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No negotiation progress as Island Timberlands’ plans to log Cortes Island forests remain virtually unchanged

Cortes Island old growth, part of Island Timberlands's logging plan.

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.

 The meetings

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.

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