a fire, with the greatest risk of a fire start during the first 5 years following harvest. Over the next 10 to 40 years, stands would transition through stages associated with high stand-level fire hazard rating and go from a slash fuel to a brush fuel type, which are more volatile and susceptible to high fire-caused mortality rates. These potential fires would have high flame lengths, rates of spread, and intensity and would be difficult to initially attack and control. Overall fire hazard would increase for 5 to 20 years following planting, then drop from high to moderate after the next treatment.”
     

    Logging slash in an Interior clearcut (Photo by Sean O’Rourke/Conservation North)
     
    Fire hazard, as referred to in the testimony, isn’t quite what I thought it was, so I should outline the meaning of that term for you. A “fire hazard rating” is an assessment of the fuel comprised of living and dead vegetation in an area—a mature forest or a clearcut or a plantation, for example. The assessment estimates the ease with which a fire can be ignited, and, once ignited, the fire’s resistance to human control. If a fire ignites in a high hazard area, or encounters such an area, it can spread more easily than in mature forest.
    Fire hazard is independent of weather-related factors like moisture content, humidity, temperature or wind speed—all of which are influenced by climate change. Instead, hazard is all about fuels: the volume, type, condition, arrangement, and location that determines the degree of ease of ignition and the resistance to control. The distinction between climate effects and fuel effects is necessary to make for one important reason. Although the forests ministry can’t directly control climate change, it does have full control of how much of BC’s publicly owned forests are converted from a low fire hazard rating to a medium/high hazard rating each year. Since the early 1970s the ministry has ramped up the production of clearcuts and plantations—and, as a consequence, the fire hazard.
     
    The growing prevalence of clearcuts and plantations 
    The ministry of forests’ record of the extent of logging on publicly owned land shows there has been a large increase over the last 50 years. In the first five years of the 1970s, an average of 105,000 hectares of Crown land was being cut each year. In the 5-year period ending with 2018, that had risen to 240,000 hectares each year, a 230 percent increase.
     

    Data crunching by David Leversee, based on the ministry of forests’ RESULTS Openings and Consolidated Cutblocks.
     
    Over the past 40 years, about 8.5 million hectares of BC’s publicly owned forest have been logged. Based on the BLM fuel specialist’s testimony that the fire hazard associated with a plantation would be higher than the mature forest it replaced for up to 40 years, we can project that as much as 8.5 million hectares of BC now have an elevated level of fire hazard as a consequence of logging and replanting. That means 8.5 million hectares where fires will ignite more easily than mature forest, and 8.5 million hectares where fire will be harder to control. That number doesn’t include logging on private land.
    It’s that growing prevalence of clearcuts and plantations that’s worrisome. Lightning strikes in those areas will be more likely to ignite and the resultant fires will be more difficult to control than in mature forest. Lightning is the most common cause of forest fires in BC. Obviously, then, if there’s more land where fires are easier to ignite, more fires will occur. If fires are initially more difficult to control, they are more likely to grow. And once a fire grows large enough to start encountering multiple areas of higher-hazard fuels—like clearcuts and plantations—the fire becomes more and more difficult to control. If the area of the province that’s subject to this higher fire hazard is growing—and it is—then larger fires will become more numerous. That’s exactly what we are seeing this summer.
    One method of judging the prevalence of clearcuts and plantations is to view satellite imagery of Crown land. I highly recommend this to anyone skeptical about the extent to which publicly owned forests have been converted to higher fire hazard clearcuts and plantations across BC. Below is a satellite image of part of the area involved in the Flat Lake Fire:
     

     
    Satellite images show a lot of deceptively green areas. Unless you have been trained to interpret aerial imagery, it can be difficult to know what you are looking at. Many of the green areas in the image above are high-hazard plantations, many of which have now been burned.
    A better picture of the prevalence of clearcuts and plantations involved in the fires can be obtained by superimposing the ministry of forests’ fire perimeters onto the ministry’s record of logging in these areas. We’ve done that in the images below of four perimeters of 2021’s largest fires, shown as black lines. Past logging is indicated by the red-shaded areas. Each fire’s point of ignition is indicated by a bright red dot. The white areas are remaining primary forest or rangeland. Protected areas, like provincial parks, are shaded green. In each case you will notice that the area of past logging overwhelms the landscape. 
     

    The August 6 perimeter of the 60,000-hectare Flat Lake Fire (black line) superimposed on top of the BC ministry of forests’ RESULTS Openings record of logging (red-shaded area). The green-shaded area is Flat Lake Provincial Park.
     

    August 8 perimeter of the Sparks Lake Fire. On its west side, the fire burned to the edge of the massive 2017 Elephant Hill Fire, which burned through the logging indicated on the left side of the image above.
     

    August 8 perimeter of the Tremont Creek Fire southeast of Cache Creek.
     

    The August 8 perimeter of the White Rock Fire. The ministry of forests’ record of logging in the RESULTS Openings database misses some of the logging that has occurred. The area within the fire perimeter near Okanagan Lake (right side) has actually been heavily logged.
     
    The ministry’s records show that several of BC’s largest fires this summer were ignited in a clearcut or plantation and then quickly grew out of control. The White Rock Lake Fire ignited in an area of logging that was replanted in 2007. The Flat Lake Fire started when lighting struck a clearcut that was logged in 2015. The Sparks Lake Fire began beside a large area logged in the mid-1980s. The Octopus Creek Fire was ignited by lightning in an area logged in 2005 and planted in 2006. The Young Lake Fire was started by lightning in a clearcut logged in 2006 and replanted twice, in 2012 and 2015. And so on. Every one of the big fires in the southern Interior, no matter how they started, consumed thousands of hectares of clearcuts and plantations. The widespread conversion of BC forests from areas of low fire hazard to medium-high hazard by the logging industry is clearly playing a decisive role in the size of forest fires.
    Patrick Byrne, district manager of the 100-Mile-House Natural Resource District, declined to answer questions about the role clearcuts and plantations are playing in the Flat Lake Fire, but Byrne did note that “the fires burn quite nicely through plantations.”
    The aggressive behaviour of fires fuelled by clearcut logging slash and plantations puts firefighters in greater danger. BC Wildfire Service fire incident reports filed from the field often note extreme fire behaviour related to the fuel loading in clearcuts. A report from a fire in 2018 warned: “The slash blocks have more fuel loading than the standard slash fuel type, expect higher intensity. This higher intensity can cause fire whirls to develop, this would cause rapid fire growth and increased spotting potential.” Spotting refers to embers travelling downwind and starting new fires. Many incident reports from different fires make similar observations about the impact of the fuel in clearcuts on fire behaviour. 
     

    A fire whirl in a clearcut fire (Photo by BC Wildfire Service)
     
    The impact of clearcut logging on fires will last a very long time
    Fire hazard rating is, by definition, independent of the moisture content in fuel. Yet the dryness of a clearcut, plantation or area of mature forest has a large influence on the speed with which fire can spread. Clearcutting exposes the land to the full strength of the sun, evaporating ground moisture and lowering humidity, important factors driving increased fire size and severity.
    Clearcuts also allow drying winds and higher temperatures to more easily penetrate the edges of adjacent forest. BC forester Herb Hammond contends that “clearcuts are clear culprits for heating up and drying out not only the immediate area where they occur, but also the surrounding landscape. They change local and regional weather patterns, and turn former heterogeneous, ecologically resilient stands and landscapes into homogeneous, ecologically vulnerable stands and landscapes. Their vulnerability is well documented in both the rise of insect epidemics, which clearcuts are allegedly meant to suppress, along with wildfire risk.”
     

    BC Forester Herb Hammond
     
    The drier conditions caused by the widespread use of clearcut logging in BC will persist far longer than the BLM fuel specialist’s predicted “10 to 40 years” of higher fire hazard, as Hammond explains:
    “Forests, particularly as they grow older, conserve water in large part due to complex, multi-layer canopies, and overall composition and structure that are all geared to slowing the movement of water through the forest, while filtering and storing water at the same time. Clearcuts, on the other hand, expose the land to rapid water loss. After a clearcut in montane Interior forests, 150 to 200 years of natural stand development are necessary to get back to something close to the level of water conservation provided by intact, natural old forests. If one takes into account the development of decayed fallen trees that are needed to store and filter water, that could be doubled to 300 to 400 years. Most of these vital fallen tree structures get destroyed in high-production, mechanized clearcutting.”
    The dryness of clearcuts and young plantations is evident to anyone who has walked through one on a hot summer day and then stepped into the shade of adjacent mature forest. The difference in temperature and humidity is startling. That difference can even be measured by satellite imaging using microwaves. The top image below shows clearcuts near the Brenda Creek Fire in the Peachland area on July 16. The image below that shows the relative moisture content on the ground that same day. The dark blue areas contain the most moisture and the red areas are the driest. Yes, those red-yellow-orange areas are all clearcuts.
     


     (Graphics courtesy of David Leversee)
     
    There are several other aspects of how clearcut logging is practiced in BC that have had an impact on fire size. For example, in the Interior, the practice of “managed” forests has evolved to mean managed coniferous forests. Deciduous stands are eradicated, often using glyphosate sprayed from helicopters, so that more commercially valuable coniferous stands can be planted instead. This, too, has made Interior forests more vulnerable to large fires.
    James Steidle, forest activist, has campaigned against this practice in the Prince George forest district. Steidle observes: “The conifer-dominated forest type we are actively encouraging is highly flammable, while the broadleaf aspen forest type we are actively eliminating is incredibly fire resistant. With a few caveats, the conclusion is undeniable. According to a 2001 study by Steve Cummings et al, pine forests are 8.4 times more likely to burn compared to aspen forests, based on historical data.”
    With fewer stands of fire-resistant deciduous trees to slow down or stop fires, larger fires are inevitable.
    Another dubious ministry policy has been “salvage logging” of healthy non-pine forest stands alongside lodgepole pine killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Several of the largest fires in the Interior during the last six years have included thousands of hectares of salvage logging. The ministry of forests allowed companies that were awarded salvage logging licences to take not only dead pine, but healthy living trees as well. The ministry’s own records show that only 15 percent of the logging that occurred in BC since 2010 has been dead pine.
     

     
    Hammond is scathing about the salvage program and its consequences: “For a stand to be eligible for salvage stumpage rates, all that was needed was for the stand to have a lodgepole pine component of 3 percent or more. This led to a massive windfall for logging companies, which clearcut thousands of hectares of diverse, mixed species natural forests, many of them old growth, under the guise of ‘pine beetle salvage.’ These were the precise stands on which ecological recovery would have been centred through natural succession. Instead, the bulk of these areas have been converted to young lodgepole pine forests, as that species was the easiest to naturally regenerate and meet ‘reforestation’ requirements by the timber companies. So, the forest industrial complex have simply set up the forest landscape for both more frequent severe fire, and an even larger beetle outbreak—if the trees escape climate disruption.”
    Hammond predicts the relentless removal of primary forest in the Interior will eliminate essential ecological functions of old forest, and that will lead to more pine beetle epidemics, more “salvage logging,” more giant clearcuts and—inevitably—to more large fires: “Mixed species old-growth forests were once randomly scattered throughout the forest landscapes of much of the Interior. These forests were the home to carnivorous beetles who eat herbivorous beetles—like the Mountain Pine Beetle—and also the home for many cavity nesting birds that prey on herbivorous beetles. So, as long as these forests were found throughout the landscape, they served as important agents to keep bark beetle populations in balance. Along with all of the other benefits of old-growth forests and diverse natural landscapes, these benefits have been eradicated by timber-biased ‘forestry’ that increasingly has no place in BC or anywhere in the world.”
    Hammond believes the industry and their ministry partners have created a bleak future for BC forests: “The omnipresent danger of fire and ongoing drought, coupled with inhospitable soil and atmospheric moisture and temperature, call into question whether trees in clearcuts will ever grow to merchantable size in many clearcut areas. Indeed, we are already seeing plantation die off, including death by fire. Particularly in the Interior, we may soon begin to see ecosystem shifts, where former forests become degraded shrub ecosystems.”
    The growth in fire size is having broad impacts, including physical damage to communities and infrastructure, long periods of pervasive, health-damaging smoke, disruption to local economies, loss of large areas of wildlife habitat and loss of protected areas. The fires, partly a symptom of climate change, will worsen it: burned forests and plantations can’t continue to sequester carbon and the fires are releasing immense quantities of carbon to the atmosphere. Those emissions have doubled every 9 years since 1990, an exponential increase.
     

    Carbon emissions from forest fires are on track to double every 9 years since 1990. The current 9-year period runs until 2026, but 2021’s fires will likely be all that’s needed.
     
    The ministry has its head in the sand
    With the forest fire problem growing in size at an alarming rate, you would think the BC ministry of forests would have put significant resources and effort into understanding how the higher fire hazard of clearcuts and plantations is fuelling the growth in fire size. But the ministry appears to be avoiding the issue.
    FOCUS filed an FOI for any technical or scientific reports produced for the ministry between 2010 and 2020 that considered the relationship between logging and forest fire frequency, size, behaviour or intensity. Throughout that period, it was clear that the area being burned in BC during long, hot summers was growing rapidly. Had the ministry investigated? 
    Our FOI request produced a single study (see link at end of story) conducted by the ministry during that period that examined how fire behaviour was affected by man-made changes to forests. The records released show that in 2019, the ministry started the “Fuel Treatment Efficacy Project” to examine how different fuel-reduction treatments, like thinning or broadcast burning, had impacted subsequent forest fire behaviour and fire suppression tactics.
    The $50,000 internal study considered 17 forest fires, only one of which was in an area that had been “100 percent logged.” The researchers gave that fire “low priority” for further study. The main finding of study, as indicated in the 7-page report, was that there was “a paucity of examples” where forest fire had interacted with fuel treatments.
    Given the high stakes, it’s difficult to understand why the ministry of forests hasn’t examined the impact of logging and plantations on worsening fire behaviour in BC. Fighting those fires is increasingly costly, as I will describe below. Yet, judging by its response to our FOI, the ministry hasn’t lifted a twig to understand what’s happening.
    This failure is worrisome, and may stem from the transition of the ministry over the past 30 years from functioning as a regulator of the logging industry to being its primary enabler. It is perhaps unreasonable to expect that an organization that works every day to maximize logging would, at the same time, spend money and effort on digging up evidence that clearcuts and plantations are feeding large forest fires.
    Besides, the ministry knows that logging slash raises fire hazard. That’s why it requires logging companies to burn hundreds of thousands of slash piles every year in an attempt to lower the fire hazard that fuel poses.
    BC forester John Waters knows, too. In a 5000-word treatise advising his fellow Woodlot Licence tenure holders what they needed to do to reduce fire hazard after their logging, Waters summed it all up: “Decades of wildfire research and examination of large wildfires shows that wildfire spreads most rapidly in areas where there is an abundance of dry, fine fuel or old unburnt piled slash accumulations.”
    The ministry is very careful to never explicitly admit the obvious. If lack of fire hazard abatement results in injury, death or property loss, the Province and its industry partners could be held legally responsible for damages. The closest the ministry comes to acknowledging the higher fire hazard caused by logging is contained in its Guide to Fuel Hazard Assessment and Abatement in British Columbia, last updated in 2012.
    The Guide states: “In some timber harvesting circumstances, it will be impracticable to reduce fuel loads sufficiently so that potential fire behaviour is not increased relative to pre-harvest conditions.” Given the growing size of forest fires and the huge associated economic and environmental costs, we might ask why it would ever be “impracticable” to reduce fuel loads. Surely it should now be clear to the ministry that if reducing fire hazard would be “impracticable,” then logging should never occur in the first place.
    The Guide, of course, has nothing at all to say about reducing the fire hazard posed by plantations, which have, according to the BLM fuels specialist, the highest fire hazard. No worries. The ministry is already solving that problem. According to the ministry’s own records of the area logged and area replanted between 2000 and 2017, 1.2 million more hectares were logged than were planted. Just how bad this problem actually is depends on which ministry record of how much logging has occurred is used: the one made publicly available (below in black), or the one based on the ministry’s best data (red).
    Just to be clear, I am not advocating for leaving clearcuts unplanted. I am pointing out that our forests are not in good hands. They are being ransacked, and so is the public purse.

     
    The money whirl: Who benefits economically from forest fires?
    The ministry seems to have in place all of the policies needed to make fires worse and few that would mitigate the risk. One result is that fighting forest fires is costing BC taxpayers a lot more. In the 5 years starting with 2010, fire management cost BC $1.02 billion. In the following five years it more than doubled to $2.12 billion.
    Indeed, fighting forest fires has become a big business in BC, and much of the economic rewards from that business flow back to the logging industry itself. Of the $2.1 billion spent on fire management by the ministry of forests between 2015 and 2019, just under 70 percent was paid to private companies for services provided in the increasingly difficult battle to contain forest fires. Through an FOI request for records, FOCUS obtained details of payments totalling $1,471,832,630 (see link at end of story for complete list). Fires in 2017 and 2018 accounted for over 70 percent of that cost.
    Who benefitted? On the ground, fighting big forest fires requires constructing fire breaks and other measures that involve logging company personnel and equipment. So, paradoxically, a company that logged an area that was later involved in a fire could end up being contracted by the ministry to help fight the fire. Tolko Industries, which has created what are among BC’s largest clearcuts, was paid $4.6 million for work it did during the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons. During the five years covered by the records, there were 150 small companies with the word “Logging” in their company name that received, on average, $200,000 each for fire fighting operations during fire season. Seventy-two company names on the list included “Trucking” and 35 contained “Excavating.” Eighty-two companies provided helicopter services and the top 10 helicopter companies alone were paid $148 million.
    The private business at the very top of the money whirl was Conair, a BC-based company that provides fixed-wing air services for fighting forest fires. Over a five-year period Conair was paid $96,466,895.60.
    Next on the list were Perimeter Solutions Canada Ltd ($54,703,223.38) and Air Spray (1967) Ltd ($43,670,860.94). Perimeter and Air Spray supply fire retardant and retardant delivery to fires by aircraft. The $100 million spent on those services points to another level of damage that may be occurring as a result of the over-exploitation of BC’s forests. Fire retardants are known to be harmful to aquatic life, especially to stream-type chinook salmon smolts. Many chinook salmon populations in BC are now considered threatened. The growing use of fire retardants to fight BC’s forest fires is just one more threat to the species’ survival.
    Even transferring money to the over 8600 entities on the fire-fighting money list was expensive for BC taxpayers. For example, use of a Bank of Montreal Mastercard account cost hapless taxpayers $20,607,365.60.
    Since many of the companies that are receiving payments for fighting fires are the same companies that create the higher fire hazard of clearcuts and plantations in the first place, there is, to say the least, an appearance of a conflict of interest. 
     

    An air tanker drops a load of fire retardant on a clearcut fire in 2017 (Photo by BC Wildfire Service)
     
    Forget Brazil. BC's per capita rate of forest removal is worse than Bolivia's.
    The response to the growing size and cost of fires from those with an economic stake in continuing logging as usual in BC forests all have one thing in common: No one ever suggests reducing the ongoing production of clearcuts and plantations, the inevitable consequences of logging. Quite the opposite, in fact. Industry and government both know that as time goes on and less and less primary forest is available to be cut, to keep volumes up at mills will require even greater areas of clearcuts and plantations to be created. That’s the ministry’s plan, and that promises an even more catastrophic future for BC.
    If you’ve come this far in my story, you must be looking for a solution to the mess the mindustry has created. If so, ask yourself these questions: Could the rate at which primary forest is converted to clearcuts and plantations be reduced? Or is the current rate of forest exploitation needed just to meet BC’s own basic need for products derived from forests?
    Ministry of forests’ data shows that 80 percent of the value of BC forest products comes from exports, and most of those go to China, the USA and Japan. So BC is cutting far beyond meeting its own needs for wood products. The extreme nature of that over-cut becomes apparent when BC’s rate of forest-cover loss is compared with other states that are, like BC, heavily forested.
    Consider Bolivia. It’s the 8th most heavily forested country in the world. It has an area of 1.099 million square kilometres, just slightly larger than BC’s 944,735. When you do the arithmetic, Bolivia’s forest-cover loss from all causes between 2001 and 2019 amounted to .545 hectares per capita. BC lost 1.66 hectares per capita, more than three times Bolivia’s loss.
     

     
    Yet when we compare per capita income between BC and Bolivia, there’s no question about which country has the greater need to exploit its forests. In 2010, the mid-point of the 20-year period we’re considering, Bolivia’s per capita income was around $1900 per person. BC’s was $41,327. So Bolivia had a vastly greater economic need to exploit its forest resource than BC did. Yet BC’s per capita rate of forest loss was three times as high as Bolivia’s.
    Keep in mind, too, that BC’s high per capita GDP had little to do with the forest industry, which in 2010 accounted for only 2.5 percent of BC’s GDP, according to the BC government. By 2019, that had fallen to 1.8 percent.
    By the way, if you take the forest-cover loss attributable to the beetle epidemic and forest fires out of BC’s total and compare that to loss from all causes in other countries, BC still has the worst record, as shown below:
     

     
    Back in the late 1980s, we used to say “BC is the Brazil of the north,” to express our disapproval for what the government and logging industry were doing to BC forests. That’s no longer even remotely appropriate. Now the global forest destruction putdown ought to be, “Bolivia is the British Columbia of the south.” And Brazil? On a per capita basis, Brazilians are forest angels by comparison.
    It’s evident that the extreme rate of forest removal in BC that’s fuelling large forest fires has, in turn, been fuelled by the high level of exports. That has been supported by a forests ministry that long ago stopped regulating the industry and now whole-heartedly facilitates extreme logging. Successive BC governments have chosen to go along with this, thinking that somehow this must all be good for the economy, and if it’s good for the economy, that’s all that matters to most politicians. Now that choice is having severe consequences. Unless BC breaks away from converting low-hazard primary forests into higher-hazard clearcuts and plantations to service export markets, our province seems fated to burn increasingly out of control.
    This summer, when not monitoring the BC Wildfire Service’s dashboard and otherwise trying to keep cool, David has been watching the drying forest in his coastal backyard with growing alarm. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.
     
    FOI record: Fuel Treatment Efficacy Project Summary: Fuel Treatment Efficacy Project Summary FNR-2020-05652.pdf
    FOI record: Fire management costs external to ministry of forests: Fire management costs external to ministry of forests FNR-2021-10573.pdf

    Hans Tammemagi
    The Canadian Standards Association's "sustainable forest management" certification of old-growth logging is dishonest greenwashing and needs to be removed.
     
    PERHAPS NO ORGANIZATION IS BEHAVING MORE DISGRACEFULLY in promoting the logging of the last vestiges of old-growth forest in our country than is the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). The CSA has developed standard Z809-16, which is used to certify forestry firms as practicing “sustainable forest management,” in spite of their logging old-growth forest. Last week, Ecojustice, on behalf of six individuals and supported by two organizations, submitted a request to the federal Competition Bureau to investigate this certification, claiming it is false and misleading, effectively a dishonest marketing ploy. And they’re right, once old-growth forests are gone, they are gone forever. CSA’s certification is like claiming that the wiping out of the cod fishery off the Maritimes was sustainable.
    Opposition to the logging of these ancient matriarchs is widespread in the Interior and on the Coast. For over a year in the Fairy Creek Valley on Vancouver Island, protesters have been blockading roads, chaining themselves to trees and sitting in the canopy to stop Teal Cedar Ltd from felling majestic old-growth trees. The blockade continues in spite of arrests—and occasional brutality—by the RCMP. The protests are not the actions of a few hippies, but instead are part of a broad public-based movement. Even on far-away Pender Island where I live, for example, there are about 70 people who are contributing money and supplies, going frequently to Fairy Creek and planning creative methods to save the old matriarchs. Furthermore, public surveys clearly show that British Columbians want the few remaining old-growth trees to survive. Horgan should pay attention.
    The Ecojustice complaint comes on the heels of my submission of January 18, 2021, when, together with 13 individuals/organizations, I formally requested the CSA to remove the word “sustainable” from its standard and to revoke the certification from those companies who log old-growth trees. Many of those who joined me also made independent submissions. On June 29, 2021, the CSA rejected all our submissions stating that our comments “are outside the scope and intent of the CSA Z809 SFM Standard.” We are striving to appeal this decision.
     

    The old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek Rainforest took thousands of years to develop. How can logging of this forest and then converting it to a planation be “sustainable”? (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    Recently, I visited Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew, one of the most beautiful places in western Canada with enormous cedars and Douglas firs towering overhead. Shafts of golden light angled down to the dusky forest floor. The shadowy forest was rich with sword ferns, moss-covered logs and witch’s hair dangling from branches. There was a spirituality; a deep closeness with nature. I was in awe of the vast knowledge these matriarchs have accumulated during a long, long lifetime. Why would we murder these national treasures?
    The main reason is that no politician wants to antagonize the communities who depend on the lumber industry. Thanks to vast forestlands, forestry was once one of the largest industries in the province. But since about 1990 the situation has turned bleak and in response to declining profits and market share, BC forestry companies have cut large, old trees, claiming they must do so to remain financially viable. At the same time, they receive CSA certification. After all, being endorsed as “sustainable” can only boost their environmental image and help sales.
    Communities who have seen forestry jobs diminish should understand that preservation of old-growth trees will help the industry recover. Environmentalists want the forest industry to be healthy, and a significant part of BC’s economy, but they want this to happen responsibly. These goals are achievable because the remaining productive old-growth ecosystems only constitute a tiny fraction of the forestland in the province. There are masses of younger trees to supply wood to sawmills and the wood-working industry. Yes, sawmills will need to be re-fitted, but that’s doable. Furthermore, old-growth trees have more value left standing, rather than being chopped into small pieces to be used as shingles and other products. 
    Dan Hager, the president of the local Chamber of Commerce has watched tourism take off since Port Renfrew labelled itself as the Tall Tree Capital of Canada. “Simple logic,” he said, “it’s more economical to preserve grand old trees than cut them down.” Since then, the BC Chambers of Commerce, the largest business-advocacy organization in the province, agreed, passing a motion to protect old-growth forests. 
    Quantitative evidence comes from a recent study conducted by ESSA Technologies in which revenue from logging old growth was compared to that from retaining old growth. The latter included benefits from carbon storage/sequestration, recreation, tourism, salmon habitat, non-timber forest products like floral greenery and mushrooms, and research/education opportunities. The study concluded that society is better off when old-growth forests are protected rather than logged. 
    Thus, forestry-dependent communities should welcome those wanting to protect old growth, and not consider them as enemies who want to destroy forestry jobs. Like Port Renfrew, communities will benefit from retaining old growth, and those benefits will be truly sustainable over the long term.
    But the forestry industry in its mad pursuit of profits does not listen. Furthermore, it yields immense power so that Premier Horgan and his NDP party refuse to take any meaningful action, in spite of campaign promises to the contrary. His (in)actions are being labelled as “Horganized Crime.” Another label is ecocide. 
    The CSA, which usually deals with consumer product safety and quality control, and claims to be an independent body, has become a disgrace. As longtime conservationist Vicky Husband remarked in Ecojustice’s press release for the complaint to the Competition Bureau, “What serious standards organization would certify the logging of the remaining 3 per cent of our most valuable, big-tree forests as “sustainable”.   To which Anthony Britneff, another complainant, adds, “Only one backed and supported by the Forest Products Association of Canada”.  
    The CSA and the forestry industry are worrisome signs that society is heading for a cliff, shepherded along by neoliberalism and the immense power and size of international corporations. 
    Permanently destroying ancient trees cannot be certified as sustainable. It’s time for the CSA to speak proper English … and for a ban on old-growth logging.
    Hans Tammemagi is an award-winning journalist and photographer living on Pender Island.

    Maleea Acker
    Could oldgrowth specklebelly save the Fairy Creek Rainforest? Not unless Horgan keeps his promises about species-at-risk legislation.
     

    IN A FEW REMAINING OLD-GROWTH FORESTS on Vancouver Island, a rare species of lichen, the oldgrowth specklebelly, Pseudoyphellaria rainierensis, lives on the branches and trunks of trees. Hanging in draping lobes, its topside is the colour of a pale robin’s egg, its underside a pale peachy-pink, speckled with white, raised spots and brown speckles. It has been found in only 41 localities in BC, all of them north of the Nitinat River. Until now.
    “I’m at peace when I’m out there,” Natasha Lavdovsky says. A Princeton graduate and Master’s of Fine Arts student, Lavdovsky works with lichens in her art. She is also an amateur lichenologist. In July, she was at Fairy Creek working on an art project. In the branches of a tree that had fallen across a logging road, she found a small population of this specklebelly lichen, a blue-listed, species of concern. 
    Her find was on slope outside of the Fairy Creek watershed ridgeline. But the only part of Fairy Creek protected by BC’s two-year logging deferment is the riparian zone in the watershed valley, which leaves the area where she found the oldgrowth specklebelly vulnerable. “There’s a cutblock where the lichen lives that is already partly clearcut.” Lavdovsky tells me. “The road went right through the lichen zone. The whole area is up for grabs.” 
     

    Natasha Lavdovsky looking at oldgrowth specklebelly growing side by side with Lobaria linita (the greener lichen), on a tree marked with falling boundary tape, indicating the edge of a future clearcut beside a creek/riparian reserve (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
    BC currently has no species-at-risk legislation, though Premier Horgan was elected on the promise to pass this into law four years ago. Currently, BC has two systems classifications for species at risk. Its red, blue and yellow lists are comprised by the BC Conservation Data Centre and give additional protection to red and blue-listed species. Listed species are supposed to inform conservation priorities in the province. 
    The second classification system was created by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent advisory panel to the federal minister of environment. According to COSEWIC’s 2010 report, oldgrowth specklebelly is a species of “special concern,” which means that it is particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events, and its numbers have declined enough that “its persistence is increasingly threatened.” 
    The specklebelly thrives in nutrient rich areas, within the drip zones of old yellow cedar trees or near the ocean fog zone, where it can harvest nutrients from the sea air. It is a nitrogen-fixing lichen. It takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and disperses it through its tree’s drip line. Like other lichen and mosses, it sequesters carbon. It spreads when pieces of its thallus body break off and land in another habitable spot—that is to say, it spreads extremely slowly. 
    For Trevor Goward, a naturalist and lichenologist who lives and studies lichen ecology in the Clearwater Valley, BC, and has been an advisor to the COSEWIC panel for decades, the key species that allows oldgrowth specklebelly to exist is yellow cedar. The issue, he says, is “not the lichen, it’s what it points to: the power of BC’s old-growth trees.” Yellow cedar lives longer than any other BC tree (up to 2,000 years). During their extraordinary lifespan, they become nutrient gatherers and feeders of other species around them. Coastal sea fog contains ocean nutrients; the moisture condenses on the cedar’s limbs and drips to the ground. The nutrients from this drip zone feed other trees, and even change the bark chemistry of the amabalis fir (Pacific silver fir), making it into a habitat for specklebelly.
     

    Oldgrowth Specklebelly lichen (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
     
    Lavdovsky found a small colony of oldgrowth specklebelly on the limbs of that first tree near Fairy Creek. It turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. She has returned half a dozen times this summer and found more at the edge of the clearcut: 20-foot long patches on two trees. By time of publication, she had found 55 trees with specklebelly. The lichen community was bisected by the logging road, including trees buried in road-building rubble with the bottom 10-feet of their trunks covered in the rare lichen. “I’d like to find out who the forester was who approved that cutblock,” she says, “and hold them accountable.”
    Specklebelly is only present, Goward says, because the yellow cedar are there to feed them. “The lichen is an outward manifestation of the gift of nutrients from the yellow cedar. The trees have created this community of other organisms that benefit from that knack they’ve taught themselves.” A young yellow cedar cannot provide this habitat; only ancient forests—what Goward calls “antique forests”—provide this service. 
    “Cutting down these trees is immoral,” says Goward.
    Lavdovsky spent time analyzing lichens at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Gatineau, Quebec, and she is taking the find seriously. She approached Goward and fellow lichenologist Troy McMullin, as well as Loys Maingon, a registered professional biologist, and Andy McKinnon (of famed Pojar and McKinnon BC field guides) to identify the specklebelly lichen and confirm her methodology for documenting its extent. “I thought if you find something that’s a listed species, it means you can’t [mess] with it. It’s not the case. I was really surprised, through this process, to see how terrible the laws are in BC when it comes to biodiversity conservation. As a province that prides itself on the natural environment, well, it’s…all just unfettered extraction on stolen land.”


     

    A large population of Oldgrowth Specklebelly lichen on a tree trunk at the edge of a logging road. The pile of felled trees in the background are from the road building. (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
     
    Lavdovsky values the relationships between people and land. She is aware of the complexity of settler/Indigenous relations, and of finding a rare species in a watershed that is itself a contested place. “It’s a problematic position to be in as a white settler: finding a rare species that’s only rare because of white, colonial, destructive, extractive industries.” But she is enamoured by lichens, and their complex role in a forest’s health. “You can’t call a lichen an ‘it’; it’s a ‘they,’” Lavdovsky tells me. “They’re a fungus and an algae and a yeast, and at times a cyanobacteria…They are metaphors for an ecosystem, for a community.” 
     

    Natasha Lavdovsky. Self Portrait, 2020. 
     
    Lichens were once described by Goward as “fungi who have discovered agriculture.” They are a unique partnership of species that work together to achieve what neither could do separately. They were one of the first to re-green (and blue and yellow…) the land after the last glaciation. They help rocks to hold more water, increasing moisture in landscapes. They can change the pH of rainwater, balancing the acidity of a forest. They’re also excellent indicators of healthy old-growth forests; many don’t appear in young or previously-logged forests.
    Lavdovsky is afraid that with so much logging in BC in the last decade, the chances of oldgrowth specklebelly crawling up the endangered species list is high. But when she spoke to the biologists doing COSEWIC’s new status report, they told her it was “unlikely they’ll be able to make it down” to see her discovery. She wonders whether it might be because of its proximity to the Fairy Creek blockade—or a lack of funding. 
    “This story isn’t just about lichen,” she says, “It’s not about trees. It’s about whole ecosystems. And that’s one of the problems with the approach of our conservation system.” Goward agrees and expands it to “the capitalist neoliberal agenda. No one’s given this any thought because it would impact BC’s bottom line.” 
     

    The underside speckles of the oldgrowth specklebelly lichen, seen through a 10x hand lens (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
     
    Currently, instead of halting old-growth logging to save species like oldgrowth specklebelly and the ancient cedars that feed them, BC has begun a second round of evaluation, bringing together an independent Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel, after its 2020 publication of the Strategic Review of BC Old Growth Forest Management (if you can tell the difference between these two, let me know).
    Goward is skeptical about this new panel. “Basically, the whole thing is choreographed,” he tells me. “You can feel the gears moving, but they’ll wait until almost nothing is left before making an announcement to stop.”
    Goward also believes that the presence of oldgrowth specklebelly means that the forest has existed, without the presence of large-scale forest fires, for much longer than the current yellow cedars’ life spans. “When you find a population as large as Tasha found, it means that the forest has been there for thousands of years. I’d be astonished if anyone is able to find evidence of charcoal. [Those trees] have been standing in place since glaciation.” For reference, the last glaciation was 10,000 years ago. Lichen diversity is higher in older forests, and his studies show a continued increase into the sixth century and beyond. “A forest that’s 600 years old is not the same as a 2,000 year old forest.” The diversity just keeps growing. 
    Lavdovsky’s art works address the other-than-human world, “using temporality, seasonality, and the agency of organic materials as integral parts of its methodology.” Her website features a plethora of stunning works, which engage with species to produce photographs, installations, textiles, natural dyes and sculptures.
     

    “Moss Chair” art installation by Natasha Lavdovsky
     
    In her current work with lichen, she first obtains the chemical data of various lichen species in a particular location. She then uses the data set like a musical score, creating a visualization and then a sonification of the data. “Each lichen…will have a particular tonal sound or chord.” Together, they create a soundscape, an auditory experience of the lichens from a particular place.
    “Lichens have given me so much joy,” she says. “It’s really important to me to have reciprocal relationship with the ecosystem of non-humans that I’m a part of.” When she found the oldgrowth specklebelly, it seemed to her an opportunity to “give back, to perform reciprocity.”
    As a result of her find, other biologists have filed a formal complaint with BC Forest Practices Board against the negligence of whoever approved the cutblock. The board is currently pushing back against the complaint because the specklebelly was only blue-listed. The resolution of the complaint will take up to two years. She also reached out to Teal Jones, and an office worker told her to send an email to info@tealjones.ca (the same email that receives all the complaints about logging in Fairy Creek). When she said that perhaps this email would get lost in the hundreds of complaints sent by concerned citizens around the world, the office worker gave a verbal shrug. 
     

    Morning sea fog obscuring the view of a recent clearcut, near the area where the rare lichen was found (photo by Natasha Lavdovsky)
     
    Lavdovsky is also in the process of reaching out to a hereditary chief of the Pacheedaht Nation, Victor Peter, as well as Bill Jones. “This is the privilege of a lifetime for me,” she tells me. “Not just to be [at Fairy Creek] but to find this lichen and try to help it be protected and represented.” Lichens are misrepresented and overlooked, she says. “But they do so much for us, and so much for the forest.” When Lavdovsky spoke with Andy McKinnon, he told her that humans have only discovered and recorded perhaps one or two percent of the species in an old-growth forest. “How come we don’t know this?” she wants to know. “We don’t really understand [the forest] yet—we don’t know.” 
    Eleven years have passed since COSEWIC’s last report, and the committee is currently completing a new assessment of endangered wildlife. Lavdovsky is confident that, thanks to logging, fewer confirmed localities will be identified this year. Even so, these classifications systems lack “teeth,” as Goward puts it, to actually prevent destruction of species. Only stand-alone species-at-risk legislation can do this. Until then, oldgrowth specklebelly and its innumerable community members will have to wait for Horgan to keep his promises, and hope that a forest fire or a timber cruiser doesn’t get them first.
    Maleea Acker is the author of Gardens Aflame: Garry Oak Meadows of BC’s South Coast, which is in its second printing. She is still a PhD student. She’s also a lecturer in Geography, Canadian Studies, and Literature, at UVic and Camosun.
     

    Jim Pine
    I AM 70 YEARS OLD and have a small farm outside of Victoria. I was a logger at Port Renfrew, a log scaler and a highschool teacher. I helped persuade the Harcourt government to protect the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park. 
     

    Jim Pine with a cabbage grown on his farm outside Victoria
     
    I began working in the forest industry because I lost a bet in a bar. My buddy and I were in need of some cash and there was one opening for a chokerman. I lost the bet and had to work. I made more money than I had ever seen in my life. I worked a few months a year and went traveling for the rest. Then it paid for my university. Over 15 years I worked as a logger, a data processor of forestry reports, and as a log scaler measuring trees to determine the royalty payment from each one. 
    I was shocked even back then at the waste. Clearcutting sacrifices all the young trees so that the industry can cream off the highest value. A sustainable forest, selectively logged, has a life cycle of about 250 years. Our approach is much shorter. We are converting thousand-year-old forests that produce tight-grain lumber into “fibre farms” with 75-year rotations, resulting in inferior lumber. With the current trajectory we will have logged all the old growth within 3-5 years. 
    We take no account of the damage to the soil and the rivers from erosion and compaction. As far as I know no studies have been done by the BC government of the impact of clearcutting on ecosystems. But we do know that old-growth trees clean water and nurture salmon as well as sink carbon. We know that they are havens for the biodiversity recipes that allow new regenerative forests to grow. 
    Allowing multinational corporations to continue with their rapacious practices means we are impoverished economically and environmentally and the remaining jobs will support far fewer people with much lower wages. One man on a feller buncher can take out as much wood as it took eight people when I started.
    The government and industry philosophy is based on the belief that there are no moral constraints against domination and perpetual growth, and that competition is the basis of success. But there is so much evidence that cooperation, reciprocity and respect are at least as important for resilience and survival. As elders it is our responsibility to tell a different story, one which reflects a 1,000 year ecosystem-wide view.
    Premier John Horgan is duplicitous when he tells us he cares about the rights of the Pacheedaht elected council, but can’t find $347,000 to replace the money they might receive over the next 3 years in the revenue-sharing agreement with Teal Jones, who say they will make $20 million although other estimates are much higher. He didn’t listen to the West Moberly Nation and stop Site C, or the Blueberry Nation and stop fracking, or the Squamish or Kwakiutl people and conserve their old growth. And what has it cost to have the RCMP, with heavy equipment operators, helicopter surveillance and the Canadian military to arrest the protestors?
    I care so much about this that I am willing to get arrested, breaking the unjust law that says the logging can continue. Recently retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella reminded us that the rule of justice is at least as important as the rule of law, which has given us apartheid, slavery and colonization. It is really unfair that the RCMP do not hesitate to arrest Indigenous youth but I have engaged in obvious civil disobedience five times within plain sight of police and have yet to be arrested. Bad press to arrest old white men I guess. 
    After requesting a meeting with my MLA, Lana Popham, her constituency assistant wrote: “In terms of the Old Growth Panel Review, Minister Popham is not currently taking meetings with individual constituents on the matter.” What happened to representative democracy?
    To the young people at Fairy Creek I say, “Bravo! Thank you! I am proud to be on your side”. 
    To the rest of us I ask, “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?” 
    Jim Pine is a member of Elders for Ancient Forests in Victoria
     

    Rainforest Flying Squad
    July 22, 2021
    Dear RCMP:
    Remember the letter the Rainforest Flying Squad sent you back in mid-May just as the RCMP enforcement at our camps began?  Remember how we asked you to mind the lessons of your past, at both Wet’suwet’en and TMX, and how we pledged ourselves to uphold our commitment to non-violence?  How we asked you not to target Indigenous members and to respect our right to peaceful protest?
    We kept our promise.  You didn’t.  Here we are now into our third month of enforcement still face to face with your paramilitary CIRG unit and the list of your infractions is long.  In an astoundingly short period of time, you have amassed quite the rap sheet that includes, but is not limited to:  
    Deliberate targeting of Indigenous youth in exclusion zones and subjecting them to rough treatment and intimidation during arrests.   The use of exclusion zones despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these zones are illegal. The use of personal searches despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these practices are illegal. The use of access checkpoints despite the RCMP Commissioner’s direction that these practices are illegal. Denial of media access to enforcement zones.   Refusal to allow RFS legal observers and police liaisons to do their jobs.   Catch and release programs designed to intimidate people for such offences as refusing to abide by your imaginary exclusion zones.   The use of threats of rubber bullets, tear gas and arrest to intimidate Indigenous and non-Indigenous defenders.   Dangerous use of excavators while extracting human beings from sleeping dragons, causing one head injury and putting people’s lives at extreme risk. Refusal to provide safety helmets to defenders during these dangerous extraction practices. Dangerous use of grinders, cutting a woman’s finger. Illegal towing of private citizens’ vehicles on public roads far from the camps. Illegal practices of giving personal vehicles to Teal Jones to be held for unreasonable towing fees, along with personal items.   Illegal stoppage of buses and legitimate tour operators. Deliberate failure to heed the enforcement order of Justice Verhoeven that allows public protest in the enforcement area.   Confiscation of donations meant for camp defenders.   And perhaps one of the worst offences:  dragging a man by a bandana around his neck until he lost consciousness and kicking him in the head – this after the BC Supreme Court rendered the decision about your illegal actions.  Surely, inflicting harm or death on peaceful protesters is against the law and your ethics.   We thought your purpose is to serve and protect Canadians. Instead, you have used your paramilitary force of trained personnel, helicopters, tracking dogs, threats and intimidation with increasing brutality and harshness. We have noted the presence of officers previously engaged in harmful practices.  We remind you that we are Canadian citizens, entitled to conduct peaceful acts of civil disobedience and bound by a Code of Conduct we take to heart and employ every day to protect our forests.  
    On July 20, 2021, the BC Supreme Court confirmed the illegality of some of your actions, stating that the public has the right to access the Fairy Creek area, and that your geographically extensive exclusion zones and checkpoints are not justified.  Also on this day, the BC Supreme Court ruled you cannot deny media the right to access the enforcement areas.  To deny the media is to deny their ability to bear witness and document events in an impartial manner, one of the very foundational rights of our democracy.   
    And just so we are perfectly clear, we will continue our peaceful protests as citizens, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, of this country.  In this time of increasing government and corporate partnerships that fail the public interest, we, as Canadian citizens, have a duty and a right to defend our forests.
    We remind you that we are standing for the old-growth forests on your behalf as well as that of your children.  
    We ask you to think about how you wish to be remembered in the coming years.
    Regards,
    The Rainforest Flying Squad  
     
     
     

    David Broadland
    The Horgan government’s failure to protect at-risk old-growth forests is forcing BC citizens to take real action themselves.
     

    The Old Growth Revylution blockade was recently visited by an RCMP officer (Photo by Sadie Parr)
     
    THE MOVEMENT TO STOP THE DESTRUCTION of BC’s old-growth forests by blockading logging roads—as practiced by Vancouver Island’s Rainforest Flying Squad—is spreading. A group of Revelstoke-area citizens, calling themselves Old Growth Revylution, has established a blockade on a logging road beside Bigmouth Creek north of Revelstoke. The group is blocking access to a newly constructed logging road leading to three planned cutblocks in the pristine Argonaut Valley. The cutblocks would be logged under a licence granted by BC Timber Sales (BCTS), a division of the ministry of forests.
    Not only is the spread of the movement a vote of no confidence in Premier John Horgan’s vague promises of future 2-year logging deferrals on old forest, the engagement with a BCTS-led logging operation opens a new and interesting front in the citizen-led battle against old-growth forest destruction. I will come back to this development later.
     

    A view of logging of old-growth forest in Bigmouth Valley. The Revylution wants to protect Argonaut Valley ecosystems from this destruction. (Photo by Sadie Parr)
     
    Several ENGOs, including Wildsight, Echo Conservation, the Wilderness Committee and Valhalla Wilderness Society, have been campaigning to protect the pristine Argonaut Valley. The valley is in the Inland Temperate Rainforest, a globally-unique ecosystem under heavy pressure by the logging industry. Most of the valley has been mapped under Canada’s Species At Risk Act as critical habitat for Mountain Caribou, one of BC’s most endangered species. Last December, the BC ministry of forests initially responded to these concerns with a statement noting “the ministry suspended planned harvesting operations in the Argonaut drainage to allow for further assessments around how harvesting activities might impact caribou in this area. This assessment is ongoing and no further timber harvest activities will occur in the area while the assessment is underway.”
    BCTS then withdrew 11 of 14 cutblocks planned for the valley. But the most current BCTS mapping shows it is now planning five cutblocks in the valley, three of which are scheduled to be auctioned as a single sale between October 1 and December 31 of this year. BCTS estimates about 26,000 cubic metres of merchantable logs would be removed from those three blocks.
    BCTS had a road built into the valley in 2020, and more recent roadbuilding prompted formation of the Old Growth Revylution. The Revylution blockaders want the entire Argonaut Valley protected. Virginia Thompson, a member of Revylution, told FOCUS, “The blockade is also in support of the Fairy Creek action and for the implementation of the recommendations of the Old Growth Review Panel. That includes the panel’s recommendation to immediately defer all at-risk old-growth ecosystems while the recommendations for a paradigm shift in forestry can be implemented to save what little of old-growth ecosystems are left in BC. This does not mean the bogus deferrals which were made in September of 2020. It means real, meaningful deferrals. Otherwise the old growth will be gone by the time government finishes talking about it.”
     

    Old-growth cedar removed to build a logging road in the area (Photo by Eddie Petryshen)
     
    The blockade will also affect access to another block of old-growth forest just outside the valley that has already been sold by BCTS to Revelstoke’s Downie Timber. Wildsight’s Eddie Petryshen told FOCUS that the Downie block “is imminently threatened by logging.” In an email, Petryshen wrote, “This block, in my opinion, actually contains some of the highest value old growth of the remaining blocks as it’s valley bottom and contains very large cedars.” Revylution’s Thompson said the forest defenders had been in contact with a representative of Downie regarding the block.
    The Revylution has strong support of area First Nations, including the Okanagan, Splatsin (Secwepemcúl̓ecw) and Sinixt. Thompson told FOCUS that a ceremony held on July 11 at the blockade included representatives of each of these First Nations.
    In a press release issued before the ceremony, Splatsin Chief Wayne Christian noted: “We will be conducting a ceremony to protect the old-growth forest, but also to protect the public who have decided to block access to critical old-growth habitat for our relatives the Caribou.”
    At the ceremony, Christian called for members of his nation to come to the blockade.
    The Splatsin, Okanagan and Ktunaxa Nation all have forestry consultation and revenue sharing agreements with the ministry of forests. It is unknown which nation, or nations, the BC government is consulting regarding the Argonaut Valley.
     

    A view of the upper Argonaut Valley (Photo by Eddie Petryshen)
     
    This all creates an interesting situation for the ministry of forests. If the Revylution blockaders are as determined as the Fairy Creek blockaders, they will likely be able to block access to the Argonaut Valley. Facing that likelihood, what logging company would want the uncertainty, bad publicity and loss of reputation that would accompany a bid to cut the pristine valley’s forests? This is quite unlike the situation at Fairy Creek and the Caycuse Valley on southern Vancouver Island, where Teal Cedar Ltd, dependent on cutting old-growth forest to feed its Surrey mills, can’t easily walk away from its own TFL.
    If the Revylution blockade is successful at deterring a bid on the Argonaut Valley blocks, that strategy could be copied across BC wherever BCTS is planning to cut old-growth forest. BCTS sells the right to cut Crown-owned forest through competitive auction. It must publicize the blocks it plans to auction well before the auction date. It’s now possible for old-growth forest defenders to identify old forests at risk of being logged by BCTS, and then develop a plan to discourage bids on those blocks before they are sold. The ministry faces a new and serious challenge to its industry-friendly taxpayer-funded mismanagement of BC’s forests.
    To complicate matters, on July 13 a forest fire broke out high above Bigmouth Creek, about three kilometres upstream from the mouth of Argonaut Creek. It’s going to be a long, hot, ground-breaking summer.
    In his own response to the climate and biodiversity crises, David Broadland has narrowed his research and writing to the critically-endangered forests of BC. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.

    Hans Tammemagi
    Why does the CSA lend its stamp of approval to operations that depend on the liquidation of old-growth forest? Once those forests are gone, they will be gone for good. By definition, that form of forestry can't be sustained.
     
    IN ITS RUSH TO PLEASE THE FORESTRY INDUSTRY, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is mimicking Newspeak in Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. In British Columbia, forestry firms logging old-growth forests are being certified as practicing “sustainable forest management” to CSA standard Z809-16. Just like in the novel, CSA’s use of the word “sustainable,” bears no resemblance to reality.
    Blessed with vast forestlands, forestry was one of the largest industries in the province. But since about 1990 the situation has turned bleak and in response to declining profits and market share, BC forestry companies have cut large, old trees, claiming they must do so to remain financially viable. At the same time, they receive CSA certification. After all, being endorsed as sustainable can only help sales.
    The CSA clearly believes that eradicating old-growth trees is perfectly acceptable, with a spokesperson saying, “Over time coastal companies will transition into all second-growth logging, but it will take 15-20 years.”
    I could stop right here. The CSA has turned the meaning of sustainable upside-down, and admits it. Companies certified as being sustainable are felling old-growth trees that range from 300 to 1,000 years in age, destroying these old matriarchs permanently. They are not maintaining the old-forest ecosystem, instead they are destroying it. This is the opposite of sustainable. Even a child can see the king has no clothes.
    Much of the blame for this pathetic situation lies with the provincial government, for most forests are on public land. The CSA also carries huge blame. On its web site, the CSA SFM Group brags that companies certified as sustainable to CSA Z809-16 gives the assurance of Canada's highest standard. It makes about the same sense as Newspeak in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
    BC’s public feels strongly that the remaining iconic ancient trees should be preserved. In the Clayoquot demonstrations of 1993, the culmination of the first War in the Woods, 856 people were arrested, the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history. Many protests have been held since then and continue today with demonstrators blocking road construction near Fairy Creek on southwestern Vancouver Island to prevent old-growth logging.
    Preserving old forests played a big role in the last BC election campaign, where the winning NDP committed to implementing all recommendations made by an independent review panel, including immediately deferring logging in old forests “where ecosystems are at very high and near-term risk ….” But so far they have not done so.
    Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew, is one of the most beautiful places in western Canada with enormous cedars and Douglas firs towering overhead. You can feel a primal force, a sense of the trees’ vast knowledge, accumulated during lifetimes spanning scores of human generations. Trees like these are national treasures.
    But they are being razed, legally and without a second thought, by the Teal Jones Group, a company certified as conducting sustainable forestry. Fortunately, the Grove was saved, but only because the Ancient Forest Alliance and the local community protested vigorously. Why are protest movements needed to save what should be protected by the government? And if forestry companies operated in a caring, ethical manner, would they not leave monumental trees like Avatar Grove standing?
     

    Logging of old-growth forests on southern Vancouver Island near Fairy Creek Rainforest (Photo by Alex Harris)
     
    On southern Vancouver Island, the Pacific Marine Circle Route is touted as a tourism route. However, the 40-kilometre stretch from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew passes through an enormous tree farm where the landscape looks like a World War I no-man’s-land with scarred clear-cuts, seas of stumps, quarries, and piles of waste wood created by highly mechanized industrial methods. The clearcuts are gargantuan in size and even steep hillsides are razed. These clearcuts destroy wildlife habitat, harming living organisms, baring the soil for erosion, raising forest fire hazard and making a once-magnificent region ugly and unusable for tourism and recreation.
    Yes, the clearcuts are replanted, but it takes many years for the areas to recover, and when they do, the resulting tree farms are inferior to the old-growth forests they replaced. As palm plantations in Indonesia have shown, monocultures have less biodiversity and are more susceptible to diseases, invasive species and other damage. In BC, the replanted trees are allowed to grow, then are clearcut again after 45 to 80 years. These repeated cycles bring wild swings in the forest habitat, and certainly do not mean maintaining forests at a constant level. And the massive old trees are gone forever. This is not sustainability.
    Chris Harvey, a spokesperson for the Teal Jones Group, which is certified under CSA Z809-16, claimed her company does it to survive economically. “Old growth is an absolutely essential part for us to harvest. We can’t be economically viable if we log 100 percent second growth.” Harvey is a member of the technical committee overseeing CSA Z809-16—raising more questions about the objectivity of the Canadian Standards Association around sustainability.
    Permanently destroying ancient trees cannot be certified as sustainable. It’s time for the CSA to speak proper English … and for a ban on old-growth logging.
    Hans Tammemagi is an award-winning journalist and photographer living on Pender Island.

    Yellow Cedar
    “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb, across my head...” 
    Day in the Life– Lennon/McCartney
     

    I SLEEP IN MY CAR when I’m in Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek, wedged into a slot between boxes of supplies, so falling out of bed isn’t an option. I greet the dawn by wiggling the door latch with my toes, and sliding out onto the dusty road like a sardine out of a tin.
    “The things we do...” a woman smiled, walking by.
    A few nights ago, an angry mob of loggers stoned three cars parked at the side of the road, showering their sleeping occupants with broken glass. I was so upset, I wrote Diary 5 at 3 am. By 8 am I had filed it by satellite, and began to round up a small herd of biologists documenting endangered species like Marbled Murrelets and Western Screech-Owls in Tree Farm Licence 46 (TFL 46), as well as the Juggernaut Pictures film crew.
    Streaming their work on The Green Channel, Juggernaut makes investigative films like The Pristine Coast, which revealed for the first time that disease from open pen fish farming, and not commercial fishing, likely caused the East Coast cod collapse.
    Scientist/sleuth/director Scott Renyard has chosen deforestation and forest mismanagement for his next project. He’s sure in the right province for that! Fairy Creek has drawn him in with irresistible images.
     

    Scene 1: Unlawful Police Action.  Location: A Public Road
    “A band of bird-watching biologists are barred entry from an eco-reserve by an RCMP squad enforcing a bogus ‘Provincial Emergency’ declared by John Horgan on behalf of a billionaire corporation.”
    Jim Cuthbert is the leader of this dangerous gang. They’ll stop at nothing to listen to birds. The RCMP told them they couldn’t enter their “exclusion zone” around TFL 46 without a physical copy of their diplomas and a letter of accreditation from the organizations they belong to.
     

    Biologist Jim Cuthbert (top left in the truck) and his dangerous gang (YC photo)
     
    By doing so, RCMP officers broke several Canadian laws.
    An exclusion zone is a discretionary privilege police use to create room to work and protect citizens at disaster sites. Justice Verhoeven and the Pacheedaht Council welcomed us to peacefully exercise our Charter Rights of free assembly and protest anywhere outside 50 metres from active logging.  A reasonable exclusion zone would be 10 metres beyond that 50 metres.
    The RCMP exclusion zones here stretch up to 10 kilometres from active logging.
    The RCMP have set these illegal roadblocks up all over TFL 46 to keep media and lawyers from witnessing abusive RCMP tactics: like shining klieg lights on defenders all night to rob them of sleep, dropping excavator blades three inches from defenders’ faces while they are fastened to roads, and inflicting beatings on First Nations youth. 
    The roadblocks also stop the 85 percent of BC’s population that wants to protect old growth from participating. If 10,000 citizens came out to block the loggers, what would the police do? Put us all in jail?
    Biologist Loys Maingon MA, PhD, MSc (RPBio) drove from Courtenay to research an article for the Bulletin of the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists. The RCMP sent him back, telling him he would, quote: “need a court order to access Crown Land in TFL 46.” On hearing that, Jim and his merry band of scientists clad themselves in Lincoln green and melted through the illegal RCMP blockade into the woods.
     
    Scene 2:  Our Intrepid Journalist Finds His Heart’s Desire. Location:  Secret 
    To interview the biologists, as well as forest defenders “Screech” and “Owl,” cinematographer Athan Merrick felt the best location would be at the feet of Titania, a 2,000-year-old yellow cedar.
    Titania was Queen of the Fairies in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
    Our 7-year-old guide showed us to the trail head, but I asked a man up ahead if he knew the trail. He said he had made the trail, under the guidance of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones. What are the odds? 
    “Ask and ye shall receive” is the way things happen in Fairy Creek. You ask the forest for a guide, and you get the guide. 
    We’ve been suspecting the trees are orchestrating the defence of our shared ecosystem. I was about to find out just how.
    I’ve spent my whole life dancing with trees—I’ve planted 300,000, from clearcuts to cities. I’ve horse-logged them with love, sawn them into timber, crafted them into furniture, and carved them into public sculpture. Of all my favourite tree species, my Holy of Holies is yellow cedar.
    I turned a corner, and there she was, Titania.
     

    Titania, a 2,000-year old yellow cedar (YC photo)
     
    As I came into her presence, my heart trembling with joy, I suddenly knew that the Queen of the Fairies was not going anywhere. She looks great, for 2,000. Yellow cedars have a special, soft, fluffy beauty at the edges. I told her so.
    I walked up to reassure her that she was not coming down, but when my hands touched her bark, I was flooded with her voice, telling me that she was glad I also knew she is not going anywhere.
    I had found the Mother Tree.
    As Bill Jones says: “You do not go up to the forest to cut it down, you go to ask the Great Mother what she would like you to do.”
    Steady as you go seemed to be the instructions.
    As we filmed a biologist talking about how serious a crime cutting Old Growth is, RCMP choppers circled overhead: $2,500 an hour spent to bully citizens, kilometres from active logging. The audio intrusion will remain in the soundtrack. Very Apocalypse Now.
     
    Scene 3: A Moment of Reconciliation. Location: Ada-Itsx
    The days are long and sweet in Fairy Creek, with many chance meetings, and moments of sorrow and joy. On the way back, we attended a Red Dress ceremony led by Granny Rose to honour the 1,000+ indigenous women missing in Canada, many along BC’s Highway of Tears. Then, with true reconciliation in our hearts, we staggered back into camp at sunset to plan the next day’s shoot—a hard blockade.
     

    Red Dress Ceremony (YC photo)
     
    Scene 4:  Hard Times at a Hard Blockade. Location: Road to 2,000 Camp and Waterfall Camp
    A hard blockade is where defenders dig holes in an access road, and glue their legs in with concrete. They are used because the exclusion zones prevent bussing in thousands of citizens. While our government spews out weekly “talk and log” announcements, and NGOs gather signatures for petitions no one will read, the hard blockaders are saving trees.    
    At 4 in the morning the arrestee group and film crew gathered to begin the 9-kilometre bushwhack through dark forest to evade the exclusion zone. But something snapped inside each of us. We decided to stop playing their game, and start taking back our Charter rights of free assembly. We snatched a few hours of sleep, and drove to the police road block around 9:00 am.
     

    Script Change: “We decide to break the illegal exclusion line instead.”
    Led by Indigenous defenders Rainbow Eyes and Lady Chainsaw, 20 citizens advanced on the RCMP’s “thin blue line,” like a lapping tide, in waves. The officers looked at each other, in growing doubt. The RCMP line broke like a bad dream.
     

    Mist, in red, with Lady Chainsaw (RFS photo)
     
    Pushing Lady Chainsaw’s wheelchair around the police vehicles, we hiked five kilometres in to the next zone, where a group of reinforcements stood lined up like tin soldiers. 
    Undeterred, Christoph, whom you met in Diary 4, stepped forward. In all, 13 were carted off into paddy wagons, held for four hours, and released without charge. We call this “Catch and Release.” 
    Catch and release is another unreasonable abuse of discretionary police privilege; in this case to apprehend a suspect, and release them if charges will not stick. Deliberate catch and release takes away our Charter right to talk to a judge and go to jail for our beliefs. 
    None of us got charged, but Scott got footage for his film, and best of all, later on, a hard blockader from nearby Waterfall Camp told me: “They were slamming us, dropping out of choppers with quads, using diamond grinders on our wrist chains, and all of a sudden half of them disappeared. We knew something was up. Thanks.”
     
    Title Suggestion:  The Death and Rebirth of Civil Liberties in Canada
    We’re losing this War to Save the Woods because false arrest and illegal exclusion zones have made traditional civil disobedience obsolete. The RCMP tactics are clever, but they are totally illegal. Forest defenders describe TFL 46 as a police state. In a few short weeks, our purpose has changed from saving trees, to saving democracy.
    The mainstream media are just recycling Orwellian press releases. The plan to stop cutting old growth is to cut it all down, so there’s none left to cut. No wonder the public are confused. 
    Rainforest Flying Squad (R4FS), and an ecosystem of citizen’s groups including Elders For Ancient Trees, are launching multiple legal actions to challenge false arrest and the illegal exclusion zones. Please keep giving to the R4FS Go Fund Me page, because class action civil liberties suits are expensive. 
    We’re taking our Premier to court, so he will give us back our Charter rights to go to jail.
    When civil disobedience is restored, hopefully there will still be some old growth trees left to save, and we’ll be able to go in front of Justice Verhoeven again. I’m suggesting we use the following defence:
    “Please sentence me to 100 hours of community service, like they got at Clayoquot. I’d like to do my community service with an organization that is actively working to reduce the 65 million tonnes a year of CO2 emissions caused by clearcutting! They’re protecting biodiversity and democracy! They’re called The Rainforest Flying Squad.”
    People ask me where I get these ideas. Credit where due. It came to me standing in a rainforest, with a chopper idling in the background. Titania, the Mother Tree, whispered it in my ear.
    Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer.

    David Broadland
    BC’s forest industry, with a little help from its dependents in mainstream media, has become expert at warping public perception of the industry.
     

    Teal Cedar Products Ltd’s cedar shake and shingle mill beside the Fraser River in Surrey. About half of the cedar logs that go through the mill end up in the pile on the right.
     
    TEAL CEDAR PRODUCTS LTD, the company in the news over its logging of old-growth forests on southern Vancouver Island, knows something that it doesn’t want you to know: About one-half of the ancient forest Teal cuts in TFL 46, trucks to its log sort at Duke Point, and then booms across the Salish Sea and up the Fraser River to its mill in Surrey, spends time as a pile of sawdust and wood chips on its way to a pulp mill or a bag of garden mulch or some other low value product. About half.
    According to data published by the BC ministry of forests, approximately 52 percent of the logs removed from BC forests become wood chips or sawdust. Teal’s mill is no different. The image above shows its shake and shingle mill on the Fraser River. That big pile of sawdust on the right? That’s the destination of approximately half of the old-growth cedar logs it removed from TFL 46 near Port Renfrew.
    Like the wood waste from any other mill in BC, the sawdust and wood chips are then transported to a pulp or pellet mill and turned into short-lived products like newsprint, toilet paper, burnable pellets or garden mulch. But the extent to which the forest is wasted when it’s logged is actually much worse than this, whether it’s old growth or second growth.
    What can’t be seen in the mill image is the slash left behind in the clearcuts after logging: The stumps and roots, the non-merchantable tops, the branches, parts of the tree that were broken during felling, the rotten parts of the trees, smaller unmerchantable trees, standing dead snags, and woody debris on the forest floor. Oh, and the understory plants and the underground mycorrhizal network. Approximately one-half of the total biomass of a forest that is killed by logging stays in the clearcut until it burns or decomposes and then passes into the atmosphere. Yes, this would all happen over time, naturally. But logging unnaturally shrinks the time frame within which that occurs, and, in the developing climate emergency, accelerating the process of returning forest carbon to the atmosphere could be suicidal.
     

    Logging slash left after clearcut logging of old-growth forest in the Klanawa River Valley on southern Vancouver Island (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    The wasted biomass left in the clearcut, along with the piles of sawdust and wood chips at the mill, account for 75 percent of the original biomass that was in an old-growth stand before it was logged. Seventy-five percent.
    In BC, of the remaining 25 percent that gets turned into lumber, plywood, veneer, panels, shakes, shingles and poles, about 80 percent of that is exported, mostly to the USA, China and Japan. That means that only about 5 percent of the total forest biomass that is killed in BC each year by logging is actually used here as a product that could store carbon for more than a couple of years. Five percent. The other 95 percent is the forest industry’s big, dirty secret.
     

     
    This matters because there is a climate emergency. Killing forests means killing the most effective way to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and safely store it for hundreds of years. Over the past 20 years in BC, mainly as a result of logging, the province’s forests have lost over 90 percent of their annual capacity to sequester atmospheric carbon.
     

     
    It also matters because killing forests means killing the wildlife that lived in those forests. As a consequence of logging, BC is experiencing an unprecedented decline in wildlife populations. The greatest cause of biodiversity collapse is loss of habitat.
    And it also matters because British Columbians are subsidizing this colossal forest-wasting exercise: By paying for the forest management necessary for the gargantuan scale of logging involved to meet export market demand, by subsidizing the industry’s electrical energy usage, and by failing to tax the immense carbon emissions and loss of carbon sequestration capacity caused by the forest industry.
    As awareness of these facts grows, both the ministry of forests and industry are desperately trying to create counter arguments about the damage the industry is doing to climate stability and wildlife.
    On the government side, provincial and federal forest mandarins are scrambling to promote initiatives that make it appear they are on the verge of mitigating the harms to climate and biodiversity. “Innovations” like “collecting logging residue” to make “bioenergy” and “mass timber construction” to store carbon are being promoted as climate friendly reasons why forest conservation is unnecessary. These initiatives—eviscerated by serious scientists—only address the symptoms, not the disease itself, which is too much logging. Worse, these unproven initiatives likely will have no impact at actually reducing the harm, and instead provide only the appearance of “We’ve got this.”
    Individual forest product companies, too, are finding their own creative ways to maneuver their businesses through the climate and biodiversity minefields. This brings us back to Teal Cedar Products Ltd, and its claims about guitars.
     
    In BC Supreme Court, Teal emphasized its role in guitar making
    Recall that in its February 2021 application to the BC Supreme Court for an injunction against logging road blockades in TFL 46, Teal emphasized the impact the blockades had on its “Teal Tonewood Division.” The company’s injunction contains the term “shake and shingle mill” only once, with no description of the extent of that business at all. Yet for its “Tonewood Division,” Teal included this long description:
    “Teal Cedar will suffer particular damage to its Tonewood division, which supplies book-matched pairs of timber used to manufacture custom-made guitars.
    “Only the highest quality all-blonde, straight-grain Western Red Cedar meets Teal Cedar’s standards for this business. This wood is difficult to come by. A disproportionate volume of the Western Red Cedar logs that do meet this standard originate from the Southern Vancouver Island logging area where the Blockades have occurred.
    “From September to December 2020, Teal Cedar experienced a decline in production of approximately 25,000 Tonewood units, resulting in lost revenue exceeding $250,000. This was due primarily to a sharp shortage in Western Red Cedar logs available during this period for production. Teal Cedar’s customers have begun to seek out substitute suppliers and lower cost European and Sitka Spruce product alternatives. For these customers, the shift to lower cost, lower quality alternatives would likely be permanent.”
    Just based on the difference in the number of words used to describe its cedar products, you might think that most of the cedar Teal takes from TFL 46 is being used to make guitars. “Shake and shingle” got three words; guitars got 146.
    Teal’s use of the injunction application to emphasize the tonewood aspect of its business raises some questions about the veracity of the company’s claims.
    For one thing, Teal removed 2.5 times the volume of cedar from TFL 46 in 2020 than it did in 2019—when there were no blockades. That increase in volume doesn’t support Teal’s claim of a “sharp shortage.” Moreover, the log market value of the cedar Teal did remove from TFL 46 in 2020 was about $9.7 million, and this is a much lower value than that of the wood products made from those logs. Why would “lost revenue exceeding $250,000” need to be highlighted by Teal?
    Secondly, according to Teal-Jones’ videos about the company, its Tonewood Division is located in Lumby, BC. Teal has a shake and shingle mill in Revelstoke, 175 kilometres distant from Lumby by highway, that also uses old-growth cedar cut from that area. The Revelstoke area is known for being able to produce excellent guitar tonewood, both from red cedar and Sitka spruce. From Port Renfrew to Lumby is 600 kilometres by road and a log boom across the Salish Sea. Why wouldn’t Teal have simply made up the difference from its nearby Revelstoke operation instead of losing all those valuable tonewood clients?  
    But these are mere side issues relating to the believability of Teal’s claims. The main question that needs examination is this: Are guitar tonewoods actually a big part of Teal’s Vancouver Island logging and Surrey milling business, or is that just corporate greenwashing of the larger harms the company is doing? Several reporters covering the old-growth logging blockades emphasized the guitars.
     
    Mainstream media: Teal-Jones is “world's largest maker of acoustic guitar heads”
    On April 9, a week after Teal was granted an injunction, the company’s efforts to rebrand itself as a guitar maker hit mainstream media. Darren Kloster, a reporter for Victoria’s Times Colonist, interviewed Teal spokesperson Jack Gardner. Kloster wrote, “Gardner said ‘every stick harvested’ is processed at its mills in BC, including a facility in Lumby that cuts cedar blocks for guitars. Teal-Jones, he said, is the world’s largest maker of guitar tops and ships cut pieces to guitar makers in Canada and around the world.”
    Over the following weeks, as public support for the blockades grew and the RCMP began to arrest forest defenders, media coverage of the conflict ballooned and the “world’s largest maker of guitar tops” claim metastasized.
    Writing about the blockades in the May 27 Globe and Mail, Justine Hunter reported, “The Teal Jones Group is the largest privately owned timber harvesting and primary lumber-product manufacturing company in British Columbia. The family owned company is the world’s largest maker of acoustic guitar heads, and it also produces dimensional lumber for construction, log home timbers and cedar shingles.”
    On June 6, reporting for Reuters, Nia Williams wrote: “Teal Jones is a private company based in Surrey, near Vancouver. The company, the world’s largest maker of cedar guitar heads, says although the Fairy Creek watershed is almost 1,200 hectares, only about 200 hectares are available for harvest.”
    The role the guitar factor played in how reporters thought about what was important was clearly evident in stories written by former Vancouver Sun reporter Rob Shaw. Now a reporter for Victoria’s CHEK TV, Shaw produced at least two stories that included Teal’s guitar parts business. For the Daily Hive, he wrote: “The company’s Tonewood division is one of the world’s largest suppliers of acoustic guitar heads and plans to use some old growth trees—cedar and spruce have the best grain—to make guitar parts and other instruments.”
    On The Orca website, Shaw reported that “Teal-Jones, and its Tonewood Division, is the world’s largest maker of acoustic guitar heads.”
    Based on that “world’s largest maker” status, Shaw calculated that “There’s likely several protesters at Fairy Creek right now, as well as other environmental activists, holding acoustic guitars made from the very trees they demand not to be felled.”
    Shaw went on to observe, “It’s easy for the forestry community to paint them [the protesters] as hypocrites—though in reality, we are all guilty of hypocrisy when it comes to decrying the harm caused to the environment, and then consuming the very products that worsen those harms.”
    Shaw didn’t quote anyone from the forestry community who had accused guitar-playing old-growth protesters of being hypocrites; perhaps he sniffed out the hypocrisy all on his own. 
    From Shaw’s stories, it’s clear that Teal’s guitar claims had influenced how he viewed the company, the logging, the protests and the protesters.
    The four reporters didn’t all agree on which part of an acoustic guitar Teal was producing, but they all agreed that it was either the “largest maker,” or “one of the largest makers” of that part in the world.
    According to Teal’s Youtube video, it produces approximately 2-foot-long, quarter-inch thick, quarter-sawn planks of red cedar and Sitka spruce—known as tonewood—that can be used for the front panel of a guitar body, the surface that has the sound hole in it. Tonewood is still a rough sawmill product though, not what could properly be called a “valued-added” product, though Teal does. To make tonewood, Teal takes a cedar shake bolt and runs it through a bandsaw instead of a hydraulic splitter. If Teal turned the boards produced into guitars—they don’t—that would be “value-added.”
    FOCUS contacted Kloster, Hunter and Shaw and asked how they had confirmed Teal’s “world’s largest” claim. All responded, but none provided any evidence that supported the “largest maker” claim. It appears that Gardner’s claims to Kloster, along with information included in one of the company’s Youtube videos, was all that it took for the company’s logging of old-growth forest on Vancouver Island to be characterized by mainstream media reporters as an essential part of the global manufacture of acoustic guitars.
    There were significant gaps in their reporting: None mentioned that the manufacture of red cedar shakes requires felling the same iconic, ancient red cedar trees that Teal claims to use to make guitar parts. None of the reporters mentioned that Teal’s shake and shingle mill in Surrey is arguably the largest manufacturer of red cedar shakes and shingles in BC—and possibly the world.
    I can only say “arguably” because the privately-owned company has not provided a public account of its Surrey shake and shingle mill’s output for at least 10 years, if ever. The ministry of forests conducts a voluntary “Major Mill Survey” each year that publishes the estimated annual output of every kind of mill in BC. Almost every large mill participates, but not Teal-Jones’ shake and shingle mill in Surrey.
    What is the mill’s output? Its physical size is evidently much larger than that of the largest shake and shingle producer that does participate in the ministry’s mill survey. A video about Teal’s shake and shingle mill states there are 23 resaw machines—the company produces 24-inch tapersawn shakes—with matching packing and banding facilities below the resaw machines.
     

    Some of the 23 machines at Teal-Jones’ Surrey shake and shingle mill that produce tapersawn shakes (Photo via Youtube)
     
    Compare that with the company’s video description of its funky “Tonewood Division” facility, which it says is located in Lumby. The video shows a few glimpses of a rustic building containing cedar or spruce blocks, and a bandsaw leisurely cutting off a thin plank destined for a guitar. It’s clearly a small, niche operation.
     

    Teal-Jones’ Tonewood Division manufacturing facility, identified in a Youtube video as being in Lumby, BC
     
    But given the prominence of the guitar business in its application for an injunction, it appears Teal doesn’t want the public to think of the company as a roofing producer. Instead, it would like to be seen as a manufacturer of acoustic guitar parts. Why?
     
    Turning old-growth forests into roofing is like dynamiting the Sistine Chapel
    Ask yourself: would you feel better about Teal chainsawing down a majestic 1000-year-old Western red cedar if you were told it was felled to (1) make musical instruments, or (2) make roofing?
    If cedar shakes are installed properly on a steep roof that’s well maintained, the shakes will last for about 30 years. The roofing then needs replacing. This is the worst possible use of old-growth cedar. I should know. I’ve installed a number of shake roofs on houses I’ve built, and they have all been replaced in that time frame.
    Cedar shingles on a roof will have an even shorter lifetime. As decorative siding, shingles are likely to last a little longer, but not as long as the trees from which they came would have lived if they were left standing.
    Teal understands that it’s easier to sell old-growth forest destruction during a climate emergency and in the midst of biodiversity collapse if the public thinks it’s being done to make acoustic guitars than if it’s done to produce a roofing product or decorative shingles.
    FOCUS did a thorough internet search for Teal’s guitar-parts making business in Lumby—and throughout BC—but we couldn’t find it. We did an extensive search of satellite imagery for mills in the Lumby area. Mills of any size, from small to large, stick out like a sore thumb—there’s always a big pile of wood waste nearby. Yet the Lumby guitar-part-making mill could not be found. We searched through organizations of luthiers (guitar makers) around the world and could find no mention of Teal’s guitar parts business, even though it “is the world’s largest maker of acoustic guitar heads,” according to the reporters. On the other hand, Acoustic Woods, the Port Alberni based tonewood supplier, could easily be found in all of these searches.
    We requested information about “Teal Tonewood Division” from Teal—and the lawyer who had prepared its injunction application—several times—but they provided no response.
    Teal seems to have found a way to draw attention away from its core business and direct it toward a more palatable use of old-growth forests. Mainstream media seem more than willing to amplify that mischaracterization of the company’s activities.
    You can understand Teal’s dilemma: It has a large mill equipped to make a product that seemed like a good idea in the early 1900s. But it’s early in the twenty-first century, BC is down to its last few hundred thousand hectares of forests containing large, ancient trees, and there’s a climate emergency and a biodiversity collapse. Using those rare remaining stands for short-lived roofing products or decorative siding could easily be seen by the public as reprehensible, like dynamiting the Sistine Chapel to make ballast. But using ancient forests for acoustic guitars that can then make beautiful music that feeds the human soul? How could you be against that?
    Why would mainstream media be so willing to pussy-foot around the demolition? Let’s go back to that big pile of sawdust beside Teal-Jones’ mill. That mound of ground-up fibre is an inevitable by-product of milling, and it is no different here than anywhere else on Earth. What that by-product has mainly been used for in the past was the production of newsprint, the cheap medium upon which Canada’s mainstream print media—like the Times Colonist, the Vancouver Sun, and the Globe and Mail—depend on for their continued business health. Deep down, newspapers don’t want to see those sawdust piles disappear. If they vanished, or became scarce, cheap paper—the oxygen of the newspaper business—would disappear. Given that fact, for newspaper reporters to say anything seriously critical about the forest industry would be, well, hypocritical.
    David Broadland is the former publisher of FOCUS, a print magazine whose financial stability depended heavily on paper prices hardly ever rising. He and Leslie Campbell were happy to begin the process of decarbonizing the publication in 2016 and have now completed that project. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.

    Rochelle Baker
    ENVIRONMENTALISTS STRUGGLING TO SAVE diminishing ancient forests on Canada’s West Coast are hopeful after BC announced a new old-growth advisory panel staffed by respected foresters and scientists.
    “The technical panel is a very welcome positive step forward,” said Andrea Inness of the Ancient Forest Alliance.
    “It really gives me a glimmer of hope the Province is going to listen to science around the state of old-growth forests.”
    The new technical panel will ensure the province is using the best science and data available to identify at-risk old-growth ecosystems and prioritize the areas slated for old-growth logging deferrals, said BC Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy on Thursday.
    “We are committed to a science-based approach to old-growth management, and our work with the advisory panel will help us break down barriers between the different interpretations of data that are out there,” Conroy said in a press statement.
    The panel includes ecologists Rachel Holt and Karen Price, forest policy expert and environmental economist Lisa Matthaus, and foresters Garry Merkel and Dave Daust.
    The appointments come as the NDP government is facing mounting public pressure, both at home and abroad, to make good on its promise to protect the most at-risk tracts of BC’s iconic ancient forests. Protests calling for action have been occurring across the province, and over 300 activists have been arrested at old-growth blockades in the Fairy Creek watershed on southwest Vancouver Island in Premier John Horgan’s riding.
    The choice of panellists suggests the Province is finally acknowledging the data and science behind the independent Last Stand report written by Holt, Price and Daust that indicates the dire state of at-risk forest ecosystems in BC, Inness said.
    The report, often cited by environmental groups (ENGOs), suggests that only three percent of BC’s remaining old forests support massive ancient trees.
    “To date, we have not seen or heard the Province accept those scientific findings or embrace and make decisions based on them,” Inness said.
    The inclusion of Merkel—an author of the old-growth strategic review that includes 14 recommendations the government has committed to implement to shift forestry away from a focus on timber extraction to prioritizing biodiversity—is also a positive sign, she added.
    “I hope this signals a turning point in the Province’s approach to implementing the old-growth [review] recommendations,” she said.
    “And that the Province understands we can’t get anywhere if we don’t see eye-to-eye on the crisis at hand and the state of old-growth forests.”
    The Province has come under fire by ENGOs, which suggest it has grossly exaggerated the amount of at-risk old-growth it protected through logging deferrals in nine areas across the Province made in September.
    Inness hopes the panel’s input will rectify the government’s claim it has protected 200,000 hectares of old-growth.
    “I still have concerns, because we continue to see the Province use misleading figures around the state of old-growth forests and what they’ve done so far,” Inness said.
    “You know much of that forest is not what the average British Columbia would consider old-growth. It is low-productivity forest with smaller trees, and much of that area is already protected.”
    The panel will be providing advice around high-priority areas for deferrals, but won’t be making any decisions, which will result from government-to-government discussions with Indigenous nations, Conroy said at a press conference on June 24, 2021.
     

    Ecologist Rachel Holt is a member of BC’s new old-growth technical advisory panel.
     
    In addition to identifying high-priority at-risk areas for deferral, the panel will help develop a common understanding of the broader issues around at-risk forest ecosystems, Holt stated.
    “We’re hoping along the way we can increase the understanding and transparency of information around the issues of old-growth forests in the province,” Holt said.
    There has been a lot of different or competing data presented from various stakeholders around old-growth forests, and it’s resulting in public mistrust, she said, noting the old-growth review called for better public information on at-risk forests.
    “We’re hoping the panel can clear up a lot of that miscommunication, and really help the public, so everyone has a baseline understanding of the state of old-growth in the province,” Holt said.
    “What really is and isn’t at risk. How much there is. You know, all these questions there’s been a lot of conversation about over the last couple of years.”
    However, Conroy would not clarify when or if the panel’s information around the priority deferral areas would become public, saying, eventually some information would be released.
    “The advice will be confidential, but it’ll help us to inform those really important government-to-government discussions on future deferrals,” Conroy said, adding more deferrals are expected this summer.
    Jens Wieting of Sierra Club BC said he hoped the panel appointment signalled the provincial government would no longer delay action around the promised paradigm shift in forest stewardship.
    Interim old-growth deferrals are vital to ensure the most at-risk forests aren’t being logged as discussions with First Nations occur, Wieting said.
    “But I’d like to repeat how important it is that the government act quickly, and announce funding with the explicit purpose to increase protections, and give First Nations and communities some hope they’ll be supported through this transition,” he said.
    That’s a sentiment echoed by activists leading the blockades in the Fairy Creek area. 
     

    Caycuse old-growth, before and after logging (photo by T.J. Watt)
     
    Kathleen Code, a Rainforest Flying Squad organizer, said “Work should begin immediately to transition away from old-growth logging while the panel develops strategies to move forward.” She noted that the two-year timeline means hundreds of hectares of old-growth forest could disappear before the panel is able to develop a strategy for old-growth management. The Rainforest Flying Squad promises to continue to stand as the last line of defence for these rare old trees. Code said, “Really there has been enough research to demonstrate that all remaining stands of old growth forest need to be protected and in fact provide greater benefits overall when left standing.”
     

    Intact, endangered old-growth forest in Fairy Creek area (drone photo by Alex Harris)
     
    Logging has continued in areas adjacent to Fairy Creek since the two-year logging deferral was announced on June 9. Andy MacKinnon, forest ecologist, professional forester and professional biologist (retired) stated, “The Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel is an excellent panel with an excellent mandate. It’s composed of well known and respected scientists and they will make excellent recommendations. But it follows another excellent panel with an excellent mandate, the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, that made excellent recommendations.” MacKinnon added, “There hasn’t been much will demonstrated to implement those recommendations. What is needed is a commitment to implementing the panel’s recommendations, otherwise it’s just stalling.”
    Holt hopes the panel’s work will mark a shift in forestry policy in the province.
    “The government taking the step of putting this group together really helps us move along that track,” she said, adding little progress has been made to date.
    “I want to be optimistic that this is the beginning of the paradigm shift. And time will tell us if that is correct.”
    Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Canada’s National Observer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. With files from Leslie Campbell.

    Yellow Cedar
    LAST NIGHT I RETURNED TO FAIRY CREEK from my home “outside,” where I am blessed to live in a forest. A friend had come to visit on his birthday, and we walked the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. “Outside” I swam back upstream here like a salmon through a river of tourists eager to soak up some sun and unwind after a year of COVID. 
    And then I headed back to Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek. 
    Not 30 minutes after I drove my car a quarter mile up Granite Main, past the sign “You are entering TFL 46,” parked at the gate to “HQ,” and was sitting around the watch fire, the soft summer night was shattered by screams and broken glass. I was back “inside.”
    On my way in, I had passed three cars, pulled to the side of the road, people bedding down for the night, walking their dogs, exchanging a few words. A half-hour later, an angry mob swept up and destroyed the rustic intake booth, and stoned their cars, with them inside.
    The occupants came running and driving up the road for shelter, windshields and faith in humanity shattered.
     

    Smashed windows of forest defender’s car.
     
    I couldn’t help but think of Kristallnacht. You on the outside will surely say “tut tut, that was different.” Nobody was killed last night, but here on the inside, it doesn’t feel very different.
    We live in a province with a leader consolidating his power by exterminating an ecosystem, using a paramilitary tactical squad to enforce “law and order,” and benefitting from mob violence.
    And the fear in the eyes of the victims is the same. Come down here and look in their eyes. The vulnerability, the violation, are exactly the same.
    On the outside, you can wake up this morning with a reasonable expectation of a cup of coffee, greeting your friends and family, and doing your job. The police will not rappel down from helicopters into your back yard and threaten to punch you in the face. You won’t awake to find your car towed down a logging road and have its tires slashed. You can sleep in peace.
    On the inside, it’s different. If you think I’m overreacting, what do you want me to say to this young man, in his bare feet and pyjamas, voice trembling—“and they threw stones right into my car,” broken glass all around his feet? He came here to protect some trees. Who will protect him?
    How far is this going to go? Who are we as a people?
    This will go unnoticed. Mainstream media won’t print this story. Here on the inside, we’ll pick up the pieces, and get on with our day. We’ll try and comfort the afflicted, and pass the hat to help them fix their cars.
    We reported three assaults with property damage, and were routed to North Island dispatch, who said we’d get a call. No call came. We won’t waste our time on the RCMP. We know they’ll say it was a “random act of violence,” and that “they don’t have the resources.”
     

    Germania with her damaged vehicle, Ada-Itsx/Fairy Creek
     
    How do we deal with this?
    All I can think of is to ask groups of people from the city who feel protected by whatever privilege they have to come down every night and camp at the junction of Granite Main, and when the mob shows up next time, use your connections to see that justice is done.
    For me, I’ll carry on believing that John Horgan has a lot to answer for here.
    Hopefully my next post will be a bit more cheerful. I meant to tell you about a group of biologists walking a sacred valley to find endangered birds, by coaxing them with their own calls. I meant to tell you how I walked amongst some 2,000 year old yellow cedars on my own little pilgrimage.
    We’ll see how it goes.
    Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer. Read his earlier entries about getting back to the garden (thank you Joni M), his arrest (“Six Hours in Paddy Wagon”), the targeting of First Nations youths by the RCMP, and why he is willing to be arrested (“25 Species Will Go Extinct Today”).
     

    Yellow Cedar
    I CAME UPON A CHILD OF GOD, he was walking along the road
    And I asked him, “Where are you going?” and this he told me
    I’m going on down to  Fairy Creek,  I’m gonna try and save some trees
    I’m gonna camp out on the land, I’m gonna try and get my soul free
    (Stanzas in italics are from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” about the 1969 Woodstock Festival.)
     
    My Vancouver friend Christoph wants to bring some of his friends up to (Ada-Itsx) Fairy Creek. Could I give him the lay of the land?
    “How can I contribute? What should I bring?”
    He likes to cook warm meals in the woods, so I suggested he pack his cooking gear, and hike a few hours past the headwaters, through the 2,000-year-old yellow cedars, to Ridge Camp, which blocks the logging road from punching into Fairy Creek watershed.
    If our old growth is protected, what’s the road for?
    While politicians chatter, the RCMP showed up yesterday with 37 SWAT team commandoes, using diamond saws to cut chains, and a backhoe to dig people out of concrete and rebar reinforced “sleeping dragons.”
    Imagine a backhoe blade smacking the earth three inches from your face! Yet every night, new blockaders slip back in from the forest and chain themselves back in.
    They’re living on ramen and granola bars, so I suggested if Chris made them a warm, savoury stew, it would go down very well. His cookware and skills will be appreciated. But he could show up empty handed and still be welcome.
    The only thing you need to bring is your self.
     
    We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
     
    The Pacheedaht Council, by the way, encourages peaceful protest, outside the injunction zone of 50 metres from active logging. The Council’s statement was required to fulfill their obligations under a colonial “hush money” contract they signed to get at least $300,000 for the destruction of their ancestral forest.
    That’s all they’ll receive from the conservatively-estimated $400,000,000 street value of TFL 46. A bag of beads and a keg of whiskey all over again. If you want to know more about colonialism at Fairy Creek, please read this.
     

    Indigenous leaders invite you to stand by them and the trees at Ada-Itsx.
     
    Meanwhile, at Ada-itsx people are building true reconciliation with our bare hands and our hearts, inspired by the leadership of Pacheedahts Kati George-Jim, Granny Rose, and elder Bill Jones. Bill was the first to invite us to come up to the woods. I love Bill. In my life, he has become my father, and my grandfather. He is a quiet man, but people ask him to talk, because he comes out with wisdom like this:
    “You don’t go up to the forest to cut it down, you go up to ask the Great Mother what she wants you to do.”
    “Camping on the land” is back on. And getting our souls free.
     
    Then can I walk beside you? I have come here to lose the smog,
    and I feel to be a cog in something turning
    Well maybe it is just the time of year, or maybe it’s the time of man
    I don’t know who I am, but you know life is for learning
     

    Walking to Waterfall Camp in June (photo by Alex Harris)
     
    “Walking beside each other” is my favourite part of Fairy Creek. Eyes sparkle. Stories tumble out. Friendships are made and sealed in a moment.
    Although you can, you don’t need to come to Fairy Creek to spend a week in a tree like Panda and Hummingbird, who were inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat for two years in a California Redwood she named “Luna.”
    Just come to Fairy Creek Blockade HQ, now on Google Maps, at Pacific Marine Road and Granite Main, near Port Renfrew, and it will all start for you. 
    Yesterday I met Toucan and her family. Toucan is a “camp name.” Toucan’s sister couldn’t think of another rainforest bird, so she called herself “One-Can.” That, of course, left Mom with “Three-Can.” This lovely family have flocked to Fairy Creek, like planetary T-cells, to help heal a wound.
     
    We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
     
    They were mulling over getting arrested. I set them at ease. The RCMP will inform you if you are breaking a law, and give you the opportunity to step back. They actually don’t want to arrest people, because if 1,000 people go to jail, the trees win.
    The only place you risk arrest is within 50 metres of active logging, or machinery, which would place you in violation of Justice Verhoeven’s injunction.
    And that’s a choice you can make when you get here. You don’t need to get arrested to stand with the forest defenders and trees. “Cookie” is a beautiful soul in her 70s, who came to camp for three days. She says “I like feeding people.” That was 5 months ago.
    Toucan was feeling pretty courageous about the whole arrest thing. “I’m nine years old, what can they do to me?” No one knows yet, but I think we’re about to find out! One-Can, at 14, was a little more cautious. Could she get her first job with a criminal record?
    Filmmaker “Egg” reminded her that committing civil disobedience is a civil offence, not criminal, and suggested “it will look good on your resume for Harvard.”
    “The RCMP might tack on a criminal “public mischief” charge, but Justice Verhoeven will dismiss that as mischievous. Always practice non-violence. Satyagraha is “holding firmly to the power of truth.” If you get in a situation, just think, what would Gandhi do? You’ll be fine.
    Three-Can was quietly mulling all this over in her own way. I think she was wondering why her government would send an RCMP SWAT team to chuck her children in jail for hugging a tree. The situation is pretty weird! A lot to think about. 
     

    Western Trillium in Fairy Creek area forest, early June (photo by Alex Harris)
     
    And that, to me, is the gift waiting for us at Fairy Creek, the soul searching. What is our relationship with our planet? What is our relationship with our government? How can we help? What am I ready to do, today?
    As we think these thoughts, and make our choices, we change inside. In fact, we start to become the change that we want to see. And we are not alone! 
     
    By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong
    And everywhere there was song and celebration
    And I dreamed I saw the bombers, riding shotgun in the sky
    And they were turning into butterflies, above our nation
     
    Human history lurches forward in fits and starts, as good ideas percolate up into people’s consciousness. Bruce Cockburn lamented “Why does history take such a long long time?” But when a threshold number of us catch fire, change just suddenly happens overnight, like bamboo shooting up 90 feet in five weeks after germinating underground for five years. 
    Today, we are ready. Today, in our time, at Fairy Creek, Ada-itsx, the dam is breaking. The arrow is leaving the bow.
    Fairy Creek is no longer just a watershed of Old Growth trees, it is our moment to build reconciliation between forests, oceans, the clouds that join them, First Nations, their land, and all the people from around the world who have settled here.
    Bill Jones says “when you go into nature, let her enter you.” At Fairy Creek, we’re settling into the land, and she into us.
    The most difficult reconciliation is that with our government. Our democracy has lost its way, and we are taking it by the hand and leading it back to wisdom.
     
    We are stardust, billion year old carbon.  
    We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain
     
    And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden
     
    Joni is so amazing. If Bill is my father, she is my mother. In 1969, she intuitively grasped the significance of carbon, and that we are carbon. Then she rhymed it with garden.
    Maybe it was a coincidence, but I don’t think so.
    And even if you can’t come to Fairy Creek right now, imagine this—Joni Mitchell didn’t actually get to Woodstock, she wrote the song after chatting with her boyfriend Graham Nash, who sang there.
    Even if you can’t make it physically, you can be here, now.
     

    Fairy Creek valley, June 2021 (photo by Alex Harris)
    Yellow Cedar is a Vancouver Island-based writer. Read his earlier entries about his arrest ("Six Hours in Paddy Wagon"), the targeting of First Nations youths by the RCMP, and why he is willing to be arrested ("25 Species Will Go Extinct Today").
     

    David Broadland
    BC Premier John Horgan at a press conference announcing he was all for saving old-growth forests
     
    AFTER ANNOUNCING 2-year logging deferrals for the Fairy Creek watershed and the central Walbran Valley, BC Premier John Horgan said: “These are monumental steps. I know it appears, at the moment, to be just another announcement by another premier...”
    He was right. It does appear to be just another announcement by another premier, a hyperbolic one at that. Monumental? Definitely not.
    Horgan announced 2-year logging deferrals on “2000 hectares” of old forest. It would have been monumental if, first, he had announced the permanent protection of 2000 hectares of actual old forest and then, second, had said something to this effect: “This is just the first, irrevocable step, one that can’t be backed away from in two years or ten, in our steadfast commitment to save the rest of BC’s now rare, biologically productive old forest, of which as little at 400,000 hectares remain in all of BC—can you believe we let that get so low? What an ecological catastrophe! Who were the nit wits-that engineered this fiasco!”
    That would have been monumental. Such a statement would have shown that Horgan wasn’t just playing kick-the-can-down-the-road. Instead, he kicked two cans down the road.
    First, the premier re-announced a 2-year deferral in the central Walbran that most of us already knew had been deferred in September 2020, and wasn’t in any danger of being logged. According to the Order In Council that established the deferral, it was to cover 1,489 hectares. Today the ministry recognized that it contains 1150 hectares of old forest.
    Second, Horgan deferred logging for 2 years in the “small area” that Teal Cedar Ltd has been claiming for months was all that the company could cut in Fairy Creek Valley because “most of the watershed is protected forest reserve or unstable terrain, and not available for harvesting.”
    After Horgan’s announcement, mapping released by the ministry of forests showed the area at Fairy Creek that’s been deferred for 2 years. Based on that mapping, we estimate there are about 100 hectares of the valley in the deferral area that weren’t already “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain,” as Teal Cedar Products Ltd has described it.
    Putting what Teal has said together with what Horgan announced today and the ministry has mapped, we find the surprising result that 100 + 1150 = 2000.
    If you’re thinking, “Wait, that doesn’t add up,” you’re correct. What that arithmetic shows is the sleight of hand used today by industry, the ministry and the premier. Last week, according to them, Fairy Creek Valley was almost all “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain.” This week, in a monumental step, the premier turned all that “protected forest reserve or unstable terrain” into a 2-year logging deferral.
    The Rainforest Flying Squad had originally been trying to save about 2100 hectares of contiguous rainforest, including the entire Fairy Creek Valley and areas of intact forest outside it. But their movement to save the last of the old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island is apparently gaining more and more public support as their forest defences are assaulted by a militarized unit of the RCMP. What will they do now?
    Following Horgan’s announcement, the Flying Squad’s Saul Arbess made a gracious acknowledgment of Horgan’s monumental step: “It’s a good deferral, however it falls short of the deferrals required to pause logging in all of the critically endangered areas currently being defended, for generations to come.”
    Why would Arbess think 100 hectares is a “good deferral”?
    This is an important point. Arbess knows that the part of Fairy Creek Valley that Teal and the ministry have claimed are “protected forest reserve” are actually only “protected” until Teal and the ministry decide to move the “protection” to some other part of TFL 46. This happens all the time, all over BC, to Old Growth Management Areas, Wildlife Habitat Areas and other forms of transitory “protection” that have been created by the ministry of forests to create the appearance of protection—until such time as a company wants to log that “protected” area.
    If there was a monumental step taken today, it was that the ethical corruption that grips the ministry of forests and the forest industry was made plain, for everybody to see. To do this and then call it an “honouring” of a First Nations’ request is disturbing.
    When he isn’t out walking through forests, David Broadland is writing about the problems they face. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.

    Helena Kreowska
    THE FAIRY CREEK AREA, with its old growth and unique ecosystems, needs our protection. Thousands of people, not just from BC, but from all over the World know about old-growth logging in BC, and we want that logging to be stopped.
    There is only three percent of old-growth forests left in BC and this is a shame for all governments which allowed it.
    I am an independent 69-year-old professional, who has devoted all my life to respect and protect nature in every country, every place I lived.
    I am a Landscape Architect with great 6 years of European University education about role of nature in our lives. I have 2 years of plant physiology courses, which taught me about the biochemistry of plant cells.
    I know how they produce oxygen, without which no life on our planet can exist. Trees, shrubs and flowers are not only for esthetic purposes in our life, they give us Life, for free.
    I am also a nature interpreter for schools and the general public at Nanaimo’s Morrell Nature Sanctuary.
    As an independent citizen of Canada, I chose to start a hunger strike on June 2, 2021 without definite end. I devote this hunger strike to draw even more attention of the media, governments and public to the mindless devastation of the best gifts nature could give us: our forests, and particularly, old growth.
    On June 13, another group of concerned citizens will start their hunger strike in Vancouver. I hope we can make a difference.
    As is made clear by renowned scientists, among them our own Suzanne Simard (recent book: Finding the Mother Tree) and Germany’s Peter Wohlleben (book: Secret Life of Trees), trees create their own environment, ecosystems which allow millions of species, including humans, to live on our planet.
    Thousands or hundreds year-old trees are even more valuable for that ecosystem, but only when they are standing, growing, doing their job for the rest of nature.
    Young trees can’t survive very well without these Mother Trees. All these trees interact and connect through mycelium, a fungi connection that supports all forests’ life. We only started to learn about this recently.
    If old growth at Fairy Creek is destroyed, logged within a few months, there will be no return, no possibility to learn about it, to support our lives, to continue BC’s economy based on natural resources.
    Old growth is worth much more standing than cut down and changed to pellets or chips to send to Sweden—so they can pretend that they are reducing their climate pollution by burning them to produce electricity.
    Why are there so many trees in BC, yet so few businesses producing value-added wood products?
    Why do we export raw lumber ignoring the income to be earned and jobs to be generated by turning lumber to high quality products?
    Someone in the BC Ministry of Raw Log Exports needs to give their head a shake and craft whatever policies or tax regimes are needed to build a much stronger value-added wood products sector. Now, not in 100 years.
    We need a new framework to support a new sustainable economy. The old framework based on free market economics is one of the causes of our many problems. It ignores nature, ignores homelessness, poverty and the realities of power. The free market in housing has created spiralling housing price inflation alongside homelessness, lack of proper mental health care, and unaffordable rents. That has to be changed.
    We need a socially responsible market economy, not a selfish market economy, in which the only assumed purpose of business is to make money, regardless of the social and ecological costs.
    A vibrant, green economy should be constantly generating new businesses, both private and cooperative. The failure rate for new businesses is high, but when start-ups are supported by community economic organizations that provide training and peer-support, the survival rate increases. At the same time, government at all levels should encourage new businesses to become part of a circular economy of reusing, generating zero landfill waste and recycling wastes into new materials for reuse in the economy. That includes sustainable forest management like selective logging.
    There is a great place near Nanaimo to learn about it from professionals: Wildwood Ecoforest. So there is no excuse for governments and logging companies: there they could learn and transfer to sustainable logging, creating even more jobs.
    Kate Raworth is a British economist, whose book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a Twenty-First Century Economist is well known already, causing a stir around the World. Her framework for economic development is like a doughnut, where the outer edge is the ecological ceiling, beyond which lie all sorts of ecological dangers, and the inner edge is the social boundary, beyond which people live in a world of poverty and injustice. “The safe and just space for humanity” lies within the doughnut.
    The City of Nanaimo has recently adopted this framework to guide all its development, joining Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Brussels, Portland, Philadelphia and many other fantastic cities.
    City of Nanaimo and City of Lantzville bravely joined recently the protest against logging old growth in the Fairy Creek area by voting yes to Councillor Ben Geselbracht's motion to formally oppose logging of at-risk old growth forest.
    The motion calls on the BC government to defer logging “in all high-productivity, rare, oldest and most intact” old growth forest including at Fairy Creek, to fund an “economically just” transition from unsustainable logging, and forward the resolution for debate at the next Union of BC Municipalities convention.
    “This is an unacceptable level of protection for the little that is left of such a globally valuable natural asset,” Geselbracht said. He said that his motion “is not against logging in general, but a request to preserve a small percentage of BC forests”.
    Now is the time for change, for shifting to sustainable, green economies, to protect as much precious land and old growth, so future generations can have a healthy living.
    Please note: I didn’t even mention “ornamental, esthetic” value of preserved forests for the touristic economy, which is also great in BC. People from over the world come here to enjoy pristine forests, old growth, waterfalls, and wildlife of our land and ocean. Because we professionals and scientists see the real value of standing old growth: for ecosystem, for diversity, for life-giving forces.
    This planet and nature do not belong to us. We humans belong to the planet and to nature. It is time to change our thinking and respect our nature.
    See Dispatches for more information on Helena Kreowska's hunger strike.

    Adam Olsen
    The February 2021 agreement compensates Pacheedaht for something the Province wanted to do—allow industry to cut down ancient trees. It is not about self-determination.
     

    Logging and road building close to the ridgeline above pristine Fairy Creek Valley, which can be seen immediately behind the recent clearcut. This is occurring on unceded Pacheedaht traditional territories. (TJ Watt photo)
     
    THIS WEEK PREMIER JOHN HORGAN and Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy released their intentions paper to reform the forestry sector in British Columbia.
    During the announcement Premier Horgan talked about Indigenous sovereignty and pointed to the threat of repeating British Columbia’s colonial past. In doing so, the premier illustrated how his government is dragging our colonial past into the present and further entrenching it in the future.
    It is shameful for Premier Horgan to invoke the legacy of residential schools to justify his government’s lack of action to protect endangered old growth ecosystems. He said, “If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place [at Fairy Creek], that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops.”
    It was disturbing to watch Premier Horgan as he proposed reforms for the forestry sector that he knew would place Indigenous people at the centre of protests and further entrench an economic reliance on old growth logging in these communities.
    To be clear, a premier who is talking about sovereignty and pointing to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA), which refers to the right to self-determination, should not be using the same transactional agreements as the former BC Liberal government that expressly did not believe in Indigenous sovereignty. But this is what the government continues to do.
    The agreement that the Province of British Columbia signed with Pacheedaht First Nation on February 17, 2021, is a Forest and Range Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement. This is the same model of agreement that the BC Liberals created and used.
    For years, the BC NDP loudly criticized the BC Liberals for these transactional forestry agreements. The BC NDP of the past were correct to criticize this approach because it epitomizes the colonial approach Premier Horgan claims he moved away from by passing DRIPA.
    Nowhere in these take it or leave it agreements is United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or DRIPA mentioned. Given what the Courts have said about Aboriginal title—that it is real, meaningful, and territorial in nature—such minimal agreements that provide limited benefits, do not affirm the human rights of Indigenous peoples, or recognize their rights, is a continuing expression of the legacy of colonialism.
    This approach is just as reprehensible and unprincipled today as it was in the past.
    There is nothing in the agreement that demonstrates this government is embracing Indigenous sovereignty.
    This agreement clearly benefits the Province of British Columbia “to assist in achieving stability and greater certainty for forest and range resource development on Crown lands within the Traditional Territory.”
    It’s not about self-determination. These agreements compensate Indigenous Nations for activities that the Province desires to undertake—not the other way around.
    There are clauses in the agreement that commit Pacheedaht to “not support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities.”
    Further, the contract commits Pacheedaht to “promptly and fully cooperate with and provide its support to British Columbia in seeking to resolve any action that might be taken by a member of First Nation that is inconsistent with this Agreement.” Does that sound like self-determination to you?
    I find section eight of the agreement particularly hard to read. The First Nation must provide the Province with a list of socio-economic priorities, it must keep the list current, and each year the community must provide an annual report to the province “identifying all the expenditures made from the “Payment Account.” They must make these priorities publicly available, and finally, “British Columbia may, at its sole discretion and at the sole expense of Pacheedaht First Nation, require an audit of the expenditures made from the Payment Account to determine that all such expenditures were made in furtherance of the purposes and objectives.”
    This section plays on an old stereotype that Indigenous people cannot be trusted with land or money. How can Premier Horgan say he is advancing sovereignty and self-determination and have such a clause in an agreement, especially one that was just signed in 2021—18 months after DRIPA was passed?
    For decades Pacheedaht and other Indigenous Nations toiled, negotiating modern treaties in good faith with the Provincial and Federal Crown governments. Those negotiations went nowhere, as was the intention of the Crowns. So Indigenous leaders, struggling to lift their people and communities out of poverty, can hardly be criticized for signing these revenue sharing agreements when the Crown offers them.
    When Premier Horgan invokes words like sovereignty to free up a little space as he feels increasing heat for his lack of action on protecting old growth, he does Indigenous people and all British Columbians a great disservice.
    If Premier Horgan truly believed in sovereignty, he would not advance these BC Liberal-era agreements. Instead, he would be referencing the Supreme Court of Canada Tsilhqot’in decision from June 2014. The decision would feature prominently in his forest sector intentions paper, and it would form the core of forest and range agreements with Indigenous Nations.
    To repeat it again—the agreement with Pacheedaht was signed in February 2021. So instead of negotiating an agreement that provides economic alternatives to logging, provides real choice to the nation, and enables the conservation of the endangered old growth in Pacheedaht traditional territory, the Provincial government negotiated an agreement that almost assured that those ancient trees would be cut.
    This situation illustrates how deeply disingenuous the government has been as the tension in our forests continues to grow. Rather than offer conservation solutions, the BC NDP are effectively using BC Liberal policy to put Indigenous Nations in the centre of conflicts and use the language of reconciliation to cover for their inaction.
    Clearly, colonialism is alive and well in Premier Horgan’s government.
    Adam Olsen (SȾHENEP) is Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, and a member of Tsartlip First Nation (W̱JOȽEȽP).

    David Broadland
    PREMIER JOHN HORGAN recently claimed he couldn’t resolve the tense and expensive standoff on Pacheedaht traditional territories between old-growth forest defenders and the RCMP. Why? Horgan told reporters, “The critical recommendation that’s in play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops.”
    Actually, Horgan’s government had already signed an agreement (download at end of story) with the Pacheedaht in late February in which the economically impoverished First Nation agreed to accept a small annual payment “to accommodate any potential adverse impacts on the Pacheedaht First Nation’s Aboriginal Interests resulting from Operational Plans or Administrative and/or Operational Decisions.” In other words, logging.
    How small? The Pacheedaht accepted the equivalent of glass beads: $242,388 for the first year of the agreement, with no clear indication of what, if any, subsequent payments would be over the agreement’s 3-year term.
    What did the Pacheedaht have to do for that princely sum? For one thing, the band had to continue “consultation” with the Province, and to help the Pacheedaht do that the Province will provide an additional $35,000 per year to build the “capacity” within the community for consultation.
    Perhaps more significantly, the agreement requires the Pacheedaht to provide “assistance.” Such assistance would take two forms.
    First, the band agreed “it will not support or participate in any acts that frustrate, delay, stop or otherwise physically impede or interfere with provincially authorized forest activities.”
    Secondly, it agreed it “will promptly and fully cooperate with and provide its support to British Columbia in seeking to resolve any action that might be taken by a member of First Nation that is inconsistent with this Agreement.”
    The first part of the “assistance” portion of the agreement was aimed squarely at the defence of old-growth forest in TFL 46. The second was intended to stifle any expression of support for that defence from within the Pacheedaht, such as that given by Elder Bill Jones, Victor Peter, Katie George-Jim and Patrick Victor-Jones, all of whom have publicly supported the old-growth defenders.
     

    Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones speaking out at the Caycuse blockade (Photo by Michael Lo)
     
    The agreement was signed on February 21, just before Teal Cedar Products Ltd filed an application for injunctive relief with the BC Supreme Court on March 4. On April 1, that application was granted by Justice Frits E. Verhoeven. Enforcement of the injunction has led to over 170 people being arrested during weeks of standoffs between police and old-forest defenders. The cost of that enforcement is unknown but likely in the millions.
    Horgan has claimed that “consultations” with the Pacheedaht are ongoing and so ending the confrontation by removing Teal’s controversial permit to log in the Fairy Creek watershed would amount to a “return to colonialism.”
    Let’s compare dollars with glass beads.
    Over the past three years, according to the ministry of forests, Teal Cedar has removed 976,000 cubic metres of logs from TFL 46, which is mainly on unceded Pacheedaht territories. At an average value of $135 per cubic metre over those years, the logs Teal removed, before they were turned into lumber and other products at Teals’ Surrey mills, had a market value of about $132 million.
    That’s over a three-year period. What will the Pacheedaht—the legal owners of the land from which those forests were removed—get for three years of being quiet?
    The Pacheedaht will receive $277,388 in 2021 and $35,000 each year in 2022 and 2023 as long as they keep “consulting.” There’s nothing in the agreement that says they will get any more than a total of $347,388.
    Compare that with the estimated $132 million worth of logs Teal will tow away to feed its mills in Surrey. For not getting involved in the old-growth controversy and discouraging band members from supporting the blockades,  the Pacheedat will get the equivalent of three-tenths of one-percent of the “fibre” value of the forest Teal removes from their property. Anyone who has visited the Pacheedaht reserve will understand why they had to sign this agreement.
    Here’s the definition of colonialism: “The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.”
    Like all First Nations in BC that have signed a Forest & Range Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement with the Province, the Pacheedaht also receive 3 percent of the stumpage collected by the province from logging on their traditional territory. This works out to between one-half of one percent to 1 percent of the value of the logs before they are milled.
    Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, in a widely-circulated opinion piece, wrote: “The agreement with Pacheedaht was signed in February 2021. So instead of negotiating an agreement that provides economic alternatives to logging, provides real choice to the nation, and enables the conservation of the endangered old growth in Pacheedaht traditional territory, the Provincial government negotiated an agreement that almost assured that those ancient trees would be cut. This situation illustrates how deeply disingenuous the government has been as the tension in our forests continues to grow. Rather than offer conservation solutions, the BC NDP are effectively using BC Liberal policy to put Indigenous Nations in the centre of conflicts and use the language of reconciliation to cover for their inaction. Clearly, colonialism is alive and well in Premier Horgan’s government.”
    David Broadland is grateful to the Pacheedaht for allowing public access to the extraordinary forests, beaches and trails on their unceded territories. Read more of David’ s stories about BC’ s logging industry at evergreenalliance.ca.
    BC agreement with Pacheedaht signed february 17 2021.pdf

    Andy MacKinnon
    Twin Western red cedar trees in the Caycuse area, before logging and after (Photos by TJ Watts)
     
    WHEN A PROVINCE’S MOTTO motto is invoked ironically, it may be time to reconsider that motto.
    British Columbia’s provincial motto is Splendor sine occasu, a Latin phrase usually translated as “Splendour without diminishment.” Narrowly defined, it was intended to refer to the sun on the provincial shield that “although setting, never decreases.” 
    But the “Splendour” applies equally well to the entire province. BC has more topography than any other province or territory—more mountain ranges, more coastlines. It has more climatic zones, more ecosystems and species than anywhere else in Canada. Or perhaps anywhere else in the world at temperate latitudes.       
    And that “Splendour”—BC’s natural heritage—has been greatly diminished by our activities. This applies to our oceans and our freshwater as well, but today I’d like to focus on BC’s old-growth forests.
    More than 80 percent of BC is covered with forest—we are truly a forested province. There are more types of forest in BC than anywhere else in Canada, from our northern boreal forests to our coastal rainforests. For thousands of years these forests have provided the essentials of life for BC’s First Nations. And they’ve provided habitat for our province’s plants, animals and fungi.
    But today we find our rich forest endowment greatly diminished. BC logs considerably more forest each year than any other province. Except where we’ve built large cities, however, we haven’t deforested our province. We’ve simply clearcut our original (old-growth) forests, and regenerated second-growth forests. But these second-growth forests are profoundly different from the forests that were logged, in just about any way you can imagine. They are different structurally and functionally, and they provide little in the way of habitat for the many species that have adapted over millennia to life in old-growth forests. And so perhaps it’s not surprising that BC leads Canada in another category—we have more threatened and endangered species than any other province or territory.
    One area that BC doesn’t lead Canada is in protecting old-growth forests and species at risk. We remain one of the few provinces without endangered species legislation. For old-growth forests with very big old trees, only about three percent (approximately 35,000 hectares) remains today outside of protected areas. That’s certainly splendour diminished.
    The NDP government’s own Old Growth Panel called for a deferral on logging on BC’s most at-risk old-growth forests within six months of publication of its report. It’s been more than a year now, a year during which the rate of old-growth logging has accelerated considerably. The NDP government promised endangered species legislation for our province, but has subsequently changed their mind. While independent scientists (using provincial government inventory data) have clearly documented and mapped how little high productivity old-growth forest remains, the provincial government and industry continue to assure us that there is lots left, and they’re developing a plan. Talk and log.
    There’s an urgency to this issue—every week fewer of these iconic forests remain.
    Fortunately, more and more people are rejecting the “relax, we’re on it” message of the provincial government and industry. Instead, they’re listening to what independent scientists are saying, or they’re paying attention to what air photos and satellite images are making abundantly clear. Or perhaps they simply appreciate what they see when they drive the backroads of our province.
    For old-growth forests and species-at-risk, there is no objective on-the-ground difference between Christy Clark’s Liberals and John Horgan’s NDP. They share the same legislation and policies. Perhaps the biggest difference is that the NDP promised to be a champion for forests and species, and the Liberals never did. That certainly makes the inaction of the NDP seem all the more appallingly cynical. Activists frustrated at the inaction of our provincial government are beginning to take direct nonviolent action at roadblocks in Fairy Creek and elsewhere.  
    BC’s natural splendour is certainly diminished. But there are clear opportunities for our governments to protect some of what’s left. For old-growth forests, the recommendations of the government’s own Old Growth Panel report provide an excellent path forward. The NDP have promised to implement these recommendations. Now all that’s required is the political will to keep their promises.
    Andy MacKinnon is a forest ecologist who, until his retirement in 2015, worked for the BC Forest Service for three decades. He was responsible for ecosystem classification and mapping and a program of forest ecology research focused on old growth structure and composition, effects of climate change, and BC’s native plants and fungi. He is the co-author of six best-selling books about plants of western North America. He lives in Metchosin and serves as a municipal councillor there.
     

    Yellow Cedar
    UP AT FAIRY CREEK, known to the Pacheedaht as Ada’itsx, while trying to protect the forest, I find myself bearing witness to the current relationship between Indigenous peoples and our mainstream society. I would like to put some thoughts on your table to help us toward reconciliation.
    As I file this story, news of the discovered bodies of 215 First Nations children at the residential school in Kamloops is breaking hearts across our nation. If we wish to make peace, we have a long way to go, and must acknowledge that racism in Canada is not all in the past.
    I hear many of my white middle class family saying: “I feel constrained to come to Fairy Creek because Indigenous people don’t want us there.” 
    I celebrate the soul searching, but people’s good intentions are being manipulated by a “divide and conquer” strategy, an example of which is a letter published by the elected Pacheedaht Council saying we are unwelcome. This letter has been traced back to a request from the Premier’s office for the Council to fulfill their contractual obligations not to interfere with the destruction of their forest heritage, for some cash. Why were they placed in this position?
    True reconciliation will begin when First Nations get what they have never had in BC: a percentage of the profits from resource extraction, veto power over projects in their territories, and first dibs on the jobs in their communities.
    Instead, Premier John Horgan, in his new “Modernizing Forest Policy” document, inverts reality by using First Nations as a human shield and blaming them for his job-killing, ecosystem-killing forest policies; by saying he can’t protect old growth or stop clearcutting without consulting First Nations. Sierra Club BC summarized it as “Orwellian” and “talk and log.” Horgan’s “Old Growth Protection Strategy” is a bald lie, as bald as the hillsides of BC.
     

    John Horgan’s Old Growth Protection Plan at work near Caycuse (photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    The issues confuse most people, because most Canadians don’t know that hereditary chiefs have traditional control over what happens in their territories, but elected chiefs—a construct of the Indian Act of 1876—have control over what happens on reserves and the cash flow from government.
    Industry and government throw money at the elected chiefs to get them to sign off on mines, pipelines and clearcutting, but these activities generally take place outside the reserves, in the territories, which should require sign-off from hereditary chiefs.
    When the Wet’suwet’en elected chiefs signed off on the pipeline, and the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs blockaded it, John Horgan refused to dialogue, and used the RCMP to smash their resistance.
    First Nations are not a couple of elected chiefs. First Nations are a people. And with all his talk about consultation, the premier has rejected calls to sit down and talk with Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones at Fairy Creek.
    So, on Saturday, May 29, at Waterfall Camp, Pacheedaht leaders Grannie Rose, Kati George-Jim, and Bill Jones brought Victor Peters, whom Jones says is the true hereditary chief of Pacheedaht First Nation, to the police line which denies Pacheedaht citizens access to Waterfall Camp, and declared:
    “I ask you, police man, to escort my chief to where he needs to go—these territories. He needs access to his lands to care for the old growth. You’ve been draining this territory for 200 years. You have cut all our timber with no remorse. You are invaders. I say to you: Clear the way, to escort my chief.”
     

    Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones speaks with RCMP near Waterfall Camp
     
    Jones was calling out the RCMP, and John Horgan who sent them, but all around him in the forest, and down in River Camp, 1,500 people, mostly settlers, had come to Fairy Creek in support, to stand with the “tall standing ones” and our First Nations.
    Bill wrote this invitation, which you can read here. Please read it. It is short, eloquent, and moving. It begins with an exhortation to walk in the woods, and it ends with an exhortation to walk in the woods. You are invited. If you come down to Fairy Creek, you don’t need to get arrested. Come to build relationships with First Nations people, support them, and listen to their teachings. 
    That evening at the 7:00 pm welcome circle at HQ below River Camp, Rueben George (grandson of Chief Dan George), spoke. He is Sacred Trust Manager of the Tsleil Waututh Nation. He urged us to build relationships between ourselves and the land. He told us how he buried the placenta that nourished each of his children in the womb, near their home, and planted a tree over it, so they could come home any time in their lives, to find their roots.
     

    Rueben George of Tsleil Waututh Nation
     
    I was born in Toronto, raised my children in Guelph, and my daughter lives in the Yukon. Rueben’s words uncovered for me a great sense of loss—that I have no generational connection to place. Our bodies have settled here, but not our souls.
    But Rueben invited us to join with the land wherever we live, and shared his traditional knowledge of how trees talk to each other and support each other in times of need. He called this a reciprocal relationship. He pointed up to the ridge line of Fairy Creek, and told us that every gift of love we give the land, will give us so much love and strength back. 
    I know this is true, because I have felt it at Fairy Creek.
    One night around the camp fire I observed how committed everyone was to non-violence. “This has gone up a level from just non-violence—everyone’s hearts are full of Peace.” We puzzled over the mystery of this, until someone said: “I think it is seeping up out of the ground, from the trees.”
     
    LIKE MANY, I CRIED TEARS OF JOY watching the BC Legislature sign UNDRIP into law. Maybe humanity was moving forward!
    A month later, Premier John Horgan’s government created the RCMP Community Industry Response Group (CIRG), a tactical squad, who are authorized to use “lethal oversight” to crush community resistance to industrial resource extraction. UNDRIP was just a photo-op for Mr Horgan.
    Regular detachment RCMP officers are required to enforce laws as neutrals, without interference from politicians. That is why the civil disobedience at Clayoquot Summer was a relatively “civil” affair.
    When officers are collected from all over the province into a CIRG, by declaration of a “provincial emergency,” their mandate pits them against communities, on the side of industry. The RCMP have enough trouble with systemic racism, but initiatives like CIRG destroy any credibility they have left. 
    Because where do we do all our resource extraction? First Nations unceded territories. 
     

    RCMP officers face Indigenous warrior matriarchs at Caycuse (photo by Arvin Singh Dang/ @arvinoutside)
     
    This same CIRG group is now at Fairy Creek, using illegal “exclusion zones” that are being challenged by the Canadian Association of Journalists, and false arrest practices that have outraged the BC Civil Liberties Association. They are even turning away biologists documenting endangered species at Fairy Creek, claiming “public safety” as an excuse.
    While a small minority of the logging community have slashed tires and assaulted First Nations youth, the constant stream of violent, racially-fuelled behaviour from the RCMP is more appalling.
    I went to Fairy Creek to save trees, but I’ve spent most of my time intervening between First Nations youth and cops.
    I watched a peaceful young woman, a minor, manhandled so harshly that her shirt ripped open, exposing her breasts to 30 armed male police. Her arrest was unlawful, and the assault on her dignity unnecessary. When she asked “Who are you serving?” they slammed the steel paddy wagon door in her face.
    I have dug deep to try and understand this behaviour. It is tactically foolish and morally wrong. As a sports coach, I am good at uncovering motivation, but I simply couldn’t understand it until I sat down to write this column.
    The police didn’t touch the 100 white elders who came down last week. And they were civil while they arrested me. Yet they are repeatedly singling out First Nations for violence. Why?
    Because they know they can get away with it. 
    First Nations and other marginalized youth don’t have the resources to shadow box with some “complaint commission,” which they know will side with police. Their experience is grounded in the knowledge that Chantel Moore was one of three Tla-o-qui-aht youth from her small village who have been shot to death by police or died in police custody in the last year. Less than 200 population, 3 children dead in separate incidents, one year. This is not random.
    After the arrests, I said to one young man with quite dark skin, “This is why the RCMP have lost everyone’s faith.” He replied calmly, “This is why they are so hated.” There was no hatred in his voice, just an acceptance of the reality of his life: “Don’t let the cops get you alone.”
    But reconciliation is being practised at Fairy Creek, by the forest defenders.
    The Rainforest Flying Squad Legal Support Team is painstakingly documenting dozens of police violations, including “racist, trans or queer-phobic, or misogynistic incidents.” These will be presented to Justice Verhoeven to ask for his help in restraining police while they enforce his injunction, and used to support legal challenges and official complaint procedures.
    As well, realizing Indigenous peoples need to have control over their own resources, the forest defenders have started a separate GoFundMe page to prioritize protection of First Nation youth from targeted RCMP activity, and give First Nations resources to free them from what Bill Jones describes as “predatory lending and predatory agreements that have shackled his people with unsupportable debt, impoverished his people, and destroyed the forest they consider to be their mother.”
    The rest of us can accept their invitation and that of Elder Bill Jones to come to Fairy Creek to try and shield the forest and our youth from violence.
    Myself, I have chosen to go to jail because our leadership has failed us and we have no time to waste. When elected leaders make mistakes, we must listen instead to the voice inside us which knows right from wrong. We are all Indigenous to this planet. We are all family.
    One more thought on building healthy relationships between our cultures.
    Some people are uncomfortable with the term “settler.” Being uncomfortable with a term is a good sign. It means we are learning something new. “Settler” is not meant as a pejorative, but simply as an identifier, to bring clarity, to enable dialogue. Here is why the term makes sense to me.
    Indigenous peoples live for a long time in fixed territories. To regulate their relationships with their neighbours, they greet each other at the boundary. Let me demonstrate, with my own statement.
    “Hi, my name is Yellow Cedar. My Scottish ancestors came here when the English banned our culture and language, massacred us with superior technology, burned our crofts, and put the survivors on boats for Canada. Needing a place to live, we settled in your territories, for which we are grateful.
    “In this time of emergency, I respectfully enter Pacheedaht Territory, invited by Elder Bill Jones, to help protect both the forest and people, whom I consider my family, from irreparable harm done by corporations and governments beyond both of our control.”
    Bringing a gift is a traditional greeting when entering a territory. At Fairy Creek, the gift to bring is your self. True reconciliation is born in people’s hearts, one by one. How can we build this if we are isolated from each other?
     

    Rainbow Eyes, the first on the Fairy Creek blockades to be arrested (photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Rainbow Eyes was the first to be arrested. You can see in her eyes that she knows what she is up against, but also the depth of her resolve. Will you come down to Fairy Creek to stand with her, laugh and cry with her, learn from her leadership, and help protect her from violence?
    Yellow Cedar is a writer based on Canada’s West Coast. See his earlier entries, including about his first arrest, here and here.

    David Broadland
    BC Premier John Horgan reveals a new strategy to avoid meaningful change while accusing old-growth forest defenders of seeking a “return to colonialism”
     
    GARRY MERKEL AND AL GORLEY, after calling for a “paradigm shift” in how old forest is valued in BC, probably had no idea that John Horgan would move so fast. But the premier has spoken and with the stroke of a press conference BC has moved from the era of Talk and Log into the new paradigm of Talk with First Nations and Log.
    Here’s the situation Horgan faces: There’s growing public support for blockades of old-growth logging at Fairy Creek Rainforest in Horgan’s own riding. These actions involve hundreds of people—and it’s an All Ages event—committing acts of civil disobedience and risking arrest by a militarized police unit which has put restrictions on press access to the conflict zone and has denied the public the right to be on publicly-owned land. It’s happening daily and is unlikely to stop until the police start shooting people.
    In the face of all that, what does the premier chose to do? He releases a series of forestry-related “policy intentions.” None of these addressed the old-growth issue beyond vague language about possible future short-term logging deferrals. All of Horgan’s intentions seemed to depend on interminable private talks with First Nations.
    What was the premier thinking? In response to a question from a reporter, Horgan said, “The critical recommendation that’s in play at Fairy Creek is consulting with the title holders. If we were to arbitrarily put deferrals in place there, that would be a return to the colonialism that we have so graphically been brought back to this week by the discovery in Kamloops.”
    Horgan seemed to be saying that solving the crisis in public trust around this issue would be like murdering 215 First Nations kids, again.
    The premier’s convoluted rhetoric speaks for itself. The question that needs considering is this: Is Horgan using the paucity of First Nations’ treaty agreements to protect the forest industry from real change? He’s claiming that the government can’t make decisions about a new direction for forestry in BC unless those decisions include consultation with First Nations. Is this actually the case? Or have Horgan and his cronies in the forest industry just figured out a new, post-colonial version of talk and log?
    We might judge the answer to that on the basis of his government’s record of signing treaties with First Nations. In nearly 5 years in office, approaching year 30 of a process that began in the early ’90s, Horgan has signed exactly zero treaties, a record that’s far worse than former premier Christie Clark’s.
    With no actual record of successfully negotiating with First Nations for what really matters to them, Horgan appears to be using the injustice done to those communities to hide behind in order to avoid making hard decisions on new directions. Directions that he doesn’t yet know how to sell to his party’s labour base, new directions that reflect the need—in light of the climate and biodiversity crises and falling forest employment—to reframe our entire relationship with forests. The irony here is that this deeper, necessary reframing meshes with First Nations’ traditional wisdom and practices regarding the use of forests. Turning them into feller-buncher operators doesn’t.
    The BC treaty process, dragged out by endless consultations by an army of highly paid BC government lawyers, has bankrupted First Nations and left them desperate to recover financially. Those debts, and the damage they inflicted on First Nations communities for nearly three decades, are now being used by Horgan to keep firm the forest industry’s death grip on BC’s old-growth forests, just as those debts have been used in other resource disputes.
    That’s the real “return to colonialism” that’s taking place.
    Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC senior forest and climate campaigner, called today’s announcement an “Orwellian nightmare.” He added, “The old-growth crisis calls for immediate short-term funding for First Nations and forestry workers seeking an alternative to logging the last old-growth. Defending business as usual will only exacerbate conflicts like the one happening over Fairy Creek and undermine options for communities seeking an alternative to destructive resource extraction.”
    Horgan’s performance truly was an Orwellian moment.
    David Broadland is going to write about forests and politics until First Nations title and rights are reflected in just treaties for all BC First Nations, and trees are valued for what they provide just by standing in a forest.

    Leslie Campbell
    THANKS TO SOME FRIENDS who invited me to join them, I was one of thousands who headed to Fairy Creek on Saturday, May 29.
    As a member of the media, I get an email from the RCMP each morning telling me where arrests are expected. My friends were willing to be arrested and I was there to document those arrests. But this morning, the RCMP email, which I received as we travelled to Fairy Creek, noted that no enforcement of the injunction would be happening. No explanation, but we wondered aloud if it was because there were going to be so many people coming out that day to show support for Fairy Creek’s old-growth forest and its defenders. Convoys had been arranged from Victoria and Duncan, and it was a beautiful, warm sunny day. 
    Without the drama of arrests, however, most mainstream media would not show up. No press would be there to witness the large numbers of old-growth defenders willing to be arrested, as occurred on a similar day back in 1993 at Clayoquot Sound, an event that became an icon for the entire summer of civil protest that followed and a visual magnet that drew people from across Canada. The RCMP sidestepped that this weekend.
    Just past Cowichan Lake, at the community of Mesachie Lake, we saw pro-logging supporters getting ready for their own blockade. Later news reports indicated it drew only a small number of disgruntled loggers from all over the Island. The Cowichan Valley Citizen reported a total of “dozens” coming from “Courtenay, Campbell River, Gold River, Zeballos and Port McNeill.” 
    Despite the low attendance, however, the loggers protest got more media coverage than the reported 2,000 or so who headed to the Fairy Creek area demanding a stop to old-growth logging. 
    When my party of would-be arrestees arrived at Fairy Creek “headquarters,” we were asked to head to Waterfall Camp. Waterfall had been dismantled the previous day by the RCMP, including the removal of a blockader who had been ingeniously suspended at the end of a pole over a deep canyon. This blockade is viewed as a crucial one to re-establish because it guards the entrance to the old-growth forest at the ridge above pristine Fairy Creek Valley. 
    The RCMP have set up a very large “exclusion zone” for this camp. It extends approximately 12 kilometres down a logging road. On our arrival, a dozen or so RCMP were at the entrance to it, doing their own blockading. I am not sure whether it was the sheer numbers of peaceful citizens or Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones telling the police that they were the trespassers and that the “forest defenders are welcome and legal guests on this land,” but everyone was allowed through—on foot only, except for Bill Jones in his vehicle.
     

    Supporters of the blockades head up to Waterfall Camp, through the 12-kilometre exclusion zone.
     
    It was a long, at times seemingly endless, walk uphill. We passed vast clearcuts on exceedingly steep hillsides that made us long for shade. Huge silvered stumps dating back to the mid-1900s were interspersed among much smaller new stumps. Walking mate Jenny Balke, a professional biologist based on Denman Island, told me this area “was famously and horribly logged from at least the 1970-80s on,” resulting in “many fines etc that went nowhere. So now, at all the reasonable heights, they are clear-cutting for the second time.” The recent second-growth logging illustrates we are not waiting anywhere near the required time to grow big trees. “The only old-growth forestry areas,” noted Balke, “are way high up and far out.” 
    Those are what are being defended (and coveted by industry). Balke herself was willing to be arrested, if not today, some other time.
     
    HUNDREDS OF US MADE THE PILGRIMAGE up to Waterfall Camp. All ages and walks of life were present—an elderly gentleman from Gabriola, babies in snugglies. I met at least two families with three generations represented. Susan Stokes, a grandmother and forest industry worker from Chemainus, was with her daughter Patti Johnston and teenage granddaughters Haley and Catherine. Against a backdrop of a clearcut, Stokes said, “This isn’t sustainable forestry.” 
     

    Susan Stokes, daughter Patti Johnston, granddaughters Catherine and Haley
     
    Her granddaughters were passing out a written plea to forest workers. It stated in part: “Don’t blame the people that are trying to save the last remnants of our majestic old-growth forests. Tree farms can never replace these forests. Tree farms have no diversity…Don’t let corrupt government and corporate giants divide us.” They also passed out a sheet with details from the government’s own commission—like the 1,680 species at risk of extinction in BC, more than any other province, and how the key is to conserve the diversity held in old-growth forests, lands that are being mismanaged.
    There were artists, teachers, retirees, tech workers, health care workers, ecotourism operators marching for hours. Two women acting as legal observers had come from the Okanagan.
     

    Lannie Keller, a kayaking lodge owner, joined the protest. 
     
    Some fellow pilgrims were planning to camp overnight—I didn’t envy them as they lugged up heavy packs. 
    At times a deafeningly-loud helicopter buzzed above us, gathering police “intel” we supposed. Fellow walkers expressed dismay about police resources being spent in such ways.
    Besides the clearcuts and helicopters, we crossed bridges over beautiful streams cascading down the rugged terrain. The logging roads themselves are a marvel of engineering. I couldn’t help but think of all the tax dollars spent to subsidize this difficult and expensive access for logging—and how few people the logging industry now employs.
     
    SOME TURNED BACK before reaching Waterfall Camp, but in my pulse of plodding people alone there were 150 or so that did complete the three-and-a-half-hour hike. Young, old, First Nations, settlers. But no mainstream news media at all. 
    And no RCMP, so no arrests, despite the many who were fully prepared to be arrested.
    While many dipped their toes or whole bodies in the falls by the road to cool down from the long hot trek, others tried to imagine the camp infrastructure that had been in place—the cantilevered pole with a forest defender precariously dangling over the deep canyon, the pole held in place by a parked car. An excavator had come in Friday, after media had been banished, and removed the courageous young man. 
    I don’t doubt he’ll be back to participate in some way; the people are determined. And they are being shown a lot of love from around the province, if not the world.
    The logging community knows this. As a woman involved in the aforementioned loggers protest stated on CHEK TV: “Bring in the forces. Bring in the military, clear their asses out. Don’t just…process and release them because they’re going right back.”
    But the real story of the weekend, despite it not making the news, was not the drama of arrests or angry loggers, but the mind-boggling surge of support from ordinary citizens of all ages and walks of life for old-growth forests and the blockades protecting them: hundreds, perhaps thousands, walking up to Waterfall Camp over the weekend; similar numbers at “Headquarters;” logging roads lined for miles and miles with vehicles and campers. Everyone peaceful, witnessing the massive, ugly clearcuts, and the beauty of the remaining forests, sharing ideas and opinions, dismay and hope. 
     
    BEFORE WE DESCENDED FROM WATERFALL, those in camp took a minute of silence for the children found at the Kamloops residential school.
    And then a torn banner, rescued from the rubble, was raised to proclaim the re-establishment of Waterfall Camp.
     

    The banner being raised at Waterfront Camp, May 29, 2021
     
    As those of us who needed to return home that evening descended the long, winding road from Waterfall blockade, we passed many more people on their way up. Some would stay the night and help rebuild the blockade that the RCMP had destroyed.
    Back at the bottom of the road, at the entrance to the exclusion zone, there were throngs of blockade supporters mingling and setting up camp for the evening; lots of good vibes and beautiful smiles. The numbers are overwhelming.
    I am glad to have witnessed it. My walking mate Jenny said in an email a couple of days later, that she “was very disheartened at the news clip on CBC radio Monday morning: Some protesters broke through police blockade over the weekend…sigh! Rather than: 1000s came to say old-growth logging has to stop!!”
    Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS. She also visited the blockade camps in early April. That story is here; a related story on the Eden Grove Artist in Residence story is here.

    David Broadland
    ACCORDING TO Madison’s Lumber Reporter, the price of 2x4s milled in BC reached a record high of just over $1600 USD per 1000 board feet at the end of April 2021. For the first four months of the year, the price had averaged about $1250. That average was approximately 3.3 times higher than for the same period in 2020. With almost all lumber in BC being cut from publicly-owned forests, you might think that huge price increase would translate into a financial windfall for BC residents.
    But data from the BC ministry of forests shows that for the first 4 months of 2020, the average stumpage collected across the province was $20.59 per cubic metre. For the first 4 months of 2021, that rose to $29.66. So while the value of products milled from public forests increased by 330 percent, the ministry of forests collected only 44 percent more, barely enough to cover the ministry’s own cost of providing forest management for the industry.
    The large jump in net revenue for forestry companies will make for some interesting financial statements in the coming months. In 2020, when lumber prices were one-third of their current level, Canfor, BC’s largest forestry company, reported a net operating income of $560 million.
    The ministry’s data also shows a huge surge in logging in 2021 over 2020. In the first 4 months of 2020, about 13.2 million cubic metres were cut in public forests. In the same period this year, 21.8 million cubic metres had been cut, up 65 percent. So not only are forestry companies getting a huge break on what they pay for wood compared to what the market pays them, they are cutting like there is no tomorrow. If logging continues at the current rate, the year’s cut will be about 15 million cubic metres higher than what the forest ministry’s own timber supply analyses have shown is sustainable in the mid-term.
     

    A logging truck heads to a log sort loaded with old-growth forest (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    For some companies, the record high prices have had little effect on the stumpage they pay. In the first four months of 2020, Teal Cedar Products paid an average of $23.13 per cubic metre for wood it removed from publicly-owned land in TFL 46. For the same period in 2021—by which time lumber prices had more than tripled—Teal paid just 2 cents more per cubic metre than it had in 2020.
    Teal Cedar Products is the company whose logging operations in TFL 46 are being blockaded by the Rainforest Flying Squad, which is trying to prevent the company from cutting old-growth forest. A strategic review of old-growth forests in BC conducted in 2020, commissioned by the BC government, recommended an immediate moratorium on logging of old forest in areas where less than 10 percent remains, which would include much of TFL 46. BC Premier John Horgan promised—before last fall’s election—that his government would abide by the review’s recommendations.
    The blockades don’t seem to have hindered Teal’s access to trees in TFL 46 for its mills in Surrey. For the first four months of 2021, forests ministry data shows that Teal cut more in TFL 46 than it had in the same period in 2020, which turned out to be the company’s biggest cut since 2012. But the blockades have resulted in intense public scrutiny and criticism of Premier John Horgan’s dithering on the old-growth file.
    David Broadland splits his life between a primary forest on Quadra Island and an urban Garry oak meadow in Victoria.

    Rainforest Flying Squad
    Rainforest Flying Squad statement in response to violations 
    of the rights of Indigenous peoples, civil liberties, and human rights 
    by RCMP in the Caycuse forest area, on Ditidaht First Nation Territory
     
    ARRESTS IN THE CAYCUSE EXCLUSION ZONE on Tuesday May 25 2021 and the various restrictions that have been placed on media, legal observers, local Indigenous peoples and the general public during RCMP enforcement actions are an illegal and extrajudicial use of force, according to legal representatives for the Rainforest Flying Squad.
    Lawyer Noah Ross, who represents the Rainforest Flying Squad says that “The RCMP enforcement zone actions arguably violate the civil rights—including the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression—of those seeking to protect old-growth forests. 
    “This is further exacerbated by the fact that the lion’s share of the arrests in question were dropped, and led to no charges.
    “When the underlying issue is one of ecological health and colonial injustice, the RCMP and government should approach civil liberties violations cautiously, or they will be seen to stand on the side of industry and frontier colonialism,” Ross added.
    The so-called “exclusion zone” was enforced by armed checkpoints on public roads located on the traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation. 
    On May 25th, about 45 people arrived at Caycuse to peacefully protest the wide and arbitrary exclusion zone established there by the RCMP, and to hold a vigil for the Ancient Forests. 
    They included RFS members as well as many public supporters. Among these were a group of Indigenous youth from various nations, elders, and an individual who wanted to show her support for a few hours before returning to the bedside of a dying relative. 
    One RCMP vehicle arrived on site and officers requested that the road be cleared or civil disobedience charges would be laid. This message was delivered over a loudspeaker but was not audible for many of the people who were present. 
    Police liaisons approached the RCMP vehicle and requested to speak with members from the RCMP Division Liaison Team (DLT) to find out where peaceful protestors could go to continue their vigil. 
    Instead of replying, 10-15 RCMP vehicles rapidly pulled up and, without prior warning, RCMP officers immediately began violently arresting people. They seemed to focus first on those wearing high-visibility vests, such as legal observers and police liaisons.
    At least 42 people present at the site of the Caycuse exclusion zone were arrested that day. 
    After these first arrests at around 8:30 AM, RCMP officers corralled the others, and announced that every person remaining was also under arrest. All had been standing peacefully off the road. Some were detained in the corral until about 7:30 PM before being transported to Lake Cowichan RCMP station, without food or support for over 13 hours. The final arrestees were not released until 10:30 PM. 
    The RCMP did not read the injunction to the people on the road. They did give a fair warning to withdraw from the road, and at the time arrests started, protestors were in the process of trying to learn where they should go to safely continue their vigil. Despite following orders to move, all present were arrested anyway. Clearly they were not in breach of the injunction.
    There appears to have been overt misconduct by the RCMP. Unjustified force was used on numerous individuals who were peaceful and in no way resisting arrest. As well, there are accounts that RCMP officers targeted and threatened Indigenous and BIPOC youth. 
    One young woman of colour said an RCMP officer tried to rip off her hijab. Multiple others said they were threatened by police to have their piercings cut out. A small, 18-year-old police liaison cried out in pain when she was roughly grabbed by four or five officers and brought to her knees. She cried out “I’m a minor!” and was not resisting arrest.
    Without cause or reason, all vehicles belonging to the protestors were towed about three kilometres down the road. None of these vehicles were blocking the road. Protestors were told they could access their vehicles after their release but might have to pay Teal Jones for the cost of the towing.
    Over the past 10 days the RCMP have made approximately 104 arrests total in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse area. Fifty-four people were arrested but released without charges, and another 50 people have been charged for civil contempt of court and/or obstruction of justice. 
    Individuals have been detained for 13 hours or more before release, yet almost all arrestees have been released without charges. 
    The exclusion zone was set up on May 17th, 2021. It preceded the enforcement of the injunction at the Caycuse Forest Protection camp the following day.
    At that time, forest defenders on site were given 24 hours to leave even if they were not blockading or violating the terms of the injunction in any way. 
    DLT officers informed them that anyone remaining on site at the time of enforcement -- including Indigenous peoples on their own territory, media, legal observers, police liaisons, medics and witnesses -- would be arrested if they chose to stay.
    The RCMP stated that this exclusion zone is justified: "The primary concerns of the police are public safety, police officer safety, and preservation of the right to peaceful, lawful and safe protest, within the terms set by the Supreme Court in the injunction."
    However, Ross states that the exclusion zone is not in keeping with the geographic scope and terms of the April 1st, 2021 Injunction Order given by Justice Verhoeven, which specifically allows for peaceful protest within the injunction area. 
    He adds that “the Injunction stipulates that only those directly interfering with logging activity, or within 50 metres of company equipment, are subject to arrest.”
    Limiting public access to the injunction area directly undermines the safety of those peacefully protesting within the exclusion zone. They are left vulnerable and without witnesses. 
    “The RCMP has repeatedly announced to the media and public that there was no planned enforcement on a given day, and used this to deny access for everyone including members of the press -- while proceeding to enforce the injunction and make arrests,” Ross said.
    At the checkpoint on both days of action, the RCMP arbitrarily moved the exclusion zone line, with the effect of criminalizing peaceful public protest and severely limiting press freedom.
    Furthermore, RCMP ignored reports of logging activity within very unsafe distances from forest defenders who were still on site.
    Finally, the RCMP denies access for Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nation members to large parts of their unceded territory without free, prior and informed consent or a clear and properly communicated plan to facilitate their entry into the so-called exclusion zone. 
    “The fact that, at the same time, the RCMP actively enables industry to inflict further violence on the land speaks clearly to the state’s complicity in ongoing colonialism,” said Elder Bill Jones, a member of the Pacheedaht First Nation. Jones has welcomed the Rainforest Flying Squad and its supporters to help him protect the old-growth forests at Fairy Creek since last August. 
    These concerns are shared by a number of other groups, including a coalition of media and the Canadian Association of Journalists which is initiating their own court challenge.
    On May 20th, the BC Civil Liberties Association released an open letter condemning the Caycuse exclusion zone. 
    The RCMP was censured in 2019 by its internal Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the use of exclusion zones on Wet’suwet’en and Elsipogtog territory (see here for a link to a recent Ricochet news publication regarding this issue, and here to a link to the letter from the CRCC). In a statement, The Canadian Association of Journalists also called on the courts to limit the powers of the RCMP in granting injunctions in order to protect the freedom of the press. 

    Yellow Cedar
    ON SATURDAY, MAY 22, I WAS STANDING PEACEFULLY before an RCMP roadblock set up near the intersection of Caycuse Main and Maclure Main, with 100 citizens. We were warming our hearts around a sacred fire, bearing witness as a young Pacheedaht woman sang in her own language, songs of healing and resistance, in response to being savagely beaten by three male white police.
    It was a powerful and moving moment.
    The young woman put her drum down, and explained that she had just been ordered to leave the public space we stood in, because the RCMP had arbitrarily declared it to be an “exclusion zone” around the injunction against active logging in Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46.
     

    Citizens protesting the legality of the RCMP exclusion zone at Caycuse (photograph supplied anonymously)
     
    Because the active logging was 9 miles away, and the injunction specifically states “50 metres from active logging and machinery,” she told us that she considered these exclusion zones, which are meant to protect citizens at crime scenes, to be an abuse of police discretion. She wished to exercise her rights and freedoms under the Charter and “stand here.”
    I asked, “May I stand with you?” She smiled and said “Yes.”
    Twenty of us got up and linked arms at her side. Thirty armed police engulfed us in an arrest wave from the rear. Moms with strollers scattered, children ran for safety. One seven year old said “Mom, I want to stay.”
    When two burly officers used unnecessary force to hustle an Indigenous woman still tending the fire away, I stepped forward, and extended my hands out to an officer, to facilitate handcuffs. He said “would you like to be arrested?” 
    What a question! Well, “yes and no.” 
    What I would like, is for Premier Horgan to start practicing sustainable forestry, so we can stop killing 8 loggers a year in clearcuts, and rebuild the 40 percent of forestry jobs we just lost to mechanization.
    What I would like, is not to be complicit while my species causes an entire bioregion to go extinct.
    But time was short, so I said “I’m with her.” And so I was.
     

    The old-growth at stake—these trees in Caycuse area are likely gone now (photography by Will O'Connell)
     
    From my paddy wagon seat, I watched the muscular white male police officer slam the much smaller female Indigenous fire-tender through the small steel-framed opening, and heard the sickly thump of her head hitting the steel wall.
    I heard him hiss: “You just assaulted a police officer,” so that she would realize if she laid a complaint, he would claim she was “resisting arrest.” Her Indigenous word, against his white male professional word. She knows how that will turn out. She kept quiet, so it wouldn’t get worse.
    Racist violence is alive and well in Canada. At least in Alabama, it’s on the table, and Black Lives Matter. Here in BC we sweep it under the rug, and RCMP officers at Fairy Creek (Ada’itsx), are wearing Blue Lives Matter ribbons.
    Nine of us, perhaps five identifying as white, spent the next six hours, the first two without water, being softened up, and having our resistance gauged, by seven different officers. The door would open. “You’ll never be able to cross a border again. Just try getting a job with a criminal record.” Slam. An hour later, “By the way, it’s a long weekend, so you’ll be in jail until Tuesday, but who knows, maybe the judge is busy, or on vacation. And this is no nice little jail.”
    One of us replied: “Uh, the ventilation fan is broken, and its about 35 degrees in here, can you just leave the door open a crack for air?” “You should have thought of that before you committed a criminal act.” Slam.
     

    “Under the uniforms, the RCMP are people, but their military culture has dehumanized them. They suffer from police brutality too.” (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    The police had tacked on a criminal charge of “mischief” to the civil charge of violating the injunction so they could threaten us with criminal records.
    Then the door opens, and “good cop” brings us one tiny water bottle for three, and says: “Hey, if you sign here, you can walk free, once we drive you to Cowichan Lake.”  Someone replies, “Can you give us a lift back down the 100 kilometres of logging roads to our car?” “No, that’s Uber.”
    Despite myself, I smiled. Under the uniforms, the RCMP are people, but their military culture has dehumanized them. They suffer from police brutality too.
    Most of us were prepared to go to jail, so we could try and convince a judge that our need as humans to slow the rate of species extinction is more pressing than the need of Teal Cedar to profit from that extinction.
    If we succeed, the judge can use their discretion to “be kind” with the sentence. If we don’t, we can get 90 days in jail for singing in a public road.
    And while we sat in the wagon deliberating, six species went extinct on our planet.
    After all of that, and so much more, just before midnight, I walked up to the intake window at RCMP Cowichan Lake, where the local detachment officer stood frozen and mute. Puzzled, I smiled to reassure him, and said words to the effect of “Book’em Dano, TFL 46.” He blinked. The officer who assaulted the Indigenous fire tender said “Get out of here, we’re not charging you.”
    I asked to be charged. He refused, and hustled me out of the building.
    Police have discretion to apprehend a suspect, and release them. George Floyd (may he rest in honoured peace), handed a store clerk a counterfeit $20 bill. But was he a counterfeiter? Maybe someone gave him the bill? If things hadn’t gone so wrong, police procedure was to apprehend him, investigate, and decide if charges were warranted, or just record the incident, and release him.
    But at Caycuse, the RCMP had 30 officers present to witness and testify in court that we were in the injunction zone. We were told to leave, and refused. There was no doubt. Why keep us in a paddy wagon for six hours, and drive us 100 kilometres, to release us? 
    Then the penny dropped. They never had any intention of booking us. If 1,000 citizens go to jail, the trees win. If 20 citizens go to jail, the logging corporation wins.
    But why are the RCMP spending millions of public dollars to help the logging company win? Why weren’t they just doing their jobs and enforcing the injunction? The betrayal of being lied to by seven police officers all day shocked me more than I expected.
    And then the bag of pennies dropped. I realized this was not just any ordinary civil disobedience, like the Votes for Women campaign, or so many others, that won us everything good in society.
    This is a real War in the Woods.
    After Tzeporah Berman, now director of Stand.earth, was arrested, she said “Compared to this, Clayoquot Summer was the Picnic in the Woods.”
    After a little digging, I discovered that the Rainforest Flying Squad is facing an elite RCMP “Clearcutting Flying Squad,” led by Dave Attfield, the Gold Commander who oversaw the raid at the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory.
    A BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) press release, which you can read here, details how this Community Industry Response Group (CIRG) was originally created at Premier John Horgan’s request, requiring the declaration of a state of “provincial emergency” under the Provincial Police Service Agreement.
    A state of emergency, that the public was not informed of.
    As a citizen, I’d like to know:
     Is this the same squad, or a new one?  Does the “provincial emergency” or CIRG, have an end date?  Is the CIRG audited? What are our costs? The name “Community Industry Response Group” makes it sound like a reconciliation effort. To date, the squad’s activities have all been to suppress communities to facilitate industry, at taxpayer’s expense. 
    I consider this deployment to be a conflict of interest, as TFL 46 is in John Horgan’s riding, and the forestry workers who are benefitting in the short term represent votes for John. A judge who owned shares in Teal Cedar would recuse himself from our trials.
    Using a military group to crush dissent is something I expect from China, not British Columbia. This unit has helicopters and a SWAT team. At Wet’suwet’en, they were authorized to use lethal force, indirectly as “lethal oversight,” as reported in this article in The Guardian. At Caycuse, they have threatened to shoot the tree sitters out of the trees with snipers.
    In response, some sitters came down, some refused. I watched a tree sitter who climbed down, and was released, lying back in the arms of her support group, sobbing and crying for an hour. “And then they…” more tears… “and then....” 
    She could hardly get a full sentence out until she was completely overwhelmed, her body wracked with convulsive sobs.
    She poses no threat to life or property. She is not a criminal. The forest defenders are scrupulously non-violent. She’s just a kid, about the same age as my daughter, who climbed into a tree to protect the ecosystem she lives in, full of ancient trees that have no voice of their own.
    The BCCLA has written an open letter to the Province stating that “the RCMP’s actions are…an inconsistent, arbitrary, and illegal exercise of police discretion to block members of the public, including legal observers and the media, from accessing the area.”
     

    Forest defender holds up Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    The Canadian Association of Journalists is calling on courts to limit the discretionary powers of police to enforce injunctions, because “police have failed again and again” to respect the Charter. Forest Defenders will be asking our judge for this protection in our trials. If we can get a trial!
    John Horgan has a lot to answer for. I believe he should start by apologizing to the Fairy Creek Forest Protectors, and then:
     Disband the RCMP Community Industry Response Group.  Declare a provincial emergency to protect BC’s Ancient Temperate Rainforest Biome, which is critically endangered.  Ensure unrestricted access for media, international observers, and citizens. Come out of hiding and start providing some leadership.
    Create an environment for dialogue by declaring a temporary moratorium on TFL-46, compensate the families of the loggers for lost time, provide other logs for the Pacheedaht sawmill, and sit down with the Forest Defenders to talk.
    The tragedy, is that this war in the woods is completely unnecessary.
    Here in BC, we are lucky to have the foremost forest scientist in the world—Dr Suzanne Simard. She has just published her first book, Finding the Mother Tree, and has initiated the Mother Tree Project to prove that we could have double the forestry jobs by practicing woodlot forestry that preserves a forest’s biomass.
    She’s putting “Peace In The Woods” on a plate for us by creating a scientific forestry blueprint for healing our ruined clearcuts, and turning them back into old growth, which the Forest Service should have done before they started clearcutting. Eco Foresters call it “single tree selective forestry.” Loggers call it “hand logging.”
    Hey John—more forestry jobs means more votes for you. Maybe it’s time to park the helicopters, and pick up the phone.
    Yellow Cedar is a West Coast BC-based writer. His third diary entry is now up at 
     

    Yellow Cedar
    “HI MY NAME IS DOUG,” the engaging young man at the gate says. “That would be Doug Fir, I presume?” I inquired, echoing the Stanley and Livingston greeting in a forest far away now in time and space. Perhaps his funky home-made tree costume gave him away. The people here have a twinkle in their eye, and fun is never far away.
    The spirit of Emma Goldman dances in their revolution.
    I arrived in Camp last night to careful scrutiny as a potential RCMP infiltrator, a warm welcome, and an exhortation to bring my Self to the Movement. There are no mistakes in forest activism. There is no one path, and no Shining Path. Each of us make our own choices about how we are called to civil disobedience, and what our lives can support.
    I sat around the camp fire with “Rainbow Eyes,” after her first arrest, and before mine, discussing whether we might or might not get criminal records, and whether we should let Fear be the deciding factor, or Courage. “You know what Winston Churchill said about that,” someone chimed in.
    Myself, the only Fear I have is caused by the 2019 UN Report on Biodiversity telling me that 25 species will go extinct today, in large part due to the clearcut deforestation taking place at Fairy Creek, and all over BC.
     

    Clearcuts in the Caycuse River area, near blockades (photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Apparently, when we get our day in court, the judge will balance my right to peaceful protest, and the severity of my need, against the right of the Corporation to make profit without interference, and the severity of their need. A human, against a non-human. The non-human seems to win every time. 
    Why is that?
    And the forest has no rights. The ecosystem has no rights. “The only stream around here with rights and freedoms, is the corporate income stream.”
    We need to change this.
    I will admit that I have broken the injunction. I will not sign the “promise not to return” waiver. My promise is to return, and return again, in an endless cycle of Arrest, Court, Judge, Arrest, Court, Judge, until they stop. “Rinse and repeat.”
    I will rest my defence on the urgency of our need to take action. The “Greta Thunberg defence”—Pawn to Queen 4. I have a daughter just her age—a young ecosystem scientist.
    I will close my summary to the judge by saying that if an assailant broke into my house at night and threatened my daughter, I would follow the explicit instructions of no less than Gandhi himself, and take him down by whatever means necessary. If I did, the RCMP would arrive and say “good job,” and no judge would take the assailant’s side.
    Today, I will peacefully attempt to stop an assailant from causing my daughter and her generation imminent and catastrophic harm. The RCMP will hand cuff me and take me to jail. As I calmly and reasonably inform the arresting officers that clearcutting is deforestation, and deforestation is causing species extinction, they might just say: “Tell it to the judge”.
    And that is exactly what I will do.
    In fact: “Make my day.”  🙂
    Yellow Cedar is a West Coast BC-based writer. Watch for Part II: 6 hours in a paddy wagon. Part II of Yellow Cedar's diary is now available at 
     

    Ben Barclay
    The forest scientist takes us deep into the forest to learn its many startling and wise lessons.
     
    IF YOU COULD HOP IN A TIME MACHINE and find yourself in the orchard with Sir Isaac Newton, watching that apple drop, would you go? Billionaires can dream, but the beauty of books is that we can share the journey of scientists making great discoveries while they happen. 
     

    Forest scientist Dr Suzanne Simard (photograph by Brendan Ko)
     
    Suzanne Simard’s Finding The Mother Tree tells the story of her discovery of how trees talk to each other.
    Trees also communicate with other species, in chat rooms connected by another biological kingdom—fungi. And trees don’t just talk, they share resources. When young trees are having a rough time getting started in life, their parent trees send them a little carbon to help out.
    Anyone with a child in university knows about this.
    It gets even wilder. Simard found that trees thought to compete with each other, actually cooperate, sharing water during summer droughts. All of this is contrary to the forestry textbooks she was given.
    How did she make this breakthrough?
    Simard invites us to share her journey with a storytelling approach, letting us inside her life from her country childhood in a family of hand loggers in the Monashee Mountains of BC, through her school and career in forestry science, raising her own family, her battle with breast cancer helped by paclitaxel (first discovered in Yew trees), to her decision to create The Mother Tree Project.
    I call her approach the “Pollination Model” of science writing. Simard’s book is a flower, and we pick up her ideas and knowledge like pollen on our “bee legs,” as we walk through, sipping narrative nectar. (Hollywood’s Amy Adams likes the book too—she plans to turn it into a feature film.)
    It makes for great reading, but the stories help the ideas stick better. Once you have become attached to “Suzie” as a rambunctious young outdoor dreamer, you can’t help but smile as she comes out with lines like: “I picked paper birch as my test species, because I knew from childhood that it made rich humus, that should be as helpful to conifers, as it had been delicious in my dirt-eating days.”
    Young ecology students will come out of the book knowing the difference between arbuscular and ecto mycorrhiza. The rest of us will have proof of what writers from Tolkien to Mary Oliver have been telling us all along.
    That trees are our family.
    Reading Dr Simard’s book is like perching on the shoulder of Sherlock Holmes while he unravels a case. You can see the scientific mind at work. By page 20 I felt like I’d signed up as a cabin boy on the HMS Beagle, off to the Galapagos in 1831, and lucked out by getting Charles Darwin as a roommate.
    Suzanne Simard and Charles Darwin have a lot in common. They are pure scientists. They get inside their subject. They open themselves to nature, and then think about it. As Darwin observed how the finches evolved on their separate islands, Simard observed how Douglas fir and birch trees grew stronger by sharing information and carbon resources.
    Both saw far beyond the limited world view of their day. Both are paradigm shifters.
    Darwin was told that evolution couldn’t be possible, because it threatened the Church, who had locked themselves into a dogma of “creation” happening only 4,000 years before. Simard’s discoveries have threatened our State, who have locked themselves into a dogma that the only way to get jobs out of a forest is to clearcut them.
    Belief that forests are just resources to be exploited is the primitive, dangerous dogma of our day.
    Anticipating the coming storm, Darwin hesitated to publish. Not realizing that trees sending each other biochemical texts about insects would cause a fuss, Simard published. Both were attacked by traditionalist academics and policy makers.
    Ironically, Simard’s ideas got dragged into a debate between two factions of today’s evolutionary scientists, the “competitionists” and “cooperationists,” who are bitterly divided over which is the dominant survival strategy. Does everything need a dominant factor? Like the split between Republicans and Democrats, this either/or, Us and Them, winner-take-all argument itself is now threatening our survival.
    Simard’s findings build a compelling case that cooperation and competition are complementary evolutionary strategies, woven into a resilient tapestry of life. Ecosystems are full of complex, “give and take” relationships. 
    Scientists call these “reciprocal relationships.” (Remember that phrase. It’s on the test).
    Simard’s cancer doctor told her as a survival tip: “We are defined by our relationships.” For humans to survive, we need to learn to maintain reciprocal relationships. The best way to visualize this is to start treating our planet as family.
    When Darwin’s scientific discovery raised the implication that all life was extended family, the public freaked out, saying “We’re not monkeys.” One hundred years later, Jane Goodall proved that chimpanzees made tools, have personalities, and loved their children. Her PhD advisors insisted she refer to “David Greybeard” by a number. She refused, and brought chimps into our hearts, helping us connect with the animal kingdom.
    By helping us connect with mycelia and trees, Simard has taken us a step further, bringing two more entire biological kingdoms, of plants and fungi, into the house. Now we have the whole picture. Forests are not just stands of unsliced 2x4s with bark on them, they are an infinite universe of plants, fungi and animals.
    They have a right to life. And liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. 
    Consider the forests of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. Since 1890, they have supported their community by harvesting and selling billions of board feet of lumber. They only cut the extra wood that grows annually. They “live off the interest.” They don’t sell raw logs, they own the mills, they have safe, secure jobs. They just declared their river to be a person. Although they have always thought of it as having inherent value and rights, the threat posed by a nearby mine opening prompted the tribal legislature to adopt the resolution.
    Simard’s Mother Tree Project, which draws from traditional Indigenous forest science, is developing a blueprint, in nine watersheds across BC, for reciprocal relationships between forests and humans. Her harvesting plan provides more and safer jobs than clearcutting, and does not reduce annual carbon and biomass.
    The BC government should have started this research 100 years ago, when Simard’s grandfathers were plucking single trees out of the forest and rafting them down the river for collection.
    Instead, they throttled up industrial clearcutting. 
    By the time Simard had grown up and got her first forestry job with a logging company, the industry was so locked into practices based on the competition model, such as intensive brush clearing, that she could see her questions about cooperation being key to survival had no future.
    “If I discovered more evidence, pushed in this direction, I’d have to convince the company to change everything. That didn’t seem likely, given that I couldn’t even persuade my boss to plant a mix of species in the new clear-cuts at Boulder Creek,” she writes. 
    Even after she became faculty at UBC, the BC Forest Service made her prove that their faulty brush clearing policies were wrong, instead of having her design them properly before they started. Today, John Horgan’s government is still ignoring her work, giving the last one percent of old growth away to corporations for peanuts, and throwing citizens who beg to differ in jail down at Fairy Creek.
     

    Fairy Creek valley, with clear cuts surrounding it
     
    Undeterred, the Mother Tree Project is quietly putting the solution on a plate for us. 
    As long as we ask with respect, and don’t take more than the forest offers, our generous forest family will give us all the wood and jobs we need. It will give us cures for cancer, oxygen to breathe, carbon sequestration, and solace from our busy urban lives.
    Most of all, if we learn to treat the elders of our family with respect (and trees, moss and fungi are very much our evolutionary elders) we can find a sense of belonging.
    By making peace with forests, we can heal our souls. As Simard says: “This is not a book about how we can save the trees. This is a book about how the trees might save us.”
    The 2019 UN Report on Biodiversity reports that humans are causing the extinction of  10,000 species a year, and states that in the next 100 years “organized human existence will become untenable.” I guess that is how international diplomats say “Zombie Apocalypse.”
    Simard is offering us a way out of that scenario. I think her book could be particularly valuable to university and college students. My daughter texted me last year from her oceanography class, and said: “Dad, 40 percent of the students in class today are crying, because we can’t handle the information we are being given about the destruction of our oceans.”
    As a Father Tree, what nutrients can I send her? How does she manage to keep moving forward?
    Simard hopes that reading about her successful struggles through government and academic inertia will help give students and other marginalized populations such as Indigenous youth, “permission to hold on to their innate understanding,” and to get out in nature and find their own path.
    Like Ms Frizzle of Magic Schoolbus fame used to say: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.”
    Simard deliberately included the messy bits of her journey in her book, because she believes that science should be just like art, music, love or any human act.
    While much of the science in Simard’s book is about how trees connect with each other, the book itself is an invitation for the reader to go out and find the nearest mother tree and say hello.
    “Hi mom. Um, sorry I haven’t called enough.” That’s ok. She loves us anyways. God knows why. But mothers are like that.
     

    A grove with mother tree at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute near Ladysmith (photograph by Ben Barclay)
     
    For readers on Vancouver Island, you can find such a mother tree in a grove at Wildwood EcoForestry Institute, near Ladysmith. When Merv Wilkinson cut the small tree at right (in the photo above), the bigger grandmother tree beside it sent nutrients out to place a woody cap on the stump, to protect the family from invasive insects. When you place your hand on that cap, chills will go up your spine. You can hear the trees talking. You can look around at a forest that freely gave a million board feet of lumber in Merv’s lifetime, and still has groves of 500-year-old Douglas fir linked by their ectomycorrhiza, and Cedar linked by their arbuscular mycorrhiza.
     

    Fairy Creek area mother tree (photograph by TJ Watt)
     
    You can also go visit a mother tree in the Fairy Creek valley, one of the last intact old growth watersheds in BC, only a few hours out of Victoria.
    But you’d better hurry, because it will be cut down and chucked onto the back of a logging truck in the next few weeks, once the protesters are cleared from protecting it. If the RCMP try and stop you, at least now you have the science on your side to say: “I’m visiting family, officer. My mother is dying, and I want to say goodbye before she’s gone.”
    Ben Barclay has run social enterprises and guided non-profits promoting sustainable forestry for 40 years.
     

    Michael John Lo
    Forest defenders persist at blockades as 59 are arrested and old-growth logging begins.
     
    AFTER NINE MONTHS of sustained, successful blockades against old-growth logging in remote valleys on Southern Vancouver Island, the forest defence action led by the Rainforest Flying Squad entered a new, more intense phase on Monday, May 17, 2021. 
    The ensuing week has seen the use of significant police resources to carry out arrests of forest defenders; continued—and creative—resistance on the part of blockaders; legal action on a number of fronts; and the commencement of old-growth logging by Teal Cedar Products (a division of Teal Jones Group) in Caycuse Valley in Ditidaht territory. The endangered Western Screech Owl has also made an important appearance.
    On May 17, RCMP established a blockade and checkpoints on the logging roads leading to the Caycuse blockade to begin enforcing the BC Supreme Court injunction granted to Teal Cedar Products on April 1—despite the fact that the injunction has been appealed and, according to some legal watchdogs, that exclusion zones are not legally justified. As of May 23, close to 59 individuals have been arrested within exclusion zones (which RCMP has rebranded as a “temporary access control area”).
    FOCUS sent myself and photographer Dawna Mueller to witness and document the events on the first day of arrests, Tuesday, May 18.
    The evening before, press representatives were contacted by the RCMP and given no option but to meet RCMP at 7 am the next morning in a parking lot in Honeymoon Bay, near Lake Cowichan, if they wanted to get anywhere near the expected arrests. After quickly renting a car that could handle the rigours of logging roads, we left Victoria at five in the morning.
    Eighteen members of the media showed up and were chaperoned by RCMP minders past police lines to witness the enforcement. Television crews from CHEK, CBC, CTV, and Global, as well as representatives from smaller publications and freelancers milled around in a rainy parking lot after checking in with the RCMP. We were shepherded to the front of the police checkpoint at the McClure service road—about seven kilometres from the camp itself—for another hour-long wait.
    Many supporters of the forest defence action were gathered in front of the police line, with some arriving from the other camps or from one of the two convoys that drove in from Port Renfrew and Duncan the same morning.
    “We are here to protest and support our friends who are here in the front line at Caycuse,” said Solene, who was from camp headquarters near Fairy Creek. The forest defenders chanted slogans, such as “shame on Horgan,” sang songs, and spoke to media waiting at the gate.
    Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones—one of the most visible Indigenous supporters of the movement to protect Vancouver Island old growth—spoke to those gathered on the site. (A video of his speech can be found here.)
    “My girlfriend’s going to be mad,” said Jones, laughing when asked about how he was feeling. Jones has been in ailing health recently and was shivering slightly by the end of his speech. Despite the cold, intermittent rain, the 87-year-old came out to protest. “I figure we are here doing the right thing, to protest and tell the government we are here to save our old growth,” said Jones who was quickly whisked off after his speech by friends concerned about his health.
    Jones’ determination would be echoed by those waiting to be arrested beyond the police line.
    The forest defenders at the Caycuse blockade had been given 24-hours notice to vacate or risk arrest the day before. Gently smouldering embers in recently abandoned campsites suggested that many had left at the last minute. Banners and signs hung limply along the road which used to house a lively crowd of forest defenders and their tents. Only a few legal observers remained behind to observe and document the arrests.
    Each of the arrestees—most of them chained up, locked down, and in one case, suspended 10 metres off the ground to make arrests difficult—were served with injunction papers and given a chance to leave freely before they were arrested. 
     

    RCMP officers move in to Caycuse Camp on May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     

    Val Embree, grandmother, and Mitchell Steinke, musician: arrested May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Perhaps it is symbolic that the two first arrestees at Camp Caycuse were Val Embree, a grandmother who described herself as a longtime forests protector, and Mitchell Steinke, a younger man who strummed a guitar and sang songs about nature and trees until he was arrested and escorted away from the camp gate.
    His guitar was left behind.
    “The land, the trees, the forest, belongs to the people, the First Nations, and all people,” said Rainbow Eyes, a Da’naxda’xw-Aweatlala Indigenous forest defender from Knight Inlet, who had chained herself to a road gate with a bicycle lock and another forest defender, Brandon Busby.
     

    Rainbow Eyes and Brandon Busby: arrested May 18 (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Several officers held up tarps to obstruct the views of legal observers and media during the arrests of those who had chained themselves down, ostensibly to protect “proprietary” police techniques.
    The arrests did not happen fast. Journalists would wander off from police supervision to look at the various structures left behind during lulls in the arrests. One particularly well-built outhouse stands out in memory, with journalists and RCMP constables both remarking on the ingenuity of the engineering.
    One protector who had chained himself into a hollowed-out piece of old-growth cedar set in the middle of the road, would have to wait hours before it was his turn. Intermittently, the sounds of a helicopter and drones would come from the sky.
     

    Forest defender Uddhava (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    “I’m engaged in this apparatus as a physical blockade, a physical delay mechanism, but also as a symbolic blockage of industry into the heart of untouched environment,” said Uddhava. 
    He was carried out on a tarp after he went limp and refused to walk.
    Uddhava would be the last to be arrested that first day of arrests. 
    There were two more forest defenders, blocking the way of logging trucks. They were chained to the sides of a massive slice of old-growth cedar salvaged from a previously logged stump, positioned in front of an unnamed bridge overlooking the Caycuse River.
    But it was getting late. RCMP officers decided to call it a day, leaving those two blockaders to be dealt with the following day.
    Many more than two would be arrested in the following days.
     
    Tensions rise as logging begins
    Since the first day of arrests, tensions have risen as supporters are denied access beyond the exclusion zone and press access has been significantly restricted. Reports and videos of more forceful enforcement are trailing out through social media.
    The Fairy Creek and Caycuse areas do not have cell service, which means that the flow of information is staggered throughout the day and is often hours out of date. On Friday, May 21, the Rainforest Flying Squad’s Instagram account, which they rely on to communicate to supporters outside of the dead cell zone, inexplicably went down after they posted a video where Bill Jones’ niece and media representative Kati George-Jim was forcefully arrested. The Rainforest Flying Squad has since reported, “Instagram claimed that our site was promoting violence, when in fact it was exposing police violence.”
    What we do know is that five dozen people had been arrested by Sunday, May 23—and that police had moved to enforce the injunction beyond Caycuse Camp, in other areas of the watersheds near Fairy Creek. On Saturday May 22, the Rainforest Flying Squad reported that 15 RCMP vehicles were en route to dismantle Eden and Waterfall blockades near Port Renfrew. Later, the RCMP said that six were arrested there.
    During the week, we’ve heard complaints from some arrestees about how they have been treated.
    Uddhava—whose arrest FOCUS was prevented from witnessing as his extrication process was blocked from view by tarps held up by RCMP—has complained that officers placed his head in a canvas bag and bent him forward without letting him know beforehand.
    “Everything was black, and I was bent forward with multiple hands on me,” said Uddhava. He said that the RCMP used some sort of pneumatic device to cut the lock off his neck, which made him worried that his airway was going to get cut off. “I felt very vulnerable in that situation, knowing that it would have been very easy for the RCMP to have knocked me unconscious or to choke me out without anyone seeing,” said Uddhava.
     

    Forest defender Uddhava (Photograph by Dawna Mueller)
     
    He also alleges that RCMP did not let him relieve himself during the two-and-a-half hours from his initial arrest to the holding cell at Lake Cowichan, despite multiple requests to do so.
    Another complaint—one of colonial violence—came from Kati George-Jim, niece of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones. She was arrested on May 20 at Caycuse. In a video, made after her release in Lake Cowichan, she claimed the RCMP had tackled her using an “excessive amount of force.” 
    George-Jim says she was charged with obstruction of justice and assault of a police officer, though she was acting as a legal observer and not blockading. She says she was only attempting to help a young man being tackled and treated roughly by the RCMP. She stated, “From the video you will see the only assault was of me.” (This was on the Instagram account that was still down as of press time.)
    One of the tree sitters at Caycuse said that RCMP officers on scene had threatened to use rubber bullets and tear gas to get another tree sitter out of her perch. RCMP spokesperson Corporal Chris Manseau denied that there was any tear gas on the site and that the RCMP doesn’t use rubber bullets. He said the RCMP takes such allegations seriously and these require further investigation.
    Complaints have also come from media. Throughout the RCMP’s enforcement process, press have been restricted in their ability to observe and report on the ongoing arrests. Journalists were initially denied any access to the site on May 17. After threatened legal action, they have been allowed in under RCMP supervision during daylight hours, but still with varying degrees of access to the site and blockade supporters.
    RCMP are citing “common law rights” and “public safety” as justification for the restrictions on media—despite no documented instances of violence involving forest defenders over the nine months of blockades. The Rainforest Flying Squad and others involved have consistently stressed their commitment to non-violence.
    On May 18, when FOCUS was present, press access restrictions changed throughout the day, ranging from a 50-foot distance and a tight media cluster, to relatively unfettered access to forest defenders who weren’t actively being arrested. But when I had to return to my vehicle to retrieve my packed lunch, I was accompanied by two RCMP officers for the 40-minute walk and was not allowed to move my vehicle closer.
    On May 19, press movement was more restricted; media personnel were told to remain at least 160 feet away from the arrests, on the grounds of safety. Ricochet Media journalist Jerome Turner reported that journalists needed a police chaperone to relieve themselves, and that he was forcibly pushed back and detained with the rest of the media in a space more than 200 feet away from the arrests.
    Independent filmmaker Gabriel Ostapchuk was arrested that day, while attempting to document the arrests, on an alleged obstruction of justice charge. The charge was dropped and he was released the same day, according to a press release from the Rainforest Flying Squad.
    On May 20, journalists were not allowed to witness six arrests conducted by the RCMP in the morning; nor were they allowed into the area as before. Press access to the area was only allowed after noon.
    Active logging began in Caycuse on May 21, while forest defenders were still on site, leading the Rainforest Flying Squad to call Worksafe BC complaining of active, unsafe tree falling. 
    The same day, two applications seeking to overturn the RCMP exclusion zone were submitted to court, according to Noah Ross, a lawyer retained by the Rainforest Flying Squad.
    Ross claims that the RCMP is overstepping its powers by setting up an exclusion zone. “Exclusion zones are only legal in certain limited circumstances in which there are serious public safety risks. It’s explicitly not allowed by the injunction,” said Ross.
    “It appears that the RCMP are once again willing to enforce exclusion zones that are not legally justified in order to make their job easier. They’re willing to overlook people’s civil rights in order to give industry access to their logs,” Ross continued in the statement. “It’s not legally justified.”
    The Canadian Association of Journalists is also calling on courts to limit the powers of the RCMP and other police agencies when issuing injunctions. The BC Civil Liberties Association and Legal Observers Victoria have released a joint statement condemning RCMP actions. It states, “In our view, the RCMP’s actions are overbroad in scope and constitute an inconsistent, arbitrary, and illegal exercise of discretion to block members of the public, including legal observers and the media, from accessing the area and to monitor police activity.”
    Another development towards week’s end was that Teal Cedar may be contravening the Wildlife Act by logging in the area. Royann Petrell, a retired UBC professor, captured audio recordings and photos of Western Screech Owls five times within the past two months in the valley and neighbouring watersheds like Fairy Creek. She has been in correspondence over the matter with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
     

    Logging of old-growth forest in the Caycuse Valley area (Photograph by TJ Watt)
     
    On Saturday, May 22, after arrests at Waterfall camp, the Rainforest Flying Squad’s first camp in the area, the organizers stated, “It guards the approach to the Fairy Creek watershed. As soon as it is cleared, road building crews will begin cutting down trees and carving a road into the last unlogged watershed in the San Juan River system.”
    Joshua Wright of the Flying Squad said, “If the government allows road-building into the headwaters of Fairy Creek, it will prove they value corporations’ profits over the last of this province’s biodiversity—and over the well-being of all generations to come.”
    Scientists have found that less than 1 percent of BC’s 50-million hectares of forested area contain large or very large trees like those in the Fairy Creek and Caycuse Valley regions. BC forest scientists have determined that 33 of BC’s 36 forested biogeoclimatic zone variants have less than 10 percent old forest remaining, putting them at high risk for extirpation of certain species, such as the Western Screech Owl, the Northern Spotted Owl, the Northern Goshawk and Marbeled Murrelet. As well, conservation of BC’s old-growth temperate rainforests is considered to be an effective, low-cost strategy for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.
    Kathleen Code, a member of the Rainforest Flying Squad, said, “If [the Province] had kept their word [about implementing all the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review], there would be no citizens risking their lives or freedom by locking themselves into strange structures, or sitting on platforms 30 metres above the ground while trees are being cut down around them, trying to keep each other calm, watching bear cubs fleeing the destruction.”

    Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined FOCUS Magazine.
    See Dispatches for updates on the Fairy Creek Rainforest defence and check our Forests department for related stories. A slide show of May 18 photographs by Dawna Mueller is here. 

    Michael John Lo
    First Nations Elder says he may not be in with the in crowd, but he's in with old-growth forest defenders.
     
    PACHEEDAT ELDER Bill Jones—one of the most visible Indigenous supporters of the movement to protect Vancouver Island old growth—briefly appeared at the RCMP checkpoint at McClure Road on May 18 to deliver a speech to supporters and media. RCMP operations are ongoing to enforce a BC Supreme Court injunction granted in favour of Teal Cedar Products Ltd to remove protestors impeding the logging of old growth in and around the Fairy Creek watershed. Those opposing the logging operations say that it is critical to preserve the last of the old growth remaining on the island, and are calling on the BC government to intervene.
    Later that day, RCMP arrested five people that refused to leave Caycuse blockade camp, the first arrests for the Fairy Creek Blockade movement. Two others were arrested at the checkpoint for crossing the police line. More arrests are ongoing and expected.
    Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined Focus Magazine.
     

    Matt Simmons
    Scientists urge BC to immediately defer logging in key old-growth forests amid arrests.
     
    BC’s RAREST FOREST ECOSYSTEMS are rapidly disappearing and if the Province doesn’t act immediately to defer logging in key areas, as recommended by the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review, they will be lost forever, according to a report released May 19, 2021 by a team of independent scientists.
    The analysis of BC’s remaining old growth forests and mapping tools aims to help the Province meet the recommendations of the old-growth panel.
    While the map was designed to flag forests that meet the criteria for deferral rather than note specific at-risk locations, the authors noted it includes places like the Nahmint River watershed and Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, currently a hot spot of protest and near where the RCMP began making arrests on Tuesday as part of its enforcement of an injunction. The map also identifies unharvested old-growth in the Babine  watershed near Smithers and rare cedar hemlock old-growth near Nelson  as top-priority areas for logging deferrals. 
    The new analysis takes its lead from the independent strategic review commissioned by the Province, which outlined criteria to determine which forests are of the highest value and most at-risk, and clarifies which areas should be immediately protected. The review recommended the Province defer development in old forests with a high risk of irreversible biodiversity loss.
    “It’s been a year since that report went to the government and there have been no meaningful deferrals since that  time,” Rachel Holt, forest ecologist and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview. “We waited for the government to map what the panel recommended and there’s been no action—so we  decided to just do it.”
    While the Province implemented deferrals last year that ostensibly protected 353,000 hectares of forest, closer inspection revealed how the numbers were skewed to include already protected areas and 157,000 hectares of second-growth forests open to logging. The Province subsequently adjusted its numbers to reflect the inclusion of second-growth.
    The new analysis identifies about 1.3 million hectares of at-risk forests across the Province, which is about 2.6 percent of BC’s timber supply. According to the analysis, the actual area that requires logging deferrals will be much smaller and the Province has the tools to put any planned cutblocks and road building on hold while it works with First Nations and other stakeholders to develop land use plans. 
    “Following the old-growth strategic review panel’s direction, [the Province] should take that map and overlay it with planned cutblocks and defer harvest in those areas until the planning is done,” Holt said.
     

     A low resolution version of the map of old forest created by Dave Daust, Rachel Holt and Karen Pryce. Click the map to enlarge. For a much larger version, click here
     
    Old-growth review recommended a “paradigm shift” in how BC manages its forests
    The strategic review highlighted the urgent need to stop looking at BC’s forests as timber supply and start prioritizing Indigenous rights and ecological and cultural values. It  acknowledged this transition won’t happen overnight but noted the urgent need to put the brakes on logging the rarest trees while creating a new strategy.
    The first step is to figure out which forests need to be saved, which is where Holt and her colleagues come in. 
    “Our map represents the key criteria that the old-growth panel outlined for immediate logging deferrals, including the tallest, largest forests, plus rare and ancient forest,” Dave Daust, forester, modeller and project lead, said in a press release. 
    “With this blueprint, the Province can act immediately to ensure any existing or planned logging in these areas is put on hold while it pursues a government-to-government approach for  forest management that puts Indigenous rights and interests, ecological values and community resilience ahead of timber volume.”
    Holt explained that the data and maps were created based on current provincial information, but said there are gaps that will need to be addressed. 
    “There will be places on the ground that aren’t on the map. They should be added, like known cultural areas or known high-value areas that for some reason don’t show up,” she said, adding that there may also be areas that have already been logged.
     
    Scientists say there is no time to “talk and log”
    In his 2020 election campaign, Premier John Horgan committed to implementing the panel’s recommendations. “We will act on all 14 recommendations and work with Indigenous leaders and organizations, industry, labour and  environmental organizations on the steps that will take us there,” he wrote.
    But Holt said the Province isn’t acting fast enough.
    “There isn’t time to talk and log and try to create perfect maps,” she said. “Nothing is perfect, but we need to move forward.”
    Very little remains of BC’s old-growth forests. Holt, Daust and ecologist Karen Price calculated that just 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forest remains in the Province. Productive old-growth supports numerous endangered and threatened species, including caribou and northern goshawk.
    As to whether the Province will use the map to implement meaningful deferrals, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development wrote in an emailed statement that it is committed to protecting BC’s ancient forests for future generations. 
    “We know there is a lot more work to do. That’s why this government commissioned an independent panel to advise  us on how we could do better when it comes to protecting old forests. Now, our government is working on next steps—which includes important engagement with Indigenous peoples, environmental advocates and forest-dependent communities around identifying additional deferral areas.”
    Holt emphasized that the stakes couldn’t be higher.
    “We are losing biodiversity and we’re losing carbon storage,” she said. “Old large tree ecosystems hold a phenomenal carbon store. We don’t have time to plant trees and wait 100 years.”
    Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The Narwhal. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

    Michael John Lo
    With no apparent legal justification, the RCMP has imposed restrictions and conditions on journalists' access to publicly-owned land on which arrests of forest activists are likely to occur on Tuesday.   TODAY, THE RCMP has escalated the situation at Fairy Creek by establishing their own blockade and checkpoint at publicly-owned McClure Forest Service Road, to “prevent a further escalation of efforts to block access contrary to the Supreme Court Order,” and to limit the access to the Fairy Creek watershed to only select individuals, who must provide identification and state their purpose. 
      Journalists not already embedded with the Fairy Creek blockades — from what the RCMP calls “recognized media outlets” — will only be allowed to access areas beyond the checkpoint with handlers from the BC RCMP Communication Services supervising their stay. According to an RCMP press release sent out late today, the press pool may only enter the site during the day. “No one will be permitted to remain, however, you may choose to return the next day and again be escorted back into the designated media area,” said RCMP spokesperson Christopher Manseau. 
      “We cannot guarantee you access if you are not there [by 7 a.m.],” continued Manseau. “I will not be able to provide further information on the anticipated plans for tomorrow or subsequent days ahead.”   An earlier press release from the RCMP highlighted the blockade at the main Fairy Creek Rainforest camp, but by late today its focus had apparently shifted to the blockade on the Caycuse Mainline road, about 30 kilometres, as the raven flies, away from the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade.      The initial police action appears to be aimed at a blockade about 30 kilometres north of the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockade, pictured above (Photo by Dawna Mueller)   
      These RCMP actions are result of the injunction granted to Teal Cedar Products Ltd, which empowers the RCMP to arrest forest defenders currently sitting in defiance of the order. Lawyers on behalf of the Rainforest Flying Squad have filed an appeal, but police presence in the area has increased. Helicopter flyovers have been reported by those on the ground. Now, the RCMP is looking to block access to at least one of the camps maintained by old-growth advocates. 
      While the RCMP calls this latest action a “temporary access and control area,” the tactics and language very much evoke memories of the exclusion zones used by RCMP during the enforcement of the Wet’suwet’en injunction in 2020.
      At that blockade, Ricochet reporter Jerome Turner, along with a documentary filmmaker, was detained by officers and kettled away from the scene of the arrests for eight hours. The Tyee has also reported instances of RCMP officers threatening reporters with arrest, keeping them further than necessary from the action, and censoring what they could photograph. These actions have come under much criticism from media and journalism groups for threatening press freedom in Canada. 
      A number of journalists have already been turned away from the checkpoint at McClure. Free press access to the Fairy Creek blockades is now at risk.    Noah Ross, a lawyer familiar with the matter, says that the BC Supreme Court injunction does not prohibit individuals from being physically in the injunction zone. Only certain activities are illegal, such as blocking harvests and vehicles. 
      “Whatever public safety reasons there are, they will generally be unjustified restrictions of civil liberties,” said Ross. “Likewise, the injunction is not a ground for an exclusion zone.”
      FOCUS Magazine will be sending journalists to the scene and will continue to monitor the situation.   Michael John Lo was recently senior staff writer for the Martlet and has joined Focus Magazine.

    David Broadland
    Details of an RCMP plan to end a protest against old-growth logging near Port Renfrew, outlined in an open letter to the RCMP from the Rainforest Flying Squad, suggest the plan may not be legal.
     
    AN OPEN LETTER to the RCMP from the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS), the group of forest activists blockading logging of old-growth forests near Fairy Creek Rainforest, contains a bit of a slap in the face. The letter states that the RCMP’s Division Liaison Team have told RFS they will be given 6 hours notice before any police action will take place. But, the letter adds, the RCMP have said “that all persons who have not left after the six hours will be arrested.”
    Such police action, should it occur, would apparently violate the terms of the injunction stipulated by BC Supreme Court Justice Frits E Verhoeven. Verhoeven’s order appears to require that protesters be observed by the RCMP to be “obstructing, impeding, or otherwise interfering with” Teal Cedar’s access or the access of its contractors before protestors would be in contravention of the order.
    There are many people in the area supporting the protests in ways that have not involved standing on roads. To arrest those people because they are “in the area” would be about as heavy-handed as police can be, save tasering them at Big Lonely Doug.
    FOCUS contacted the RCMP’s  Division Liaison Team (DLT) by email requesting confirmation that the DLT would arrest all persons who have not left after the six hours. The DLT did not immediately respond.
     

    Old-growth forest defenders near Fairy Creek Rainforest (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Civil disobedience actions in the past in BC, such as the months-long blockades of a logging road at Clayoquot Sound in 1993, only involved arrest of people after they had refused to leave a road once the RCMP had read the terms of an injunction to them.
    The RFS letter (link below) suggests the RCMP’s plan for how to handle the Fairy Creek protest may not be legal: “It should be noted that not all persons left will be in violation of [Justice Verhoeven’s] enforcement order listed below. All actions will be videoed and there will likely be media crews on hand. The world will be watching.”
    The Rainforest Flying Squad has filed an appeal of Verhoeven’s order granting Teal Cedar injunctive relief. It is unknown in what time frame an appeal would be considered. Teal filed for injunctive relief on February 18 and that was granted on April 1 by Verhoeven. Presumably, BC’s justice system would want to work as quickly in response to the appeal, filed on April 29. Since that appeal could be successful, any RCMP action in the interim could appear to pre-judge the outcome of the appeal.
    David Broadland stood on the road at Clayoquot Sound along with many thousands of other citizens. He admires the forest protectors’ commitment to embarrass the NDP government into doing what it said it would do.
    Open Letter to RCMP from Rainforest Flying Squad.docx
     

    Leslie Campbell
    The Eden Grove Artist in Residence Program lies at the dynamic intersection of art, ecology and activism.
     
    IN A TENT A FEW MINUTES WALK from one of the blockades aimed at preventing logging in the Fairy Creek area, artists are at work. Or they might be out in a nearby clearcut or magical old-growth forest—taking photographs, painting or drawing, carving a mask, gathering ideas for performances and music compositions or materials for collage.
    This unique program—the Eden Grove Artists in Residence Program—is the brainchild and labour of love of curator Jessie Demers. Demers describes the program as being at the intersection of art, ecology, activism and culture, and says the artists who are participating have been chosen because of their work focusing on ecology and/or community-based social practices. Being immersed in the ancient rainforest, while witnessing the frontlines of the forest protection movement, is proving fertile ground for those involved. 
     

    Jessie Demers, curator of the Eden Grove Artists in Residence program. Photograph by Cole Sprouce
     
    Current artists in residence include Jeremy Herndl, Kyle Scheurmann, Heather Kai Smith and Mike McLean, with more—including Rande Cook, Valerie Salez, Connie Michele Morey, Dawna Mueller and sound artist Paul Walde—coming soon. 
    “The arts can help amplify and speak to people in a different way. They can bring new people into the movement,” says Demers. 
    The residency site is a 5-minute walk past the Eden Grove protection camp, established in December 2020 to prevent road building by the Teal Jones corporation and its contractors. The residency program itself is not a protest site, says Demers, who. describes it as “a space where artists can listen, learn, create and build relationships across political and cultural differences.” Pacheedaht rights and title are acknowledged and respected. Says Demers: “We are grateful for the opportunity to draw inspiration from these sacred lands.”
    Within easy walking distance from the studio tent is the famous Big Lonely Doug—a huge Douglas Fir standing in the midst of a clearcut—and, a little further along—Eden Grove, an ancient forest indicative of what stands to be lost in the area through proposed logging. Technically, Eden Grove is in the Gordon River watershed at the base of Edinburgh Mountain, so while close to the Fairy Creek watershed, it is a different valley. The blockades are drawing attention to the need to protect what little old growth is left on southern Vancouver Island. Most of the blockades are in TFL46.
    While there’s no logging application yet for Eden Grove, road building (a precursor to logging) has been approved further down the road towards Edinburgh Mountain, which is home to one of the largest sections of unprotected old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island. The well known Avatar Grove is a 10-minute drive away. A day trip from Victoria allows visitors to see all these sites, as well as meet some of the artists.
    Demers has a degree in fine arts and has worked in the arts for 15 years (5 in Victoria). She is also no stranger to forest protection. She’s been a core organizer of the Friends of Carmanah Walbran and is a veteran of the 1993 Clayoquot Sound protests. In fact, only 17 years old at the time, she was one of the youngest protesters arrested. “The arts and ancient forests are my two big passions,” says Demers. She is working on the residency program around her day job as an arts administrator in Victoria. “It’s come to dominate my life,” she admits.
     
    The artists
    Demers has rounded up a diverse group of some of the most talented artists on Vancouver Island. “I am inspired and impressed by the Victoria arts community and how many artists have social awareness built into their practice,“ she says. She is thrilled to see how they have become ambassadors for old growth protection, as well as the arts, with visitors to the area. “I didn’t really plan on that, but it’s happening,” she says.
    Due to logistics and uncertainty as to how long the blockade camps with be in place, the program is currently by invitation only. However, notes Demers, any artist is welcome to come out and make art in the forest or contribute in other ways. Some are raising funds by selling their work. 
    One of the current artists in residence is Mike Andrew McLean, who holds an MFA from UVic, and works as a media technologist at Camosun College in Victoria. On recent Saturdays he has borrowed his 9-year-old son Angus’ “skookum” wagon to haul his gear up the bumpy logging road from the studio tent to Eden Grove.
     

    Mike Andrew McLean with his large-format film camera, 2017 at Bear Glacier. Photograph by Laura Trunkey
     
    There, among magnificent old trees, he chooses a spot, makes about three-trips back to the wagon for his gear (the wagon cannot negotiate the boardwalk stairs) and spends four to six hours camped out in the forest, using an 80-year-old wooden camera to shoot multiple layers of 8-inch by 11-inch black and white film, slowly exposed through different colour filters. Later, back in the darkroom, he’ll spend more hours developing the film. He intends to print the different colour images on mylar film which he will mount on a mirror. This “tricks the eye, so that you’re not sure what you’re looking at,” says McLean. It gives it a 3-D effect, replicating the magic of the forest.
    Mike Andrew McLean’s“Please, John, don’t screw this up for the rest of us” - Version 1 (Staircase), 3 colour digichromatographic process, at Eden Grove, Patcheedaht territory, April 24, 2021
     
    The image shown here of the boardwalk in Eden Grove was inspired by McLean’s appreciation for the role such structures can play in a forest’s protection. Besides allowing people to “move through these spaces in a way that protects the forest floor and its delicate ecosystems,” he notes, it attracts people to visit and that in itself helps protect the forest.
    He says the slowness of his process and the old wooden camera he uses also attract visitors and conversation. People are fascinated that in this day of instant everything, including photographs, McLean spends so many hours taking one image and leaves after a day’s work not even knowing whether it will work out. “I like it that it is slow and methodical, the opposite of instant,” says McLean. “I can plan what I want to do, but there’s always an element of chance. I like that too.” 
    He also enjoys the conversations he’s having while working in the forest, which he says often go to the heart of photography, what it means to capture light over time.
    Besides his vibrating, surreal forest images, McLean is creating cyanotype text-based works, and, as a finale of his residency, plans to produce 50 portraits of visitors as they arrive at the massive tree at the end of the Eden Grove boardwalk. This work, he says, is “in homage to the people who make the pilgrimage.”
     

    Heather Kai Smith
     
    Heather Kai Smith, an artist and educator who divides her time between Nanaimo and Chicago (she teaches visual arts at the University of Chicago), is also a current artist in residence. Her work explores protest, collectivity and intentional communities through drawing. She says, “I’m thankful to have the opportunity to spend time as a visitor on unceded Pacheedaht territory, amplifying and documenting the work of the activist community on-site.” Like Mclean’s photography, Kai Smith’s drawing is an act of slowing down and observing. Her focus is on the activist community though. “Through representations of the movement,” she says, “I aim to support the work of ecological justice and solidarity in challenging overt misuse of power.”
     

    Heather Kai Smith’s recent work “Reciprocity,” coloured pencil and pastel on paper, 20x25 inches
     
    Kyle Scheurmann was on site the day FOCUS visited in April, working on a large, colourful canvas showing an activist on a log over a stream in the middle of a clearcut. His work at that time was being featured in a solo exhibit called Witness at the Angell Gallery in Toronto—which he couldn’t attend due to COVID. The gallery described his work as: “a form of reverential reportage from the front lines of deforestation, wildfires, and human impact on the land.” 
    For Witness, Scheurmann, who lives in unceded Cowichan territory in Shawnigan Lake, spent a year documenting forest destruction around the Nanaimo Lakes area by Mosaic Forest Management (TimberWest and Island Timberlands). Having lived formerly in cities, he said he had little idea of the devastated landscapes to be found down logging roads. He “stewed in” those clearcuts and the distress started showing in his paintings, which previously had been more traditional landscapes. His colour choice—often fantastical pinks and deep purples—might lure viewers in, but they soon notice the vast areas of stumps, flooded valleys and other scars.
     

    Kyle Scheurmann and painting at Eden Grove. Photograph by Dawna Mueller
     
    Scheurmann, who has an MFA from Emily Carr University of Art & Design, believes he has a responsibility to reflect the environment and how it is impacted by climate change and human activity.
    Victoria-based Jeremy Herndl was the first artist to join the residency. He has taught art at Vancouver Island School of Art, UVic and Kwantlen Polytechnic University and has been in many gallery exhibits. For a recent show at Madrona Gallery, he wrote: “My landscape painting considers space as an extension of the body where perception is reciprocal and all things have agency in an intersubjective field… ‘Nature’ is not something else, it doesn’t reward us or punish us, it IS us.”
     

    Jeremy Herndl with one of his paintings of Eden Grove. Photograph by Dawna Mueller
     
    For the Eden Grove project, he returned to plein air painting to “create large portraits of the incredible ancient denizens of the forest and their retinue of other plants and bugs that keep them vital.” His paintings take many days to complete and chronicle “sustained interaction which includes changing light throughout the day, rain, hail, overcast and dappled light—but they also include something else, a peculiar kind of rapport, a conversation of sorts between the human and non-human beings.” 
    He believes the destruction of old-growth forests as “beyond criminal,” saying, “These forests sequester immense amounts of carbon, they retain and filter rainwater, they are salmon habitat which impacts bears, coastal wolves, eagles and many creatures in the sea including orcas, seals and sea lions not to mention humans.”
     
    Upcoming artists and plans
    Demers has been reaching out to First Nations artists, including Pacheedaht. She is excited that Rande Cook, a talented young Kwa’kwa’ka’wakw artist, will be carving a mask at the camp studio in upcoming weeks.
    Born and raised in Alert Bay, Cook holds chieftainships from his maternal and paternal sides. He apprenticed with master carver John Livingston, and has studied with many other First Nation artists and others around the world, learning how to use a wide range of media—wood, acrylics, gouache, canvas, glass, and metals. His work, which is known for its imaginative blending of traditional and contemporary Indigenous approaches, has been featured in many private and public galleries (including the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria).
     

    Rande Cook
     
    Recently, Cook launched a campaign called #TreeOfLife to build awareness around the devastation of Vancouver Island’s rainforests, old-growth cedars and Mother Nature herself. Youth programs are in the works, as is a documentary film.
    Other upcoming artists in residence include Connie Michele Morey, who does site-specific performance art and participatory sculptures that tend to question the relationships between ecology, displacement and belonging. 
    Multi-disciplinary artist Valerie Salez will also participate. Her large scale-installations that include elements of performance have been included in numerous city-wide, outdoor festivals, while her large-scale collage works and sculptures are in many collections. 
    Paul Walde, an award-winning artist, composer and curator who lives in Victoria on WSÁNEĆ territory, is also coming soon. Walde’s music and sound compositions have been a prominent feature in his artwork for over 20 years. He is best known for his interdisciplinary performance works staged in the natural environment, often involving music and choreography—such as Requiem for a Glacier, a site-specific sound performance featuring a 55-piece choir and orchestra live on the Farnham Glacier in the Purcell Mountains. Walde is currently an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria. Demers tells me that he has plans involving activists and bird sounds.
    Environmental photographer Dawna Mueller will also be joining the artists in residence with her poignant black and white images. Mueller’s Métis heritage is a fundamental part of her practice in her connection to, and interpretation of, the land. Her photography references the reunification of nature and culture, expanding our anthropocentric world view, illuminating its interconnectedness. 
     

    Photograph “Worth More Standing” by Dawna Mueller
     
    Her work for this project represents a reframing of our relationship to the forest. She says, “It illustrates a collapse of hierarchies between humans and nature activated through non-human semiotics, allowing us to ecologize our ethics and co-exist in an evolutionary success.”  
    Dawna Mueller (Photograph by Ken Miner)
     
    Demers admits that trying to coordinate an artists residency program around her day job and in a remote area with no cell coverage during a pandemic is not without challenge. But that doesn’t stop her from being ambitious. Plans are being made for exhibits, both online and physical, as well as a publication or catalogue of the works produced. 
    She credits both the “very cooperative, flexible and independent artists” and the supportive activist-run camp for making it all work. Volunteers have supported the development of the project by setting up the tent, creating the website, supporting artists on site and in advisory roles. (A Go Fund Me campaign has also been set up.)
    The public is welcome and encouraged to visit, though also warned that the situation at Eden Camp is unpredictable and could change any day given the injunction against the forest protecters. But meeting the artists, witnessing their work and the forest itself is a journey Demers hopes many will make. 
    Leslie Campbell is the editor of FOCUS. Check the Eden Grove Artist in Residence website here. For more about the Fairy Creek blockades, please see Leslie Campbell’s “Forest Defenders Ready for a Showdown” and Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic’s comment. David Broadland has written about the injunction here.
     

    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic
    A handful of politicians should not have the right to forever destroy the non-renewable wonders that exist for the benefit of all. 
     
    I DREAM OF ONE DAY SOON being able to take a bus excursion to the rare and treasured old growth forest just north of Port Renfrew, in the Fairy Creek watershed and stretching all the way west to the Caycuse watershed. I dream of hopping off a Wilson’s electric bus at several stops in this spectacular new park, and walking quietly and contemplatively among the now-protected, ancient giants. I follow soft forest trails that languidly weave their way around massive, deeply-ridged trunks. Closer to the waterways I step on protective boardwalks over the tender lushness that is typical of a riparian ecosystem. 
    There is nothing typical about this place. I slowly inhale the world’s cleanest air and hear the songs of countless birds that make their home here, in the immense forest canopy that rises full of life to dizzying heights. Here and there along the path, carefully placed panels explain the science and the marvels of this magnificent place. I want to read every word.
    I’m keen to hear the history too, from the local Pacheedaht and Ditidaht guides who are finally receiving adequate remuneration for the work they’ve been doing for centuries—protecting and stewarding their land and its resources. In their presentation, they will share how they lived before “civilization” befell their land, how the imposed colonial business model deliberately and persistently undermined their sovereignty, how it carted away entire old-growth forests and paid for them with the trinket equivalent of a stumpage fee. They will recount how decades of rapacious old-growth clearcutting and other accumulated tensions finally came to a head, in a David vs Goliath standoff at what has become known as the Fairy Creek Blockade in the time of the devastating pandemic.
    We visitors are a rapt audience.
     

    Photograph by Laura Mina Mitic
     
    THE VISION FADES, but here in the present, I get history’s gist. The model that has worked for settler governments from coast to coast to coast for the last five centuries is this: Pay people just enough to keep them appeased but still dependent on the continued trade of paltry handouts for irreplaceable resources. Pretend to consult meaningfully. Continue talking about clean water (without mentioning that white towns have had this almost forever). Throw in goodies like a sawmill or community centre if you have to. Stir dissent in any number of ways, including covert interference with Indigenous government systems. Find individuals that you can pay off—money talks in every setting. Make backroom deals and swear everyone to secrecy. Use your law enforcement resources if you have to.
    That’s the way it still works in 2021, and you can see it playing out at Fairy Creek and related blockades. Never mind that a standing ancient forest is worth untold millions for its capacity to combat climate change by capturing and sequestering vast amounts of carbon. (An 800-year-old tree typically stores 20,000 kg.) 
    Never mind that it is a complete, unique and endlessly diverse biome—from the soil way up to the towering canopy—and therefore a key player in keeping future pandemics at bay. Scientists agree that the rainforest treetops are teeming with species yet to be discovered. University of Victoria researchers, who liken that world to a hanging garden, recently discovered 20 of them.
    Never mind that it has the power to heal. First Nations people have always known this, but the rest of us might finally be catching on. We keep hearing about forest bathing, and some healthcare providers, using resources developed by the BC Parks Foundation’s newly-formed ParX program, have begun prescribing visits to the forest for health and wellness. We’ve always loved our urban parks and forests but are beginning to realize that the wilderness beyond is even more crucial to our survival and wellbeing. 
     Never mind that ancient trees are lucrative magnets for world-weary locals and eco-tourists alike. Forget cruise ship revenue with all its carbon-laden drawbacks: An old-growth forest is a rare and benevolent living shrine that will bring back people from around the world, time and time again. 
    Port Renfrew knows that, and has called for a moratorium on old-growth logging in the region. Not so long ago, its few hundred residents were mostly loggers and other employees of the forestry industry. Now rebranded as Wild Renfrew, this “gateway to ancient forests, epic hikes and mighty surf” has become a busy tourist town, full of amenities for the steady stream of sightseers eager to experience the world’s oldest and tallest trees. 
     The BC Chamber of Commerce knows that too. In 2019, and citing the transformation of Port Renfrew as an example, it passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to increase old-growth protection, stating, “In many areas of the province, the local economies stand to receive a greater net economic benefit over the foreseeable future by keeping their nearby old-growth forests standing.”
    I’m not sure, however, that Premier Horgan grasps that. Nor does he seem to get the irony—and tragedy—of some of his own doings. Last month in a chat with the CBC’s Gregor Craigie, he touted the improved cellular service coming soon to Port Renfrew and surrounding area. He specifically enthused that it would help bolster tourism. When pressed, though, he kept his distance on the Fairy Creek dispute. What seemed lost on him was the scenario that cable trucks carrying tourism-enhancing infrastructure might end up rolling in just as oversized logging trucks carrying our most lucrative tourist attraction are rolling out. All with his tacit approval.
    The way we do forestry in this province is maddening. Last year, at the behest of the government, an independent panel produced a report titled, A New Future For Old Forests. The overarching message was the need to recognize that, “old forests are more than old or big trees. They are a product of ancient and unique ecosystems, and their characteristics vary greatly across the province. They can only be effectively managed in the context of broader public priorities, including the interests of current and future generations.” 
    And yet, the forestry industry always seems to find them, peg them for easy, top-grade lumber, and manage to wrangle a license out of the government of the day.
     Not all old-growth grabs have been successful, however. A vigorous anti-logging campaign in 1990 in the Carmanah Valley, not far from the current blockades, resulted in the loggers being turned away for good and the establishment of the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. (Forestry company Macmillan Bloedel received almost $84 million in compensation for lost tree-farm licenses.)
    A few years later and further north, Clayoquot Sound became the scene of a long and acrimonious War in the Woods. After some 800 arrests and the dumping by loggers of 200 litres of human excrement at the activists’ staging site, the Harcourt NDP government shut it all down and declared the region protected. That was in 1995. Five years later, Clayoquot Sound received designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.   
    But that’s not how today’s government is doing Fairy and Caycuse Creek. Horgan seems to have stubbornly dug in his heels and—it has been speculated—played a hand or two in the deal-making backroom. There’s been no expressed interest in seeking internationally recognized status and protection for the valleys and watersheds where these giants thrive. Instead, the government and industry—the “mindustry,” as writer David Broadland refers to them in FOCUS—continue to assess old-growth trees solely for their value in board lumber that, according to a spokesperson for Teal-Jones, the logging company with the license, is mostly destined to become decking, fencing, and other utilitarian products. 
    That’s as ludicrous as tearing up rare old books to line the kitchen garbage pail.  
    Premier Horgan has asked for patience while the report recommendations are slowly being digested by bureaucracy. But in the meantime, he allows the rampant cutting of old-growth trees to continue. This borders on the farcical and almost certainly ensures there’ll be nothing left to steward when protection finally becomes policy. Small wonder public objection is persistent and growing.
    Teal Jones had sought an injunction against the activists, and last month the BC Supreme Court granted it to them. It ordered the blockade gone and the roads opened for logging. Instead of complying, the activists have deepened their resolve and are appealing that decision.
    I’m not surprised. Judge Verhoeven, who granted the injunction, seemed less than wholehearted in his decision. (He also seems to have been working with incomplete or incorrect information provided by the company.) He based his decision on the strict letter of the law, but seemed to concede that he was limited to assessing the issue in isolation and unable to take the larger critical issues of climate change and environmental degradation—the “broader public priorities” cited in the above-mentioned report—into consideration. Clearly, and perhaps inadvertently, he has added to the argument that it’s time to change that law.
    And now in early May comes word that the activists have also served a Third Party Notice to the Province of British Columbia, thus drawing the government into a case it probably would have preferred to continue watching from the sidelines. It’s a gutsy move, but again, I’m not surprised. Its arguments have sharp teeth.
    In Quebec the Magpie River was recently granted all the rights and protections of personhood. Our giant trees—for starters—must receive this too. A handful of politicians in any given era do not have the right to forever destroy the natural and non-renewable wonders that exist for the benefit of all. 
     
    NEAR THE END OF MY FUTURE EXCURSION, I learn that not all the trees could be saved by the blockaders, who braved months of public indifference and cold wet weather in rudimentary shelters before the madness was finally halted for good. Our last stop overlooks a barren valley dotted only with giant stumps that stand like stepping stones in a sea of destruction.
    I spot former premier Horgan gazing wordlessly into the distance. I wander over and ask him who our real heroes were, back in those times.
    Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic is a Victoria-based writer. She has had a life-long passion for the care and preservation of nature but never imagined it would become such a battle. She’s grateful to all of the old growth’s defenders for doing the hard work that will benefit us all.

    David Broadland
    TODAY, LAWYERS ACTING ON BEHALF OF the Fairy Creek Rainforest blockaders filed an appeal of the April 1 judgment made by BC Supreme Court Justice Frits E. Verhoeven. Verhoeven granted injunctive relief to Teal Cedar, ruling that the blockades in TFL 46 were causing irreparable harm to the Surrey logging and milling company.
    The appeal, filed in the BC Court of Appeal, asked that Verhoeven’s judgment “be set aside due to:
    (a)  The Court erred in deciding that the granting of the injunction be allowed on behalf of the Respondent, Teal Jones Products Ltd.; (b)  The Court erred in allowing police authorities and/or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enforce the injunction against the Appellants; (c)  The Court erred in its determination that the Respondent would suffer irreparable harm had the injunction not been granted; (d)  The Court erred in failing to treat an injunction as an extraordinary remedy, especially in the context where arrests could be made but the police and Attorney General choose not to do so; (e)  The Court erred in deciding the balance of convenience on one issue–the presence of a permit(s) to log; (f)  The Court erred in failing to properly balance the public interest; (g)  The Court erred in failing to analyse whether, in an area where there is a road-building permit but no cutting permit—a road building permit meets the irreparable harm branch of the test for an injunction; and, (h)  The Court erred in applying the balance of convenience test determining the forestry decision to approve the Fairy Creek watershed Cutting Permit 7265 was a governmental policy consideration outweighing the public interest in preserving the few remaining old growth forests in British Columbia.” Despite the blockades, which were established in August 2020, Teal Cedar was able to harvest 437,982 cubic metres of logs from TFL 46 in 2020. That was an increase of  71 percent over 2018 and 55 percent over 2019.
    In announcing the appeal, the Rainforest Flying Squad observed that “the public interest in this case far outweighs the profit-making ability of a single entity and government.”
    David Broadland previously wrote about Justice Verhoeven’s judgment granting the injunction here and here.

    Rainforest Flying Squad
    THIS PAST WEEK the Rainforest Flying Squad has been faced with a choice: “We can be complicit in the pressure exerted by government and industry to exploit ancient territorial land for profit,” Glenn Reid says. “Or we can continue to support Indigenous peoples as they assert their right to defend unceded territory and their ancient relatives - the forests.” 
    As Kati George-Jim says: “Uncle Bill is not an activist. He is a sovereign person asserting his Aboriginal rights, and upholding his responsibilities to future generations.” 
    The blockades still stand while organizers pause to understand the forces at play and to consult with Indigenous peoples on the territory. 
    Last year, RFS began the blockades to protect these precious ancient forests that are at imminent risk. Over months of sharing time with elder Bill Jones, who has asked us to stay on his traditional territory to help defend it, we are learning more about the deep-rooted, complex oppression of Indigenous peoples that continues to this day. 
    Jones and George-Jim explain that when reserves were created, Indigenous people were forced to live on a tiny fraction of their original traditional territories - or even on the territories of other peoples. 
    The longhouses that had been central to economy, culture, and spirituality were replaced by settler-style housing that imposed nuclear-family life. The band council system was also imposed. It eroded and displaced the role and value of women. It unbalanced power in favour of males, which set them up to be coerced by government and industry to allow exploitation of the land.
    And the same violence continues today. Systems and structures set in place at the beginning of colonization are still enforced.
    Indigenous peoples and societies are seen as standing in the way of settler, industrial and government use of unceded lands. Freedom to live a life true to traditional cultures and laws - free from oppression - is a promise that has never been honoured by B.C. or Canada. 
    “Colonialism is based on separating our peoples from our lands by putting them on reserves, for example, using genocide and assimilation,” George-Jim says. “These structures attack Indigenous societies by legalizing violence against women, children, and the land. They go against the foundations of who we are as Indigenous peoples.”
    Jones and George-Jim explain that reserves do not represent traditional Indigenous territories. The Crown’s duty is not fulfilled by consulting solely with band councils. And consultation alone is not consent. The Crown is responsible to gain consent from all title holders without coercion. Without real consent, resource extraction directly infringes on Aboriginal title and rights. Cultural practices and Indigenous food sovereignty are not possible on destroyed land. 
    Both federal and provincial governments have a legal requirement to consult all Indigenous peoples affected by proposed projects. Governments exert pressure on band councils in order to further their own ends. Industry benefits from the failure to consult by both levels of government.
    Provincial and federal governments, along with industries, offer “benefit carrots to the political elite,” Jones explained, to entice them into coercive agreements. “We are being choked out.” 
    “Indigenous peoples are forced into the extractivist economies because of the entrenchment of poverty, where the only way out of poverty is to surrender their inherent rights and responsibilities." says George-Jim. 
    Tragically, in the process Indigenous traditional values, worldviews and ecological land stewardship (ie. Indigenous governance) are sacrificed for short-term profit. 
    So-called ‘mutual benefit agreements’ or ‘revenue sharing agreements’ are actually coercive tools used by government and industry. They are designed to force Indigenous agreement. These agreements gag dissent and bind participants to non-interference clauses.
    “These agreements are accepted as legal,” Jones added. “But they ignore the rights and privileges of the band membership.” 
    “There is no power to say yes or no to the actual decision. If bands disagree with a project, like old-growth logging or pipelines, they are basically surrendering their right to be consulted,” George-Jim explains. The end result is predetermined, inevitable, and outside of Indigenous control.
    Although the BC government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, it has yet to put Indigenous rights first in situations where that would halt exploitation in traditional territories. 
    “It is a colonial deceit to selectively recognize Indigenous leaders when it benefits industry, under the guise of reconciliation,” Jones said. 
    We are learning to understand the laws of the land and be accountable to them. 
    For all of the above reasons, RFS feels we must stand behind Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones and other Indigenous people to protect the old-growth forests. 
    The old-growth forests hold the spirit of the land, the integrity of the waterways, and all beings that live in or among them. We pledge to help defend these irreplaceable ancient relatives until they are protected forever. We hope you will join us.
    “We have to be protectors and custodians of our earth,” Bill Jones said. “We are losing our inheritance. We are being stripped of all our value of selves.”
    The Rainforest Flying Squad is blockading attempts by Teal Cedar Ltd to cut old-growth forests in TFL 46, which overlaps with Pacheedat territory. This comment was written in collaboration with Bill Jones and his niece, xʷ is xʷ čaa (Kati George-Jim).

    Leslie Campbell
    The last of the ancient trees on Southern Vancouver Island are being protected by some very determined and capable people.
     
    AT THE FAIRY CREEK BLOCKADE “headquarters” and intake centre on a sunny but chilly Easter Monday morning, breakfast is being served by Rupert Koyote and his mom Alison. Rupert is a farmer in the Cowichan Valley. He and Alison have brought eggs, bacon and hot cross buns and melon slices and are doling out platefuls to the many camp organizers and volunteers. 
    Everyone is well-masked except when in their small pods. People stand at a distance from each other as they eat. COVID-consciousness is evident everywhere. Intake volunteers ensure COVID protocols are followed.
     

    Farmer Rupert Koyote and his mom Alison (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    This is the entry to River Camp, the largest of the camps referred to generally as the Fairy Creek Blockades. There are five blockades in all near Fairy Creek Valley, north of Port Renfrew and, to the east, the Caycuse watershed. They are protecting a tiny fraction of the “working forest” in TFL 46, a 45,533-hectare tree farm licence held by Teal Cedar on publicly-owned Crown land in unceded Pacheedaht and Ditidaht territory.
    The blockades are the hot frontlines on the coast in the growing BC-wide battle to save what little remains of old-growth forests. It’s estimated that 2.7 percent of BC’s original forests that contained very large, old trees remain.
    Over the past eight months activists have successfully blocked logging of old growth in the area. But now Teal Cedar Products has been granted an injunction by the BC Supreme Court, meaning that at any moment the company’s logging trucks could show up, along with the RCMP to enforce their access, arresting anyone standing in the way. (See David Broadland’s analysis of the injunction.)
    The stories of the activists, both the long-term committed and their many supporters, make evident their determination to succeed in their cause. They understand the issue and what is at stake. Many are fully prepared to weather discomfort and to sacrifice careers and income in order to prevent the destruction of any more old-growth forests in the region. They have broad support in the province and beyond, and their Go-fund-me campaign has raised over $260,000.
    They emphasize they aren’t against all logging, just logging of old growth. And they acknowledge being in Pacheedaht territory. Many view Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder, as the spiritual leader of their movement.
    This holiday Monday it’s estimated that there are about 150 people camped—just at this one blockade—along the 7-kilometre road to its main gate. Many are here for the weekend; many will return, especially when things heat up. Though it’s exactly what organizers want, it does increase the pressure and work.
     

    Rainforest Flying Squad forest defenders and camp organizers Shambu and Shawna Knight (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    The camp population goes up and down, explains Shambu, one of the original Rainforest Flying Squad members. But now with the injunction, he expects it to grow overall. “The last time this happened, with War in the Woods 1.0 [at Clayoquot], it wasn’t until the injunction was served, that you had a massive ground swelling. You have sleeper cells of dissent. People who are upset, who do not agree with the last two percent of the ancient forest being cut down. And so with that, they were waiting for the injunction to happen.”
    Shambu normally runs yoga workshops and retreats in Victoria. After eight months on the blockades, he says he feels upset and strained but, also inspired and vigourous. “It really is a combination of all those things. We are people that are maintaining this in the wild for months and months. So that, in and of itself, is a strain. Imagine trying to arrange a festival while camping!” With no electricity, cell service, or wifi. During a pandemic.
    He gives a lot of credit to what he calls “the matriarchs,” a large number of women involved in the non-hierarchical leadership and logistics of the blockade camps. “Since the very beginning this movement has been led by women,” says Shambu.
    And many of them have sacrificed for the cause. Shawna Knight, one of the long-term Rainforest Flying Squad organizers, had to let go of her small business, a food truck; she sold it recently to pay the bills. “It’s taken over my life for eight months,” she says, “but some things are worth fighting for.” 
    Molly Murphy is a member of the MudGirls building collective, but she’s too busy building camp structures to earn money building elsewhere.  
    Morgaine Longpré, a documentary filmmaker, showed up last fall thinking she might make a film after her shoots in Italy were cancelled due to COVID. Though she still is collaborating on a film with others here, she tells me her background in negotiation, including working with police, was more in need, so she’s been helping train volunteers.
    Of course it’s not just women. Jeff Butterworth, a substitute teacher from Courtenay, has made a bed in his vehicle and been staying at the camps more often as time goes on, giving up work offers—or missing them due to the lack of cell and internet. Last week he tells me, he couldn’t even call his wife on their 34th anniversary.
    He tells me he’s signed all sorts of petitions over the years and called politicians—to no effect. With all the knowledge science has provided, with all the government reports and promises, the only hope left for the old growth is, he feels, for civilians to put their bodies on the line.
    Butterworth and many others have taken training as “police liaison” volunteers. When arrests happen, these observers will monitor and document the arrest. Others will act as support, getting word to families and lawyers about what has taken place. Butterworth was also tasked with figuring out encrypted communications platforms to keep strategizing discussions private. Asked if he’d had any background in that, he laughs, “None!” But he figured it out.
     

    Jeff Butterworth (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    When photographer Dawna Mueller and I eventually leave the intake area and drive towards the upper blockade, we pass dozens of vehicles, parked at COVID-safe distances from each other, with small campsites beside them. People have come from all over the Vancouver Island (with a preponderance from Victoria) and the Gulf Islands. A reporter for the Guardian is here (from Vancouver), as is CTV. The world is beginning to pay attention.
    We are not allowed to proceed past the blockade, where a large gate has been built. Preparations are being made that are best kept from media eyes. I content myself with talking to volunteers, including Emily, who has been here since September with her two sons, forest sprites with energy to burn. Asked what they like about camp life, one of the boys says, “Well, we get a sugary treat once a day.” I also chat with Peter, a trained ecologist and business owner in Tofino, and Eddie, a farmer and carpenter who says, “I couldn’t ignore the call…We can’t eat or breathe money.”
     

    Emily and sons (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     

    The blockade at River Camp (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    On to Eden
    We have been escorted around the camps by Duncan Morrison, a young man who grew up in Sooke watching logging trucks cart away huge trees from the area. He needed to stand up, he says. When he’s not helping out here, he works in deliveries, but he’s also completed training to be a wilderness guide and plans to launch a business soon.
    Morrison leads us to Eden Grove Camp on the Edinburgh Main logging road, which crosses an impressively deep ravine through which the Gordon River flows. This river is a favourite with fishers.
     

    Duncan Morrison in Eden Grove (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Tourists mostly come here to check out Big Lonely Doug, which is Canada’s second largest Douglas fir, the saving of which is the subject of a whole book. The forest around it was logged in 2012. The forest protectors let visitors through to see it and suggest they travel just a bit further to take in the aptly named Eden Grove; this will help them picture the forest that once surrounded Big Lonely Doug. A beautiful trail has been made by the protectors, winding through the grove’s moss-carpeted floor and magnificent trees, both cedar and fir. The area is home to many species, including elk, deer, bears, wolves, cougars, and some of the finest and last valley-bottom ancient red cedar stands left on Earth. It’s quite a contrast to the 8-year-old clearcut Big Lonely Doug stands in.
     

    Eden Grove forest (Photo by David Broadland)
     
    According to the Ancient Forest Alliance, all of the grove is included within a 2,100-hectare Wildlife Habitat Area—but that “still legally allows clearcut logging in almost 90 percent of the designation itself.” The Alliance found that in 2010 and 2012, some of the very largest trees in Canada—some 13 to 16 feet in diameter—were logged within this Wildlife Habitat Area.
    A new logging road through old-growth forest on Edinburgh Mountain has been approved. So far, work on it has been blocked by the defenders.  
    Jenn Neagle, who is coordinating things at this camp, exhibits calm professionalism. The yoga teacher, wild mind guide and birthing companion has been out here for over a month. Like many of the young activists, she has discovered her strengths in this grassroots organization.
     

    Jenn Neagle (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    As firewood and food are delivered by other volunteers, Neagle checks her satellite texting device. There’s often hours-long delays in information transfer. Communications pose a huge challenge out here. There is no cell service at all. For wifi, the Port Renfrew Library, a good 30-minute drive away, is it. The distances between the five blockades are considerable, often on bumpy gravel roads meant for logging trucks. 
    Other challenges include keeping warm and dry. The sun today means the longer-term campers are washing clothes and hanging them to dry. At all the camps, volunteers in charge of “infrastructure” are busy building rudimentary outhouses, teepees, and cook shacks.
     

    Cook shack at Eden Grove (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    As in the other camps, COVID is treated as serious business. They certainly don’t want to endanger their main goal of defending the forest. They only remove masks when we ask for a photo without them, at a safe distance. Campers are asked to keep apart in their COVID-safe pods.
    Rhea has been coming out since December because of her “care for the land and non-human life. We’re all connected whether we know it or not,” she says. The student in forest ecology at UVic tells me that one of the studies referred to in the BC government’s own old-growth strategic review noted that this area would be worth more left standing. “I believe it,” she says, noting the high number of tourists that come to the area.
    Bob Sorour and his friend Michaela, both studying at Salt Spring Island’s Wisdom of the Earth Institute, came out for the Easter weekend after asking for and receiving a large donation of food from Earth Candy Farm. “The owner said take whatever,” says Sorour.
    Sorour had been out to River Camp two weeks earlier. He’d rather not get arrested given his school program, but “If they keep arresting people, I would jump in,” he says.
    The Artists-in-Residence program is situated at the Eden Grove blockade. Today Kyle Scheurmann is working on a large painting. He tells me he has a gallery exhibit called “Witness” in Toronto right now, and since he cannot be there due to COVID, he’s especially glad he can be here. He spent a year documenting forest destruction around the Nanaimo Lakes area by Mosaic, so he is no stranger to clearcuts.
    Martin Melendro, an engineer from Columbia who is a sustainability consultant in Victoria, tells me he’s working on “a project that aims to bring block chain and conservation financing together.” It involves rendering 3D images of trees to create digital art NFTs that can be sold to raise funds. (A separate story on the Artists-in-Resident program, curated by Jessie Demers, is in the works. Meanwhile, see eden_grove_air on Instagram.)
     

    Michael and Matthew Muller and Asia Koughan (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Towards the end of the day, I speak with new arrivals Matthew and Michael Muller and their friend Asia Koughan. All from Qualicum, Matthew works on a tugboat, Michael as a carpenter, and Asia has a cleaning business. The twin brothers are both willing to get arrested, with Asia’s support from the sidelines.
    Two young women from Sooke have also arrived. Jordan Olson-Lyons is a preschool teacher in Sooke and Saralyn Deslaurier works as a wilderness guide in the Great Bear Rainforest. Deslaurier says there’s a need for real protection, noting that logging is still allowed in much of the Great Bear Rainforest. “There’s no comparison between an old growth and second growth forest,” she says.
     
    Walbran Protection Camp: Injunction served
    The next day, on April 6, travelling along roads to Walbran Protection Camp, we pass active logging of a second-growth forest. About half of Teal Cedar’s logging in TFL 46 is supposed to be conducted in second-growth forests. The old-growth defenders are not impeding such logging. And while the company claimed in its application for an injunction that the blockades had done it “irreparable harm,” forests ministry records show that Teal’s harvest in 2020, the year the blockades started, was its third largest since 2011, even higher than the TFL’s approved allowable annual cut. The company has admitted in the past that its operations wouldn’t be economically viable without cutting old-growth, but since the old growth is quickly disappearing, it seems evident that Teal’s business is not sustainable.
     

    A Teal Cedar contractor working in TFL 46 (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    Soon after passing the logging equipment at work we cross paths with two white trucks. On arrival at Walbran, the small camp is abuzz: it turns out it was Teal Cedar employees in those trucks who came bearing copies of the injunction, meaning that everything defenders do that contravenes its lengthy set of terms (e.g. standing on the road) is now arrestable. They have been served.
     

    Injunction served at Walbran Protection Camp (Photo by Leslie Campbell)
     
    Here I meet Donna, a bird biologist who came from Belgium five years ago for BC’s wilderness only to find us hellbent on destroying it. She’s lived in camp since last October. “It’s important to me; the Earth is in danger, the old growth is an ecosystem we need to preserve,” she says.
    In the background to my conversation with Donna, I hear others going over plans if the logging trucks start rolling in: “Don’t be aggressive, even in taking photos of arrests…find something to chain yourself to to block the trucks…logging can start at 5am so be up at 4.”
    The nearby creek runs into salmon habitat and Carmanah-Walbran Park. Any logging on the slopes causes silting of the watercourse thereby endangering fish habitat. “Any square inch of old growth ecosystem lost is lost permanently—to the world,” someone points out.
    A small business owner, known only as D, says her employees are holding down the fort and will continue to do so as she is willing to face arrest. 
     

    Bird biologist and camp organizer from Belgium, Donna (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Before we leave, I ask Donna, the bird biologist, about the birds she’s seen lately. A Pygmy Owl visits every day and now migrating Rufous Hummingbirds are coming through; Pileated Woodpeckers, Varied Thrush and the Pacific Wren are also on her list. She’s been studying the latter’s migration for three years and notices its population is decreasing.
    They’ve also had Pine Martens in their cook shack and noticed cougar tracks in the snow. No wolves though. The habitat is so fragmented now.
     
    Caycuse Camp and a really big cedar
    Further along backroads, we land at Caycuse Camp. The injunction servers have been here as well. This is a larger, more populated camp than Walbran despite only being established recently after loggers started clearcutting behind it. They’re anxious due to the injunction being served, but also excited to see the bag of greens we’ve delivered—some haven’t had anything fresh in days.
    Bobby Arbess, who’s been involved since the early days with the Rainforest Flying Squad, is here. He says, “This isn’t just about Fairy Creek headwaters. It’s about putting the brakes on old growth logging. We’re establishing blockades on all the frontlines...”
    While they are mobilizing people, especially Victorians, to participate in what is now a civil disobedience campaign, he emphasizes that “There are many roles that do not require people to risk arrest.”
    Camp organizers, Arbess continues, “are really excited about how many people are showing up, and all the skills and the talents and the spirit that people are bringing forward because people for so long have felt an annoying sense of frustration with the way that successive governments have mismanaged the forest.” And now that we are in a climate emergency and facing a biodiversity crisis due to unbridled resource extraction, he continues, “people are at a breaking point and are no longer prepared to accept the normalcy of this situation that has unfolded, which has reduced some of the most beautiful and productive forests on Earth to literally be the very last stands.”
     

     
    Bobby Arbess (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Arbess believes the onus is on government and industry to justify why even one single ancient tree should be felled at this point: “Because we have come too far, the world’s climate scientists have told us and we have to reduce our collected carbon emissions by 50 percent and protect all the planet’s natural carbon sinks.”
    Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee is also here today. He reviews recent history around the BC government’s old growth strategic review. While it was the most comprehensive review that’s been done on old growth in BC, and made excellent recommendations, he says it wasn’t really necessary given what was clearly known already. And during its year-long process, old growth was coming down at a fast pace. It’s only in very limited places—like Fairy Creek and the Walbran—that aging trees pack on as much carbon each year and grow to magnificent sizes, he notes. So when the Horgan government brags about having deferred logging on 353,000 hectares, it’s more like 3,800 hectares: “Just over one percent of what the government deferred was actually what the public identifies as old growth and what is valuable to the people of this province,” says Coste. And because it’s also so prized by logging companies, the few big trees remaining are threatened. 
    He notes neither Teal Cedar nor the government seem truly concerned about their workers: “If the company is dependent on cutting these last forests,…what’s their plan for their workers? If they can’t switch to second growth now, are they going to be able to when the old growth has gone or do they just pack up and that’s it?” It’s only a matter of a few years till the big, valuable old growth is all gone if logging continues, says Coste. Blaming job losses on blockades is hypocritical when they don’t have any plan for the workers anyway.
     

    Jessica, Caycuse Camp organizer (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    Jessica, a dynamic young woman, is one of the main organizers here. She’s come prepared to stay for two months. A wilderness guide and music teacher, she says she was working at Walbran when they heard about logging going on in this area, so they decided to set up a blockade here. “We’ve had interactions with loggers every single day since we came here…Yesterday, we had two individual trucks come at separate times…We’ve been setting up this community and trying to do what we can to hold peace here and be respectful of what’s going on and do everything we can to protect these ancient forests.” This morning, after the injunction was served, she calmed herself by applying her “war paint.”
    We’re now in Ditidaht territory. Neither Ditidaht nor Pacheedaht band councils have supported the blockades, but neither have they come out against them [until April 12—see comment section for updates]. If they did, the activists would have respected their wishes, they say. They recognize that because industry and government have, in effect, bribed and muzzled the bands through revenue-sharing agreements—with very strict rules about what can be said without endangering any benefit they receive from the logging in their territories—that they are in a difficult place. It is just more colonialism at play, they say. But conversations are ongoing and individuals like elder Bill Jones have spoken against the continued logging of old growth in the First Nations’ territories. 
    As we walk down to the main barricade, we pass numerous campers like Diana Mongeau, a retiree from Errington, and her friend Christophe, a gardener from Errington. He says, “I was just blown away to find out there was so little old growth left but that logging companies got permission to log here. My dad was a logger; he would have stopped if there was so little left. I am embarrassed and disgusted.” Christophe is willing to be arrested.
    I also meet Laura Mina Mitic, the daughter of long-time FOCUS writer Trudy Duivenvoorden Mitic, but known more famously as the singer for the critically-acclaimed indie band Carmanah. She’s volunteering as police liaison with the blockade, and says, “It’s empowering being here. But there’s a good chance things won’t go the way they should.” 
    Further down the road, a large teepee is being constructed, as is a particularly impressive outhouse. Construction of the outhouse relies on activist Will O’Connell’s salvaging of huge chunks of cedar left as logging waste along the roadside.
    Pablo, another builder, demonstrates one of the secret strategies they will employ to stall—and add a bit of theatre to—any arrests that are attempted. Enough said.
    We’re now a long walk from the camp entrance, but would still like to see the forests—and recent clearcuts—beyond this blockade. Delee McDougall, who arrived from Saskatchewan a month ago, offers her Jeep. After she pulls out her bedroll and all her earthly belongings, there’s room for four of us and her dog Sparrow. O’Connell has drawn us a map of the twisty road with directions to some big trees, for now still standing. 
    The vast scraped hillsides of forest along the way are depressing. But eventually we park and head up into the woods, and, just as O’Connell had described on his map, we find a majestic old cedar. We each pose willingly for a portrait with it.
     

    Clearcuts in the Caycuse watershed (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     

    Ancient cedar, Delee McDougall and Sparrow, beyond the Caycuse blockade (Photo by Dawna Mueller)
     
    A few days later there’s news: RCMP helicopters are circling above. A showdown appears even more imminent. During the 1993 Clayoquot War in the Woods, 900 people were arrested. These rare and precious forests on Southern Vancouver Island could well attract even more willing to risk arrest.
    For more background on the origins of the Fairy Creek blockades see Bobby Arbess’s story here. Keep up to date on developments by checking here.
    Leslie Campbell is the editor of focusonvictoria.ca.
    Dawna Mueller is an award winning environmental photographer and speaker, currently documenting the ancient old growth forests on southern Vancouver Island. She combines a documentary style photojournalistic approach with the visual depiction of black and white fine art.

    Ben Parfitt
    As UK’s Drax makes play for BC’s wood pellet mills, questions grow about wood-fired electricity.
     
    WITH ITS SIX MASSIVE 660-megawatt power units, the Drax power station in North Yorkshire is the United Kingdom’s largest thermal electricity plant.
    When it opened in the mid 1970s, the giant facility burned coal. Today, however, Drax burns something else: wood, a raw material that grew so scarce during the Elizabethan era that it forced the country to convert to coal.
    So, when it comes to finding enough wood, Drax has an intractable problem. Only 13 per cent of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland combined is forested, a number that would be smaller still were it not for major tree-planting efforts over the last century.
    Incapable of meeting its raw material needs from within the UK’s borders, Drax relies on imports, which now amount to 10 million tonnes of wood pellets annually. That is effectively double what all of the UK’s forests currently produce in new tree growth each year.
    The scale of Drax’s enterprise prompted the company to hire engineers to design new rail cars capable of holding 30 per cent more volume than coal cars. The new cars feature retrievable tops that open for loading and close during transport, thus preventing the wood pellets from getting wet. Meanwhile, the port facilities that those trains travel to can accommodate huge bulk carriers that arrive at dock with as much as 63,907 tonnes of wood pellets. Big as such shipments are, they are not even enough to keep Drax operating for two-and-a-half days.
    Only with big “fibre baskets” outside the UK, can Drax meet its needs. In early February it announced that it had reached an agreement with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc., British Columbia’s largest wood pellet producer, to purchase the company. Pinnacle is the world’s second biggest pellet producer and owns facilities in Alberta and Alabama as well.
     

    Logs await grinding into wood pellets at pellet plant in Houston, BC. Photo: © Stand.earth.       Virtuous energy or a false solution?
    Drax says that once its takeover of Pinnacle is complete it will be the world’s largest producer of “sustainable biomass” power. It also says that using wood to create energy is part of a “virtuous cycle” that ultimately benefits “the forestry sector, rural communities and the environment.” All of which allegedly helps the UK and its EU neighbors get off “dirty” coal as part of a broader suite of objectives aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
    Drax’s claims rest on the fact that mountains of wood waste are created all over the world as a result of industrial wood processing. When round logs are turned into rectangular lumber products, only about half of each processed log actually ends up as lumber. What’s left over is sawdust and wood chips, material that is a “perfect” source of fibre for wood pellets, Drax says. Turn such waste into a product that burns efficiently, then plant enough trees to suck up the equivalent of all the carbon that is released during that burning, and, presto—you have a “carbon-neutral” energy source.
    New research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), however, suggests that Drax’s claims are greenwashing. Whole trees, indeed whole tracts of forest, are being logged with the express purpose of turning trees into a product that is then burned. This results in immediate pulses of greenhouse gases sent into the world’s overheating atmosphere. Such pulses are as damaging to the Earth’s climate as burning coal—and can only be offset over decades—assuming that replanted trees actually live that long. This is a major reason why 500 scientists have warned that wood pellet burning is a “false solution” to climate change.
     
    An ancient relationship
    Logging forests to turn them into pellets has many British Columbians worried, including Quesnel mayor Bob Simpson.
    “There is no justification with what’s happening with climate change to allow tree harvesting for pellets,” Simpson says, noting that we cannot afford to be “going back to an ancient relationship with the forest [where] we cut them down to burn them.”
     

    Provincial data shows that logging trucks delivered massive numbers of logs to BC wood pellet companies between 2010 and 2020. Photo: © Stand.earth.
     
    The CCPA’s research shows that from 2010 through 2020, three wood pellet companies in BC— led by Pinnacle—took at least 1.3 million cubic metres of logs out of the province’s forests. At 645,211 cubic metres, Pinnacle alone was responsible for just under half those trees. Prince George-based pellet producer, Pacific Bioenergy, logged slightly less at 611,833 cubic metres while Princeton Standard Pellet was a distant third at a little more than 45,000 cubic metres.
    The CCPA crunched the numbers using a searchable database known as the Harvest Billing System, which is maintained by BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. The database provides details on logged trees by or on behalf of companies, where the trees were logged, the quality of the logs and what companies paid in stumpage fees to the Province for each tree they logged.
    In Pinnacle’s case, 95 per cent of all the trees ascribed to it in the database were in areas of forest auctioned by BC Timber Sales, an arm of the BC government. The data show that Pinnacle paid an average of $20.57 for each cubic metre of trees it logged during those years and that its total payments to the Province were more than $13.27 million.
    Most of its logs came from the Quesnel region, including trees from the extremely rare interior temperate rainforest to the east of Quesnel.
    The CCPA asked Josh McQuillan, Pinnacle’s superintendent of biomass, and Mike Thomas, a Pinnacle biomass purchaser, for details on the company’s log supplies. Neither replied. Instead, an email came from Karen Brandt of Pinnacle’s communications department:
    “The data you are seeking directly from Pinnacle is competitive in nature and therefore we are unable to disclose. However, I can say that we are 100% committed to ensuring that trees go to their highest and best use. Our pellets are either a direct by-product of the lumber industry, or the purposeful extraction of dead, diseased or damaged or low-quality trees.”
     

    Whole logs await conversion directly into wood pellets at a Peak Renewable Energy pellet mill in Burns Lake in March, 2021. Photo: © Stand.earth.
     
    In addition to its data analysis, the CCPA has obtained photographs and video showing large numbers of logs amassed at Pinnacle’s pellet mills in Smithers and in Burns Lake. The photographs show pellet mill yards filled with whole logs that are destined to be converted directly into pellets. Simpson says a similar situation exists at a Pinnacle mill to the north of Quesnel. Because of Pinnacle’s decision not to answer any questions about its wood fibre sources, it is unclear whether the photographs represent logs that are in addition to those analyzed by the CCPA.
    Logs at Pinnacle’s overflowing pellet mill yards could, for example, be delivered there by major logging companies under a new provincial program known as the “concurrent residual harvest system.” The new system, launched in the spring of 2019, encourages “business agreements” between logging companies and pellet mill operators, and is intended to ensure that “low quality” logs are delivered to pellet mills at deeply discounted stumpage rates. Identifying such logs would require knowing precisely who Pinnacle is doing business with. But that is something the company is apparently unable or unwilling to disclose.
    Whatever the ultimate source of Pinnacle’s logs, the data and photographs contradict the pellet industry’s assertions that it uses “residual” (i.e., waste) wood fibre to meet its needs. It also contradicts what BC’s chief forester, Diane Nicholls—one of the most powerful officials in the forests ministry—has said about the province’s pellet mills in a promotional video for the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.
     
    Pellets: the antithesis of value-added
    “When you look at pellet production in British Columbia, it’s part of building that circular economy in the forest sector. It uses residuals from sawmill production that may not be used otherwise,” Nicholls says in the video. “And that is a win, because it’s something that is an added value for the benefits of British Columbians. It provides jobs. It fulfills a niche in our sector that we didn’t have before.”
    But while making wood pellets adds value of a sort to trees that are logged, Nicholls did not address just how few jobs the wood pellet industry actually creates.
    Using job figures provided by two unions that represent workers at four of the province’s 14 pellet mills, along with published job figures from industry sources as reported in various media accounts, the CCPA estimates that BC’s 14 pellet mills directly employed just 303 workers in 2020. The United Steelworkers Union and the Public and Private Workers of Canada (PPWC) report that workers in the unionized pellet plants are paid about one-third less than their counterparts working in sawmills, and that pay in non-unionized pellet mills may be lower still.
    That same year, according to labour force statistics compiled by the provincial government, 45,000 people worked in BC’s forest industry. That figure includes all logging and log hauling jobs, all jobs in wood product mills, and all pulp and paper mill employees. This means that the wood pellet industry last year accounted for just over one-half of one per cent of the province’s forest sector jobs.
    Drax’s entry also comes at a pivotal moment for the wood pellet industry in BC.
    In a move without precedent in the province, another new entrant onto the wood pellet scene—Peak Renewables—is proposing to build the largest wood pellet mill in Canada and by far the largest in BC, in the remote Fort Nelson region.
    Because the Fort Nelson region has no active sawmills, the proposed pellet mill would feed on whole trees from the moment it opens. The company says the mill’s biomass would come almost exclusively from logging the region’s aspen trees and that about 1.2 million cubic metres of wood from such trees would be required annually (equivalent to approximately 1.5 million aspen trees).
    When the CCPA published details on the proposed pellet mill in February, concerns were voiced immediately from forest industry unions and conservation organizations.
    “A truly healthy and stable forest industry is built around the idea of circulating wood between mills, adding value at each step of the way,” Gary Fiege, national president of the PPWC, and Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, wrote in a letter to Katrine Conroy, BC’s minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
    “The proposed Peak mill is the antithesis of that idea. If built, it will be the first pellet mill in the province that is intentionally designed to churn through whole, living, perfectly healthy trees to make one of the lowest value (from a jobs perspective) forest products on Earth,” they continued.
    Conservation North, an organization that is fighting to protect primary, unlogged forests in the interior of the province, where all of BC’s wood pellet mills are located, also wrote to Minister Conroy voicing its opposition to the project. The Fort Nelson region has some of the largest tracts of primary or old-growth forests remaining in the Interior.
     
    Protect more forest & add more value
    “Wood pellets derived from primary forests are not a renewable source of energy,” Michelle Connolly, Conservation North’s director, wrote. “By definition, primary forests are forests that have never been disturbed by industrial or other human activity, and consequently are irreplaceable. They are ecologically important, they store more carbon and harbor more biodiversity than plantations or second-growth stands of the same forest type, and they mitigate flood risk.”
    Numerous letters of opposition to the project were received in the minister’s office. Notably, Minister Conroy was told in her ministerial mandate letter from Premier John Horgan to both conserve more old-growth or primary forests and to ensure that more value is added to the province’s forest products. The ministry must now decide whether or not to allow Canfor Corp, the largest forest company in BC, to transfer logging rights it holds in the Fort Nelson region to Peak, which would mark a critical milestone in Peak’s pellet mill plans.
    Opposition to the forest-harvesting project goes well beyond just conservation and union circles. Even the industry association representing Canada’s wood pellet manufacturers has voiced its objections.
    Major wood pellet purchasers, such as Drax, do not operate in a vacuum. The European Union has made it abundantly clear that sourcing wood pellets from primary forests, which store huge amounts of carbon in their old trees, is to be avoided because it is neither renewable or carbon neutral.
    The wood pellet industry portrays itself as using “residual” wood supplies, largely in the form of waste from sawmills or broken log bits left behind following clear-cuts logging.
     

    Junk wood? Apparently sound logs about to be turned into wood pellets at a mill in Houston, BC, where Pinnacle Renewable Energy is a partner. Pellet makers say “low-quality” logs have no value and should be turned into pellets and burned. Photo: © Stand.earth.
     
    Shortly after the CCPA released details on the Peak Renewables plan for the forests of Fort Nelson, Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), published a commentary criticizing the company’s plan.
    “WPAC does not support wood pellet manufacturing proposals that are predicated on the large-scale harvesting of forests for the sole purpose of pellet production,” Murray wrote, adding that his organization was “inundated” with calls after details of Peak Renewable’s plan surfaced.
    “WPAC’s history is rooted in a fundamental principle: responsible sourcing,” Murray wrote in Canadian Biomass Magazine.
    “That means our pellets are produced entirely from a combination of the waste or residuals left from harvesting and sawmilling activities, the limited quantities of low-quality logs that need to be removed for forest enhancement or salvage projects and material that can’t be used for any other purpose. We are opposed to initiatives that risk the reputation we have built as a leading global supplier in sustainable wood pellet production.”
     
    A last resort
    But what does Murray mean when he says “can’t be used for any other purpose?” In Quesnel, Mayor Simpson says there may be an argument for burning wood at some point. But in his view, it should be at the absolute end of the production train. If a tree is logged, the log should go first to mills where everything from lumber to furniture is made because solid wood products hold onto the carbon in trees and those products may continue to store that carbon for decades and in some cases centuries. After the logs first pass through such mills, Mayor Simpson says, the leftover wood is best sent to a pulp mill (of which there are two in Quesnel).
     

    A pile of wood chips awaits conversion to wood pellets at Pinnacle mill in Burns Lake. Critics say far more value and far more jobs are generated when chips go to pulp mills instead. Photo: © Stand.earth.
     
    Traditionally, the mayor notes, pulp mills turned wood chips and sawdust into wood pulp that was then turned into various paper products. But these days, pulp mills can make everything from much-in-demand fibres used in surgical gowns, to bioplastics and biofuels. The pulp industry is only scratching the surface of what can be made from so-called “waste” wood, Mayor Simpson says, whereas the pellet industry is capable of making just one product and a product to immediately be burned at that.
    Wood pellets, says the mayor, should be “the last resort,” the caboose at the end of the train.
     
    What have we learned?
    In 2018, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Richard Rhodes, wrote Energy: A Human History, a book that looks at how societies transitioned from one energy source to another. The first chapter, No Wood, No Kingdom, begins in 1598 in London, England, as a group of workers dismantle a theatre building as William Shakespeare looks on. The timbers of the ancient theatre are then carted away and resurrected on the other side of the River Thames to become the Globe Theatre, where some of the playwright’s most famous works were first performed.
    Scarcity is what drove the salvage and reassembly operation, as the forests around London—indeed across England—were steadily logged and people had to go farther and farther in search of trees to cut down.
    Rhodes’s journey through more than 400 years of history makes two things abundantly clear: energy transitions occur as energy supplies run short, and when the transitions occur, they do not happen overnight because of the immense engineering challenges involved.
    Fully transitioning from wood to coal did not happen in the blink of an eye. As coal-mining picked up, mines quickly became flooded with water and people then had to figure out how to dewater the mines, first with the power of horses and later, after horsepower’s limits became better understood, with steam.
    Contacted at his home in California, Rhodes said he was mystified that England appears to be reaching far back in time to harness the energy of wood, a raw material in very short supply in the UK today, and one that will ultimately not solve a planetary climate crisis as there is no guarantee that the greenhouse gases emitted when wood is burned today will be made up tomorrow when a tree is planted.
    “I really do wonder about this cycling of wood,” Rhodes said. “I really do wonder if there’s a CO2 advantage when they’re shipping these pellets. They’re putting them on diesel-fired freighters, I presume, and shipping them across the Atlantic.”
     

    Logs await conversion to wood pellets in Burns Lake. Will demand for renewable, “carbon-neutral” wood-fired energy in the UK, European Union and Japan be B.C.’s forests undoing? Photo: © Stand.earth.
     
    Despite this, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada believes that a surge in wood pellet demand lies ahead and that many more wood pellet mills will be built, including in BC.
    By 2027, the Association says that installed wood pellet production globally could reach 51 million tonnes annually. That would require a 40-per-cent growth in the industry in just six years.
    Where all the wood needed to make those pellets will come from is anyone’s guess.
    If the new pellet mill in Fort Nelson materializes and is built to the scale that Peak Renewables envisions, it would bring the number of pellet mills in BC to 15. Based on last year’s logging rate in BC of 52.3 million cubic metres of timber, the province’s pellet mill industry alone would account for the equivalent of just under 15 per cent of the entire provincial log harvest.
    The combined annual output of all of those mills would be a little more than 3.1 million tonnes of wood pellets, which is less than one third of what Drax’s power plant in North Yorkshire needs every year.
    Can the world’s forests supply enough biomass for another four such power plants while still protecting forest ecosystems and forest industry jobs?
    We may soon find out.
    Ben Parfitt is a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and a longtime investigative writer. This story was originally published in Policy Note.

    David Broadland
    BC Premier John Horgan has an inflated view of what his government has done to save old-growth forests.
     
    IN AN APRIL 7 INTERVIEW with CBC Victoria’s Gregor Craigie, Premier John Horgan claimed his government has already responded to the Gorley-Merkel report on old-growth forests in BC. Horgan claimed that logging has been deferred on “hundreds of thousand of hectares” of old growth. Forest scientist Karen Price, one of the co-authors of BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, has pointed out on this website that Horgan’s deferrals apply to only 3800 hectares of high productivity old growth. FOCUS has shown that a large portion of the biggest deferral included about 100,000 hectares of already protected Strathcona Park. Other deferrals are mainly rock and ice or second-growth forest.
    Horgan’s grasp of forest-related issues was further clarified by his claim to Craigie that “just in the Lower Mainland, 500 million hectares of land has been set aside just to protect the Spotted Owl.” What’s wrong with that? Watch the 1-minute video below.
    The problem for British Columbians is that Horgan seems clueless about the environmental damage being created by the forest industry in BC, and even more unaware about how his government is responding to that. Or maybe both his claims about the logging deferrals and the area protected for Spotted Owls were a slip of the tongue, or a joke.
    Either way, Craigie didn’t fact-check the premier on either matter. Is British Columbia’s mainstream media unintentionally enabling the unfolding ecological catastrophe in BC forests?
    If you have heard something about BC’s forest industry in the media that you think is doubtful, including what you read on this website, please let us know in the comments section below and we’ll fact-check that piece of information.
    Thanks to Dave Cuddy for drawing to our attention John Horgan’s surprising plan to save the Northern Spotted Owl.
     
     

    David Broadland
    As arrests at Fairy Creek Rainforest begin, arm yourself with some truth about what's actually happening. The injunction was obtained by inaccurate, self-serving descriptions of the impact of the blockades by the company.
     
    IF THERE’S ONE SITUATION in which you would expect a company’s accountant to be accurate about the numbers, it would be in a sworn affidavit in which the company is seeking a high-profile injunction from the BC Supreme Court. Right?
    Not these days.
    Teal Cedar Products Ltd filed such an application in mid-February, asking for injunctive relief, enforceable by the RCMP, in response to ongoing blockades of some of its logging operations in TFL 46 on southern Vancouver Island. On April 1, Justice Fritz E Verhoeven ruled in favour of Teal’s application. Verhoeven accepted information in affidavits provided by Teal CFO Gerrie Kotze concerning the impact of the blockades on Teal. Some of the information was grossly inaccurate, and Verhoeven based his decision on that information.
    I wrote recently about the fact that Teal’s cut in TFL 46 rose dramatically above the previous two years’ logging in spite of the blockades. In 2018, when there were no blockades in place, Teal took 255,975 cubic metres of timber out of TFL 46. In 2019, again with no blockades in sight, the company removed 282,096 cubic metres. In 2020, the year in which the blockade started (in August), Teal trucked 437,982 cubic metres of logs out of the TFL. That’s an increase of  71 percent over 2018 and 55 percent over 2019.
     

    Teal Cedar Products Ltd is clearcutting old-growth forests, like this former forest in the Caycuse River Valley (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    Yet Teal stated in its application that the company had suffered “irreparable harm” as a result of the blockades, and Verhoeven agreed. A finding of irreparable harm was a legally necessary condition for allowing Teal’s application for injunctive relief and civil damages.
    Not only did Teal apparently misstate the impact that the blockades had on its operations, but other details, including information in affidavits provided by Kotze, appear to seriously underestimate the value of the logs the company removed from TFL 46 and the value of the products manufactured from those logs. Verhoeven accepted this information, analysed it in his judgment and concluded that Teal had suffered irreparable harm.
    I find the details of this case particularly compelling because they demonstrate how, in the face of industrial destruction of Earth’s life support systems, institutions that are needed to support the public interest—like government and the courts—are failing the public. The evidence of this is deep in the details of this case. C’mon in.
    In a section of Teal’s injunction application covering “Impact of the Blockades,” the document stated: “Teal Cedar estimates that the value of the products manufactured from timber sourced from TFL 46 to be about $19.4 million, which is an incremental value-added over the value of the logs of approximately $9 million.” This statement cites “Kotze Affidavit #1” as the source of that information. Again, Kotze is Teal’s chief financial officer, and his numbers are not credible.
    The market value of the 437,982 cubic metres of raw logs removed from TFL 46 in 2020 was close to $60 million, based on the volume and the ministry of forests’ average log price that year. According to the ministry of forests’ Harvest Billing System, Teal paid $10,580,295.06 in stumpage to the Province for those logs, the most stumpage it has ever paid for its logging in TFL 46.
    The value of the wood products manufactured from the logs Teal removed from TFL 46 in 2020 was likely around $220 million, not $19.4 million. (FOCUS estimated this number by using information provided in Western Forest Products’ 2020 financial statement, and the volume Western Forest Products harvested from its coastal operations, as determined by the ministry of forests’ Harvest Billing System. Western Forest Products has TFLs on Vancouver Island, one of which is beside Teal’s TFL 46.)
    It’s evident that Teal grossly underestimated the value of the wood that it had removed in 2020. Yet that inaccurate information was then used by Justice Verhoeven to determine whether to grant Teal an injunction. Did Teal intentionally construct numbers that would lead Verhoeven to find in its favour?
    In the “Irreparable Harm” section of Verhoeven’s decision, the judge stated, “Teal employs approximately 450 people within its processing and manufacturing facilities. If Teal is unable to log within the area of TFL 46, it will not have an adequate timber supply for its mills. It may be forced to shut down its mills, resulting in layoffs of employees, and Teal’s inability to supply its customers. Teal estimates that the end product value of the products that it will produce from the timber sourced from TFL 46 is approximately $20 million. Teal stands to lose market share, and to suffer damage to its reputation as a reliable supplier of its products.”
    Two points stand out:
    First, Verhoeven’s speculation about Teal being “unable to log within the area of TFL 46,” suggests he had little understanding of the situation on the ground. According to the ministry of forests, there is plenty of second growth the company could have logged. It isn’t being defended by blockades. I will come back to this point later.
    Second, Verhoeven took the information Kotze supplied, added $600,000 for unknown reasons—rounding?—and used this updated total of “approximately $20 million” to find that Teal had suffered “irreparable harm.” As mentioned above, irreparable harm was a necessary condition for Verhoeven to award injunctive relief.
    Our estimate of $220 million for the value of products manufactured from logs removed from TFL 46 was only part of Teal’s revenue in 2020. In its application for an injunction, the company stated, “Teal Cedar relies on its own timber licences to supply approximately 50 percent of its fibre needs for the three mills, mostly from TFL46.”
    If TFL 46 supplied most of that 50 percent, then Teal’s total sales for all the volume it processed in 2020 would be roughly twice the $220 million we estimated for TFL 46, or $440 million.
    In its injunction application, Teal especially highlighted a decline in production of its Tonewood Division, which supplies old-growth Red Cedar to guitar manufacturers. For that division, Teal claimed a loss of $250,000. Based on our estimate of total sales of over $400 million in 2020, the Tonewood decline would represent a loss in sales of just five-tenths of one percent. To put that decline in perspective, Verhoeven’s careless rounding error in restating the “value of the products” produced by Teal amounted to $600,000.
    Teal didn’t provide any additional numbers that would have summarized how the value of its products—like lumber—declined, because they didn’t. They went up over sales in 2019. Way up. 
    Keep in mind that the blockades are aimed only at Teal’s logging of old-growth forest. The company has plenty of second-growth forest available for logging in TFL 46. Verhoeven did not seem to understand this when he speculated that Teal would be “unable to log within the area of TFL 46.” The most recent (2011) review of the TFL by the ministry of forests set the allowable annual cut (AAC) for the TFL at 403,000 cubic metres, well under what the company took out in 2020. The 2011 review assumed that “at least 180,000 cubic metres per year” would come from second-growth stands. Over the past 11 years, Teal’s cut has averaged 392,172 cubic metres per year and the stumpage assessed by the ministry of forests has averaged $8.20 per cubic metre. Teal has been cutting close to the AAC and, until recently, paying very low stumpage rates. In 2011, it paid just 56¢ per cubic metre for 401,567 cubic metres of wood.
     

    Summary of Teal Cedar’s cut in TFL 46, 2010 to 2020. The average stumpage paid over those 11 years was $8.20 per cubic metre. Source: Ministry of forests Harvest Billing System
     
    Neither Teal’s application for an injunction nor Verhoeven’s judgment granting the injunction even mention the words “second growth.” Yet that is where Teal was expected, by the terms of its 2011 TFL review, to get nearly half its wood for its mills. The next review, which is past due, will need to increase the proportion of second growth in its cut because TFL 46 now has about 2.5 million cubic metres less old-growth forest than it had in 2011. This is a fact, and the blockades are a public response to this fact. Loss of old-growth forest and the impact that has on risk of biodiversity loss and loss of forest carbon are critical public interest issues that neither the justice system nor the provincial government seem to know how to address. These two institutions, apparently, are only able to assess the monetary value of old-growth forests for companies like Teal. As Teal’s easy manipulations of the numbers show, the court isn’t very good at doing even that.
    Teal is privately-owned, but Business in Vancouver provides information about the company on its website. According to that publication, Teal is the sixth largest forestry company in BC and employed 1000 people in BC in 2020, the same as in 2019. It also has a mill in Washington. Business in Vancouver estimates Teal had 1350 employees “worldwide” in 2019 and 1485 in 2020.
    Business in Vancouver’s information about Teal for 2012-2013 shows that back then the company had about 970 BC employees and estimated revenues of $200 million.
    FOCUS asked Teal and the lawyer who prepared its injunction application why the application had grossly underestimated the value of wood products manufactured and the volume of logs Teal removed from TFL 46 in 2020. We received no response. (If Teal responds after initial publication of this story, FOCUS will provide its response.)
    A private company might feel compelled to publicly underestimate revenue if it had inaccurately reported that revenue to Revenue Canada. In Teal’s case, however, when CFO Kotze testified to the court that the value of wood products sourced from TFL 46 was “$19.4 million,” it could be that Teal was simply trying to make it more likely that it would be awarded an injunction. The company’s injunction application stated: “Teal Cedar estimates the value of the timber rendered inaccessible by the Blockades to be approximately $10 million.” Verhoeven, taking Teal’s various numbers at face value, would have to conclude that the blockades had made $10 million worth of timber inaccessible. Then he would have compared that with the “$9 million” which Teal said it had been able to remove to make products valued at “$19.4 million.” In other words, Teal told Verhoeven that more than half of its timber had been made inaccessible by the blockades. And Verhoeven’s judgment, repeated over and over again by various media, would have the effect of spreading Teal’s misinformation as though it were the truth.
     Teal’s 2020 bumper harvest ought to be considered in context. In September 2019, Tom Fletcher and Lauren Collins reported for Black Press that 500 employees of Teal-Jones Group had lost their jobs after earlier layoffs in May of that year. At the time, Kotze told the reporters, “Current high stumpage rates remain high relative to lumber prices, and harvesting costs have been adversely impacted by new regulations to bring out more residual waste fibre…These negative factors have made it impossible for the company to continue its forest licences economically.” The reporters also quoted a long-time Teal employee, Bill Fulk, about the future: “There’s going to be ghost towns because it’s hard to find an employee to come [into] the wood industry because people are seeing that it’s going down and down and down,” said Fulk, adding that it’s becoming very difficult to find employees ‘that trust that the wood industry will continue on.’”
    Somehow, though, in spite of the existential challenges faced by the company—at least as described by the company, Justice Verhoeven and Black Press—2020 saw Teal’s third largest harvest in the last ten years. As a consequence, money rained down on the company as the blockaders took up position to defend what little remains of coastal old-growth forest.
    David Broadland hopes that as arrests of Fairy Creek Rainforest blockaders mount, the public will look beyond the inaccurate, self-serving, self-descriptions of the forest industry and its institutional allies and look for the truth.
    This story has been edited: The original version incorrectly stated Teal’s average yearly cut over the last eleven years. The average is 392,172 cubic metres, not 431,389 as originally stated. 
     
    Teal Cedar Products Ltd application for injunction: 2021-02-18 Notice of Application.pdf
    Justice Verhoeven’s judgment

    Saul Arbess
    EARLY THIS MORNING, an injunction was served on forest defenders camped at four peaceful blockades near Fairy Creek. The injunction, granted April 1, was read by workers for Teal Jones logging company. This action clears the way for RCMP to begin arresting the forest defenders, as early as this afternoon.
    “We haven’t seen RCMP yet,” said Shawna Knight, a member of the group known as the Rainforest Flying Squad. However she said the group will not stand down, and expects more people will join them as they realize how dire the situation is for old-growth forests.
    The forest defenders currently have blockades at Caycuse, where it stopped active logging on Easter weekend, and at Fairy Creek, Eden, and Walbran.
    Contact: Bobby Arbess: garbanzobob@yahoo.ca, 778.700.2602
    Joshua Wright: jawright@gmail.com, 360.989.8067
    Grace Golightly: gragoli@gmail.com, 250.686.9708
    Directions to River Camp and Camp HQ (the Fairy Creek Blockade) can be found here
    Directions to Eden Camp: https://goo.gl/maps/hjGn66DYVpkm1R4D6
    Photo by Dawna Mueller


    David Broadland
    The BC Supreme Court Justice who decided that irreparable harm was done to a private forestry company by citizens blocking logging roads didn't know that the company's harvest had actually increased. 
     
    BC SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Frits E Verhoeven delivered reasons on April 1 for allowing an injunction against BC citizens blocking a forestry company from logging old-growth near Port Renfrew. Comparing the information Verhoeven used to make his decision with BC government information about the extent to which the logging company has been affected by the blockade, it’s difficult to understand why Verhoeven granted the injunction.
    The citizens have been blockading access to three potential logging sites just north of Port Renfrew. The first blockade stopped construction of a logging road into nearly pristine Fairy Creek Valley. That blockade was set up in mid-August, 2020. When Fairy Creek Valley was ignored by the NDP government in its faux old-growth logging deferrals announced a month after the blockade was set up, other blockades were established to impede logging of old-growth forests nearby.
     

    Fairy Creek Valley near the area that Teal Cedar wants to log (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    Teal Cedar Products Ltd applied for an injunction against the blockades on February 18, 2021. A hearing was held by Justice Verhoeven on February 25, which was then postponed until March 25. Verhoeven provided reasons for allowing the injunction on April Fool’s Day.
    Teal Cedar Products is the tenure holder of TFL 46, which the ministry of forests notes has 45,533 hectares of commercially operable forest land that Teal can log. The approved cutblocks in Fairy Creek Valley that citizens are impeding access to totals 20 hectares. That represents such a small fraction of the land Teal has access to, it’s hard to express: it’s just four-one-hundredths of one percent of the area Teal can clearcut. None of this was mentioned in Verhoeven’s judgment.
    In his judgment, Verhoeven noted that for injunctive relief to be granted, Teal needed to show three things: First, that there was a serious question to be tried; second, that Teal would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction; and third, that “the balance of convenience favours granting the relief.” By “balance of convenience” Verhoeven meant that the harm done to Teal if the injunction was not granted needed to be weighed against the harm that would be done to the citizens manning the blockade if the injunction was granted.
    On the first requirement, Verhoeven noted that the citizens themselves conceded there was a serious issue to be tried.
    On the issue of “irreparable harm,” Verhoeven concluded: “There is also no doubt that Teal will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.” 
    But the truth is, there’s plenty of doubt.
    Let me start with what actually happened to Teal’s logging operations in TFL 46 in the year the blockade began, just over halfway through the year. Verhoeven could easily have been provided with this information if he had requested it from Teal. Harvest volumes obtained from a publicly accessible database, maintained by the BC ministry of forests, show that in 2018, when there were no blockades in place, Teal took 255,975 cubic metres of timber out of TFL 46. In 2019, again with no blockades in sight, they removed 282,096 cubic metres.
    In 2020, the year in which the blockade started (in August), Teal trucked 437,982 cubic metres of logs out of the TFL. That’s an increase of  55 percent over 2019 and 71 percent over 2018.
    If Verhoeven had asked for this information, he would have been hard-pressed to show that the blockades had done Teal irreparable harm. In fact, Teal did much better—monetarily—than it had in the previous two years.
    Verhoeven, however, accepted information from Teal and, based on that, concluded that the blockades would do Teal irreparable harm. Verhoeven’s judgment repeats what Teal told them: “Teal employs approximately 450 people within its processing and manufacturing facilities. If Teal is unable to log within the area of TFL 46, it will not have an adequate timber supply for its mills. It may be forced to shut down its mills, resulting in layoffs of employees, and Teal’s inability to supply its customers. Teal estimates that the end product value of the products that it will produce from the timber sourced from TFL 46 is approximately $20 million. Teal stands to lose market share, and to suffer damage to its reputation as a reliable supplier of its products.”
    But as the Province’s information shows, none of that happened.
    Verhoeven went on to describe the irreparable harm done to one of Teal’s contractors, road builders Stone Pacific: “The losses extend to Teal’s contractors and their employees. Stone Pacific lost $3,500 per day for each day its operations were prevented, and its employees lost wages of $350 to $400 each for every day of work lost.”
    The Province doesn’t make public such details as whether Teal’s road-building contractor actually lost any days of work, but judging by Teal’s much greater output in 2020, someone was building the necessary roads.
    On the basis of irreparable harm, Verhoeven seems to have seriously erred in assuming that what the company’s lawyers said in court didn’t need to be examined more closely.
    The third bar that Teal needed to meet for an injunction to be granted was the “Balance of Convenience” bar. Verhoeven described that this way: “Finally, an assessment must be made as to the balance of convenience, which typically starts with consideration of which of the parties would suffer greater harm from the granting or refusal of the remedy, pending a decision on the merits. Many other factors may come into play, depending on the circumstances. In Charter cases, the public interest must be considered within the question of the balance of convenience.”
    Verhoeven then recounted a short list of what various witnesses had told the court; these amounted to a repetition of the warnings already made by thousands of forest and climate scientists around the world about the impact forest destruction is having on the both the biodiversity and the climate crises. 
    But a careful reading of his written judgment shows that Verhoeven never actually weighs the harms to Teal against the harms the defendants are trying to avoid by impeding Teal’s logging operations. Rather than making a serious effort to understand those harms, Verhoeven seemed to throw his hands into the air in exasperation and declared: “The problem is, all of the concerns raised by the respondents are for the government to address, and not this Court. Forestry decisions are highly policy driven and require the government to coordinate, balance, and reconcile often competing values and interests.”
    Note that in trying to work through the “Balance of Convenience” consideration, Verhoeven was willing to declare that it was up to the BC government to work out an appropriate response to the concerns of the citizen blockaders. Yet, in examining the question of whether Teal had suffered irreparable harm as a consequence of the blockades, he accepted Teal’s claims without referring to government records about the small area of what the citizens wanted protected, or the increased volume that Teal had harvested during the blockades.
    Moreover, the government, as many of us already know, only pretends to “coordinate, balance, and reconcile competing values and interests.” In the real world, the forest industry long ago captured the only public agency that could regulate forestry—the ministry of forests—and together the two have become the “mindustry.”
    Had Verhoeven actually completed his “Balance of Convenience” assessment, he might have properly weighed what Teal had lost—nothing—against what the public is losing every year that the reign of the mindustry continues.
     

    Old-growth forest in the Klanawa Valley, northwest of Port Renfrew; this is what the blockades are trying to keep out of Fairy Creek Valley (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    If he had done what justice required him to do, Verhoeven would have summed up all the public subsidies received by forestry companies in BC: the forest management subsidy, which is the million-dollar-a-day cost to the public of running the ministry of forests after accounting for all the modest revenue it receives from companies like Teal. It would have included the more-than-one-million-dollar-a-day subsidy that mills like Teal’s receive through low electricity rates and the more-than-one-million-dollar-a-day subsidy that pulp mills receive through the lower rate they pay for water compared with the rate that municipal authorities pay for water (without pulp mills, Teal’s own mills would soon be buried in sawdust). And it would have included the multi-billion-dollar-a-year subsidy that forest companies are granted by the BC government, which ignores the carbon released by the industry’s destruction of BC forests. If that carbon was priced at the current level of BC’s Carbon Tax, this subsidy alone would overwhelm the entire $3 billion contribution to the provincial GDP credited to the forest industry.
    Those are some of the monetary public interests that Verhoeven failed to consider in his incomplete “balance of convenience” assessment. The blockaders are, I know, partly motivated by this monetary insult to the public interest. This is where irreparable damage is being done.
    In the end, after failing to adequately examine either the issue of irreparable harm or the issue of the balance of convenience, Verhoeven simply relied on “the law” that people can’t block roads if it affects other people who have a right to use those roads. So the question of whether Teal should have received injunctive relief seems to have been settled unjustly. The blockaders are now mobilizing support. The public would do well to try to understand that the power of BC’s justice system has been used improperly to support a private company’s interests over the public interest.
    David Broadland has spent the last year amassing information about the mindustry. He’s discovered that the future of BC’s forests is not in good hands.
    Justice Verhoeven’s judgment: https://www.bccourts.ca/jdb-txt/sc/21/06/2021BCSC0605.htm

    Rochelle Baker
    A new environmental report card says the BC government is failing to enact recommendations it accepted to protect large old growth trees.
     

    A former Vancouver Island forest. Photo by TJ Watt
     
    Premier John Horgan is getting failing grades when it comes to protecting BC’s old-growth forests, according to a report card issued by a coalition of environmental groups on Thursday, March 11, 2020.
    The report card evaluates the Province’s progress at the six-month mark after its promise to act on 14 recommendations outlined in a report that followed a strategic review of BC’s old-growth forestry practices.
    Most urgently, the Province grades poorly around the call to take immediate action to protect at-risk old-growth and stem the loss of rare ecosystems, said Andrea Inness, a campaigner with the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), which issued the report card along with the Wilderness Committee and the Sierra Club BC.
    “They committed to act immediately to temporarily halt logging in the most endangered old-growth forest ecosystems,” said Inness. “The province still has a very, very long way to go to actually implement that critical recommendation.”
    When the government announced it would adopt a new approach to old-growth management in September, it temporarily deferred logging in 353,000 hectares of forest in nine regions until a new plan was developed.
     

    Andrea Inness, of the the Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA), said the BC government is not acting on its promise to act on recommendations to protect at risk, old-growth forests.
     
    However, various environmental groups and reports have questioned how much of the government’s deferred areas actually included at-risk, high-value, old-growth ecosystems, Inness said. “Those deferrals were highly problematic,” she added, noting the most at-risk areas of old-growth valued in terms of biodiversity were not protected.
    “They’ve really exaggerated that a lot to make it sound like they’ve done more than they have,” Inness said. Much of the forested areas covered in the government’s deferral fell within a number of parks, ecological reserves, or included already existing deferrals or poor grade timber and low-value ecosystems not at risk of logging, Inness said.
    Only about 415,000 hectares of old-growth forest with big trees remain in BC, mostly without protection, according to an independent report, said Inness said.
    “We try to look at this data and have determined that only 3,800 hectares of that 353,000 deferral was actually previously unprotected high-risk old-growth forests,” Inness said.
    As such, clear-cutting will continue in critical old-growth stands—such as the Fairy Creek watershed on Vancouver Island—destroying their bio-diverse ecosystems forever, she said.
    Activists blockading logging activity in the Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew for the last seven months got a temporary reprieve after an injunction hearing to oust them was adjourned for three weeks in late February.
    “It would send a very strong signal if Premier Horgan announced within this three-week timeframe that [government] is going to set that forest aside,” Inness said. “Because, that would be consistent with what he’s promised to do.”
     

    Environmental groups have issued the BC government failing grades around it’s promises to take a new approach to old growth management.
     
    The report card suggests that the Province is also failing to adequately chart a new forest approach that prioritizes the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity as called for by the review plan.
    During the October election, the NDP election platform committed to meeting the old-growth strategic review recommendations and protecting more old-growth forests—in addition to the original deferral—in collaboration with First Nations, labour, industry and environmental groups.
    And the Province also committed to protecting up to 1,500 individual, giant and iconic trees as part of its special tree regulations when announcing its forest deferrals.
    While the government has initiated conversations with First Nations around old-growth forestry, other steps need to be taken to fulfil the old-growth recommendations, Inness said.
    The new BC budget is slated for April and the Province should commit funds to support First Nations experiencing economic losses due to forestry deferrals or when choosing to protect ancient forests, she said.
    “Until that economic piece is addressed, it could be very difficult for First Nations to agree to temporarily halt logging or permanently protect old growth in their territories if there aren’t alternatives,” Inness said.
    Additionally, the Province has failed to tie its implementation promises to any timeline, nor has it signalled whether it’s on track to come up with a provincial transition plan within the next six months that prioritizes ecosystem health as promised, she said.
    Should the government make good on its promises to enact old-growth strategic review recommendations, it involves a complete paradigm shift in the way forests are managed, Inness said.
    “It means putting biodiversity and ecosystem integrity ahead of timber supply,” she said.
    “But [the Province] isn’t showing that they understand that. In fact, it feels more like they want to maintain the status quo.”
    Comment from the office of the B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development was unavailable before deadline. 
    Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with Canada’s National Observer. The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada.

    Rochelle Baker
    Judge rules that protesters must be given more time to defend themselves against Teal-Jones' application for an injunction.
     
    FAIRY CREEK BLOCKADE ACTIVISTS trying to protect some of the last stands of old-growth forest on southern Vancouver Island have won a three-week reprieve after a judge adjourned an injunction hearing on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
    BC Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Power granted a request by the blockade’s legal team for more time to assemble materials necessary for a defence against the injunction.
    Forestry company Teal-Jones had sought the injunction to remove the Fairy Creek blockades at various entry points to its Tree Farm Licence (TFL) 46 near the community of Port Renfrew until September 4.
    However, Power said it was in the interest of justice to allow the delay, so defendants could better prepare and the court could set aside more time to hear the matter.
    Additionally, Power was unconvinced a short delay would be problematic given the blockade started in August 2020, but the forestry company did not apply for the injunction until February 18, 2021.
    “I am not persuaded that I should find urgency or prejudice to the extent that the plaintiff now alleges,” Power said.
    “If, as the plaintiffs argued [that] there will be a prolonged civil disobedience campaign after a court order, it is, in my view, all the more important that any order that the court makes be made [based] on a full hearing.”
    The blockade activists want to save pristine old-growth forest at the headwaters of Fairy Creek with yellow cedars thought to be 1,000 years old, as well as other remaining groves near Camper Creek, Gordon River, and in the Upper Walbran Valley.

    Old growth forest in Fairy Creek watershed
     
    Pacheedaht First Nation elder Bill Jones, one of defendants named in the injunction application, says the Fairy Creek valley falls within the nation’s traditional territory and contains bathing pools with spiritual significance that are endangered by clear-cutting.
    It was also in the public’s interest to adjourn the hearing, said defence lawyer Patrick Canning.
    Demonstrators in solidarity with the Fairy Creek blockade gathered on the Victoria courthouse steps on March 4, and in various other communities on Vancouver Island prior to the court decision.
    Lawyers representing Teal-Cedar, a division of Teal-Jones, had argued that Power should grant the injunction immediately because a delay would endanger road building in the region necessary before logging could occur later in the spring and summer. Any further delays due to the blockades would threaten timber harvesting and jobs at its mills, said the company’s lawyer Dean Dalke.
    The elected council of the Pacheedaht Nation were also aware of and did not oppose the proposed logging activity in the region, Dalke said.
    The request for an adjournment by the defence was to raise issues that wouldn’t, in fact, be a defence to an illegal blockade, he added.
    Regardless of whether the defence arguments “would pass muster,” it was important to allot enough time to adequately hear them, Power said.
    A two-day injunction hearing is now scheduled to start March 25.
    Teal-Jones did not respond to a request for comment following the hearing decision before deadline.
    Rochelle Baker is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with Canada’s National Observer. LJI reporters are funded by the Government of Canada.

    Michelle Connolly
    Widely circulated new map depicting BC's disappearing primary forests raises thorny questions about the state of BC's forests. The creators clarify what it shows.

    Part of the Seeing Red Map showing remaining primary forest (in green) and the part of BC that has been industrially logged (red). Click on the map to enlarge, or see a live scalar version which allows you to examine specific areas of the province in finer detail.
     
    AT CONSERVATION NORTH, we are pleased with the widespread viewing of our primary forests map called “Seeing Red” and with so many favourable comments.  
    “Seeing Red” is the first freely-available map of its kind. Its veracity is only as good and complete as the publicly available provincial government information underlying it.  
    The matter of definition of “primary forest,” which the map depicts in the colour green, is tricky and, in response to some comments from the public, needs further clarification.    
    “Primary forest” is a commonly used and scientifically accepted term for forests having composition and structure that largely reflect natural processes. Primary forests have never been industrially logged.  
    Sometimes primary forests are referred to as “original,” or “natural,” or “intact” forests. Primary forests are important because they are the best habitat for wildlife, support the largest stores of forest carbon, and contain the last old-growth forests.
    If readers were to view some selected red areas of the map on Google Earth, they may appear green and forested. It is important to understand that Google Earth imagery is blended and often years behind reality. Also, on this imagery one cannot distinguish between primary forest and replanted cutblocks—they both look green.  
    The scientific community disagrees with claims that “greenness” as inferred from Google Earth is a credible indicator of ecological integrity. Even-aged monoculture plantations in cutblocks do, in fact, contain chlorophyll and are indeed green, but they are simplified, fragmented, degraded, and ecologically impoverished.
    Some areas of the “Seeing Red” map are light grey. Light grey is clearly defined in the map legend as places where there is no forest or for which no forest information exists (See the map legend). 
    These areas with “no data” simply represent gaps in the government’s forest inventory available to the public or urban areas where the government does not conduct a forest inventory (e.g., the UVic campus). 
    One reason that gaps exist over some areas the reader may know to be forested is that some industry holders of tree farm licences either refuse to share their forest inventory with the government, or will not allow the government to share their forest inventory information on Crown land with the public.  
    The forests ministry would be doing a badly needed public service if it were to make all forest information on Crown lands freely available to the public so that we may make an even better map.
    Michelle Connolly MSc is a director of Conservation North.
    For more information about the Seeing Red Map, read Sarah Cox’s report at the narwhal.ca  

    Jens Wieting
    Critical report shows current BC logging practices increase climate disaster risks for BC communities.
     
    A NEW INDEPENDENT REPORT commissioned by Sierra Club BC looks at the relationship between forest management and severe climate impacts expected across BC It shows that governments can mitigate climate related disasters like flooding, droughts, fires and heatwaves by swiftly reforming BC’s forestry practices, applying Indigenous knowledge to forest-related decisions, and protecting and restoring intact forests, before the climate crisis worsens. 
    Written by Dr. Peter Wood, the Intact forests, safe communities report found that industrial logging has a significant impact on the severity and frequency of climate risks for BC communities. Of the 15 climate risks identified in BC’s 2019 Strategic Climate Risk Assessment, the majority are influenced by logging. The BC Climate Risk Assessment outlined how several of these risks have the potential to create catastrophic impacts.  
    BC’s assessment did not consider the ways that logging worsens climate risks, presenting a major blind spot that could undermine the effectiveness of the Province’s response to global heating. In order to support the health and safety of BC communities, it is critical that the BC Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, now under development, include measures to protect intact forests and reform forestry practices. The best way to accomplish this is by implementing all of the recommendations from the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review. 
    “The science is clear that clearcutting increases the frequency and intensity of forest fires. We also know it increases both the risk of flooding and periods of drought, as well as erosion and slope instability, which increase the likelihood of landslides,” explained Dr. Peter Wood, the author of the report. “In contrast, old intact forests act as a moderating influence on the landscape, supporting ecosystem function and resilience, and lowering risk to surrounding communities.”  
    “The climate crisis impacts us all, but it particularly has devastating repercussions for vulnerable and marginalized people, including First Nations across the province, many who have limited capacity and resources to respond to climate disasters and whose territories are high-risk areas that corporations and governments seek to develop,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. 
     “UBCIC endorsed Resolution 2020-23 to call on the government to involve Indigenous people in decisions related to forestry management, including the protection of old-growth forests, as they not only have a vested interest in protecting and stewarding the land that they have maintained spiritual and cultural ties to since time immemorial, but many Nations depend on forestry for their livelihoods and must be able to help guide BC’s transition to more sustainable and conservation-based practices,” added Phillip. 
    The climate crisis puts the health and safety of communities in danger, and clearcut logging is making things worse. 
    It doesn’t need to be this way. Immediately deferring logging in at-risk old-growth forests and implementing the promised paradigm shift to forest management can reduce climate risks, if we move quickly. Remaining old-growth must be protected, and forest that has already been degraded by logging can be restored to increase resiliency. 
    Premier John Horgan has committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review; however, the BC government has yet to implement interim protection for all at-risk forests, provide the necessary funding, and disclose a timetable for how they will live up to this commitment.   
    The ‘Intact forests, safe communities’ report emphasized that the provincial government must work with Indigenous decision-makers to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, cultural values, and knowledge into forest management decisions to mitigate risks.  
    “First Nations have long been lobbying the BC government to recognize their right to manage the forest in their territories and to protect their sacred sites, old-growth ecosystems that support medicinal plants, and habitat for wildlife and birds. Through management of their forests, they would keep healthy forests with high environmental standards. This report reflects what First Nations have always known, that the provincial governments must change the way they manage forests immediately,” stated Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
    We are entering a new era of climate emergency and forest management must be adapted to mitigate many of the risks. This is an opportunity to transition to a more sustainable model of forestry that is jointly designed with First Nations and build more resilient communities. However, time is running out, as these threats will only increase in magnitude with further warming and logging of intact forest.
    Jens Wieting is Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner.
     
    Intact Forests, Safe Communities: Intact Forests, Safe Communities, Peter Wood (2021).pdf

    Kathy Code
    Open Letter: Ecoforestry Institute urges moratorium on old-growth logging
     
    Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Conroy: 
    We write to you today out of grave concern for our last and vanishing old-growth forests in British Columbia. In view of the social, cultural and ecological values of these vastly diminished, yet iconic ecosystems, we respectfully request that you place an immediate moratorium on all harvesting of our remaining old-growth forests as a means to save these precious areas of biodiversity and climate change resilience. Old-growth forests have high cultural significance for First Nations and we would ask that their views be considered with equal priority in the decision-making process. 
    First, an introduction. We are the Ecoforestry Institute Society, the owners and trustees of Wildwood, the longest continuously managed ecoforest on the west coast of North America. Situated in Yellow Point on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Wildwood was previously owned by Merv Wilkinson, who received the Order of BC and the Order of Canada for his pioneering work in ecoforestry. EIS has managed the property since 2001 and gained ownership in 2016. We are proud to hold it in stewardship on behalf of the people of BC. 
    Wildwood has been harvested since 1945 on a single tree selection basis and according to the practices and principles of ecoforestry. Harvests are conducted while ensuring all ecosystems and wildlife habitats remain intact and functioning. It is a model that has served us well, with Wildwood retaining its old growth legacies over time while providing income from its forest harvesting. It now models a diverse income stream from multiple revenue sources. 
    We understand all too well how old-growth forests contribute not only to a multitude of cultural and economic returns over generations but also provide those essential life functions—wildlife habitat, oxygen production, carbon storage, water and nutrient recycling—that allow us and our fellow living beings to exist on this planet. We are sure you understand this dynamic as well and how intact forests are inherent to the character and spirit of our great province. 
    We commend you for committing to adopting all the recommendations in the Gorley/Merkel Old-Growth Report, but your statement that your consultation process regarding their recommendations will take place over the next three years is very alarming. 
    There is no doubt that consultations with First Nations and stakeholders are critical and must occur, yet if the clearcutting of our old-growth forests continues during this time, perhaps at even faster rates than ever as industrial forest companies sense oncoming changes, the areas remaining will be significantly diminished. Forestry workers, too, are understandably concerned about their employment futures. Indeed, the United Steel Workers Union and forest communities across BC must be assured of a transition to a new and sustainable future that is independent of the availability of old-growth forest. 
    We believe that we have come now to a place where we can no longer risk what little remains of old-growth ecosystems. Government has long known the risk to cutting this non-renewable resource, and over time, both the Auditor General and the Forest Practices Board have spoken of the need for innovative approaches and practices on the part of government to preserve these forests. 
    We understand that, historically, government has relied heavily on forestry as an economic revenue stream and job creator, yet the current need for increased taxpayer subsidies and the ongoing industry mechanization guarantees this industry is no longer the economic driver it once was. 
    We argue that the benefits of old-growth forests to our province in terms of their biodiversity, carbon sequestration, tourism and cultural values far outweigh the short-term economic gains to be had by destroying them. We ask that government recognize the irreplaceable resource that it is and protect what little is left for future generations. 
    So, the crux of the matter is that while your government works on the consultation process to come up with solutions, we must ensure our old-growth forests and the biodiversity that defines them are protected until this process is complete. 
    We respectfully ask that the Government of British Columbia place an immediate moratorium on all industrial harvesting and development in old growth forests (as defined in the “Priority Actions” section of the Price, Holt, Daust report BC's Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity). 
    EIS has reaped the benefits from a forest that has been managed to protect its Old Growth attributes over time and now provides educational resources to both students and professionals in the discipline of ecoforestry. As well as hosting international visitors, we have been privileged to host several of your staff and meet with your predecessor, Minister Donaldson, all of whom seemed impressed with our philosophy, forest management system and with our magnificent Old Growth trees. 
    We would be happy to share with you our model for ecological forest management and our new initiative with Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw and other First Nations to create the “Syeyutsus” or “Walking Together” program which combines western science with First Nations Indigenous Knowledge to create an holistic approach to forest management. 
    We would be pleased to meet with you and ministry staff at your earliest convenience for further discussions. We can be reached at admin@ecoforestry.ca or in response to this email. 
    Thank you for your consideration. 
    Kindest regards, 
    Peter Jungwirth, EIS Co-chair, RPF and Wildwood Ecoforester 
    Barry Gates, EIS Co-chair, Wildwood Forest Manager and Ecoforester 
    Kathy Code, EIS Vice-chair and Communications Director, Economic Development Strategist 
    Sharon Chow, EIS Treasurer and Secretary, Education Committee 
    Dr. Nancy Turner, EIS Education Co-chair, Professor Emeritus, Indigenous Liaison and Ethnobotanist 
    Erik Piikkila, EIS Education Co-chair and Ecoforester
    Cheryl Bancroft, EIS Architectural Designer and Homestead Manager Stephanie Johnson, EIS Director and Indigenous Liaison
    Chris Walther, EIS Director, RPF and Ecoforester 

    Anthony Britneff
    The hidden agenda of industrial forestry companies in BC is privatization of publicly-owned land. Rural communities dependent on forestry need to resist that and support changes that would increase local, public control of the working forest.
     
    THE FOREST SECTOR has deep roots in rural British Columbia with multi-generational families working in the industry either directly in logging or in related businesses like selling logging trucks. Continued forest industry decline threatens a long-established way of life for those relatively few people remaining in the sector.  
    The forest industry’s decline began in 1988.  Since then, that decline has been exacerbated by the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and by a shortage in timber supply owing to unsustainable logging, wildfires and forest health issues related to clearcutting and climate change. 
    Since 1988, the forest industry has contracted radically. The pulp mills that once stood in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Ocean Falls, Port Alice, Campbell River, Gold River, Tahsis and Woodfibre are long since gone.  Since 2000, over 80 sawmills province-wide have been shuttered. Mining, not forest products, is now B.C.’s largest export sector.
     

    The Elk Falls pulp, paper and lumber mill at Campbell River on Vancouver Island is one of many major forest product manufacturers around BC that have closed permanently since 2000, cutting forest-related employment in half.
     
    Rural British Columbians have dealt with, and adapted to, massive job losses in the forest sector over the last three decades. In 2000, jobs in forestry, logging, support services and wood products manufacturing numbered 101,000. Since then, over 55,000 jobs have been lost.
    The industry’s once-proud claim that forestry paid for healthcare and education is now illusory. Government revenue reporting shows that forestry does not pay its own bills never mind underpinning social service expenditures. The forest industry now accounts for a mere 2 percent of provincial gross domestic product.
     

    The once vibrant Ocean Falls (inset), now all but abandoned.
       
    The choice for industry was clear and it decided on its strategy years ago: maximize short-term profit; invest profits in mills overseas as the best of the old-growth forests are logged; shutter mills; and sell associated assets and working forest (tenure).  
    Forest-dependent British Columbians have a choice between two options for their future: to maintain the industrial status quo and suffer further decline, or to collaborate with government in changing how forestry works in B.C. and reap the rewards of forward thinking.  
    Ninety-four percent of B.C. remains public land. By retaining public ownership of the land, British Columbians keep open their options for land use compatible with timber production. This allows for diversified local economies. 
    The forest industry has had a “working forest” since the beginning of the 20th century. It is called the “tenure system.” Unlike the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), from which land can be removed for other uses, timber volume or land cannot be removed from a forest tenure holder for other uses without compensation.  
    So, with security of timber supply in place, why do some rural British Columbians sign petitions for a “working forest” at the behest of the Council of Forest Industries and the BC Forestry Alliance? They do so not recognizing that the forest industry already has a working forest and blind to the industry’s hidden agenda, which is to privatize forest land. 
    That said, the present working forest or tenure system does badly need revamping to take away control of public forests from an oligopoly of multinational corporations and to place it in the hands of local forest trusts. This would require removing large corporate industry from the woods and having it do what it does best, which is manufacturing, not forestry. 
    Regional log markets would allow mid-sized and small manufacturers to access the available supply of timber. Local residents would find employment both in the woods under the administration of local forest trusts and in private sector manufacturing plants—niche, value-added and primary. 
    A forester general would report to the legislature and have powers to set standards for regional forest practices, to audit the activities of local forest trusts and regional log markets, to oversee regional research, and to provide the legislature with detailed, annual forestry reports. 
    Change in the governance of forests along these suggested lines would preserve a rural way of life now badly threatened by maintaining the industrial status quo. Such change would be focused on local economic and environmental well-being. 
    This vision would be achieved by re-writing forestry laws based on the principles of sustainability and conservation, of local forest administration, of open access to timber, and, last but not least, of reliance upon the will of rural British Columbians to change, survive and succeed.  
    Anthony Britneff worked for the B.C. Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.

    Michelle Connolly
    Conservationists call for a moratorium on primary forest logging in the Prince George TSA following a scathing report by the Forest Practices Board.

     

    A large clearcut in the Prince George Timber Supply area. Photo by Sean O’Rourke/Conservation North
     
    CONSERVATION NORTH is calling for a moratorium on industrial logging in the Prince George Timber Supply Area following the release of an investigative report by the Forest Practices Board (“the Board”). The Board concluded that biodiversity is at high risk in the vast majority of landscape units within the Prince George and Stewart-Nechako Natural Resource Districts and has recommended that old growth be promptly mapped and protected where it is most threatened by industrial logging.

    The Board’s investigation was elicited by complaints from the public.

    “We view this as an indictment of industrial forestry practices in our region. The only way the government of BC actually manages biodiversity is by keeping the activities of licensees in check. They have failed to do this,” asserts Jenn Matthews, outreach coordinator with volunteer-based Conservation North.

    While the Board’s report concludes that licensees are complying with the current legal requirements of the Biodiversity Order (“the Order”) for the region, more importantly it states that the Order is out of date such that even full compliance results in the unsustainable loss of critical wildlife habitat.

    This is the second time in 2020 that an independent analysis has pointed out that effects of industrial forestry in the Prince George region have been irredeemably harmful to nature. The first instance was the Last Stand report, which was prepared by scientists and identified areas across the province that are hotspots of biodiversity loss due to logging of primary forest.

    Despite their strong recommendations aimed at the BC government, the Board report seems to gloss over the negative effects of a peculiar legal loophole that is built into the Order.

    According to Sean O’Rourke, who runs Conservation North’s field program: “the Order allows licensees to submit something called an old growth ‘recruitment strategy’ which is basically an ‘IOU’ to the government for old growth that doesn’t exist yet. A licensee will draw a line around a patch of 60-year old trees and promise that patch will get old one day.”

    Put another way, licensees are using recruitment strategies as giant loopholes through which to log remaining old growth by setting aside younger forests as potential future old growth. Recruitment strategies are fraudulent because they allow licensees to circumvent the intent of the Biodiversity Order. Unfortunately, Prince George has a district manager who has been signing off on them left and right.

    “This report makes it clear that there are terminal problems with how licensees are operating in the PG TSA. Industrial-scale logging must be put on hold until the recommendations of the Board report are fully implemented,” asserts Ms. Matthews.

    In the PG TSA, the work of keeping track of what has been logged and how much old growth remains is left to a group made up of licensees, as opposed to an independent body or the BC government. Conservation North views this arrangement as a serious conflict of interest that needs to be rectified if there is to be any hope of protecting wildlife in the long term.

    In addition to mapping and protecting old growth immediately, Conservation North also supports the Forest Practices Board’s second recommendation for an update of the targets in the Order, with the strong caveat that it must be done by independent scientists, and without the influence of licensees.
    Michelle Connolly, MSc, is a director of Conservation North.
    The Forest Practices Board’s investigative report: Forest Practices Board report on risk to biodiversity in Prince George TSA.pdf

    Saul Arbess
    Forest activists establish two new blockades near Port Renfrew urging the government to implement promised protection of endangered old growth
     
    ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, a group of activists with Rain4est Flying Squad established a new blockade adjacent to the world famous Avatar Grove, to prevent road building into the south side of the Bugaboo Ancient Forest in Camper Creek on Pacheedaht Territory.
    In the meantime another group of blockaders have now mobilized to protect valley bottom old growth forest south of Eden Grove in the Edinburgh Mountain Ancient Forest. They have set up a blockade on the bridge leading to Big Lonely Doug, the iconic Douglas Fir, the last tree standing in a clearcut on Edinburgh Mountain. This is in response to an application submitted by Teal Jones that would allow for the construction of a logging road into valley bottom old growth forest south of Eden Grove. All three current blockades will remain in place until the government moves to implement the 14 recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, beginning with the protection of the most endangered old growth forests. 
    As the blockaders say, “these magnificent forests are worth more standing and we are determined to see that they do!”
     

    Ancient Western Red Cedars in Eden Grove on Edinburgh Mountain
     
    They are demanding: 
     1. That logging contractor Stone Pacific give up road building into old growth forests in TFL 46 and move their machinery to work on road networks targeting second growth.
    2. That the Ministry of Forests decline the Teal Jones Group’s application for new road building on Edinburgh Mountain.
    3. That the provincial government immediately implement the recommendations of the OGSR and end all old growth logging across British Columbia
    4. The government immediately shift all forestry operations to sustainable management of the silvicultural land-base as a source of long-term employment in local and First Nations communities. 
    Until these demands are met, the Rain4est Flying Squad will continue to disrupt the timber industry in its attempts to log the last of our old growth forests, while pressuring government to implement it promises.
    Carole Tootil, Saul Arbess, Joshua Wright

    David Broadland
    The ministry of forests provided few details about the areas of old-growth forest on which it claimed it was deferring logging just before the provincial election. FOCUS has obtained mapping that confirms the ministry greatly overstated its claim of "352,739 hectares."
     

    A load of old-growth forest heads northward on the Trans Canada near Nanaimo in December 2020 (Photo by Gordon Fuller)
     
    FOCUS has obtained mapping of the “Old Growth Deferral Areas” that were given names—but not much else—by then forests minister Doug Donaldson just before the provincial election. The details of the mapping suggest the exercise may have been more about testing the government’s ability to mislead reporters than it was about protecting old-growth forests. Judging by all the glowing media reviews of the exercise, the upper echelons of the forests ministry earned an A+ in Advanced Dissemination of Misinformation.
    On September 11, 2020, Donaldson announced a 2-year deferral of logging on “352,739 hectares” of what the minister described as “old-growth.” No maps showing the location of the nine areas that were being deferred was provided. The deferrals were apparently made as a response to the independent strategic review of the remaining old-growth forest in BC conducted at Donaldson’s request by foresters Garry Merkel and Al Gorley. Their study had been released to Donaldson in April 2020.
    Our original take on the issue was this: Of the 352,739 hectares of  “old-growth,” there were, at best, 64,000 hectares that might be old-growth. Without mapping, no one could be sure of what was actually included in the proposals. In spite of that, Donaldson’s announcement was reported by media outlets far and wide as being—at last!—a resolution of the long-standing issue. In the campaign before the October 24 election, the BC NDP promoted the idea that a re-elected John Horgan government would save BC’s remaining old-growth forests.
    The mapping we have obtained (see interactive map below comments section) shows that there may have actually been 10 areas that received 2-year logging deferrals by Order In Council 500-2020. Donaldson’s announcement only included nine of those areas. Missing was a 1,489-hectare deferral in the central Walbran Valley. Ironically, the one deferral the ministry didn’t announce appears to be the most legitimate, least over-stated example of doing what Donaldson claimed the ministry was doing.
    The deferral area in the Walbran spans TFL 46 and TFL 44. According to ministry of forest’s records, there has been no logging in the area since 2015 and there is no indication in the ministry’s records that logging had been planned in the next two years. The area is in the Pacheedaht Band’s traditional territory.
    The Walbran deferral includes recent (2015) and older clearcuts as well as plantation regrowth, but most of it is old-growth forest. The Ancient Forest Alliance’s description of what needs permanent protection is no overstatement: “The Central Walbran Valley on southern Vancouver Island is the grandest old-growth rainforest in Canada. The area is jam-packed with hundreds of monumental red cedars, especially in the spectacular ‘Castle Grove,’ which is perhaps the most extensive stand of near record-sized cedars on Earth. Marbled murrelets, screech owls, Queen Charlotte goshawks, red-legged frogs, cougars, black bears, and elk all live here, while steelhead and coho spawn in the rivers.”
     

    The “Castle Giant” Western red cedar at Castle Grove in the Central Walbran Valley (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    Communications between members of local ENGOs who were aware of the Walbran deferral last September express a degree of satisfaction with the area being deferred. The absence of a public acknowledgment of the deferral by Donaldson’s ministry was attributed to unfinished discussions with First Nations.
    Saul Arbess, a spokesperson for the Friends of Carmanah Walbran, told FOCUS, “A deferral is not protection, but an attempt to distract us and we will not rest until the entire biologically-rich central Walbran is given permanent protection.”
    A comparison of the way in which the deferrals have been presented to the public with the actual on-the-ground substance of the deferrals—which is now made clearer by the mapping— makes it evident that the ministry of forests is not willing to protect much of the remaining old-growth forest that’s in the commercially operable zone of the timber harvesting land base. Their strategy for maintaining control of those areas appears to include utilizing deception. By “deception” I mean the transfer of misinformation from the ministry to mainstream media and then from the media to the general public. The ministry appears willing to fool the public into thinking they are doing something that they apparently have no intention of doing.
    Consider the Clayoquot Sound deferral, for example. Of the publicly announced deferrals, the Clayoquot case accounts for 70 percent of all the area being deferred in the province. Donaldson’s September announcement put that at “248,667 hectares.” He may have believed that was actually the case. But the mapping done for Order In Council 500-2020 for Clayoquot Sound shows the deferral area includes 43,237 hectares of parks, protected areas and ecological reserves in the Sound area that are already protected from logging, plus another 62,200 hectares in the south end of Strathcona Park that are also permanently protected. The ministry sought to take credit for a 2-year deferral of logging on 105,437 hectares that already had full protection. Of the remaining 143,230 hectares, the majority has been clearcut over the last 40 years. Given the high level of technology used by the ministry for mapping and controlling the timber harvesting land base, there’s zero possibility that someone made an unintentional error by including 18 provincial parks, ecological reserves and protected areas in its deferral commitment.
     
     

    The ministry’s mapping of the 248,667-hectare deferral area for Clayoquot Sound (left) overlaps with 105,437 hectares of long-established parks, ecological reserves and protected areas (right). The red crosshair is in the same location on each map. (Click to enlarge)
     
    Allow me a small digression from adding up the ministry’s deceptions to point out why these numbers matter. Consider what’s at stake. A paper written by forest scientists Karen Price and Rachel Holt, along with forester Dave Daust, released in June 2020, used the forest ministry’s own data to estimate that there are about 415,000 hectares of forest containing “large” or “very large” old trees remaining in the province. That’s only 2.7 percent of the high-productivity old forest that was originally here. The scientists estimate that 33 of BC’s 36 forested biogeoclimatic zone variants have 10 percent or less of such forest remaining. Because of the physical and biological characteristics of old-growth forests, they support high levels of biodiversity. But Price, Holt and Daust have pointed out that when the extent of such old forest in a biogeoclimatic zone variant falls below 10 percent, that zone falls into a high risk category for loss of biodiversity. The result? Most of BC is now teetering on the brink, beyond which extinction of plant and animal species will surely accelerate. Who wants that?
    The scientists’ study had a huge impact on the community of people who, like Arbess, “will not rest” until they see the ministry protect all 415,000 hectares of old forest containing large and very large trees. When the ministry says it’s deferring logging on 248,667 hectares in Clayoquot Sound, that sounds like the ministry is protecting over half of those remaining 415,000 hectares. That sounds like a breakthrough.
    What the Clayoquot deferral actually shows, however, is that the ministry is going to go along publicly with the concept of protecting hundreds of thousands of hectares of old-growth forest while actually doing little or nothing of the sort. Note that it hasn’t even announced the Walbran deferral. So let’s finish with what the mapping shows for the other deferral areas.
    The “17,321-hectare” deferral for Southgate River is an interesting case of overstatement. That deferral area is part of the 122,155-hectare Southgate Landscape Unit near Bute Inlet, which the ministry’s own records identify as having a total of 5,380 hectares in the timber harvesting land base—the area that can be logged economically—most of which has already been logged. It took a certain kind of misinformation chutzpah for the ministry to claim that it was deferring logging of an area over three times as great as there was merchantable forest (at one time) in the entire Landscape Unit. It’s as though the ministry chose the numbers for this deferral by throwing darts at a board with crazy big numbers on it and just happened to hit “17,321.”
    As previously reported, the deferral areas for Crystal Creek and Stockdale Creek both include much ice and rock and little to no old-growth forest in danger of being logged. 
    The mapping for the Incomappleux Valley deferral area (40,194 hectares) south of Revelstoke shows it’s mainly ice and rock. The Valhalla Wilderness Society has estimated 1,500 hectares of 1,000- to 2,000-year-old red cedar near the confluence of Boyd Creek and the Incomappleux River. Again, a huge overstatement of the amount of old-growth forest being given a 2-year reprieve from logging.
    The location of the Skagit-Silverdaisy deferral area in Manning Park was already well known since the Province, at the urging of Washington State politicians, had already committed to protecting the area. There was no possibility of logging in the area at the time of Donaldson’s announcement of a 2-year logging deferral there.
    The 2,231-hectare McKelvie Creek watershed near Tahsis on Vancouver Island is primary forest and warrants full protection, not just a 2-year logging deferral.
    The 1,052-hectare “H’Kusam” deferral area is on a 1,200-metre mountain rising up on the north side of the Sayward Valley above the village of Sayward. This part of Western Forest Products’ TFL 39 is certainly primary forest, and some areas of it have relatively high site indexes—which means there could be some big old trees there. Proof of that has not yet emerged. The mountain has been clearcut around its base on the east, north and west sides, but the remaining forest is on flanks so steep that it’s likely beyond the range of commercial operability, at least for now. In any case, there’s no indication that any logging was going to occur by 2022.
    The mapping confirms our guess about what was being deferred at Seven Sisters Provincial Park and Protected Area beside the Skeena River. A bite out of the protected area, part of which has been clearcut, has been put back as “old-growth forest.” Another fragment of this deferral, south of the Skeena River and northeast of Seven Sisters Park, is included. That area, too, contains previously clearcut forest. It doesn’t seem to have registered at the ministry of forests that putting 2-year logging deferrals on land that has recently been clearcut isn’t going to impress anyone except new reporters working for certain community newspapers.
    In making his announcement of the deferrals on September 11, Donaldson said, “Addressing the issue of managing old-growth forests while supporting workers and communities has been a challenge in the making for more than 30 years and it won’t be solved immediately, but we know that the status quo is not sustainable.” He added, “I do believe that there is enough goodwill on everyone’s part for this to happen, and that’s to use this report as a springboard, as an opportunity to reduce the polarization on this topic.” Soon thereafter, Donaldson announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election.
    Donaldson may have genuinely believed that he was putting deferrals on 352,739 hectares of old-growth forest that were in danger of being logged. If so, that means other people high up in the ministry’s information ecosystem misled Minister Donaldson and appear to believe that the public, too, can be easily duped. Presumably, those people are still in the ministry, creating similar misinformation. The only beneficiaries of their work are forest companies focussed on profiting on the liquidation of what remains of BC’s old-growth forests.
    Perhaps the real challenge for citizens concerned for the future health of BC’s forests—and all the life that depends on those forests—will be providing oversight for a ministry that acts like it has been captured by the industry it’s meant to regulate. Unless the public is eternally vigilant and arm themselves with ground-truthed facts, the remaining old-growth forests will quickly disappear into the mists of ministerial misinformation.
    David Broadland is the publisher of FOCUS. He’s working with a group of  foresters, journalists and forest activist-citizens to establish citizen-led oversight of BC’s ministry of forests.
     

    Rhia Ironside
    Climate and forest activists pull a red light on endangered ancient forest log trafficking on Trans Canada Highway.
     

    Forest and climate activists stopped logging trucks carrying old-growth forest on the Trans Canada north of Duncan
     
    ON DECEMBER 2, grassroots climate and forest activists with the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) occupied a single lane at a red light crosswalk on the Trans Canada Highway at Mays Road north of Duncan.  A truck carrying old-growth trees was held up in the highway blockade for an hour in an effort to disrupt the movement of ancient forest cargo from recent clearcut logging along the borders of Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park. In a simultaneous action, four large trucks that roared past the blockade in the passing lane were blocked near the entrance to the Western Forest Products’ log sort in Ladysmith and held for several hours. No arrests were made, though police did detain activists at the May Road site for identification purposes.
    “Dozens of log trucks per day many carrying 500-800 year old Western red cedars, have been seen travelling up the island highway recently and people are aghast that this antiquated practise of destroying ancient forests is still legal in 2020,” said RFS organizer Bobby Arbess.
    “We are in the full throes of a climate and ecological crisis. Logging old-growth forests has lost the social license it once had, and the government must catch up with the times and ban it. Full stop! We’re pulling a red light on old-growth logging today and asking Premier Horgan to do the same,” he added.
     

    A clear message for BC Premier John Horgan
     
    The activists, assembled in small pairs compliant with the current COVID public health orders, used the highway crosswalk to force a red light to bring logging trucks carrying rare  Western Red cedar and other old-growth trees, many to be exported offshore, to a full stop.  Banners were stretched across the road bed and stapled to logs, with the message that the government must stall no longer to stop the rapid rate of ancient forest destruction happening daily on Vancouver Island. The equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forest are logged every day on Vancouver island alone.
    At the Western Forest Products (WFP) log sort, trucks were diverted into a nearby parking lot and stopped on the road for several hours before police threatened arrests. 
    WFP is the largest single forest tenure-holder on Vancouver island, with cutting rights to over 1 million hectares of forest land, with one billion dollars in forest product sales each year. In 2019 they locked union workers out for 9 months of stalled contract negotiations.  
    This action fully supported the recent demands of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) for the provincial government to “put down the power saws” while they engage in “intense consultations” with First Nations on the fate of the last remaining one percent of low-elevation old-growth forests on their unceded territories—recognizing that otherwise little will be left by the end of the consultation process. The government made a pre-election announcement of two-year logging deferrals in 353,000 hectares of old-growth forest pending the outcome of their old forest policy, but analysis has shown that only 1100 hectares—or one percent of that—was slated for logging in that time.
    A recent independent study revealed that a total area of approximately 380,000 hectares of the most biologically productive, low-elevation large tree old-growth forests remain standing in so-called British Columbia today. These forests are being logged at a rate of 140,000 hectares per year—three years to liquidation. 
    These rare and irreplaceable forests, the very last of their kind anywhere on Earth,  play a critical role in mitigating against runaway climate change, the cause of catastrophic wildfires, floods, drought and disease outbreaks. They are a critical repository for biodiversity, such as the red-listed Marbled Murrelet found nowhere else than in coastal old-growth forests. They are an important source of ethnobotanical wealth and building materials, especially Western Red Cedar, integral to coastal Indigenous culture. They are worth more left standing than as short-term corporate profit.
    The demands of activists are: 
    1. The provincial government move immediately on their 2020 election promises to implement the 14 recommendations of the Old-Growth Strategic Review
    2. The government declare an immediate moratorium on all further logging of the last one percent of the ancient forest pending the delivery of its old-growth forest policy. 
    3. The government immediately shift all forestry operations to sustainable management of the silvicultural land-base as a source of long-term employment in local and First Nations communities.
    Rhia Ironside and Carole Tootill are climate and forest activists.

    Katherine Palmer Gordon
    Wildlife advocates say that unless urgent action is taken to protect their winter dens from the impacts of industrial logging, black bears may disappear from Vancouver Island within a generation.
     

    A black bear pulls organic material into its den tree to create a soft floor (video still by Artemis Wildlife Consultants)
     
    DALLAS SMITH is President of Nanwakolas Council, a coalition of five First Nations on Northern Vancouver Island. Smith can’t understand why black bear dens are protected in the Great Bear Rainforest and on Haida Gwaii, but not on Vancouver Island. “It’s a huge question for the Nanwakolas Chiefs,” says Smith. “Just over the water—literally only a couple of kilometres away—black bear dens enjoy world class protection. Why not here?”
    Biologist Helen Davis, who has spent much of her career researching black bears, is equally bewildered. Despite the fact that privately-owned forest land and forestry tenures on Crown lands cover well over two-thirds of Vancouver Island, and the significant risks logging activity poses to bear habitat, the provincial government is doing nothing to protect dens on the Island. “There is no good explanation for it, says Davis. “None.”
     
    What’s the problem?
    A winter den may be used by multiple generations of black bears before the tree or stump disintegrates, but at that point, the bears must find other large trees or stumps to create new dens. The inventory of old-growth forest is rapidly shrinking, however, and second-growth trees are now typically harvested before they get large enough to accommodate new dens. 
    Logging technology has become more sophisticated as well. Many tree stumps used to be big enough for dens, but now even the largest trees can be cut to ground level. Helicopter logging and aerial survey technology have also replaced “boots on the ground” in many areas, says Davis, diminishing the ability to spot den trees before they are logged.
    No dens mean no bear cubs. It also means that homeless black bears are straying into the Island’s urban areas, where they are at high risk of being shot. Last January, it was revealed that BC conservation officers had killed 4,341 “nuisance” bears province-wide in just the previous 8 years. Add the impacts of climate change on forest health and declining salmon runs into the equation, and while black bears may not currently be considered a species at risk, it seems likely that will soon change. 
    Jake Smith fears that it will change much faster than we think. Smith is a Mamalilikulla First Nation hereditary chief and manager of the Nation’s environmental Guardian program. He and his fellow Guardians from other First Nations are constantly out on the ground in their territories, monitoring wildlife. Smith says they have been encountering fewer and fewer bears in the last decade. “At this rate,” says Smith sombrely, “we may see the last black bear on Vancouver Island within a generation.”
     

    Chief Jake Smith (right) with a tranquillized grizzly bear
     
    Taking it to the Forest Practices Board
     Davis has worked extensively with forestry companies on voluntary den protection guidelines, restored damaged dens, and created artificial ones where there aren’t enough large trees for bears to make new dens naturally. But she says these measures, while helpful, fall well short of what is required to ensure the continued survival of black bears on Vancouver Island. Nothing short of full legal protection of both dens and large trees is required, and urgently.
    In April 2019, Davis complained about the issue to the Forest Practices Board, which monitors and reports on compliance with the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA) on Crown lands. The Board responded in January 2020, acknowledging the lack of any governmental effort to afford black bear dens protection on Vancouver Island. While options exist in the FRPA to designate forested areas as having “regionally important wildlife status,” these have never been used for bears.
     

    Biologist Helen Davis beside a black bear den that was created from a stump and a piece of plywood.
     
    The Board also noted that the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) couldn’t say whether current forestry management is effective or not to adequately protect bear dens, or even accurately estimate the current bear population on the Island. The Board has no enforcement powers, however, and refrained from calling for formal den protection. Instead it simply urged the provincial government to “work with First Nations and stakeholders” on den “management.” 
    It was unequivocal in its final conclusion, however: “If second-growth forests are harvested before they develop old-growth features, and old-growth harvest continues, the supply of suitable denning habitat on Vancouver Island will decline.”
     
    The provincial government’s stance
    A few days before BC Premier John Horgan called a snap election on September 21, the provincial government released an independent report on BC’s old-growth forest management. The report, A New Future For Old Forests, noted that the retention of “forests of old trees” is key for maintaining biological diversity, and concluded bluntly: “The overall system of forest management has not supported the effective achievement of legislated objectives for old-growth forests.” 
    The report recommended prioritizing conservation of BC’s forest biodiversity and, at least until a new strategy is implemented, deferring development in old forests where ecosystems are at “very high and near-term risk” of irreversible biodiversity loss. In its wake, FLNRORD Minister Doug Donaldson agreed to defer any logging on up to 353,000 hectares until August 2022, but the areas being deferred contain little old-growth forest. 
    Shortly before the election on October 24, the provincial NDP party began proclaiming it would protect all old-growth forest, but didn’t provide any details. Pleading election restrictions on provincial government media communications, no one would be interviewed or disclose any more information (as of late November). 
    Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, an advocate for bear den protection, is sceptical that much will change: “My experience of working with the BC NDP on forestry is they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything. Their approach is basically 1950s redux. It’s all about the economic opportunities in logging, and decisions about wildlife are made by the forestry ministry. Everything has been set up to fail these animals.”
     
    The forestry sector’s stance
    Government agency BC Timber Sales (BCTS) manages 20 percent of the provincial allowable annual cut. BCTS encourages protecting dens on Crown lands, but also emphasizes that BCTS must “be mindful of the licensee’s harvesting rights and their autonomy to direct their own operations.” In other words, logging rights trump den protection.
    The two biggest forestry companies operating on Vancouver Island (in terms of geographic spread) are Mosaic Forest Management Ltd, which handles approximately 6,000 square kilometres of private forest lands and forestry tenures on behalf of Island Timberlands and TimberWest, and Western Forest Products Ltd (WFP).
    Mosaic declined the opportunity to be interviewed, instead emailing a statement from its director of sustainability, biologist Molly Hudson, saying that Mosaic’s forestry decisions are guided by its “Bear Den Policy.” The policy, which Mosaic refused to disclose, requires protection of dens “wherever possible.” When asked for examples of when it has not been possible, Mosaic did not respond. 
    WFP was also not available for an interview. Communications director Babita Khunkhun emailed to say that WFP “actively conserves habitat, including black bear dens, as part of our ongoing commitment to our role as stewards of forestlands.” In addition, wrote Khunkhun, WFP has “rigorous measures in place to identify and retain bear dens on the lands under our care, full-time biologists on staff, and uses independent consultants to design operating plans with the aim of conserving wildlife. Our measures include training field staff and contractors to identify and conserve bear dens and minimize disturbances to hibernating bears. We leave a reserve around dens and between October 21 and April 30, we adapt our road building and harvesting operations in proximity of dens.” 
    Of course, WFP isn’t simply being a good environmental citizen; it’s required to meet provincial objectives for wildlife and biodiversity under BC’s Forest Planning Practices Regulation, including the objective to retain wildlife trees. Those objectives are however subject to the qualification that meeting them will not “unduly reduce the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.” WFP’s Vancouver Island forest stewardship plans, a requirement of the FRPA, specify only the minimum areas required to be set aside as wildlife tree retention areas in its cut blocks. The plans contain no specific reference to black bears.
    The Teal-Jones Group, which operates on southern Vancouver Island, is currently the subject of a blockade of intended old-growth logging at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. Teal-Jones also declined to be interviewed or provide any information about its guidelines—if it has any—for den protection.
     
    What happens on private forest lands?
    The FRPA does not apply to private forest land, even if classified as “managed” forest land under the managed forest program, where owners voluntarily commit to managing their properties to meet legislated environmental objectives. 
    According to the Managed Forest Council (MFC), Southern Vancouver Island is home to the largest area of private forest land in the province. The MFC regulates the roughly 18 percent of private forest land that is in the managed forest program (about 800,000 hectares), but was unable to say how much of that is on Vancouver Island. The MFC’s Field Practices Guidelines contain an objective for critical wildlife habitat protection on “agreed terms” with the government, but do not mention bears. 
    On its website, the Private Forest Landowners Association states that its members: “Recognize, and through agreement with the provincial government, protect critical wildlife habitat where it cannot be protected on Crown lands alone.” The PFLA was contacted for more information, but did not respond.
     
    An unacceptable state of affairs
    Helen Davis says: “Some of the forestry companies are doing better in the last three years, but it’s hard for me to celebrate when we’ve known about the problem for more than 25 years and it’s taken them this long to act.” 
    Davis also points out that even when a den is protected by a logging outfit, it isn’t necessarily done the right way. She has seen lone trees standing on ridge lines, prone to being blown over in a strong wind, and at the sides of busy roads with nothing screening them from traffic. “Bears will probably abandon those dens, because they no longer afford adequate protection.”
     

    A black bear den tree in the middle of a cut block
     
    Jake Smith is scathing about the lack of meaningful engagement by both forestry companies and government. “I bring deep knowledge into my role as a Guardian,” Smith says. “I have been on these lands all my life. First Nations understand we need to protect bear habitat now, but everything we say to provincial officials falls on deaf ears.” 
    As to promises to protect old-growth trees, Smith isn’t holding his breath. “Everything is dollar-driven. If the government and forestry companies were really interested in protecting bear habitat or big trees, they would already be working with First Nations to do it.” 
    Indeed, A New Future For Old Forests recommends full engagement of Indigenous leaders and organizations on the development and implementation of policy and strategy to conserve large trees and biodiversity. Dallas Smith, President of Nanwakolas Council, agrees with that: “What’s urgently needed is a collaborative approach between First Nations, forestry companies and government that puts large trees and wildlife first, before dollar signs. It’s frustrating,” he continues. “There’s no leadership by government to take this on, and to bring the forestry industry along with them. Forestry companies tell us they want to partner with us, but they don’t want to do things differently. They want everyone to guarantee their economic future but won’t accept they have to do their part to protect the bears’ future.”
    First Nations are no longer going to accept the status quo, adds Smith. “Those days are over.” Guardians like Jake Smith are out on the land, identifying den trees, both existing and potential, and ensuring the logging companies know about them. Dallas Smith points out that all tenure applications also have to go past the First Nations for review: “They are taking a long, hard look at each one. If it doesn’t meet their standards for protection, they aren’t going to give it a green light.”
     

    Dallas Smith, President of Nanwakolas Council
     
    What good looks like
    Jeff Mosher manages Taan Forestry, owned by Xaaydaa GwaayGalang (the Haida Nation). Mosher says black bears play a critical role in Haida Gwaii’s ecosystem: “They’re a top predator in the food chain, for example. Sitka black-tailed deer have been a huge problem here, but the bears are helping keep the population down.” Bears are ecologically important in other ways: “They leave salmon carcasses and salmon-rich bear scat in the forest, containing important nutrients for the trees’ growth.”
    Black bears are culturally significant to the Haida (Taan is a Xaayda word meaning “black bear”) and the company therefore goes “well beyond” minimum protection requirements, says Mosher. “We’re lucky on Haida Gwaii because, thanks to the efforts of the Haida Nation, we have plenty of old-growth trees left that we can set aside. We’re planning for where new dens could go, planting cedar and allowing other trees to reach a sufficient size to be suitable for new dens.” Taan also proactively rehabilitates old dens, and field staff undertake physical ground searches for large trees and bear dens when flagging their cut blocks. Any den found is given a 60-metre reserve (the minimum requirement is 20 metres) in which no logging-related activity is allowed to take place. In prime denning season—November 15 to May 15—the restricted area is increased to 200 metres. 
    These measures aren’t necessarily typical, says Mosher. “Other forestry companies have left Haida Gwaii because it wasn’t worth it to stay. But Taan’s shareholder is the Haida Nation. Protecting bears is a priority, even if it means a lower dividend.”
    Taan is a good model, says Davis, who is in the process of drafting “ideal guidelines” that forestry companies should be required to follow, including requirements to physically survey cut blocks for bear dens. FLNRORD should be mandating not only protection of the inventory of existing bear dens, she says, but planning to provide sufficient habitat in the form of large trees to meet future needs. The recommendations in A New Future For Old Forests should be implemented in full, as soon as possible. The Wildlife Act could be used to protect dens on all forested lands, public or private. 
    A review of the effectiveness of the objectives of private managed forest lands, including protection of key public environmental values, has been underway by FLNRORD for nearly two years. Public feedback summarized on FLNRORD’s website strongly calls for more robust environmental regulation. Given the extent of private forest lands on Vancouver Island, exempting them from regulation would hugely devalue any measures applied on Crown lands only.
     
    Why it matters
    Black bear wildlife viewing brings substantial tourism revenue into provincial coffers, says Davis, as do hunting licences. Their role in maintaining biodiversity is critical. Not least of all, as Jake Smith points out, the cultural and spiritual interconnection between black bears, the forest ecosystem and First Nations is not only special, it’s fundamental: “That’s why it’s my job to help protect these animals. It’s so important.” 
    If British Columbians and tourists want to continue to enjoy the visceral thrill of seeing the wild black bears of Vancouver Island, and if we want the bears to continue playing their part in the Island’s ecosystem, then something needs to be done, and fast. Otherwise Jake Smith’s grave prediction that we may see the last black bear on Vancouver Island within a generation is all too likely to come true. “We can’t let that happen,” says Smith. “We won’t.”
     
    Katherine Palmer Gordon is an award-winning non-fiction author and a contributor to numerous anthologies and magazines. She is currently working on her eighth book, showcasing Indigenous leadership in environmental stewardship and community wellbeing in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.
    Learn more:
     

    Bobby Arbess

    Fairy Creek Blockade

    By Bobby Arbess, in Forests,

    A brief history of the Fairy Creek Blockade
     
     JOSHUA WRIGHT is a 17-year-old filmmaker from Olympia, Washington with an irrepressible passion for protecting the little that is left of the old-growth temperate rainforests. He has handy access to a state-of-the-art digital mapping program that allows him to track and monitor industrial logging activities in near-real time. In late July this year, he gave a heads-up to Vancouver Island veteran grassroots forest activist grandmother Eartha Muirhead of a road-building crew subcontracted to Surrey-based logging company and TFL 46 tenure-holder, Teal Jones, cresting the ridge into the old-growth Yellow Cedar headwaters of Ada’itsx/ Fairy Creek watershed. This is the last unlogged tributary of the San Juan River system; it is unceded Pacheedaht territory and near Port Renfrew.
    Forest firefighter Will O’Connell surveyed the road-building operation with spell-binding drone footage that captured earth-moving machinery operating on dangerously steep terrain pushing into a watershed never before logged. Though no cutblocks are yet approved, the investment in road infrastructure foreshadows approval and logging of this rare wilderness valley.
     

    A Teal Jones excavator about to crest the ridge above pristine Fairy Creek Valley (Drone photo by Will O’Connell)
     
    O’Connell’s stark visual reveal of a logging road incursion into one of the last roadless places on southern Vancouver Island rapidly spread on social media and, in the midst of a pandemic, galvanized forest defenders into non-violent direct action. 
    On Sunday, August 9, thirty ancient-forest activists from all over the south island, including the nearby communities of Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley, gathered at Lizard Lake and decided to set up a road blockade above the clouds—1000 metres up a treacherous logging road on a steep ridge overlooking the Gordon River Valley, on the western flank of Fairy Creek, where road-building into the Fairy was slated the next work day. Tents were set up under the giant steel claw of a gargantuan excavator. A 10-foot-diameter cedar log round, from an ancient tree felled in the Klanawa Valley, propped vertically on a plywood frame, was installed as a barricade centrepiece across the road. 
    When the Stone Pacific road crew arrived in darkness at 5AM the next morning, they were politely confronted by a dozen people putting on the morning coffee around a small fire on the road end. They intended to hold the line at the very height of land and protect Fairy Creek from any further road incursion.
     

    The blockade on Teal Jones’ new road 
     
    One week later, another blockade was set up to protect the watershed on its eastern flank and to stop clearcut logging in an area of contiguous ancient forest that is part of the 5100-acre Fairy Creek Rainforest, much of which is already under Old-Growth Management and Wildlife Habitat Area designation. People of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and island communities have been converging at the main basecamp ever since.
    Pop-up blockades disrupting business as usual in surrounding remnant old-growth forest locales on Pacheedaht territory have also sent a message to government and industry that in a down-spiralling climate and biodiversity crisis, disruption to the status quo is to be expected until the government takes decisive action to protect what is left of these globally significant and irreplaceable forests. The objectives of all these blockade actions is to protect the last 1-3 percent of low-elevation old-growth rainforests left standing on so-called Vancouver Island.
     

    Old-growth Red Cedar in Fairy Creek Valley
     
    The Ada’itsx/Fairy Creek blockades are now entering their fourth month with no road-building or logging behind the two long-term barricades—and no injunctions or arrests. This blockade, now the longest land-based direct action campaign on this island in over two decades, has evolved quickly into a decentralized grassroots direct action movement under the banner of #oldgrowthblockade, aimed to stem the tide of the colossal destruction of the shocking equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forests per day on Vancouver Island alone.
    Winterized infrastructure has been built at the main Fairy Creek Base Camp, 7 kilometres off the the Pacific Marine Road, including wood-heated Elder and Indigenous Warriors’ tents, bear-proof kitchen arbour, tool shed and hot water shower and change room.
     

    Those blockading the road have prepared for a long battle to protect the Fairy Creek Rainforest from logging
     
    Dozens of volunteers communicating via several online platforms have provided coordination and mobilized funds and material support to the frontlines, which have been steadily maintained by a gritty, dedicated crew of core forest defenders of all ages, predominantly women from many communities, who provide daily logistical coordination, elder care, camp leadership, hosting and reconnaissance on the ground. Over 500 people have visited the blockades and donated to the movement.
    This settler-Indigenous blockade has been blessed with the solid support and wise leadership of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones who has asked that the entire valley, five kilometres from the Pacheedaht village and part of his childhood stomping ground and spiritual sanctuary of his people, be dedicated as an Indigenous Protected Area in honour of the victims of the smallpox epidemic. Indigenous youth from many territories have participated in camp life and prominent elders and artists like Joe Martin, Herb Rice, and Rose Henry have visited the camp to show support and provide counsel. Pacheedaht Chief and council have not responded for or against the blockade.
     

    Pacheedat Elder Bill Jones on the road overlooking the San Juan River Valley 
     
    The area is in the electoral riding of Premier John Horgan who has yet to respond to the demands of the blockade to protect Fairy Creek rainforest and all remaining old-growth temperate rainforests on the island. 
    On September 29, the blockade received a strong statement of support from the Union of British Columbia Chiefs (UBCIC), who issued a breakthrough declaration calling on the Province to implement all 14 recommendations of their Old-Growth Strategy Review report and for the immediate protection of key old-growth forest hotpspots including Fairy Creek. Most significantly, their declaration called for government to assume responsibility in re-investment in supporting First Nations to break free from the economic dependency on the old-growth forest destruction of their land-base, a major policy piece in the transition away from the destructive legacy of old-growth logging, once and for all.
     Bobby Arbess is a long-time forest defender.
    Support the Fairy Creek Blockade at: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade 
    Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) resolution, Annual General Assembly, September 29, 2020, calling for provincial and federal financing for Indigenous Protected Areas, land use plans and old-growth forest protection: Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Resolution on Old-Growth Forests in BC — Endangered Ecosystems Alliance

    Kathy Code
    We, meaning government, First Nations, communities, scientists, academics, non-government organizations, industry and citizens, must find a way to pool our collective efforts to responsibly steward the precious natural resources given to us.
     

    Logging on McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni (Photo by TJ Watts)
     
    BLESSED UNREST—that’s the name Paul Hawken gave more than a decade ago to the grassroots movement that was sweeping the world working in the name of environmental protection and social justice. Generally comprised of a loose collection of individuals or groups without a particular leader, it’s a movement that’s alive and well in BC. Citizens and communities are standing up to protect the last vestiges of intact ecosystems, the rights and culture of Indigenous peoples, wildlife habitat, salmon runs, old growth forest, clean water systems, and the transition demanded by climate change. It began 30 years ago with Clayquot Sound, yet here we are still trying to protect those places and rights that represent our very essence.
    Site C, Trans Mountain, LNG pipelines, abandoned oil and gas wells, the Wet’suwet’en land rights, Six Mountains, Fairy Creek, the Nuchatlaht land defense, Caycuse, Argonaut Creek, the Walbran, Avatar Grove, the Great Bear Rainforest (yes, they are logging that!), it is an ongoing and exhausting list. Activists are mounting legal actions, writing letters, signing petitions, raising donations, publishing articles, hosting webinars, lobbying elected officials—all pleading for a more respectful and responsible worldview. For the most part, it’s a call that has fallen on deaf ears at government levels. Government can wait out the expensive lawsuits and the cries of public outrage, then drag its heels on meaningful and substantive reform while continuing to meet with industry lobbyists. Environmental and social protectors don’t have a voice, no matter the stripe of the government.
    Often it comes down to talk of buying the specific tract of land to save it, but honestly, it is not a problem we can buy our way out of. This is especially true with Crown Lands, where public forests have been handed over to tenured industrial forest companies. Their primary goals are to maximize corporate profits and introduce technology to reduce the need for salaries, benefits, pensions and other pesky incursions into the profit margin, not community benefit and public good.
    We have created a competitive arena, but there is no denying those enormous amounts of money, time and labour spent could be put to better use to improve who and what we are as a responsible and inclusive society.  What it all comes down to is the public good. What is the government responsibility when it comes to stewarding our precious natural resources? Whose interest is best served? Why does profit take precedence over science? How can we develop frameworks that meet a variety of needs in a more balanced manner?
    The NDP has just won a majority government here in BC. During the campaign, they pledged themselves to the 14 recommendations contained in the Gorley and Merkel Old Growth Strategic Review Report. The report itself is generally well-received, but was accompanied by government’s deferral list of old growth sites that, upon closer scrutiny, proved less than substantive.
    Two possibilities come to mind to explain the lack of substantive response: either government thought BC forest experts would not catch on to the smoke and mirrors nature of the list, or there is a distinct lack of subject matter experts within government itself.
    Government has shown itself capable of relying on science as the overriding COVID-19 strategy—why not look to the science of forests, environment, social justice, climate change?
    Government must hold itself to the high standard of serving the public good. It’s time we all work together to treasure the precious resources we have for now and for generations to come. In the meantime, the Blessed Unrest will continue efforts to protect what matters to us as a caring society.
    Retired as an economic development policy analyst with the BC government, Kathy dedicates her education and experience to search for new ways to live within the parameters of nature. She serves as Vice Chair of the Ecoforestry Institute Society (Wildwood Ecoforest), Director with the Cowichan Family Life Association, Legal Strategist for the Fairy Creek peaceful protest, and CEO of Juniper Community Solutions.  

    Matt Simmons
    BC government gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets.
     
    Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
     
    SEAN O’ROURKE WAS HIKING in BC’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it—Pacific BioEnergy. 
    The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products—sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings—into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 percent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. 
    But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood.
     

     Sean O’Rourke amongst old-growth Red Cedar in the Inland Rainforest north of Prince George (Photo by Conservation North)
     
    O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern BC, took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the Province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest. 
    While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim. 
    “If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview. 
    “Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest into pellets to ship them overseas to burn, to feed into an electricity plant so that people can watch Netflix or play video games really late at night—we can’t allow that to happen,” she added. 
    The planned cutblock is set to be logged this winter for pellets, but Conservation North is asking the BC government to provide legal protection to all primary forests—those that have never been logged—in the northern region. 
     
    Rare ecosystem home to massive trees, endangered caribou, vast carbon stores
    After O’Rourke showed his colleagues his photos, they went to the rainforest together to explore the areas slated for logging. The group walked for almost two hours to get to the flagged boundary. The forest is surrounded by clearcuts and second-growth stands of lodgepole pine. Connolly described it as an oasis.
    “There are low carpets of moss and beautiful fallen old trees,” Connolly said. “The stands that we’ve seen have really large western red cedars and western hemlock, and we occasionally came across massive Douglas firs that are really large for this area…it would take at least three people to wrap your arms around them.” 
    More than 500 kilometres from the coast, the inland rainforest is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Temperate rainforests far from the sea are only found in two other places on the planet: in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.
    The rainforest supports a variety of animals including moose and endangered caribou. The stands of old-growth trees have been absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the soil also stores huge amounts of carbon.
    The rich biodiversity of these old-growth forest ecosystems is threatened by logging, according to a report published in June. 
    As The Narwhal reported last year, much of what remains of the inland temperate rainforest is at risk of clearcutting. Connolly said there is “little to no social licence” to harvest these old-growth trees. 
    “We talked to a lot of people who hunt, who trap, who fish, who guide, and among those people, we’ve sensed a lot of dismay about what’s happening,” she said. “We’re kind of at the limits of tolerance up here.”
     
    BC government ramps up support for pellet industry while plants run out of raw materials
    The Province’s promotion of the pellet industry focuses on using wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned in the forest to reduce the risk of wildfires, but rarely mentions the use of whole trees. 
    “The pellet pushers [including the present NDP government] originally said they would use only logging and milling debris as the source of wood fibre for pellets,” Jim Pojar, a forest ecologist wrote in an email. 
    However, a recent investigation by Stand.earth found that pellets made of whole trees from primary forests in BC are being sent to Europe and Asia. 
    “No mature green trees should be cut down and whole logs ground up to produce wood pellets for export, especially if the trees are clear cut from globally rare and endangered temperate rainforest,” Pojar said.
    Connolly said a lack of legal protection allows the provincial government to greenlight logging whole trees for pellets—and the government’s language around the industry hides the fact that old-growth is being cut down.
    “My understanding is that this is allowed because these forests don’t have any other use,” she said, meaning that they aren’t suitable for making lumber. 
    “The BC government has some really interesting language around justifying pellet harvesting,” she said. “What they say is that they’re using inferior quality wood.
    This isn’t the first time a pellet facility has logged trees to meet its production needs. As The Narwhal reported earlier this year, both Pacific BioEnergy and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, another large-scale pellet company, use whole trees to produce pellets.
    Over the past few years, BC has been ramping up its support for the wood pellet industry, but as sawmills shut down across the province, pellet facilities are running out of raw material. 
    Recently, the Province handed out a number of grants to support projects that take trees that would otherwise be burned on the forest floor in massive slash piles and convert them to pellets. Pacific BioEnergy has received more than $3.2 million from the Province through the Forest Enhancement Society for projects related to its operations.
    Connolly said the Province’s push to support the pellet industry is problematic. “We’re kind of rearranging the deck chairs, you know? They’re making little modifications of things they already do, instead of actually looking at the value of keeping the carbon in forests.”
    The Ministry of Forests could not comment on this story because government communications are limited to health and public safety information during election periods.
    Pacific BioEnergy was also not available to respond by publication time.
     
    Ecologists say burning pellets is not carbon neutral
    Wood pellets, sometimes referred to as biomass or bioenergy, are often touted as carbon neutral and sustainable, but critics claim that’s a dangerous misconception.
    Burning wood to generate energy is less efficient than burning fossil fuels, which means more wood is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity, according to Pojar. More carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere from pellet-fuelled power plants than traditional coal or natural gas plants, he pointed out. 
    The pellet industry and its supporters argue that replanting trees will eventually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which means burning pellets for heat or energy is carbon neutral. But even if that is true, it could take hundreds of years for those replanted trees to grow big enough to offset the emissions produced by harvesting, transporting, processing and burning the wood. 
    In a 2019 report entitled Forestry and Carbon in BC, Pojar outlined myths and misconceptions about emissions and the forestry industry. “The CO2 from the combustion of biofuel is released almost instantly, whereas the growth and regrowth of wood takes several decades at least (mostly more than 75 years in BC)” 
    Connolly, who was an editor of the report, said the green narrative around the pellet industry and industrial logging is misleading.
    “It’s so ridiculous to claim that somehow logging is good for the climate,” she said. “What we’ve seen happen is that the BC government and industry have co-opted climate change to argue for more industrial logging. In this case, it’s for pellets, but they’ve been doing the same thing for harvested wood products for the last few years.”
    As climate change, industrial logging and other resource extraction projects continue to impact forest ecosystems, maintaining intact primary and old-growth forests is essential, she said. 
    “BC claims to be exploring all emissions reductions opportunities, but they are not,” she said. “They’re ignoring basically the biggest, best and cheapest opportunity, which is protecting nature. If we’re going to meet our climate commitments, keeping primary forests intact is an important step and what all of us should be asking is, ‘Why are they totally ignoring this?’ ”
    Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, BC, unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet'suwet’en Nation. He is the author of The Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert. This story was originally published in The Narwhal under the Local Journalism Initiative.
     
    Conservation North’s short video interview of trapper Don Wilkins on liquidating BC rainforests for electricity in other countries:
     

    David Broadland
    BC's ministry of forests is actively creating an alternative reality about the impact its policies and actions have on the climate and biodiversity crises.
     
    IN RESPONSE TO THE CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY CRISES, BC’s ministry of forests has fallen into a pattern of denialism. We all know what climate denial is: refusing to accept scientifically verifiable evidence. Denialism goes beyond denial. Denialism is the purposeful construction of an alternative version of reality. The ministry of forests, in cooperation with other members of the forest-industrial complex, is creating an alternative reality about the role forest loss plays in these two crises, and an alternative reality about how they should respond. Why? Likely because acknowledging the evidence about how industrial forestry contributes to both crises—and the ministry’s lack of an effective response—would result in the loss of social licence to continue doing what they are doing. That would mean reducing the size of the industry and a subsequent loss of revenue that keeps both the ministry and the industry operating. For them, it’s a matter of their own survival.
    Let me offer a few examples of this pattern of denialism, large and small:
    First. BC taxpayers have subsidized the largely unregulated forest industry to the tune of $1 million a day for the past ten years. Yet the ministry has purposefully hidden this subsidy by never making public a balance sheet that shows its revenues and expenses.
    Second. After years of pressure to conserve the remaining 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forests to protect biodiversity, the ministry announced in September short-term logging deferrals on 352,739 hectares. When examined closely, though, the deferrals only delayed logging on about 32,500 hectares of productive old growth. The ministry knew it was including mostly ice, rock and low productivity old growth and second growth in its deferrals.
    Third. For employment statistics about the forest industry, ministry reports defer to an out-of-date 2016 Council of Forest Industries analysis instead of statistics derived from income tax returns that have been adjusted for the most recent mill closures and curtailments. In effect, the ministry has credited the industry with jobs that don’t exist.
    Fourth. Chief Forester Diane Nicholls’ advisory “Leadership Council” is composed entirely of forest industry insiders.
    Fifth. The forests ministry has made no public assessment of the impact of forest management on climate change or biodiversity loss, or how these are playing out in each of its management units, or how it intends to address these issues in a way that would make a substantial difference. The provincial GHG inventory for 2018 shows that forest management contributed 237 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions (emissions from all other sources in BC were 68 megatonnes). BC has 1807 species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. 
    The ministry’s responses to both the climate and biodiversity crises have been shaped by the primary need of an economically marginal industry: to cut down publicly-owned forest at a rate as high as the market can bear, at the lowest cost. That includes using mechanized clearcut logging throughout the province, almost exclusively, and exporting raw logs. Any evidence that’s presented that the ministry’s policies and practices are making the climate and biodiversity crises worse is met with stony silence, straight-up denial, or fictions about the rosy-green future of mass timber construction and bioenergy.
    Below, I explore in detail a single streak of this pattern of denialism.
    In a recent story, “Forestry isn’t sustainable, folks,” I noted that between 2010 and 2019, the forest industry has been logging BC’s publicly owned forests at an unsustainable rate. The ministry of forests’ own timber supply reviews for 28 Interior timber supply areas determined that the sustainable cut level is about 12 million cubic metres per year lower than the current allowable annual cut (AAC). I acknowledged that one of the main factors in this imbalance was the loss of stands of Lodgepole Pine to the Mountain Pine Beetle.
    The story included the concerns of foresters Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts, who have provided detailed analyses which argue that the determinations of allowable annual cut and mid-term cut by BC’s chief forester are deeply flawed and skewed towards overestimating the future availability of wood from forests.
    One critical response to this story stood out. Atmo Prasad, who identified himself in a comment on this website as the “former manager for the analysis section of the Forest Analysis & Inventory Branch of the Ministry of Forests,” dismissed the highly detailed concerns of Britneff and Watts. He provided no argument or evidence to support his position. He simply asserted, “I am confident that the AAC set for each is sustainable.”
    In response to my observation of the substantial difference between the current aggregate AAC for timber supply areas and the aggregate of their mid-term cut levels—which Prasad appears to be in part responsible for estimating—he said, “The higher short-term harvest level found in most Interior TSAs is usually composed of wood killed by the mountain pine beetle or by the recent fires. The timber supply in these TSAs is expected to decline to the sustainable level after the salvage of dead timber is over. Construing the current AAC which includes dead wood as unsustainable is just pain [sic] wrong.”
    I have fact-checked Prasad’s contention that the “higher short-term harvest level” in Interior TSAs is “usually” the result of salvage of beetle- or fire-killed wood. Let me give you one example where, on the surface, what Prasad claims is correct. Then I’ll show you four examples where Prasad’s claim is disproven by the ministry of forests’ own data. I will provide some real-life consequences of timber supply analysts overestimating how much logging can occur. These examples also illustrate the pattern of denialism that appears to be the ministry of forests’ default operational setting.
    Focus used the ministry of forests’ Harvest Billing System to determine the total cut over a 10-year period in 12 of the Interior’s 28 timber supply areas. Using that publicly accessible system, we also determined how much dead lodgepole pine was salvaged and how much live lodgepole pine was removed in “sanitation” logging. What’s sanitation logging? It’s a euphemism for a program to preemptively log healthy lodgepole pine that could be attacked by the Mountain Pine Beetle. The data we downloaded also included fire-killed lodgepole pine. The data allowed us to determine the total volume logged over 10 years, and it provides a good estimate of how much of that was beetle- or fire-killed, and how much was sanitation logging.
    Let’s start with the example that supports Prasad’s take on what happened. The diagram below summarizes the case for the Prince George TSA. It covers 10 years of harvesting between 2010 and 2019 inclusive.
     

     
    What does the data for Prince George demonstrate? It shows that the volume of live trees logged (indicated by light orange above) was less than Prasad’s office estimated could be cut. This undercut amounted to 8.4 million cubic metres over the 10 years between 2010 and 2019, inclusive. The evidence supports Prasad’s contention.
    Keep in mind, however, the concerns Britneff and Watts have expressed about the mid-term cut level, the volume of logs that can be extracted from the forest on a sustained basis. They have noted that the models used by Prasad’s office to predict future growth and yield in BC forests provide inaccurate, overly-optimistic and unreliable estimates. Moreover, the models do not account for climate change. Britneff told Focus, “scientists within the forests ministry have reported and published that our Interior managed forests will most likely experience increased tree mortality, reduced growth and reduced utilization as a result of an increase in forest health issues due to climate change.”
    So while it can be shown, on paper, that in certain timber supply areas the rate of cut of live, healthy trees over the past ten years has not been above the theoretical rate of mid-term sustainability, there’s good reason to doubt the validity of that theoretical level.
    The reader may also want to keep in mind that when we use the term “sustainable cut,” we are not talking about ecological sustainability. We are using the only metric considered by the ministry of forests—volume of logs cut per year—to determine whether logging can theoretically continue at a certain rate into the future.   
    Let’s move south to the Kamloops TSA. The diagram below summarizes 10 years of harvesting there.
     

    In this TSA, Prasad’s assertion is challenged. When the salvage and sanitation logging are removed from the ledger, the ministry’s records show logging exceeded the theoretical mid-term sustainable cut level by 3.4 million cubic metres. That overcut resulted in about 9800 hectares of publicly-owned land being clearcut beyond what BC timber analysts believe to be sustainable.
    Immediately to the east of the Kamloops TSA is the Okanagan TSA. The diagram below summarizes 10 years of harvesting.
     

     
    The Okanagan TSA’s record swerves even further away from Prasad’s account, and the volume of the overcut is 5.4 million cubic metres. That’s roughly equivalent to cutting 15,500 hectares beyond what BC timber supply analysts have assessed is theoretically sustainable. Our analysis showed that salvaging of beetle- and fire-killed lodgepole pine, along with pre-emptive logging of live lodgepole pine, amounted to 6 percent of the total cut. The volume of live, healthy lodgepole pine that was pre-emptively logged so that it couldn’t be killed by beetles was twice the volume of beetle-killed lodgepole pine.
    South of the Kamloops and Okanagan TSAs are the Merritt and Lillooet TSAs, the data for which we grouped together in the diagram below. Again, this summarizes 10 years of harvesting.
     

    In the Lillooet and Merritt timber supply areas, Prasad’s assertion again fails. The combined cut of live trees in those two TSAs—and this excludes sanitation logging of live lodgepole pine—reached 150 percent of the mid-term sustainable cut level, resulting in over 20,000 hectares of additional clearcuts beyond what BC’s timber supply analysts deemed was sustainable.
    The excessive, unsustainable logging that took place in the Kamloops, Okanagan, Merritt and Lillooet timber supply areas has consequences. If a specific logging practice is problematic, the more logging that employs that practice, the greater the problem that’s created. And in mid-September the Forest Practices Board released a special investigation report about one of those specific problems: reforestation. The investigation focussed on plantations in the Kamloops, Okanagan, Merritt and Lillooet TSAs, as well as the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Resource District.
    The report was politely—but firmly—damning. The board’s investigation into the health of plantation regrowth on cutblocks in the Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone found that “[64] percent of the cutblocks examined were in poor and marginal condition and licensees may not be creating/regenerating resilient stands, which may have negative implications for future timber and non-timber values.”
    That finding supports a concern expressed by Britneff and Watts, that computer-model-based predictions of future growth and yield don’t necessarily reflect what’s actually happening on the ground. Yes, clearcuts are being replanted, but they are then failing to grow at the rate used by BC’s timber supply analysts in their determinations of how much cut is—theoretically—sustainable.
    Amongst other findings, the investigation found “an over-reliance on clearcutting” in the Interior Douglas-fir zone, and noted that clearcutting “is not appropriate for dry-belt-fir stands, as young trees do not regenerate well without the shade and shelter of overstory trees.”
    The Forest Practices Board also recommended to the ministry that it “re-assess the long-term reforestation objectives for the dry IDF [zone], and update them based on the likely consequences of climate change.” As noted in my earlier story, Britneff and Watts, in their detailed critiques of the timber supply review and allowable annual cut determination processes, have observed that BC’s current Chief Forester Diane Nicholls has rejected including the likely consequences of climate change as part of her determinations.
    Nicholls wrote, in a 2019 timber supply review for the Lakes TSA, “the potential rate and specific characteristics of climate change in different parts of the province are uncertain. This uncertainty means that it is not possible to confidently predict the specific, quantitative impacts on timber supply.”
    That position, Watts and Britneff say, throws more doubt on the validity of the timber supply analysts’ estimates of future growth and yield. Now the Forest Practices Board has echoed their doubts.
    Nicholls’ statement is another way of saying, “Since I don’t know exactly what the impacts of climate change will be on how trees grow in all of BC, I can’t make any changes to our practices anywhere.” If the chief forester was intent on responding to the challenges that climate change poses for forests, as is needed, she would never have made such a statement. She has constructed an alternative reality in which “uncertainty” is used as an excuse for not acting. But the uncertainty of the situation requires the exercise of the precautionary principle: Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
     Cast your gaze now on a constellation of seven timber supply areas in the southeast corner of the province, known to the ministry of forests as the Kootenay-Boundary Natural Resource District. The graph below summarizes 10 years of harvesting there.
     

     
    Note the small fraction (0.9 million cubic metres) of logging attributable to Mountain Pine Beetle salvage logging, beetle sanitation logging and fire-killed lodgepole pine salvage. Similar to the case in the Okanagan TSA, the volume of live, healthy lodgepole pine that was logged so that beetles couldn’t kill it is greater than the volume of beetle- and fire-killed pine. In this region, though, the difference is more extreme. Five times as much live, healthy lodgepole pine was pre-emptively logged as there was salvage logging of dead lodgepole pine.
    The 6.0-million-cubic-metre overcut required clearcutting of over 17,000 hectares of forest. One of the possible consequences of that overcut is highlighted in a class-action legal suit against the BC government and several forest industry corporations filed in mid-July 2020 by residents of Grand Forks.
    In May 2018, Grand Forks experienced devastating flooding of the Granby and Kettle Rivers. About 3000 homes and businesses had to be evacuated and over 400 homes and dozens of businesses were flooded.
    In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs allege that the flooding resulted from excessive runoff caused by logging in the Kettle River watershed, which includes the Granby River. The headwaters of the West Kettle River and the Kettle River are in the Okanagan TSA, mentioned above, where the rate of logging also exceeds the sustainable mid-term rate of cut. The West Kettle, Kettle and Granby flow south through the Boundary TSA.
     

    Logging in the upper Kettle River Valley. The Kettle river can be seen on the left side of the image, the Granby to the right of centre. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
     

    The Granby River runs across the the bottom of the aerial photograph above. Note the extensive logging above the river. The Granby flows into the Kettle River at Grand Forks. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
     
    Specifically, the suit states that the Forest Analyses and Inventory Branch of the ministry of forests overestimated by 20 percent the timber volume in forest stands in the watershed, and this led to an allowable annual cut that was 20 percent too high to be sustainable. The plaintiffs allege that, “This has led to increasing the frequency, duration and magnitude of peak flows. Without sufficient timber regrowth and watershed recovery the result is increased surface runoff, increased sediment transport, increased water quantity and stream channel discharge associated with flooding that caused the major flooding events in the Kettle and Granby river systems resulting in the damages to the Plaintiffs’ and Class Members’ property.”
    Focus examined the ministry of forests’ record of harvesting over the last 11 years in Boundary TSA.  That record (see below) does show a quick increase in the rate of harvesting in the 10 years leading to the flooding in 2018 (this graph does not include logging in that part of the Okanagan TSA within the Kettle River watershed).

    The suit doesn’t allege that the ministry of forests failed to consider the likely consequences of climate change, but it could have. Scientists have been reporting for years that a warming planet means rainstorms will drop more water in a given period of time. A search through the Boundary Timber Supply Area’s 2011 timber supply review couldn’t find a single reference that would suggest the hydrological function of forests—including their ability to keep the forest floor from becoming saturated and their ability to slow down the melting of snow—was given any consideration in determining what level of cut was “sustainable.” (Read a comprehensive account of the Grand Forks civil suit by Ben Parfitt here.)
    The only certain way to reduce the forest industry’s alarming impact on the climate and biodiversity crises is to significantly lower the rate at which the industry is razing publicly owned forests. Yet the working relationship between the ministry of forests and the forest industry is based on maintaining the highest rate of cut, even if that cut exceeds what the ministry has determined can be sustained over time. Unless that is replaced with a relationship in which a robust response to the climate and biodiversity crises is the primary objective, the established pattern of denialism in the ministry will continue, ensuring that both crises will worsen.
    David Broadland started writing about forests, the logging industry and the ministry of forests in 1989.
    Relevant documents:
    Forest Practices Board Investigation Report: Reforestation in Interior Douglas Fir Subzone FPB September 17 2020.pdf
    Statement of Claim of Grand Forks residents class action lawsuit: Grand Forks civil action.pdf 

    David Broadland
    Forests minister Doug Donaldson's announced 2-year logging deferrals of old-growth forest are almost entirely in areas that have little or no productive old growth on them—or were already protected.
     
    BACK IN JUNE OF THIS YEAR, three BC forest scientists released an independent report quantifying the remaining scattered areas of forest containing “large” and “very large” old trees in this province. These are the “old-growth” forests that contain the highest levels of productivity and biodiversity—the forests that many thousands of British Columbians have fought hard to save from logging for decades. Karen Price, Rachael Holt and Dave Daust used forests ministry data to determine that only 35,000 hectares of “very large” old trees remained in BC, and only 380,000 hectares of “large” old trees. Those two areas amount to 415,000 hectares. 
    Their report, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, was issued in the hope that their findings would help inform, or influence, a strategic review of old-growth forests that was being conducted by Al Gorley and Gary Merkel. Gorley and Merkel were appointed by the BC government.
    On September 11, forests minister Doug Donaldson released the Gorley-Merkel report and, at the same time, announced 2-year logging deferrals on 352,739 hectares spread over 9 areas in the province. The minister’s press release referred to these areas as “old-growth.” The 9 areas were indicated as points on a map of BC, along with a brief description of the values that are at stake in each area. No other details about the areas were released. Crucially, no mapping of the areas was provided.
     

    Minister Donaldson’s map of where 2-year logging deferrals would be applied
     
    The “352,739 hectares” of old growth on which Donaldson was deferring “old forest logging” for two years would amount to 85 percent of the spatial extent of remaining old forests containing large and very large trees identified by Price, Holt and Dauss. That sounds like it could be an impressive movement in the direction of conservation of forests with large and very large old trees. Of course, as everybody knows, the devil is in the details, and Donaldson didn’t provide any details.
    Instead, his announcement was made simultaneously with the release of the Gorley-Merkel report, as if Donaldson’s announcement somehow reflected their findings. I expected to be writing about the Gorley-Merkel report, but instead, after obtaining some of the details about the 9 areas, details that Donaldson left out, it seemed pointless to review the report. In light of the details I found, the Gorley-Merkel report appears to have been used by Donaldson as little more than sugar coating around a bitter pill. The bitter pill is that, at best, Donaldson is deferring logging for 2 years on 64,191 hectares, almost all of it in Clayoquot Sound. At best, Minister Donaldson’s deferrals amount to 15 percent of the area identified by Price et al. Here are the details:
    1. Crystalline Creek, where Donaldson claims logging on 9595 hectares is being deferred. You’ve probably never heard of Crystalline Creek before. There’s been no logging road blockades, no media stories. That’s because there is little chance that it would ever be logged, let alone in the next two years. Except for one-tenth of one hectare (no, that’s not a typo), it lies entirely outside of BC’s Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) and a 2-year “deferral of logging” there is meaningless. The precisely estimated area—9595 hectares—is the total area of the small valley, which includes high, rocky ridges that are part of the Bugaboo Mountains. That precise number came from Canfor’s documentation of high value conservation areas within TFL 14, a requirement to obtain Forest Stewardship Council certification. Let’s subtract 9594.9 hectares from Donaldson’s total area where logging is to be deferred for 2 years.
    For any readers unfamiliar with the term “Timber Harvesting Land Base,” this is, according to the Province, “Crown forest land within the timber supply area where timber harvesting is considered both acceptable and economically feasible, given objectives for all relevant forest values, existing timber quality, market values, and applicable technology.” It is reasonable to assume that if an area of forest is not currently inside the THLB, applying a 2-year deferral of logging to it is meaningless.
    2. Stockdale Creek, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 11,515 hectares. Same particulars as Crystalline Creek, except in this case there is a 233.6-hectare overlap with the THLB. It is possible that logging of those 233.6 hectares could occur one day, but Canfor had no plan to do so within the next two years. But just to be safe, let’s subtract only 11,281 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    3. Incomappleux Valley, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 40,194 hectares. The Incomappleux Valley is part of Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal. Most of the magnificent Inland Rainforest along the Incomappleux River has been logged, but 1500 hectares of 1000- to 2000-year-old red cedar near the confluence of Boyd Creek and the Incomappleux River remain. Most of the remaining high-productivity old growth is within Interfor’s TFL 23. It was saved from being logged in 2005 by a 2-person blockade of a logging road. Days after the blockade was ended by a court injunction, a rockslide blocked the road and damaged a bridge, bringing a natural halt to logging. The Valhalla Wilderness Society confirmed there could be another 500 hectares of old-growth forest in the valley that is within the THLB and could be economical to log. Valhalla Wilderness Society estimates that within its 156,461-hectare park proposal (see link to PDF at end of story), which includes the Duncan River Valley to the east, there are 17,827 hectares that overlap the THLB. It is unknown what the “40,194 hectares” on which logging has been deferred for two years refers to, but that is over twice the area of the THLB within the entire park proposal, and much of that has already been logged. Subtract 38,195 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    4. Clayoquot Sound, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 260,578 hectares. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound have been fighting for years to protect all the remaining areas of old growth in the Sound and, by their reckoning, those areas—Meares Island, Flores Island, the Sydney Valley, Ursus River Valley, Clayoquot River Valley and Hesquiat Point Creek—have 54,120 hectares of old-growth forest remaining. It’s nice that Donaldson wants to protect 260,578 hectares of old growth in the Sound, but it’s too late. Over 206,000 hectares of his deferred logging is on land that has already been logged. (Edit: see my comment below this story about a more accurate number for Clayoquot Sound provided by David Leversee.)
    5. Skagit-Silverdaisy, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 5,745 hectares. Canadian Press’ Laura Kane reported in December 2019 that Donaldson had banned logging in the “doughnut hole” of the Skagit Valley in response to an appeal by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and US environmental groups. Kane quoted BC Environment Minister George Heyman: “Heyman said when the [High Ross Dam Treaty] was signed decades ago, the BC and Washington governments signalled clear intent that, once the issue of mineral tenures was resolved, the doughnut hole would be returned to park status. ‘Somewhere along the line…there was a lapse in corporate memory,’ [Heyman] said. ‘We’re restoring that today.’” Somewhere along the line, between December 2019 and September 2020, it seems, there was a second lapse in corporate memory about this forest. Subtract 5,745 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    6. The Upper Southgate River, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 17,321 hectares. The area is within what Donaldson’s ministry describes as the Southgate Landscape Unit. A 2014 plan for Old Growth Management Areas in the unit notes the total area of the unit is 122,155 hectares, of which 5,380 are within the THLB, the area available for logging. In the entire Landscape Unit the plan identified 121 Old Growth Management Areas, and these covered an area of 3212 hectares. How much of that was in the THLB? Forty-six hectares. So while Donaldson promised to defer logging for 2 years on 17,321 hectares of old growth, there’s only 46 hectares that could be logged. Subtract 17,275 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    7. McKelvie Creek, where Donaldson claims 2,231 hectares. McKelvie Creek flows into the Tahsis River in the middle of the Village of Tahsis on Vancouver Island. Tahsis has been seeking to stop logging in McKelvie Creek Valley because the village believes logging there could result in flooding in the village. A hydrological study by the engineering consultancy McElhanney has established the size of the watershed, which corresponds to the area on which Donaldson says he will defer logging for 2 years.
    8. H’Kusam, where Donaldson claims 1050 hectares. No information on this area, other than it is likely within sight of Mount H’Kusam, has been found. For now we’ll leave Donaldson’s 1050 hectares in the total.
    9. Seven Sisters, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 4510 hectares. When the 39,206-hectare Seven Sisters Provincial Park and Protected Area were created, a 6,287-hectare bite out of the west side of the park was named the Coyote-Hells Bells General Resource Development Zone, where logging has been ongoing. I have no information on the extent of old growth in this area, so to be sure we will leave Minister Donaldson his full 4510 hectares.
    As mentioned above, what’s left is 64,191 hectares of old-growth forest, at best.
    There’s been lots of response to Donaldson’s announcement of logging deferrals, much of it simply reporting what he claimed in his press release. Vicky Husband, the den mother of old-growth forest activism in BC and an Order of Canada recipient in recognition of her 40-year-long effort to conserve such forests, didn’t mince her words when I pointed out some of the details Minister Donaldson left out. Husband responded, “The government’s response to the Gorley-Merkel old growth report is a shoddy piece of spin-doctoring in advance of an election. It is duplicitous in intent; short on facts; and intentionally misleading for the electorate giving the appearance of doing something when the reality is to keep the industry logging the little remaining productive old growth.”
    I’ll leave it at that.
    David Broadland lives amongst rare old-growth Douglas fir in the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic Zone on Quadra Island. He notes that Donaldson’s ministry’s maps of BC’s biogeoclimatic zones, published in the Gorley-Merkel report, don’t show any such forest type on the south end of Quadra Island, Read Island or Cortes Island.
     The Gorley-Merkel old growth report: A New Future for Old Forests A new future for old forests.pdf
    Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposalVWS Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal.Incomappleux.pdf

    David Broadland
    Buried in 71 ministry timber supply reviews is a huge gap in harvest sustainability that makes Forest Stewardship Council certification of BC wood products an international scam.
     
    The hidden, but official, harvest sustainability gap
    Is BC’s forest industry sustainable? The BC Council of Forest Industries claims that “BC leads the world in sustainable forestry.” What would be required for COFI’s claim to be true?
    There’s a lot that could be said here. COFI’s claim could be true if its current members and their predecessors, for example, hadn’t logged 97 percent of biologically-productive old forest in BC. It could be true if there weren’t 1800-plus species of plants and animals facing extinction in BC. It could be true if clearcut logging didn’t have a detrimental impact on the temperature, flow and sediment load of salmon bearing streams and rivers. It could be true if clearcut logging didn’t cause an increase in the frequency, duration and magnitude of peak flows of rivers causing major flooding. It could be true if clearcutting an average of nearly 170,000 hectares per year for the last 20 years hadn’t created the conditions that have led to annual carbon emissions from forest management in BC that are nearly three times higher than all the Canadian oil sands projects combined. And so on. But let’s put that record of undeniable environmental harm to one side. Let’s focus on the one measure of sustainability that both the industry and government point to as evidence that logging BC forests at the current rate is “sustainable”: The Forest Stewardship Council’s stamp of approval. FSC certification is dependent on the condition that, to quote its standards for BC, “the rate of harvest of forest products shall not exceed levels which can be permanently sustained.”
    An analysis of BC government data—information that COFI and its members are aware of—reveals this is not the case.
    Consider the logging conducted on 28 Timber Supply Areas (TSAs) in BC’s Interior. The combined allowable annual cut (AAC) in those TSAs is currently 44 million cubic metres. That represents nearly 70 percent of BC’s total allowable annual cut of 63.9 million cubic metres.  If the cut on the Interior TSAs cannot be “permanently sustained,” then BC forest products should not have FSC certification.
    The Forest Act requires that, every 10 years, BC’s Chief Forester conducts a “Timber Supply Review” for each TSA. That review determines what level of harvest could be sustained in the mid-term for that TSA. The “mid-term” is the period between 10 and 50 years out from the date a timber supply review is finalized.
    If the current allowable annual cut is significantly higher than the projected mid-term harvest level determined in  a timber supply review, then the current AAC in that TSA is unsustainable. This also applies to the aggregate of all 28 BC Interior TSAs. If the total AAC for the TSAs is higher than the sum of their mid-term harvest levels, then the current provincial AAC is unsustainable.
    That’s exactly what we find when we add together the individual gaps for all of the 28 timber supply reviews for BC’s Interior. The current allowable annual cut in these TSAs is 44 million cubic metres per year. The timber supply reviews say the mid-term level that’s sustainable is 32 million cubic metres per year. Therefore the current allowable cut in Interior TSAs is 12 million cubic metres on the wrong side of being sustainable.
     

    In those TSAs where the current AAC is higher than the mid-term harvest level, the timber supply review generally plots a 10-year pathway to the mid-term level. Reductions in the harvest appear to be underway in a number of Interior TSAs, although only time will tell for sure. The downturn in lumber prices in 2019 may account for the drop in actual harvest that we now see. Results for 2020 are incomplete.
    How much forest is being logged to produce that 12-million-cubic-metre overcut? Between 2014 and 2018, one hectare of forest yielded an average of 348 cubic metres of logs in BC. At that rate, the 12 million cubic metre overcut would require that 34,482 hectares—345 square kilometres—of forest be logged.
    As mentioned above, timber supply areas account for about 70 percent of BC’s AAC. The other 30 percent is cut in areas under tree farm licences (TFLs). Province wide, the current allowable annual cut on 34 TFLs is 1.75 million cubic metres higher than the mid-term supply projected by the forests ministry.
    The ministry’s own records, then, show that nearly 14 million cubic metres per year more than can be “permanently sustained” are being cut across the province. That overcut alone results in the loss of 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometres) of forest each year.
    The current total provincial AAC of 63.9 million cubic metres would need to be reduced to about 50 million cubic metres just to meet the Forest Stewardship Council’s rudimentary measure of sustainability.
    For many years BC’s rate of harvest has exceeded the level that the ministry of forests believed could be permanently sustained. The FSC certification has been, to put it as politely as possible, an international scam.
    BC’s forest managers have been quiet about the magnitude of this sustainability gap. That could be out of a concern that if it were known BC wood products don’t meet FSC’s fundamental test, some buyers of BC wood products—like Home Depot—would stop buying. About 80 percent of BC’s manufactured wood products are exported, with 50 percent of that going to the USA. Home Depot’s wood purchasing policy is to give preference to FSC-certified sources. But BC wood doesn’t actually meet FSC’s most basic requirement for certification.
     
    Origins of the harvest sustainability gap
    How did the sustainability gap develop? If we were to confine our exploration of this question to recent history, the official gap is the result of the loss of Lodgepole Pine stands during the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. That began in 1999 and peaked in 2005—15 years ago. Since the AAC reductions will play out over the next 10 or so years, we can see that it will have taken 25 years for BC’s government to fully implement cut controls it knew in 2005 it would have to implement.
    Why wasn’t a cut in AAC imposed in 2005?
    Directions to BC’s chief forester by consecutive forests ministers, Rich Coleman and Pat Bell, guided AAC determinations throughout the pine beetle infestation and subsequent salvage logging. Coleman, a close ally of the forest industry, directed the chief forester to maintain or enhance (increase) AAC. Pat Bell, who represented the Prince George district as an MLA, an area hard hit by the beetle, directed the chief forester to show “leniency” in AAC determinations for areas affected by the beetle. These written directions have been guiding AAC determinations even into the era of the current NDP government. In other words, the decision not to lower the AAC was a strictly political decision, not based on science, in spite of warnings from forest and climate scientists at the time.
    By 2006, BC government forest scientists were predicting a loss of up to 80 percent of the “merchantable pine volume” in the province as a result of the beetle infestation. That would have amounted to 1.1 billion cubic metres, equivalent to 22 years of logging in the Interior at the region’s pre-beetle AAC of 50 million cubic metres per year. This estimate has lately been reduced to a 55 percent loss of merchantable pine; at the time, though, decision-makers were told it could be up to 80 percent. Faced with that momentous loss, did forest managers in 2006 question the assumptions under which they had been operating?
    Recall that, by 2006, forest scientists had attributed the immense impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation to higher temperatures in winter and summer, a consequence of global heating and climate change. Warmer winters meant that fewer beetles were killed by cold weather, while hotter summers allowed higher rates of beetle reproduction. Hotter, drier summers also meant greater water stress for pine trees, weakening their natural defences against insect attack.
    Also known to forest scientists at the time was that logging forests initiates an immense premature release of carbon to the atmosphere, and that carbon emissions are the main cause of global heating and climate change. Government scientists were aware, then, that logging forests played a significant role in amplifying natural disturbances like the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation.
    Faced with evidence that logging had helped to create the conditions that led to the beetle infestation, and aware of the tremendous long-term loss to the allowable annual cut, what questions did government decision-makers ask?
    Coleman and Bell, it would appear, ignored the science and made short-term political calculations completely detached from the question of whether industrial forestry was sustainable.
    Their government—and industry—responded with short-term economic thinking. They focussed on cutting as many of the dead and dying trees as quickly as possible—including non-pine trees that just happened to live in the same forests. In taking that approach, they also ensured that forestry-dependent communities would become even more dependent on forestry, even though the forests they depended on were rapidly declining in health and extent.
    The main element of this economic plan was increasing the allowable annual cut in the Interior from 50 million to 68 million cubic metres to facilitate salvage of dead and dying pine trees. Indeed, the harvest of pine—mainly dead—doubled compared to before the outbreak. But forests ministry records show that at the peak of the beetle outbreak in 2005, forest companies had only reduced their cut of non-pine species in the Interior by about 15 percent over the level they were cutting before the outbreak started. Let that sink in. Government and industry were told that BC was about to lose up to 40 percent of the total merchantable volume available in the Interior. Industry and government could have responded by backing off completely from cutting non-pine species. Instead they backed off 15 percent.
    Vancouver Sun journalist Larry Pynn wrote about what happened next in a 2012 investigative report,“In the Wake of a Plague.” He documented the environmental damage resulting from salvage logging southwest of Prince George. Clearcuts had previously been limited to 60 hectares in the Interior, but the forests ministry removed any limit on cutblock size to facilitate salvage logging. Pynn noted that a lack of planning and coordination for the “frenzy of logging” that was occurring led to large clearcuts merging into vast clearcuts. He described a 2009 report by the Forest Practices Board that found “more than half of the harvest since 1978 is now in patches larger than 250 hectares and more than one-third in patches larger than 1,000 hectares... Incredibly, at least seven harvested patches, amalgams exceeding 10,000 hectares—25 times the size of Stanley Park—have emerged...”
    Pynn noted that then BC Chief Forester Jim Snetsinger had expressed “‘significant uncertainty’ about the environmental effects of the 80-percent increase in harvesting in the Lakes, Prince George and Quesnel timber supply areas, particularly in regard to biological diversity and hydrologic function.”
    The result of that “frenzy” is now evident in age class distribution data included in timber supply reviews for the TSAs most heavily impacted by the beetle and subsequent salvage logging. For example, in the Lakes TSA, centred on the forestry-dependent community of Burns Lake, 40 percent of the net Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) now has trees between zero and 20 years old, with over half of that between zero and ten years. In the 100-Mile House TSA, 33 percent of the net THLB has forest cover between zero and 20 years of age. By “zero” we mean a bare, unplanted clearcut or burned over plantation. The Quesnel, Kamloops and Prince George TSAs each have 26 percent of their net working forest lying as bare clearcuts or young, fire-vulnerable plantations up to 20 years of age.
     

    Above: Age class distribution for Crown land in the Lakes TSA. “THLB” is the Timber Harvesting Land Base. Note that 40 percent of the forest cover in the THLB is 20 years of age or younger. Source: FLNRORD.
     
    A common perception that the “frenzy” of logging was largely a result of the response to the pine beetle is, according to the forests ministry’s record of harvesting in the beetle-affected areas, not accurate. Although the AAC in the affected areas was increased, the harvest records show that there were only two years—2005 and 2006—in which the actual harvest was more than 10 percent higher than the pre-beetle AAC. What the beetle did change was the mid-term supply of harvestable forest and the size of the clearcuts that were allowed, seven of which, as Larry Pynn observed, had grown into 10,000-hectare monsters.
     
    The cumulative impacts of unsustainable logging
    Starting in 2000, following close behind the increasing area of deforestation, a new phenomenon began to emerge in the Interior: forest fires began to get larger. Much larger. Carbon emissions released by forest fires are estimated by the BC government as part of its emissions reporting obligations. Those estimates show emissions from forest fires have doubled every nine years since 2000. Is the inexorable growth in the size of forest fires related to the growing extent of clearcuts in the Interior?
     

    Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire 2017.mov This 1-minute panoramic video shows a 240-square-kilometre (6 kilometres by 40 kilometres) section of the 2017 241,160-hectare Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire. Note the logging roads and burned over plantations and clearcuts. The lake at the bottom left corner is Tzazati Lake; movement is from south to north.
     
    A group of Australian forest scientists believe that country’s historically large fires in late 2019 were made worse by logging. In a comment piece in the science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, they wrote, “…there is compelling evidence that Australia’s historical and contemporary logging regimes have made many Australian forests more fire prone and contributed to increased fire severity and flammability. This occurs because logging leaves debris at ground level that increases the fuel load in logged forests. It also changes forest composition and leaves these areas of forest both hotter and drier…”
    In BC, the vast majority of forest fires are started by lightning. In 2009, forest research scientists Meg Krawchuk and Steve Cumming published the results of an 8-year study of lightning ignition in 60,000 square kilometers of boreal forest in Alberta. They found that wildfires started by lightning ignition “increased in landscapes with more area harvested.” Because of the physical nature of the fuel in a “harvested area”—its dryness, smaller size, etc—it is more readily ignited by lightning than the fuel in an undisturbed stand of trees.
    Krawchuk and Cumming also noted: “In addition to the fine fuels and slash remaining after forest harvest, post-disturbance regeneration might also contribute to flammability.”
    Several science-based studies have shown—in other jurisdictions—that land that has been clearcut burns more severely than intact forest. The relative abundance of fine-grained fuel at ground level in clearcuts, along with higher temperatures, lower humidity and open exposure to winds, all factor into their higher flammability compared with intact forest. As well, clearcuts adjacent to intact forest stands cause those stands to be drier and more flammable, too.
    Clearcut logging changes the hydrologic and thermal functioning of adjacent forests, and on the scale at which clearcut logging has taken place in BC, the practice has changed fire behaviour. Remarkably, no BC forest scientist has undertaken to study the connection between clearcut logging and changes in fire behaviour and size. Or, if they have, their work hasn’t been made public.
    By the way, those Australian scientists came forward because, they said, “much of the conversation in the aftermath of the spring and summer bushfires had rightly focused on climate change, but the impact of land management and forestry on fire risk was often neglected in these discussions.”
    The scientists highlighted this as a concern because land management policy was “well within the control of Australians” and the fires had been used by some sectors of the forest industry in Australia “to call for increased logging in some areas.”
    The “call for increased logging” is already occurring in BC and is coming from the same  line of economically-motivated reasoning employed by industry and government that gave BC the “uplift” in AAC in response to the Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak. Like claims of “sustainable forestry,” expression of such views appears to be part of the human-powered feedback loop that has amplified the catastrophic impact of forest removal on global heating and climate change in BC and elsewhere.
     
    Coastal clearcuts are growing in size, too
    In the description of the sustainability gap above, I focussed on forests ministry data from 28 TSAs in the Interior. The Mountain Pine Beetle did not directly impact coastal BC, but 150 years of relentless logging has left just as big an impact on coastal forests. However, it’s harder to quantify the impact using ministry records. Data for the nine TSAs in coastal BC is in a state of flux as the ministry completes timber supply reviews following the physical rearrangement of TSA boundaries that arose from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement.
    The sustainability gap on the coast is most clearly indicated by ministry data on forest cover age class distribution. For example, the 2014 Timber Supply Review for the now-defunct Strathcona Timber Supply Area is revealing. This TSA included a large area of Vancouver Island in the vicinity of Courtenay, Campbell River, Gold River, Tahsis and Zeballos, as well as the adjacent mainland coast and the Discovery Islands.
    The ministry’s 2014 data shows an astounding 64 percent of the area on which logging could occur had trees younger than 60 years old. Thirty-six percent of Strathcona TSA’s area had trees 20 years of age or younger—similar to the Interior TSAs devastated by the beetle. Only 24 percent of the TSA was covered with stands between 70 and 230 years of age—old enough to be logged, and not so old as to cause great controversy. Remaining old-growth forest—240 years and older—occupied only 12 percent of the TSA’s area available for logging, according to the ministry’s data. This was in 2014, and extensive logging since then could only have pushed the average age of trees lower.
     

    Above: Age class distribution for Crown land in the Strathcona TSA (2014). “THLB” is the Timber Harvesting Land Base. Note that 64 percent of the forest cover in the THLB is 60 years of age or younger. Source: FLNRORD.
     
    In the Strathcona TSA, most of those trees younger than 60 years are plantation Douglas fir, which has a culmination age of about 80 years. Logging before that age would be an extraordinary waste of a publicly-owned asset, even by the standards of BC’s forest industry. Logging the remaining old growth is increasingly controversial in the midst of a climate emergency and a collapse in biodiversity. That leaves just 23 percent of the area that’s available for logging with trees old enough to log but not so old as to invite blockades of logging roads.
    A review of recent satellite imagery of land that was in the Strathcona TSA in 2014 shows that clearcuts are becoming larger as younger trees become a higher percentage of what’s cut. This trend is in play all across the province.
    Ministry data that covers all of BC show that in the five years between 2002 and 2006, inclusive, an average of 448.6 cubic metres per hectare were harvested. For the five years between 2014 and 2018, inclusive, the harvest per hectare had dropped to an average of 348 cubic metres. The implications of this direction are clear. As time goes on and all old-growth forests in the Timber Harvesting Land Base are liquidated—which has been the implicit policy of the ministry—the area needed to be logged each year in order to achieve the mid-term harvest level will grow even larger. The actual extent of clearcut logging in the province can best be understood by viewing the most recent satellite imagery. Please take a moment to click through the slides at the top of this page that show the vast transformation from primary forests to plantations that’s almost complete.
    The regularly expanding area that gets logged each year means the area of fuel-laden clearcuts and fire-vulnerable plantations younger than 20 years of age will cover an increasingly higher percentage of BC’s land base. As average global temperature increases and the frequency, duration and severity of drought and periods of extreme summer heat increases, it’s difficult to imagine that having a higher percentage of highly-flammable land in BC is going to work out well. Forest fire management in 2017 and 2018 cost BC taxpayers $1.28 billion.
    Other cumulative effects on non-timber values such as the integrity of watersheds and the level of biodiversity will also become increasingly serious as the average age of forests falls and the area of logging grows. The forest-industrial complex is leading BC into an inherently unsustainable future.
     
    An uncertain future
    The numbers I used above to quantify the gap between the current AAC and the mid-term harvest level all come from timber supply reviews. Those reviews are conducted by BC’s chief forester or deputy chief forester. The estimates developed by the reviews rely heavily on computer modelling of future tree growth and stand yield. Processes that depend on such modelling are only as good as the data that goes into the models—we all know the expression “garbage in, garbage out”—and in BC, that data is known to be, well, uncertain.
    In 2018, Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts, both registered professional foresters, made a 134-page joint submission to a panel of forest scientists and professionals assembled to investigate concerns Britneff had expressed in writing to forests minister Doug Donaldson (there’s a link to the report at the end of this story).
    Britneff and Watts recently summarized their concerns in a 20-page report prepared for Focus, outlining numerous problems associated with the data used to inform the timber supply reviews we analysed for this story (link to report at end of story).
    Watts and Britneff challenge a claim made by various chief foresters in many of the timber supply reviews, that the “best available information” is used in coming to a determination of allowable annual cut. Britneff and Watts provided us with evidence in the case of the Bulkley Valley TSA review, for example, that shows the “best available information” included data that an independent consultant had determined did not meet “Ministry Standards” on several counts.
    They also note that a major source of uncertainty in computer modelling is “ineffective data management,” and recount how, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch (FAIB) struggled to effectively manage forest growth-and-yield data, which, as a consequence, had become “corrupted.” The result, say Watts and Britneff, is that “any studies or models using FAIB sample plot data prior to 2017 are suspect.” That would impact most existing Timber Supply Reviews and the corresponding AAC determination.
    Watts and Britneff believe the growth and yield models themselves are problematic and cite numerous ways in which the models provide inaccurate and unreliable estimates. For example, consecutive versions of the models produce different results from the same data, and the difference is significantly greater than the timber supply review process reflects in its consideration of uncertainty. As well, an FOI request showed FAIB had no record of the actual data used to calibrate one of the computer models central to estimating timber volume in natural stands. Watts and Britneff also point out that the growth and yield models lack the sophistication needed to reflect actual forest complexity.
    They point out similar modelling problems in determining managed (plantation) stand yields, managed stand site productivity and expected gains from using select seed to produce planting stock.
    All of those factors create a level of uncertainty about the growth and yield estimates used in ACC determinations that, Watts and Britneff say, create serious doubts about projected mid-term harvest levels.
    Astonishingly, the models cannot account for climate change. On this point, Britneff says, “scientists within the forests ministry have reported and published that our Interior managed forests will most likely experience increased tree mortality, reduced growth and reduced utilization as a result of an increase in forest health issues due to climate change.”
    Yet, because the models cannot accommodate climate change, none of the climate-related effects that are expected to reduce growth and yield are included in the timber supply reviews that determine AAC.
    Watts and Britneff note that while current Chief Forester Diane Nicholls has been directed by Minister Donaldson to include “the best information on climate change and cumulative effects of multiple activities on the land base” in the timber supply review process, Nicholls has effectively demurred.
    In a 2019 timber supply review for the Lakes TSA, she deferred consideration of cumulative effects to the land use planning process and stated “the potential rate and specific characteristics of climate change in different parts of the province are uncertain. This uncertainty means that it is not possible to confidently predict the specific, quantitative impacts on timber supply.”
    The chief forester went on to state that “no responsible AAC determination can be made solely on the basis of a precautionary response to uncertainty with respect to a single value,” but provided no justification for this statement.
    Britneff and Watts observe that Nicholls’ response “is in stark contrast to the federal government’s guidelines on taking a precautionary approach in the absence of full scientific certainty.”
    They point out that the chief forester “uses the concept of uncertainty to exclude factors that would lower the AAC, such as climate change, while at the same time ignoring the uncertainty associated with factors that enable an increase—or simply increase the AAC—such as natural and managed stand growth estimates, genetic gain estimates for select seed, and the increased productivity assigned to managed stands.”
    The end result, they say, is an “AAC determination process that clearly favours timber harvesting over integrated decision making, leading to an AAC that is too high and unsustainable, particularly in the mid-term.”
    Above, we noted that the mid-term harvest level determined by Chief Forester Nicholls and her predecessors is some 14 million cubic metres lower than the current AAC. Yet Britneff and Watts make a strong argument that the process and technology used to come to that determination are actually overestimating that mid-term harvest level.
    It should be clear to everyone that what’s happening to BC’s forests is not sustainable. Coupled with the widespread acceptance by governments and people around the globe that planet Earth faces a climate emergency and a collapse in biodiversity, BC’s government needs to act. The only meaningful action that can be taken is to conserve what remains of natural habitat in biologically productive forests and to reduce emissions, particularly large-scale sources of carbon like BC’s forest industry. For BC’s government to continue to hide the extent of the damage being done by what is now a minor contributor to the provincial economy is unconscionable.
    David Broadland’s grandfather, a Russian immigrant who came to Canada in 1911, was the chief cook in a 200-man logging camp near Campbell River on Vancouver Island. The logging show was operated by Bloedel Stewart & Welch. At that time, the forest industry was a major factor in BC’s economic health. Times have changed.
    Submission by Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts to the Forest Inventory Review Panel (2018)Britneff and Watts 2018 submission to the Forest Inventory Review Panel.pdf
    Summary of above submission provided to Focus: Summary of Britneff and Watts 2018 submission to the Forest Inventory Review Panel.pdf
    You may also be interested in David Broadland’s “Forestry doesn’t pay the bills, folks”

    Saul Arbess
    Two weeks into a campaign to halt logging of ancient rainforests in the last intact watershed of the San Juan River system, activists have set up a third blockade on unceded Pacheedaht Territory.
    by Saul Arbess and Joshua Wright
     
    IN THE MIDST OF AN ONGOING CLIMATE EMERGENCY, logging of the ancient rainforests continues at an unfettered rate. The amount of old-growth forest logged each day on Vancouver Island is equivalent to 32 soccer pitches according to the Wilderness Committee. These forests are not only vital for carbon sequestration, but also fundamental for the integrity of complex, interconnected ecosystems that support keystone and culturally significant species, such as salmon. Alarmingly, less than one percent of largest stature forest was found to be remaining on the Island according to the scientific report BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity recently authored by Dr Rachel Holt, Dr Karen Price and David Daust. And most of that is going at an accelerating rate on Vancouver Island, with an estimate of three years remaining before it is all gone, except the meagre areas that have been protected.
    Grassroots forest defenders from across Vancouver Island have prevented Teal Jones Group from blasting logging roads into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed for the past two weeks. The road would have penetrated the last remaining intact, unlogged tributary in the entire San Juan River system. The tributary is near Port Renfrew on unceded Pacheedaht territory.
    Last Sunday, August 23, saw a second blockade established east of the Fairy Creek watershed. A third blockade was set up August 24 on a logging road on Edinburgh Mountain (also unceded Pacheedaht Territory).
    With the exception of Eden Grove on Edinburgh Mountain, contiguous old-growth corridors have been severed between the rich valley bottom and the protected upper reaches. The infamous Big Lonely Doug stands in stark contrast to the clear cut it stands in on Edinburgh, the sole remaining giant fir in the cut. Big Lonely Doug has become an internationally recognized symbol for BC’s devastating logging practices. Just up the mountain, logging is ongoing. This is what the newest blockade will stop.
    Zoe Cilliers, a forest defender at the blockade, says, “If we pick and choose where our actions line up with our words, our words don’t mean anything. I’m an ecologist; I work with kids, I teach them about old growth, I teach them the value of these ecosystems. Being here means keeping a promise. If I don’t stand for this, how can I stand behind what I say to these kids?”
    K.L, also at the blockade, states, “Anyone who wonders why people are blockading, they should go and spend some time in an old growth forest, and they will understand. It’s the mosses, the spongy floor, the smell, it’s the stillness, the spaciousness.”