Clearcutting The Walbran’s Thousand-Year-Old Trees

By Roy L Hales

It has been a year since the Wilderness Committee drew our attention to the planned logging of old growth trees in the central Walbran Valley. So far, the controversial heli-block 4424 has remained untouched. Since last November, Teal Jones has been logging 6 or 7 cutblocks in the more easily accessible areas south of the river.  They are already clearcutting the Walbran’s thousand-year-old trees.

Conflict Over The Woods

New Teal Jones clearcut in the Walbran Valley (Torrance Coste)

The provincial government denies the allegation that it is “doing nothing” to protect the Walbran’s old growth forests.

A Ministry of Forests spokesperson said, “The neighbouring 16,000-hectare park also contains some of those same ecosystems. The park was formed to protect those ecosystems.”

He added, “Over 4 million hectares of B.C.’s old growth forests are protected.”1

Sierra Club BC disagrees with their figures. Their “Google Earth file reveals that almost half (46%) of the landscape units now have less than 30 % of productive old-growth remaining. (Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares.) 17% of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining.”

“Experts consider 30% the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species,” says Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC Forest and Climate campaigner.

According to Torrance Coste, of the Wilderness Committee, “Teal Jones acknowledges that old-growth logging will come to an end within the next few decades. At the same time they say if any of their cutblocks are stopped, the situation would be drastic for their company and they’ll need to lay workers off. “2

Communities Support Extending Protections

Wilderness Committee activists protest old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley. (Emily Hoffpauir)

The Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities passed a resolution requesting that the provincial government, and Ministry of Forests, amend the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan “to protect all of Vancouver Island’s remaining old growth forest on provincial Crown land.”3

This month the B.C. Chamber of Commerce passed a motion calling on the province to expand protection of old-growth forests in areas where they have, or likely would have, greater economic value if left standing.

For example, the president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce told the Times-Colonist that tourism is now his community’s #1 source of revenue.

“Thanks to the trees, Port Renfrew is no longer a one-industry tourism town and has been able to successfully brand itself the ‘Tall Tree Capital of Canada,’ he said.

Negotiations

The Wilderness Committee’s Emily Hoffpauir in a new old-growth clearcut, logged this winter by Teal Jones. The unprotected Central Walbran Valley is in the background. (Torrance Coste)

Representatives from the Ministry of Forests met with the Wilderness Committee, several other environmental groups, and Teal Jones last February.

“Nothing was resolved, but it was agreed that a conflict in the Walbran wasn’t desirable and all parties wanted it to go away,” said Coste.

Up until this point, the Wilderness Committee has focused its’ energies protecting 486 hectares north of the Walbran River.  (This includes the controversial cutblock 4424.)

“We will never support old growth logging anywhere, but it was’t as hard a line south of the river. We knew they need time to phase out old growth logging. If we said no old growth logging period, we knew they wouldn’t listen. So, as a first step, we looked at the area with the least cutblocks historically,” said Coste.

Clearcutting The Walbran’s Thousand-Year-Old Trees

Wilderness Committee staff and volunteers in a new Teal Jones clearcut in the Walbran Valley. (Torrance Coste)

He added that now that Teal Jones has logged the southern cutblocks, the Wilderness Committee has documented the damage.

“These blocks are road blocks. The potential damage at 4424 would be slightly less drastic (they’d leave the hemlock trees) but the cedar stumps would be as big or bigger — 4424 is at lower elevation than these blocks.”

NDP Hesitant To Intervene

The Wilderness Committee reached out to the official opposition.

“We’ve kept them well briefed on the issue. We’ve let them know that we expect the opposition to oppose unacceptable things that the government is in support of and this is at the top of that list. They’ve said that they aren’t in a position to oppose logging in the Walbran, or old growth logging, until they have talked to more people. Which, I assume, means industry,” said Coste.

The was not sufficient time for the Opposition party critic for Forests to respond to my questions.

(Added 24 hrs later – the NDP have still not responded to my calls)

Top Photo Credit: Wilderness Committee campaigner Torrance Coste in a fresh Teal Jones clearcut in the Walbran Valley, with the intact Central Walbran in the background. (Emily Hoffpauir) 

Footnotes

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Email from BC Ministry of Forests
  2. Roy L Hales interview with Torrance Coste of the Wilderness Committee
  3. 2016 AVICC RESOLUTIONS DISPOSITION, Resolution 11

8 thoughts on “Clearcutting The Walbran’s Thousand-Year-Old Trees”

  1. Please BAN ALL OLD GROWTH LOGGING!
    Now, get together in community, then take action! Then inform the world!
    Love Earth! <3

  2. This is sickening. This is just another disgusting examples of money as god. It is time to stop the slaughter of this planet.

  3. Taking out 1,000 year trees is unforgivable! The government needs to stop this before it’s all gone!

    1. B.C. has a history/mindset of selling off our raw resources. That brought quick profits in the past, but at the expense of our future development.

      I don’t believe the politicians are “bought” outright. The best explanation I have heard is that their perception is often in terms of election cycles. Given the incredible expenses connected to elections these days, I can see why they would have half an eye on their biggest campaign contributors.

      As per staff, they work within the limits that are imposed on them. Here are a few comments I’ve heard from different staff in Canada and the US, as I remember them:
      – (National Energy Board spokesperson, Canada) “I know better than to have my own opinion.”
      – (executive, Bureau of Land Management, U.S.) – “I’m just the messenger.”
      – (retired senior executive, Department of Energy, US) “You do your job, or you quit.”

      My opinion: This “bus” is out of control. I would like to see:
      1. An outright ban on cutting old growth, unless there is some overriding concern (like a tree that is going to fall anyway). This should be in place until our forests are “healthy.”
      2. An outright ban on cutting more trees than grow in any given year.
      3. A ban on political contributions from corporations and unions AND a limit for the amount individuals are allowed to contribute.
      4. Climate and environmental impacts to be a central consideration in all future development.
      5. Industry to be held more accountable for damages they inflict on our collective heritage, which includes old growth ecosystems such as the Walbran.
      6. The public to have a much stronger say over development in their areas. (IE – either a veto, or something nearing it.)
      7. Those staffers given the funding necessary to do their jobs, rather than relying on information supplied by proponents, and empowered to the point that we are taking full advantage of their expertise.
      8. In short, I would like to see a “smart society” – where informed decisions are made for the common good rather than special interests.
      9. I also wonder if this is possible and, as climate impacts continue to escalate, believe our grandchildren’s future looks very bleak if we fail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *