22nd October 2019
...continued from Part 1
Last year, Hupacasath sent an open letter calling on the provincial government to halt oldgrowth logging in the Nahmint and work collaboratively with the band to protect the area’s old growth and, especially, the biggest trees and monumental cedars.
The letter to the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation called on the government to immediately extinguish all approved cutblocks in Hupacasath traditional territory and establish “best management practices for coastal legacy, monumental and old-growth trees.”
In July the province announced new protections for 54 old-growth trees listed in the B.C. Big Tree Registry, four of which are in the AlberniClayoquot region. But the plan drew criticism from those concerned with the scale of oldgrowth logging in some of the last intact zones on Vancouver Island.
In its announcement for the big tree protections, the province claimed 55 per cent of old-growth forests on Crown land in B.C.’s coastal region are protected from logging. Yet the majority of that protection exists in the Great Bear Rainforest, while on Vancouver Island 1,300 hectares of new old-growth cutblocks have been approved in 2019.
Longtime environmental advocate Vicky Husband, who worked to tighten up the Vancouver Island land-use plan before it was adopted in 2000, said she always feared the plan lacked teeth.
“We got some important changes, but not nearly enough was fully protected and now the ancient forests are in fragments over most of the island,” she said
“Nahmint is very, very contentious and what BCTS is doing, with the B.C. government’s backing, is promoting logging in some of the last areas left.”
Forests are being gutted and government can be misleading about how much ancient forest is left on Vancouver Island, Husband said.
“We have protected only 5.5 per cent of the original extent of ancient, big, old tree forests on Vancouver Island and just about one per cent of the dry Douglas fir forest. Imagine how we, a so called progressive society, have done so little to protect the amazing forest heritage that we inherited,” she said.
“I am appalled. The public must act now to save what is left and then work to restore these incredible forest ecosystems.”
Inness said it appears government agencies are either willfully ignoring or misinterpreting B.C.’s already inadequate forestry rules.
“We have such a desperate need in this province for forestry to be done differently and they can’t even follow their own laws,” she said.
Casavant said ecologically rich places such as the Nahmint Valley suffer irreparable harm when the province ignores its own rules.
“In today’s society, it’s completely unacceptable for government to be involved in what should be classified as unlawful activities,” he said.
“If you are in non-compliance you can’t just say: ‘Well, maybe there’s a problem, but we are just going to go ahead.’ If you are in non-compliance and your plan requires you to follow the legislation, it is just wrong to go ahead.”
Casavant argues there should be legislation to ensure an impartial law enforcement service can investigate B.C. Timber Sales’ activities and charge them when necessary.
“BCTS should be treated, instead of a branch of the ministry, as a standalone Crown corporation,” he said.
Having an investigative branch embedded within the ministry is “absolutely ludicrous,” he added.
“We can’t have everybody working in the same office right from the planning stage to the approval stage to the investigation when something goes wrong.”
During the summer, the province asked for public feedback on the Forest and Range Practices Act, with changes expected over the next two years, but many fear changes will come too late to save the sizable swaths of old growth needed, especially to protect biodiversity.
A report from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre says that, in highproductivity areas such as valley bottoms, less than 10 per cent of the original old growth remains.
“On Vancouver Island, only about a fifth of the original, productive old-growth rainforest remains unlogged. More than 30 per cent of what remained standing in 1993 has been destroyed in just the last 25 years,” it says.