B.C.’s independent forest watchdog has sided with an environmental studies professor who filed a complaint last summer about a logging company that razed several huge, ancient trees in an area zoned for logging near Port Renfrew.
The Forest Practices Board (FCB) said the trees in question, cut by logging company Teal-Jones, were between 500 and 1,000 years old. Logging the trees was legal, but the board in a report released Thursday called for foresters and land managers to get “creative” about conserving trees of exceptional size, form, age or historical significance.
“Having withstood the ravages of time over many centuries, [ancient trees] can inspire awe and reverence, a sense of spirituality and connection to past events,” the report reads.
“This complaint highlights the strong public interest in seeing more ancient trees and forest stands preserved to live out their natural lives and functions, and managed as a social, economic and ecological asset to the public and surrounding communities,” said board chair Al Gorley.
Hans Tammemagi, an adjunct professor of environmental studies at the University of Victoria, said he was “appalled” last summer to find about a half-dozen stumps of freshly cut ancient trees in an area north of Port Renfrew known as the “Gordon landscape unit.”
“I stood on top of a stump that you could have built a house on,” he said. “It was huge. It almost brought tears to my eyes.
“. . . When they come across trees like this [I would like to see them] stop, and either cut around them or consult with the local community.”
He said his entreaties to Teal-Jones, a 65-year-old family-run logging company, fell on deaf ears when he phoned to complain.
“They really didn’t want to talk to me,” he said. “They were pretty adamant that they were doing everything legally, which they did.”
Darlene Omen, spokesperson for the FCB, said the recommendations released in Thursday’s report are not legally binding, but are meant to “highlight” the issue.
Tammemagi was encouraged, but not entirely satisfied by the board’s response.
“It’s positive, but it’s a bit on the weak side,” said Tammemagi. “I had hoped they’d come out with some stronger recommendations.”
Meanwhile, environmentalists as well as the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce continue to lobby Teal-Jones and the Forests Ministry to protect another ancient grove in the area known as Avatar Grove, which is considered a prime ecotourism destination.
Three quarters of Avatar Grove — home to what some say is the “world’s gnarliest tree” — remains vulnerable to Teal-Jones’ saws. The other quarter is legally protected.
“I would really like to see Teal Jones say voluntarily that they will not log Avatar Grove,” said Tammemagi.
Teal-Jones did not return The Province’s call Thursday.
A spokeswoman for the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals (ABCFP), the organization responsible for registering and regulating foresters, said its members are required under the Foresters Act to attempt to balance environmental, economic and social values when creating timber harvest plans.
“We will be raising this [report] with our members,” she said.