No negotiation progress as Island Timberlands’ plans to log Cortes Island forests remain virtually unchanged
Six thousand eight hundred petition signatures brought media attention and pressure to bear on Island Timberlands’(IT) plans to log significant ecosystems on Cortes Island, including some of the rare, remaining coastal old growth Douglas fir. Those forests have been featured on MTV’s show “The Buried Life” and have inspired a multitude of creative videos. The petition itself was delivered to the offices of IT’s parent company, Brookfield Asset Management, in London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Toronto, Rio de Janeiro and Vancouver. The result of the petition was that Island Timberlands put off their logging plans and agreed to meet to discuss the issues first.
So far, three meetings have occurred. The most recent meeting was May 31. Despite small concessions, IT's logging plans still call for extensive destruction of the significant ecosystems and old-growth forests that the thousands of people who signed the petition are trying to protect. Here is the story so far.
In these meetings, the Cortes forest advocates used the best available science regarding forest ecosystems, the Coast Information Team (CIT) guidelines for the Great Bear Rainforest. According to CIT, 70% retention of forest ecosystems provides a good chance that forest ecosystems will continue to thrive. Thirty percent retention puts ecosystems at very high risk of collapse. To protect streams, the CIT recommends a buffer of 100 to 200 meters. The Cortes forest advocates defined old growth using the Province’s map of habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet, a bird which uses old growth trees for nesting. Those maps include trees over 140 years of age.
Meeting two: a terrible logging plan
IT shared its logging plans at the second meeting in February. Those plans indicated logging far beyond the recommendations of the CIT. In fact, the cut block outlines were identical to the outlines of the Province’s maps of critical habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet. Island Timberlands stated that they define old growth as only trees over 250 years. IT’s riparian buffer didn’t exist on some streams, because those streams did not appear on their maps. In fish bearing streams, they were 10 to 15 meters.
At the end of the second meeting, IT agreed to consider the petitioners’ requests and the science of the CIT. In addition, IT agreed to delay logging until after nesting season and to hire local loggers.
Meeting three: small concessions
On May 31, the parties reconvened. IT’s changes to its logging plans consisted of moving two short sections of road out the center of wetland areas and temporarily deferring the logging of a small portion of the old growth forests. IT refused to put a number to the level of forest cover retention it planned but it stated that the science-based 70% retention was unacceptable. IT refused to define old growth in accordance with the endangered marbled murrelet habitat maps. In short, IT made no significant change in the logging plans toward ecosystem protection. It proposed virtually the same logging to which 6,800 petitioners objected in December 2011.
The Cortes advocates suggested that if IT was not willing to protect forest ecosystems, it should sell the lands to community friendly buyers. IT responded that it did not want to sell and, if it did sell, it would sell to the highest bidder. IT mentioned in particular the cut-and-run operator who is responsible for the worst clear cuts on Cortes Island in recent years. At the end of the meeting, IT agreed to “run the numbers” on higher levels of forest retention and more substantial stream buffers prior to a community meeting on June 19.
Deregulation has opened door to environmental abuses
IT’s inadequate response to the petition demands reflect a province wide problem. The Provincial government has deregulated privately managed forest lands at the behest of multinational corporations which make huge campaign contributions. Privately managed forest lands are now regulated by the Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFLA). PMFLA is flexible and industry friendly; it provides incentives for compliance without prohibiting anything. The result of this virtual self regulation by the logging industry is:
- Logging at more than twice the rate that forest industry auditors say can be sustained threatens the environment and economy alike;
- Trees logged at younger and younger ages;
- Douglas fir logging, in particular, at a near liquidation pace, with one company’s entire “merchantable” stock slated for depletion in 25 years.
- Loss of jobs because trees are no longer delivered to coastal mills
- A huge increase in raw log exports from BC’s coast, 62 per cent of which come from private forestlands
The path forward
BC needs a new paradigm for privately managed forest land. IT could use Cortes Island as the place where it begins retooling toward long term sustainability. Cortes Island has world wide support for its forest ecosystems. Petitions were delivered to BAM offices in London, Sydney, Hong Kong, New York and Vancouver. Cortes Island has an open stance toward logging that is sustainable according to the definition of the Coast Information Team. And Cortes Island is home to expert hand loggers who need work.
The people fighting to preserve the old-growth and other significant forest ecosystems on Cortes are working to keep the pressure on until a real solution is agreed upon that meets the needs of all the people and ecosystems involved.
Emails at this time to IT personnel, and to IT’s parent company Brookfield Asset Management, would be a potent and timely reminder that BC residents do not support liquidation of BC’s privately managed forest lands but would support logging done in accordance with the recommendations of the Coast Information Team for the Great Bear Rainforest. Specifically, IT has thus far failed to meet the concerns of 6,800 petitioners that seek such change on Cortes Island or concerns stated by Cortes Island residents, including its children and forest workers.
A suggested email can be sent to:
Brookfield Asset Management