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Cortes Island logging dispute moves to the market

The Vancouver Observer - Jenny Uechi, December 6, 2012

Cortes Island logging dispute moves to the market
Photo by TJ Watt

As the dispute between Cortes Island residents and Island Timberlands escalates, activists are moving the debate to where it will hurt: the market.

Earlier this month, local residents' blockades of Island Timberlands' logging operations resulted in a withdrawal of the crew, but as Zoe Miles from the WildStands Alliance notes, the company has yet to meet Cortes Island homeowners or make any revision to the logging plans. As a result, residents against IT's industrial scale logging have tracked the raw logs Island Timberlands are exporting to mills in Washington State and to their retail customers and are sending letters to raise awareness about the dispute.

Below is an excerpt of the letter:

Island Timberlands is presently in conflict with the community of Cortes Island over logging of some of the very last stands of old growth forest in the region.

This is a region with extremely little primary forest remaining. In addition, Island Timberlands is in conflict with the community over logging plans in important watersheds and other issues of great concern.

[..]

Since most of the U.S. industry has already made public commitments not to trade in old growth and conflict wood products, we ask that you enforce this commitment by contacting Simpson Lumber and Island Timberlands at the earliest opportunity to advise them that you will have to stop sourcing their products if they do not resolve the conflicts.

We realize you have most likely been caught up in this conflict unwittingly and very much appreciate your positive involvement in resolving the conflicts.

"People working on this (letter-writing) campaign have had experience with similar campaigns in the past, and we've seen an effective way of bringing more people into the conversation an creating awareness about the controversial source of the trees," Miles said over the phone.

"That's where we saw that consumers and buyers are interested on knowing where their products came from. We believe that not only do [consumers] want to know, but also that they deserve to know that there is so much controversy around their product."

Tied in with residents' concerns about IT's large-scale logging practices is the Chinese Investment Corporation's 12.5 per cent buy-in bid for Island Timberlands, Miles said.

"There are more shareholders than China Investment Corporation, but 12.5 per cent is a fairly sizable chunk, and there's going to be more pressure on Island Timberlands to increase the profit margin," she said, adding that profit margins would be increased not by working with local communities, but by "harvesting the best wood they can and getting [to market] as quickly as possible."

"There's a huge concern about where the profits are going to be go, as well as the pressure to increase those profits."

She added that because Island Timberlands is also a large landowner on Cortes, the idea of foreign ownership didn't "sit well" with residents.

Island Timberlands did not provide a comment in time for publication.

Read more:  http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/cortes-island-logging-dispute-moves-market


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