MEDIA RELEASE: Conflict Escalates with Island Timberlands as Conservation Groups Rally in Cathedral Grove in Solidarity
Ancient Forest Alliance, October 22, 2013
October 22, 2013
For Immediate Release
Conservation Groups Rally in Solidarity in Cathedral Grove against Island Timberlands’ Coastal Old-Growth Logging
Island Timberlands’ recent expansion of logging operations in multiple endangered old-growth forests on Vancouver Island has prompted diverse community conservation groups to call on the company to immediately back-off and for the BC Liberal government to be responsible and protect these lands.
Diverse community conservation groups rallied together in Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island today calling on Island Timberlands to immediately back away from its ongoing and planned logging of old-growth and high conservation value forests on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Cortes Island, and for the BC Liberal government to be responsible and protect these lands.
Almost 60 protesters rallied in the parking lot of Cathedral Grove near Port Alberni, unfurling banners and leafletting tourists in the Grove. The rally included representatives and supporters from half a dozen local conservation groups, including the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, Save the Day based in Roberts Creek, Wildstands Alliance based on Cortes Island, Friends of Stillwater Bluffs near Powell River, Wilderness Committee Mid-Island Chapter based in Qualicum Beach, and Ancient Forest Alliance based in Victoria.
Island Timberlands is currently engaged in multiple logging incursions into highly endangered old-growth forests. This includes recent logging and/or road-building at McLaughlin Ridge, Juniper Ridge, Labour Day Lake, and the Cameron Valley Firebreak in the Port Alberni area (see: www.ancientforestalliance.org/news-item.php?ID=678); flagging Mount Horne, the mountainside above Cathedral Grove, for potential logging (see: www.timescolonist.com/news/local/old-growth-near-cathedral-grove-set-for-imminent-logging-activists-1.90194); plans to log the Stillwater Bluffs near Powell River and the Day Road Forest near Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast; and plans to log old-growth forests at Basil Creek and the Green Valley on Cortes Island. See spectacular PHOTOS of most of these forests at: www.ancientforestalliance.org/galleries.php
Extremely rare groves of old-growth Coastal Douglas-firs, of which only 1% remain, constitute much of these contentious forest lands. Most such stands in the Port Alberni area were previously intended to become Ungulate Wintering Ranges for Roosevelt elk and deer, or Wildlife Habitat Areas for endangered species like the Queen Charlotte Goshawk - until the BC Liberal government deregulated these lands in 2004 by removing them from their Tree Farm Licence. Conservationists believe that there may be less than 900 hectares left of these forests that were formerly intended for protection in the Port Alberni area - less than half of what stood until just a few years ago (2400 hectares).
Conservationists are calling on Island Timberlands to immediately back-off from its logging plans in old-growth and high conservation value forests, while calling on the BC Liberal government to re-establish and bolster the former BC park acquisition fund (eliminated after the 2008 provincial budget). A dedicated provincial fund of $40 million per year, raising $400 million over 10 years, would go a long way towards purchasing and protecting old-growth forests and other endangered ecosystems on private lands across the province. The fund would be similar to the existing park acquisition funds of various regional districts in BC, such as the $3 million/year Land Acquisition Fund of the Capital Regional District around Greater Victoria, which are augmented by the fundraising efforts of private citizens and land trusts.
Island Timberlands (IT) is the second largest private land owner in BC, owning 258,000 hectares of private mainly on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and Haida Gwaii.
Old-growth forests are vital to support endangered species, tourism, clean water, wild salmon, climate stability, and many First Nations cultures whose unceded territories these are.
“‘No Community Stands Alone’ is about all of our groups dealing with Island Timberlands’ ongoing and planned logging of endangered old-growth forests,” stated Jane Morden, coordinator of the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance. “At a recent meeting we asked Island Timberlands ‘will Island Timberlands save any old growth forest?’ and their reply was that it is their private land and they intend to log it. But, the government should also take responsibility for allowing this to happen. It was their legislation in 2004 that cancelled any existing and planned protections. The government has an obligation to protect these lands for generations to come.”
“This is not about a company just wanting the right to log its own private lands unfettered, as the government and industry PR-spin suggests. The fact is that these lands once had stronger environmental regulations and planned designations to protect protect elk and deer winter ranges, old-growth forests, scenery, riparian forests for salmon and clean water and that restricted raw log exports, until the BC Liberal government removed or did not implement them,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “That is, these corporate private lands were previously regulated to public land standards for over half a century in exchange for the BC government’s granting of free Crown land logging rights to the companies back then – what has happened is that the regulations on private lands were removed recently and intended regulations were never put in place, while the companies were still allowed to keep their Crown land logging rights.”
“I believe that major public and markets pressure has so far helped to keep Island Timberlands from logging on Cortes Island," stated forest activist Zoe Miles, from Cortes Island's Wildstands Alliance. "But we don’t know how long this will last, and it certainly hasn't stopped them from carrying out the same destructive, short-term logging projects in other small communities.”
"No community stands alone. That's the new reality. Forest management has become unprofessional and coastal communities have had enough. We now stand together, and call on the BC government to reinstate integrity and public oversight of forestry on private lands as well as public lands," stated Cec Robinson of Wildstands Alliance on Cortes Island.
“’Save the Day’ felt it was important to show our support to the Vancouver Island groups trying to protect special areas from the Island Timberland style of logging. We have seen their methods of logging in our own neighbourhood and are currently trying to protect a beautiful forest that they are threatening to log in the near future, home to a double 40 foot waterfall and is a place used by many members of our community for recreation and connecting with the natural world,” stated Brett Heneke of Save the Day, a Roberts Creek organization working to protect the Day Road Forest on the Sunshine Coast.
"Island Timberlands is logging Labour Day Lake, which is a community recreation area and is the headwaters of the Cathedral Grove, the official drinking watershed for the Town of Qualicum Beach, and the community of Dashwood,” stated Annette Tanner, Chair of the Mid-Island Wilderness Committee chapter based in Qualicum Beach. "We have been gathering petitions to stop the logging of the Cathedral Grove watershed since 2000.”
"These forested lands are being fought for by a united group of activists because so much is at stake," said Jason Addy of the Friends of Stillwater Bluffs near Powell River. "These lands and their trees provide immeasurable value to their communities, and for all the people of BC, as integral parts of a living forest ecosystem."