Friday, December 30, 2005

COURT RULES FOR HUPACASATH FIRST NATIONS AGAINST BRASCAN AND BC GOVERNMENT

The Winter Solstice marks the point where the Northern Hemisphere of the planet Earth faces the Sun for the shortest time. From now until the Summer Solstice the days lengthen with the coming of the light. Many people are privileged enough to be able to celebrate this season by giving and receiving gifts. In the past year Gordon Campbell’s government has been giving gifts to giant logging and real-estate companies Weyerhaeuser and Brascan. Perhaps in return for millions of dollars in contributions to the BC Liberal’s elections campaigns.

However, a reality check has come just in time for the holidays. Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court released her decision in the Hupacasath First Nation lawsuit seeking to quash the decision of the Minister of Forests that approves the privatization of 70,300 hectares of private land in Tree Farm License 44 (TFL 44).

The Court rejected arguments by the Crown and Brascan that Aboriginal Title could not exist on fee simple or private land. Last Winter the BC Liberals announced plans to privatize crown forest land identified as TFL 44 which runs along both shores of the Port Alberni Inlet. This gift of public land to a private corporation is part of Gordon Campbell’s second term commitment to industry.

One week after the BC Supreme Court released its decision BRASCAN changed its name to Brookfield. Coincidence? Fact: November 3. 2005 BC Supreme Court released its decision, November 10, 2005 BRASCAN changed its name to Brookfield Asset Management Inc.

During the proceedings of the court case BRASCAN paid Weyerhaeuser $2.4 billion for its BC coastal logging operations. Weyerhaeuser ran away to the USA with the cash plus the plunder of 7 years of logging while cutting thousands of jobs in BC. In 1999 the US corporate giant Weyerhaeuser, the largest logging company on the planet, bought MacMillan Bloedel and fired thousands of workers. In October 2004 Weyerhaeuser posted third-quarter profit at US$594 million, third-quarter sales totaled US $5.85 billion.

May 30, 2005 Brascan bought Weyerhaeuser's BC coastal timber and gave the name ‘Island Timberlands’ to all logging operations on Vancouver Island. Brascan laid-off thousands of forestry workers around the province, shut down several operations, and increased logging to 7 days per week 24 hours a day. Island Timberlands has closed public access to the roads into the Northwest Bay logging division making it very hard to identify who is doing what. Adding to the confusion this multinational company hires subcontractors which enables them to avoid unions and certain liability considerations. Meanwhile 43 people died at work in the BC forestry industry in 2005. On Vancouver Island 3 men have died in the past 2 months while logging.

Brascan is a development company which had big plans to turn publicly owned crown land designated as forest land into private real-estate. On their corporate website Brookfield states under the heading ‘Higher and better use land sale strategy’:
– Approximately 13,000 hectares of lands are viewed to have greater value in non-timber use, located on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.
– It is expected that the constantly growing rural-urban interface will result in ongoing land sale opportunities.

Brascan Corporation is a global asset manager focused on property, power and infrastructure with $40 billion of assets inter-listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges. There is no mention at www.brookfield.com of the court case against the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni.

The courts have once again told the BC Government that they cannot ignore the rights of First Nations while selling, trading, or giving public land to private corporations. As in the case of the Haida, the BC government must negotiate in good faith with First Nations before selling the resources and land that is in question.

Specifically, the court ruled that, “The decision to remove the land from the TFL was a decision with important ramifications for the future of that land.” The court found that the Crown breached its duty to consult with the Hupacasath regarding the removal of the land from TFL 44, and regarding the consequences of the removal of that land on the remaining (Crown land) portion of TFL 44."

Friday, December 09, 2005

WORKERS AND TREES FELLED AS CORPORATIONS REAP PROFITS

I remember the silence of the winter’s night, the gentle sounds made by the trees swaying in the breeze, the distant thunder of Englishman River Falls, and the occasional hoot of an owl. Today those sounds are overwhelmed by industrial noise. I can hear the sharp whirr of the feller bunch cutter as the blade rips through the trunk of a tree followed by the crash of the tree as it is thrown to the ground. This is repeated every thirty to forty seconds, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The din of the Errington Cedar Mill’s debarker, chippers, loaders, and saws add a cacophony of noises that grates the very soul from 6 am until late into the night, sometimes 7 days a week. Many times I have heard the metallic crash of chip bins being loaded by beeping loaders at 1 am. Wheaton Industrial Saw joins in with the shrill grinding sound of metal that drones endlessly on in a robotic rhythm that is as repetitious as a sewing machine. All of this heavy industry is going on in a ‘Rural Residential’ zone as designated by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

I was drawn by the noise of industrial logging to cross the Englishman River in hip waders, where Morrison Creek flows into the river. The rushing water drowned out all other noise as I braced myself against the forces of nature and moved my feet slowly between the round stones on the riverbed.

I walked downstream along the bank to the place where the South Englishman river brings water from the Mt. Moriarty watershed to join the water flowing from the Mt. Arrowsmith watershed. At times the ‘riparian zone’ along the top of the River bank consisted of only a single tree. A road had been bulldozed along the top of the river’s bank and at times only 30 feet separated the mud of the logging road from the flowing water. Ditches had been dug into the river bank to drain the roadbed directly into the Englishman River. These ditches will encourage silt, mud, machine oils, and debris being flushed into the river with the heavy rains of Spring.

Along the banks of the South Englishman RIver fisheries signs are posted on several alder trees stating: “Fish Habitat” and “Salmon Enhancement Program.” On the north shore of the Englishman River a well established channel system enters the main river just downstream from the logging road and clear-cut. Millions of salmon fry are release into the wild each year while hundreds of thousands return as spawning adults. Englishman River is still the second most endangered River in BC.

A yarder was pulling logs out of the clear-cut as I walked along the river and in the next section I could hear the sounds of a feller buncher. Mechanical progress has made it so that a single worker can fell many acres of trees per day while another worker can yard the same to the road edge. A couple of truckers and the job is done. An entire forest in exchange for only a minimal number of jobs.

I noticed several old growth veteran trees, likely left behind by the first loggers in the 1950’s for a variety of reasons, they provided the area with seeds for an entire generation of trees. This was standard practice in those days and as a result massive Douglas Fir trees still grow sporadically around the entire region.

Then I heard a chainsaw at the base of a group of five veteran trees which towered to a height of over 250 feet. Each veteran was easily over 6 feet across at the butt. For more than five minutes the roar of the chainsaw continued as smoke billowed from the base of the tree. Then, slowly, the giant began to tilt over, gained speed and made a thunderous crash against the floor of the clear-cut. This process was repeated until only three trees stood in the entire clear-cut spread out over 80 acres. (Crown land) portion of TFL 44."

Friday, November 18, 2005

CATHEDRAL GROVE’S FATE STILL HANGING IN THE BALANCE -BC Liberal's Parking Lot or Public will?

I have been privileged to walk in one of the rarest and sensitive ecosystems on the planet, an ancient wetland forest growing on the active floodplain of a meandering river. This Douglas Fir/Sword Fern plant community is red-listed as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and is made even more rare because these giant trees grow in a wetland that is flooded by seasonal rains.

The fact is, Douglas Fir trees do not like their roots to be wet and require drainage in order to survive. Yet some of these trees have been able to survive for over 800 years despite frequent flooding of the entire area. Walking through the forest of Cathedral Grove along the Cameron River, I was impressed by Douglas Fir trees, 6-8 feet across at the butt, perched on mounds and ridges that kept them out of the numerous channels filled by flood waters.

I have given tours of this wetland forest to biologists, forest technicians, silvaculturelists, the BC Minister of WLAP, and BC Parks managers. All but the bureaucrats agreed that disturbing the ground water with gravel, roadways, and an extensive trail system may kill ancient trees that are growing so delicately throughout the wetland forest. When I asked about the kilometer-wide area between the proposed parking area and the present day viewing area the reply from BC Parks managers was that they haven’t done an impact study, environmental study, hydrological study, or vegetation study specific to that site. They did agree that the public tends to stray off designated trails, trampling new paths through the forest.

I have counted seven species of ferns growing amongst Salmon Berry, Cascara, Thimble Berry, and Nootka Rose. Thickets of Devil’s Club grow out of the rich black soil of the bottomlands surrounded by fragrant Stink Current and Red Elderberry. Lichens and mosses hang from the lower branches and trunks of every tree. The variety of tree species, age, thickness, and height creates a living forest that is truly diverse. Standing dead trees provide life to thousands of organisms from fungi and insects to birds.

Massive trees, leveled by the Qualicum Wind of New Year’s Day 1997, lie with their rootballs exposed and covered with a thick forest of seedling trees, Bog Cranberry, Huckleberry, and Trailing Blackberry. Beneath these fallen giants is a reservoir of moisture that endures the drought of summer and provides sanctuary for newts, salamanders, and frogs. A remnant herd of Roosevelt Elk, blue-listed as threatened on Vancouver Island by COSEWIC, winters in the wetland portion of Cathedral Grove. Red-Legged frogs, red-listed as endangered by COSEWIC, live in a pond directly adjacent to the proposed parking lot area. I have also encountered owls, hawks, bear, bats, trout, and many song birds in the wetland forest where BC parks plans to put a parking lot and trail system.

I attended an exclusive power point show where 10 of 11 proposals for parking lots were summarily rejected by the same 7 BC Parks managers making the presentation. This leaves only a version of the original parking lot proposal from 2001 that was rejected by strong public opposition causing years of public protests. I personally handed a petition, with over 10,000 signatures, opposing that very same parking lot location to former Minister Bill Barisoff, yet today it is the only proposal that BC Parks is truly considering.

At the Ministry of Environment’s Port Alberni open house loggers, truck drivers, local government, biologists, and citizens voiced one strong united view point. Don’t touch the park! Resolve issues of safety with an alternate route for the main highway. BC Parks manager Chris Kissinger made it clear that his staff would not be taking notes and that safety issues must be addressed to the Ministry of Transportation, who have ignored numerous requests to present their plans to the public over the past four years. In order to document options from many perspectives, Friends of Cathedral Grove will be holding a round table public meeting, mediated by MLA Scott Fraser. Everyone is welcome on Tuesday December 6 at 7 pm in the Qualicum Civic Centre.

Friday, October 28, 2005

WATER FILTRATION NEEDED - Private Company Ownes Public H20

Once upon a time only mariners knew the words ‘Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink.’ Today we must all heed this very real statement. When e-coli in the drinking water supply for Walkerton, Ontario, killed seven people and made thousands sick, Canadians began to realize just how much we all depend upon clean water. Legal proceedings made it clear to municipalities across Canada that they will be held accountable for any bacteria, virus, or toxins found in the drinking water they supplied to ordinary citizens.

Locally the drinking water supplied to homes is chlorinated but none of the water is filtered in any way. Chlorine kills some bacteria but not e-coli and several other bacteria that may develop when human and animal waste enters the water system. Today the City of Parksville provides water to residents by drawing from wells in the water table, primarily below the industrial zone of Highway 4 and Church Road. Drinking water is also drawn from Englishman River below the orange bridge. The Town of Qualicum Beach relies on wells at several locations including the wetland floodplain along the Little Qualicum River where the new ring road is being completed.

I have hiked most of the rivers and creeks in this area from their sources on Robotham Ridge, Mt. Arrowsmith and Mt. Moriarty downstream to their estuaries. I would encourage you to do the same. All of these waterways thread through different landscapes but have one thing in common; human intervention. Logging companies Brascan and TimberWest provide clearcuts, industrial roads, chemical fertilizer, and some herbicides which run off into the water systems. BC Hydro sprays herbicides along the powerlines which cross all of the watersystems in this area.

Downstream, an increasing number of residential septic fields seep into the water table. Agricultural farms raise livestock and spread manure onto the fields followed by chemical herbicides and pesticides. Surface water from paved roads, ditches, sidewalks, scrap yards, car dealerships, garages, and parking lots is flushed into the creeks and rivers as they flow through the more densely populated areas of towns and cities. Finally, just before the water flows into the Strait of Georgia, the water is pumped into the taps of thousands of residents.

French Creek is unique in this area since their drinking water is not managed by either a municipality or the Regional District of Nanaimo; instead their water is supplied by a private company. Breakwater Enterprises Ltd., a rural water utility located in the French Creek area, provides 1,500 single family homes with drinking water and has being servicing the area for more than forty years. The Edmonton based corporation of EPCOR has applied to the Comptroller of Water Rights to purchase Breakwater and all of its assets.

Lately local residents of French Creek have not been satisfied by the quality of their water, sighting dilapidated storage containers and other faults within the system. EPCOR spokesman David Rector said; “We will implement several capital improvements in the French Creek water system with the priority being a water treatment plant that provides filtration and UV disinfection.” He went on to say that EPCOR plans to stop the use of water from French Creek, reducing demand on the natural resource by some 33 million gallons annually. He is confident that future demands will be met in co-operation with the RDN water supply should the need arise.

EPCOR is holding a public meeting to inform the general public about the possible future of drinking water supplies in the French Creek area. 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Wednesday November 2 at Oceanside Middle School 980 Wright Road Parksville.

Update February 10, 2006 The Comptroller of Water Rights approved the deal and EPCOR took over the entire French Creek water system. Private ownership of water has been raising public concerns.

Friday, October 14, 2005

ISLAND’S TWO UNESCO BIOSPHERES DO LITTLE TO PROTECT ENVIRONMENT

Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial or marine ecosystems which are internationally recognized within UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program for promoting and demonstrating a balanced relationship between people and nature.” While this designation does not provide any legal or physical protection to the environment in these areas, it does draw attention to the region and, according to UNESCO, they have a role to play locally and globally.

I attended the opening ceremonies for both the Clayoquot and Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserves where I listened to municipal, provincial and federal government representatives pay lip service to ecological sensitivity and respect for the environment. Today very little has been done about turning these concepts into a reality.

For several years biologists, environmental groups, and local residents have been calling for a wilderness corridor that would connect the only two UNESCO Biosphere reserves in British Columbia with a very real protection zone for the environment. There is an incredible opportunity, in the mid-island region, for such a ‘park’ that would serve wildlife and tourism in a much more comprehensive way than is currently the case.

The Beaufort Range is being brutally logged today while Mt. Arrowsmith and all parts south have already been clear-cut and are now being logged for the second time. There is only a very fine ribbon of forest left that could be protected to allow the free movement of wildlife across the island. What is left of the old-growth forest in the Cameron Valley, provides access across the island for Roosevelt Elk, and other threatened species, who need to travel in order to continue breeding with a diverse gene pool.

This type of protection takes forward-thinking vision on all levels of government. At the unveiling of the Clayoquot Biosphere Reserve then Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien spoke about his role as Parks Minister in creating the Pacific Rim National Park. The vision to protect that wilderness area was brought forward by local individuals and was turned into a reality by elected representatives at the federal level who provided very real protection for several sensitive ecosystems. Today this park provides the economic drive for two vibrant communities which reap the rewards of a thriving tourism industry.

Tourism is about more than just a pit stop at the side of the road. A destination that draws people from around the world also has the opportunity to keep those people for a day or two with educational tours, scenic train rides, and a variety of other activities based around the attractions of a park. The expansion of Cathedral Grove is a good start but plans to put a parking lot and connecting trail systems in the wetland forest, which is the most sensitive area of this class “A” park show the short-sightedness of the BC Liberal government.

Logging giant Brascan, who bought out Weyerhaeuser, is currently heli-logging the banks of the Cameron River where steep canyon walls have protected the ancient trees for centuries. As this sensitive ecosystem is destroyed it will no doubt have a detrimental effect downstream where fish and drinking water are of concern. Keep a careful watch for activity at the yellow gates on the way to Port ALberni just outside Cathedral Grove Park because Brascan plans to log the only substantial old growth forest which has been left outside the park.

I hope that a recent announcement, by BC Minister of Environment Barry Penner, is true and that he will hold public consultation meetings around the issue of Cathedral Grove. Over the past few years I have seen the lack of public meetings and even blatant attempts to mis-inform the public about the reality of logging in a sensitive park system. The time is now to connect the east coast of Vancouver Island with the west coast with a protected wilderness corridor. Perhaps the time has come for the short term goals of the Provincial government to be replaced by a National Park. Please contact your local MLA, MP, and Barry Penner Minister of Environment Phone: 250 387-1187 E-mail: barry.penner.mla@leg.bc.ca

Friday, September 30, 2005

BC CELEBRATES CRISIS OF RIVERS

Watching the Salmon run up the river while children, parents, and grandparents look on with awe, is truly inspiring to me. The interest that the general public has for the wonders of nature is growing. Today our society, and the government that represents it, acknowledges the value of the river systems in this province by dedicating one day of the year as ‘BC River’s Day.’ This gesture is heartwarming and many people take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the rivers while learning from the many volunteers who work hard to provide informative presentations and valuable tours.

Federal and provincial governments are joined by large corporations in a public relations blitz that shows off all that is being done to ‘help’ the rivers of this province. The positive input is valuable and needs to grow, however the facts behind what is actually destroying rivers need to be addressed. Change is needed to correct the problems at their root rather than treating the symptoms after the destruction has occurred.

For example, a great deal of time, money, and effort has gone into a restoration project which is intended to help restore fish habitat in the Englishman River. This valuable effort is slowly helping to recreate pools that have been washed out over the years. While this remedy is a good step forward, it does not address the cause for the problems of erosion, siltation, and flood surges in the river that have led to the dismiss of salmon stocks.

Logging continues to degrade and destroy the watersheds that feed BC’s rivers. Clearcuts, now labeled ‘variable retention’ by corporations, remove the forest cover that slows down the flow of water. Trees pump millions of litres of water back into the atmosphere where new clouds are formed. The roots of these trees form a complex and interconnected web that holds soil into place. Roads are blasted in a crisscross pattern across mountain slopes, followed by heavy machinery dragging or yarding logs over soil devoid of trees causing massive erosion. This causes silt to be washed down with the rains into the water ways and eventually into the rivers.

Snow pack, built up under the shade of the forest, melts slowly over time and flows into the rivers in small increments. Exposed snow melting, and rain that is no longer diverted by the forest, result in surges of water that become flash floods downstream as the many riverlets converge and become larger creeks and rivers. Logging debris is flushed downstream by the immense power of water which leads to the erosion of river bank. At times log jams cause rivers to completely change their course.

Logging continues to destroy watersheds locally, around the province, across Canada, and around the world. Brascan has closed the gate to the public at North West Bay Road due to logging 7 days a week, so people no longer have access to the watershed that flows into most of Oceanside. Englishman River is listed as the #2 most endangered river in British Columbia, along with most of the rivers on the East coast of Vancouver Island. #1 is the Fraser River. The Little Qualicum is also suffering from logging in the wetlands upstream. Steelhead Salmon are an indicator species that shows just how degraded the rivers have become. The Englishman River used so show returns in the thousands, today far less than 100 fish survive. Salmon enhancement programs help revive the other species but do not solve the problems.

Development continues to encroach on local watersheds with hundreds of new homes being built along the banks of the Englishman River , and plans for many more along the Little Qualicum River. Beautiful places to live, but sewage always flows down hill and many people remove all of the trees to get a better view. Some agriculture also spreads large amounts of manure, chemical fertilizer, and herbicides onto land that was once wetland but has been drained and cleared. The Regional District of Nanaimo built a dam to control the flow of water. Is it working? Questions should be asked of mayors,councilors, RDN directors, provincial and federal government. How is the water being protected or is it just being repaired?

Friday, September 16, 2005

FORESTRY JARGON MADE SIMPLE

“Biogeoclimatic Zones” may be hard to pronounce but what are they? The BC Ministry of forests has created a classification system to provide a framework for making forest and resource management decisions, primarily logging. The word breaks down to vegetation (bio), soil and geography (geo), and climate (climatic). This system allows a variety of forest environments to be named based on their similarities allowing the government to create a map that divides the province into 14 different Biogeoclimatic Zones.

Most of Vancouver Island is identified as Coastal Western Hemlock. This may be somewhat misleading since these forest consists of a wide variety of trees including: Red & Yellow Cedar, Balsam Fir, Alder, Maple, and Sitka Spruce to name a few. One very small zone has been identified as Coastal Douglas-Fir which exists only along the south-east of Vancouver Island, the west coast of Texada Island, and parts of the lower mainland. This zone is significant because it is the region that has been most heavily and consistently logged, with some areas being cut for the third time.

Another interesting term is: “endangered plant communities” which no longer applies since last year’s Water, Land and Air Protection Minister Bill Barisoff amended the provincial endangered-species list to remove endangered plant communities.

The provincial Conservation Data Centre classifies all 21 distinct plant communities within the coastal Douglas fir ecosystem as vulnerable, imperiled, or critically imperiled. Many of us who have the luxury of living in this region are familiar with plant species such as: Oregon grape, Pacific crab apple, salal, ocean spray, trailing blackberry, starflower, sword fern, bracken fern, cat-tail moss, and step moss in the Coastal Douglas fir forests. However, these plants living in this type of ecological community are specific to this tiny place on the planet. Thanks to the BC Liberal government they are completely without protection as are the birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that rely on these unique ecological areas.

Less than 1% of the Coastal Douglas fir ecosystem contains what are considered to be old growth trees, over 150 years old. Only a small fraction of the Douglas fir forest remains on Crown land. Almost all of what's left is on private lands owned by logging companies, primarily by Brascan and Timberwest. Recommendations from a recovery strategy ecological report were ignored by Vancouver Island district forest managers last year resulting in the approval of logging in sensitive area around Nanaimo which were an integral part of a limited ecosystem.

This is why it is so important that protection is maintained in the tiny areas that have been protected locally such as; Cathedral Grove, Rathtrevor Park, Englishman River Falls, and Little Qualicum River. These remnant forests still contain old growth trees, unlike the other 99% of the Coastal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone.

This region suffers from extreme drought in the summer time and forest help to retain moisture. The fact that Douglas Fir were the most heavily targeted tree species accounts for the fact that there are almost no old growth trees left today.

Many people are calling for a ban on all old-growth logging on Crown lands within the Coastal Douglas fir zone. Given the limited amount of land left under public control in this limited ecosystem it would make sense to severely restrain logging on all privately held lands around the Strait of Georgia.

If you have concerns please contact your local MLA, Environment Minister Barry Penner, and Forests Minister Rich Coleman through 1-800-663-7867 or www.gov.bc.ca

Friday, September 02, 2005

ENVIRONMENTALISTS PROTECT FINITE WORLD ON BEHALF OF PUBLIC!

Flipping through my Webster’s New World Dictionary I found the definitions for a couple of commonly used words that are widely misunderstood.

“Environment - all the conditions, circumstances, and influences surrounding, and affecting the development of, an organism or group of organisms.”

“Environmentalist - a person working to solve environmental problems, such as air and water pollution, the exhaustion of natural resources, uncontrolled population growth, etc.”

Developers are constantly demanding more land, resources, and opportunities to make a profit for themselves at the expense of the environment that provides for all. When environmentalists attempt to protect an endangered ecosystem they are often put down by catch phrases such as: “they always want more” and “they can’t be satisfied.”

These statements are fitting for the developers. You don’t have to look far to see examples of encroachment and destruction of natural environments for private profit. Beach boardwalks for a high-rise resort, stone breakwater for Surfside RV resort, Englishman River Estuary Flats wildlife sanctuary for Tourism, a ring road in wetland forest to expand Qualicum Beach’s real-estate, pay-for-parking at publicly owned parks, forest and agricultural land turned into residential lots, Hamilton Marsh to be logged and the land sold by Brascan. The list goes on. All these lands are sensitive ecosystems some of which are owned by the public as crown land. These lands effect the surrounding environment and the people who have come to live nearby. The current economic thinking would have us believe that development is progress.

I take another perspective, which is shared by many others around the world, that the world is finite and the more of the natural world that is destroyed by development the less that exists to maintain the world’s environments. Therefore it is in the best interest of humanity to protect the resources that this planet provides rather than to destroy them for the benefit of a few dollars. Cashing in on short term gains may look good on the stock exchange but will completely bankrupt the planet in the not so distant future. Our economic models must be changed to reflect the fact that the planet is running out of resources and therefore the things that make the things that we sell will be gone. No widgets equals no future.

According to a recent study conducted by the United Nations 2/3 of the worlds natural resources (metals, minerals, oil, fish, trees, animals, plants, air, and water) have already been consumed or destroyed by humanity yet we continue to act as if the planet has a limitless supply of these resources.

A wee little park here, a wind blown wilderness corridor there, a dam to hold back some drinking water, and slaughtering a species further down the food chain does not effectively address the concerns of many environmentalists. The big picture needs to be observed in order to realize the equation that makes the world go around. Air, water, and soil qualities are essential to the humanity and all other species living on the planet Earth. These ‘resources’ are interconnected and related to the forests, oceans, mountains and must be maintained in order for us to survive. Weather patterns, quality of life, food sources, and all the necessities of life are directly affected by the destruction of the natural world.

Galileo was executed for proving the Copernican theory that the earth was round not flat as the rulers of the time believed. Yes, the Earth is finite. Yes, the planetary environment supports us all. Yes, we can change our ways, individually in our own ways.

Friday, August 19, 2005

FIRE BAN STILL ON

Swimming up Englishman river from pool to pool, then hopping along the smooth stones and diving into the next pool, is one of my favorite summer activities. Refreshing, scenic, and rejuvenating. I noticed that this year the algae clinging to the rocks below the water is not nearly as thick and robust as last year. Most likely this decline in this slimy growth is due to the cold spring and early summer with all that rain. Branscan and Timberwest are still dumping tons of chemical fertilizers into the watershed.

While swimming up the river I came upon several campfire pits along the shore. Judging by the coals inside a ring of stones a fire had been burning there the night before underneath overhanging branches which were extremely dry. Next I found freshly cut kindling and newspapers beside another makeshift pit in the sand, again beneath tinder dry branches. The wood stacked there was all cedar, which anyone who has spent time beside a campfire knows creates sparks. Finally I found a large ring of rocks piled high with beer cans, cardboard, potato chip bags, and liquor bottles. At the head of the trail down to this swimming hole is a notice put up by the BC Forest Service stating that there is a campfire ban.

This fire ban was put in place on August 5th and is enforceable by a fine of $345. Campfires are banned anywhere south of Campbell RIver on Vancouver Island, this includes all towns, cities, rural communities, and wilderness areas. This fire ban also includes all islands in the Strait of Georgia south of Hernando Island. If you see flames or smoke do not hesitate to phone 1-800-663-5555 or using your cell *5555

All local municipalities and regional districts are in compliance with the Forest Service Ban on Campfires which only allows for gas and briquet barbecues to be fired up until further notice. BC Parks has a policy that allows the warden of any provincial park to decide about fires. This means that private contractors, who sell firewood to campers, can choose to ignore the Ban on Fires within the park boundaries. This is a change made by the BC Liberals that seems to contradict public safety standards aimed at protecting the public from fires.

Many people feel that they can control a fire and based on the fact that they have never had problems in the past, they continue to build fires. The trouble is that the risk is far too great. A little bit of a breeze, sparks from cedar or damp wood, smoldering roots beneath a fire, cigarette butts thrown out of cars, fireworks, and burning paper drifting in the wind. The fact remains that the majority of forest fires are caused by humans.

As a teen-ager I worked around Kennedy Lake when a chain dragging behind a logging truck caused enough sparks to ignite the grass along the road. The result was a forest fire that destroyed hundreds of acres of pristine forest and which took the Mars water bombers and many fire crews several days to subdue.

I have seen many instances where peer pressure plays a part in starting the fire that will become the focal point for a gathering of people, young or old. Someone has to remind the group what the real risks are and ask if anyone is really willing to be responsible for a forest fire that many destroy many homes and has the potential to kill people. You can find out how many fires are burning right now around the province at www.for.gov.bc.ca/protect

We live in a forest that is plagued by seasonal drought. The simple reality is that now until the heavy rains of Fall come, fires are banned. Campfires, fires for ceremonial purposes, fires for heat, fires for cooking, and beach fires are all banned. Please tell your friends.

Friday, August 05, 2005

PARROTS FIND REFUGE IN COOMBS

One of my earliest childhood memories involves sitting in a neighbour’s yard watching multicoloured birds fly inside a large outdoor enclosure. I was fascinated by the colored feathers, shrill calls, flapping wings, and wide open eyes of these beautiful birds as they moved along the various perches. Today I prefer to watch birds in nature.

However, many birds live their lives in captivity and most people do not have the patience, time, or space to allow for a bird to live the natural span of its life. This is particularly true of parrots who are found naturally in the wilds of Africa, South America, and South East Asia where the larger birds can live to the age of 70 years.

Pet parrots tend to be hatched by humans, who they take to be their parents, and never learn the life skills of a wild parrot. Humans are attracted to parrots because of their talking, beauty, social graces, and loving gestures. Most people do not realize how time-consuming parrots can be and these ‘pets’ end up living solitary lives inside small cages. Parrots are intelligent beings who need to be fully engaged, through-out their lives, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Birds fly! The natural instinct of parrots is to live in flocks which provide them with a certain amount of protection from predators. Many local eagles, hawks, and humans will remember the ill-fated ‘Bird World’ across from the Mid-Island Co-op where exotic birds were displayed for profit until vandals released them all. Those parrots escaped to a certain death in the harsh environment.

I was glad to find that the World Parrot Refuge takes a completely different approach to the plight of parrots. A charity organization, ‘For the Love OF Parrots Refuge Society’, operates this educational facility providing a home for life for previously owned pet parrots.

My first visit to the veterinary hospital in the World Parrot Refuge was both exhilarating and overwhelming. Volunteers introduced me to some of the birds that are healing after horrendous experiences with past owners who subjected them to all sorts of indecencies.

As soon as I entered the hospital the birds began to talk to me and vied for my attention. Despite their injuries these birds climbed across the handmade wooden canopy to greet me. One hopped onto my arm and climbed up onto my shoulder where it tickled my chin with the top of its head. Another hopped onto my foot and began to use its beak and claws to climb up my pant leg. A volunteer pointed out a few of the birds which might not be so friendly. I watched a Green Macaw rip off chucks of wood from a 2x6 table with its beak then I saw a Gray tear open a hard shelled almond nut in one motion. When treated badly these birds can certainly defend themselves.

Next I took a tour of the flight aviaries where staff and volunteers have created wooden canopies for flocks that include many species living together in free-flight environments where their wings are not clipped. Every time an eagle flies by outside the birds on watch by the window let out a shriek of alarm and the entire flock flies for safety. An abundance of toys, food, and companion birds allows these birds to make the most of life in captivity. International laws, lack of natural environment due to human development, and the extinction of many species of parrot in the wild prevent these birds from being returned to the wild.

Today over 400 birds live at the World Parrot Refuge which is open to the public for educational purposes and is located in Coombs at 2116 Alberni Highway. The grand opening takes place on August 13 at 1 pm. For information phone: 951-0822 or check www.WorldParrotRefuge.org

Friday, July 22, 2005

BC GOVERNMENT KILLS EAGLES FOR MARMOTS

Local mountains are home to the last of one of the world’s rarest mammals, Marmota vancouverensis, commonly known as the Vancouver Island Marmot. Today less than 80 live in the wild.

These cute fuzzy rodents are indigenous to Vancouver Island and live in sub-alpine meadows above 1000 meters where their preferred food is the flowers of low growing plants. They dig burrows under boulders which protect them from the elements and predators. They only venture out from their burrows at dawn and dusk to feed and play. In winter they hibernate deep below the snow.

Vancouver Island's largest marmot colony during the past 20 years, on Green Mountain near Courtney, went extinct in 2001. A foundation was set up to try and re-populate the region, spending $900,000 annually in this endeavor. 80 marmots have been bred in captivity near Calgary, however raising wild animals in enclosures does not prepare them for survival in the wild.

After being released from cages by BC Parks officials the young marmots are free at last to scurry through the natural vegetation, revel in the abundance of fresh flowers, and look out over the alpine meadow from rocky outcroppings. Then a predator lands on them and they become a part of the natural food chain. This has happened repeatedly.

In 2002-2003 the Ministry of WLAP acted on the BC Liberal’s 30% predator cull strategy to protect the Vancouver Island Marmot. Several deer carcasses were set as bait in the alpine meadows of Green Mountain. Men with high powered guns lay in wait, then shot and killed a total of six Golden Eagles.

Named for its beautiful dark golden brown plumage the Golden Eagle is larger than the Bald Eagle with a wingspan anywhere from 6 to 8 feet. Golden Eagles are protected in the United States through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Possession of a feather or other body part is a felony with a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 10 years in prison.

It is illegal to shoot an Eagle in BC yet the Liberal government contracted men to kill 6 of these birds. BC Parks also trapped and killed 11 wolves and 5 cougar, in the vicinity of Green Mountain. The number of bear shot to protect this colony remains unknown. Island predator count estimates are based on the reports of hunter sightings. Is that sound and solid scientific evidence? Although the Marmot Recovery Team openly supports the culling of predators, they deny any responsibility or participation in the culling process because that was a matter for the government to administrate.

Most government and corporate reports would have the public believe that logging corporations are the saviors of these little critters and government is protecting them by shooting the ‘big bad’ predators. How many predators will be shot before they too are considered endangered? Through the power of ‘spin doctors’ the marmots have become a symbol of the logging industry’s compassion for the environment while the species comes ever closer to extinction.

The reality is that logging has devastated the forests of Vancouver Island. A maze of logging roads, clear-cuts, and eroded slopes has destroyed the natural corridors that connect various mountains. Marmots live in very small colonies of 10 to 20 animals. To avoid interbreeding the young males travel between colonies which are often mountains apart.

These small travelers rely upon the natural forested range to provide hiding places as well as the occasional open area where wild flowers can be eaten during the long journey. Logging has ripped open these natural corridors between mountains making it easier for predators to kill marmots. Helicopter logging makes it increasingly more dangerous for marmots as sub-alpine forests are cut down.

A recent photo opportunity highlighting the release of marmots shows that BC’s newly appointed Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, is very much aware of the ‘spin’ value of marmots. If you have questions please contact: barry.penner.mla@leg.bc.ca

Friday, July 08, 2005

DIRECT ASSERTION BY HUU-AY-AHT FIRST NATION FOLLOWING BC SUPREME COURT RULING IN THEIR FAVOUR

The mist gently rolled down the mountain side as the drizzle became a steady rain. Standing against the guide beam of a bridge over the Coleman Creek I witnessed the chiefs and elders of the Huu-Ay-Aht First Nation reaffirming the boundary of their territory which has been marked by this creek for thousands of years. They were met by chiefs and elders of other Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations, who were welcomed and invited to join in a celebration.

On the road to Bamfield, at the Franklin junction to Carmanah and Sarita, massive ‘off-road’ logging trucks, fully loaded with old growth trees, came to a halt and shut down their engines during a portion of the ceremony. The territory is public land, managed by the BC Ministry of Forests, licensed to Brascan, logged by Hayes.

During the past twelve years Huu-Ay-Aht First Nation have been negotiating in good faith with the Province of BC while logging continued and over six million cubic meters of old growth timber were removed from their ancestral territory, where these people have lived for 10,000 years.

In 1991 the BC government began a process to settle treaties with First Nations. In most parts of Canada treaties had been signed prior to confederation but in BC no such documents or agreements exist. First Nations in BC have never surrendered their lands to the colonialist power of England or the Nation of Canada. In April 2000 Federal and Provincial governments signed the first BC treaty with the Nitsga people. At that time there was hope that many more treaties would soon follow. Then the BC Liberals came to power. No more treaties have been signed to date.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia heard Huu-Ay-Aht First Nation verses The Minister of Forests. On May 10, 2005 The Honourable Madam Justice Dillon ruled; “In this case. The government did not misconceive the seriousness of the claim or the impact of the infringement. It failed to consider them at all. The government acted incorrectly and must begin anew a proper consultation process based upon consideration of appropriate criteria. “

Madam Justice Dillon went on to state; “The level of potential infringement of rights to timber resources is severe given the harvest rate contemplated by third parties over the next five years.”

In her analysis Madam Justice Dillon refers to several recent rulings: Haida Nation v. BC(Minister of Forests) (2004), Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. BC(Project Assessment Director) (2004), Squamish Indian Band v. BC (Minister of Sustainable Resource Management) (2004), Gitxsan Houses v. BC(Minister of Forests) (2002)

There appears to be a pattern emerging with these court cases, which have all ruled in favour of First Nations, whereby the Judge orders the government in the province of BC to follow the rules of law. Negotiations continued, no changes were forthcoming, resources continued to be extracted, and big business continued to make lots of money. No treaties have been signed. Isn’t the government supposed to abide by the law?

“The process itself is to be judged on the reasonableness standard with the essential question being whether the government action viewed as a whole accommodates the collective aboriginal right in question.  The government’s process must be reasonable.”  Hall J.A. admonished in Musqueam Indian Band v. British Columbia (Minister of Sustainable Resources Management), 2005

Robert Dennis, Chief Councilor of the Huu-ay-aht, said; “We believe our non-native friends have a responsibility of phoning the government and saying: settle that issue....get on with fulfilling your legal responsibility...”

You can find daily updates and more information at: www.huuayaht.ca

Friday, June 24, 2005

BRASCAN (Renamed BROOKFIELD) REPLACES WEYERHAEUSER IN BC FORESTS

As a young boy I spent many hours paddling my father around in a canoe while he fly fished the lakes in Northwest Bay logging division. Sometimes we camped overnight or brought friends and relatives for picnics, swimming, or skating. This father’s day week-end the roads to Boomerang, Okay, Round, Cottel, Off, and Kidney Lake were closed to the public due to industrial logging on this privately owned land.

One of the largest business deals in BC has gone almost unannounced. Driving down the highway just south of Parksville you may notice that the green Weyerhaeuser sign has been replaced by a blue sign that states “Island Timberlands” Only those in the know would notice that the odd symbol on the left is the corporate logo for Brascan who announced:

“Toronto, CANADA, May 30, 2005 – Brascan Corporation (NYSE/TSX: BNN) today announced that it has completed the acquisition of Weyerhaeuser's British Columbia coastal business for approximately C$1.2 billion plus working capital, a transaction which included: 635,000 acres of high quality, freehold timberlands; and five saw mills, two remanufacturing facilities and 3.6 million m3 of associated annual Crown harvest rights. “

Locally, Brascan has just bought land that is under serious contention in Cathedral Grove, Hamilton Marsh, on the Floodplain of the Little Qualicum River, on the slopes of Mt Arrowsmith including the Judge’s Route. Local communities and the public have expressed serious concerns about protecting these sensitive ecosystems.

Will Brascan protect these relatively small areas of privately owned land or will this corporation log these highly sensitive forests for the sake of profits? It is posted at www.brascancorp.com “At Brascan, we pride ourselves on contributing positively to the communities in which we operate. From an environmental perspective, that means we are continually striving to minimize our impact on the environment...”

Will Brascan continue to use helicopters to dump thousands of tons of chemical fertilizer into the Englishman RIver Watershed in the same way that Weyerhaeuser and TimberWest did last year? If you would like to get in touch with Brascan to find out their plans regarding local wilderness managed by Island Timberlands, please contact Reid Carter, Managing Partner at (604) 661-9142 or e-mail: rcarter@brascanam.com

Worthy of note is that, while the corporate change means upper management has been replaced, the middle management positions are still filled by most of the same people who worked for M&B, Weyerhaeuser, and now Brascan. Logs are still being exported while more local workers have been laid off in the past month.

“Brascan Corporation is a global asset manager focused on property, power and infrastructure assets. With $40 billion of assets owned and under management, the company owns 70 premier office properties and 130 power generating plants. The company is inter-listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges.“

The corporate message is often hard to understand such as; “With a focus on strategic investments in fee simple timberlands in Canada, the United States and Brazil, our Fund investments may also include monetization or securitization of crown timberlands in Canada.” My simple translation is: We will cut down trees on private land as well as on publicly owned land to make lots of money.

Brascan goes on to state: “Approximately 13,000 hectares of lands are viewed to have greater value in non-timber use, located on Vancouver Island and the Mainland. It is expected that the constantly growing rural-urban interface will result in ongoing land sale opportunities.”

Weyerhaeuser sold off a lot of ‘timberland’ as real estate, logged many millions of cubic meters of old growth forest on public land, dumped tons of chemicals into the watersheds of this province, and donated millions of dollars to the BC Liberals. Weyerhaeuser also helped to establish new presidents in the Supreme Court of Canada with regards to First Nations’ land claims and helped to galvanize the environmental community. It remains to be seen how Brascan will act in BC.

Friday, June 10, 2005

COMMUNITY HISTORY INSTILLED IN ERRINGTON OAK

A single English Oak tree stands in front of the ‘old’ Errington Elementary School on Grafton Avenue. Other trees and scrubs grow without the presence of the children they were meant to keep company. I attended all the grades at that school and remember gathering leaves from those trees for art collages. I played around those trees and climbed them after school was out. I even remember the planting of several of those trees because they are significant to many in the community as a reminder of those who have passed on. Thousands of children have similar memories of those trees.

Now that the Navy Cadets of Canada have bought the ‘old’ school property, there is some hope that the trees planted by the community will be allowed to grow and prospers. After all one of these trees is of great historical significance to Canada as well as the community of Errington.

The English Oak tree is of particular historical significance since it was given to the Province of British Columbia by the King of England George VI, upon his coronation in 1936 along with one tree for each of the other 10 provinces in Canada. That Oak tree was planted in Errington by a 12 year old Earl Ware in the spring of 1937.

The very nature of trees is that they can outlive the people that planted them. In fact there are trees growing on Vancouver Island that pre-date even our own calendar. Trees have been used for centuries to mark special occasions, people, and historic events. However, trees remain silent and over time the memories they were meant to preserve fade into the past.

People living in Errington when the school was first built may have thought that the publicly owned land would remain a center piece of the community. A plaque should be established by the tree to remind people why it was planted.

Henry VIII cut down the Oak forests of England to build the man-of-war fleet that expanded the British Empire to all corners of the globe. Today a single oak tree, seeded from the remains of that decimated forest, stands tall before what will become headquarters for navel cadets in this community.

Today the Errington Cedar Mill dominates the center of the community of Errington. The surrounding drinking wells have been poisoned and water runs black in the ditches. The noise of the saws, chippers, debarker, loaders, and trucks can be heard everywhere in Errington from 6 am until late into the night and often on week-ends. Many of the Yellow Cedar logs being cut in Errington today are coming from the Upper Walbran Valley, Crown Land designated as a Special Management Zone.

This spring I hiked through the Alpine forest just outside the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park and looked at those same Yellow Cedar trees. The specific type of ancient rainforest that they live in is a red-listed plant community on Vancouver Island. Extremely steep slopes rise up to a long alpine ridge complete with small lakes and ponds. Some of those trees were over 1000 years old and seeded before the first crusade. Standing beside the stump and log of an ancient yellow cedar tree with growth rings so tight that they can only be distinguished by polishing the wood and using a magnifying glass to count them, we estimate that a 3 foot wide stump is all that remains of an 800 year old Chamaecyparis nootkatensis.

I have been hiking and filming in the ancient rainforests of Vancouver Island for many years and invite you to join me at the Errington Community Hall for a ‘back by popular demand’ screening of my half hour film “THE ART OF RAINFORESTS” Friday June 17 and Saturday June 18 at 8 pm.

Friday, May 27, 2005

DEMOCRACY CAN HELP ENVIRONMENT?

The new political landscape in BC may provide an opportunity for change in the way we treat the natural environment in this province.

In 2001 Gordon Campbell lifted the moratorium on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears then changed the Ministry of Environment into the Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection.

WLAP introduced pay-for-parking at most Provincial Parks around British Columbia. The result has been a dramatic 25% decline in the number of people visiting our parks. Locally that includes parks at Rathtrevor, Englishman River Falls, and Little Qualicum Falls. Revenue goals resurrected plans to bulldoze the floodplain of the Cameron River to install a 2 hectare parking lot. Intense public opposition and a BC Supreme Court ruling denied the Liberals from removing a protest that has been continuous for 15 months in Cathedral Grove.

In 2004 the Campbell government took full credit for opening or expanding a series of parks created by the former NDP government. BC Liberals plan to put privately financed lodges, complete with long-term leases, into provincial parks. Over 20 million people visit BC parks on an annual basis, contributing half a billion dollars to the provincial economy. Over the past four years the budget to BC parks was cut by 30%.

Provincial parks and protected areas have been opened to commercial logging, protected area boundaries have been rolled back to accommodate mining, and park privatization has increased. The BC Liberals have drafted legislation, the so-called "Working Forest Initiative", which would give logging corporations private property like rights over most of BC's public lands. This proposed legislation would ensure that no more land would be taken out of industry’s hands and given back to the public in the way of parks.

Land and Water BC has doubled the sale of publicly owned land to private developers. This is currently effecting crown land in Qualicum Bay and Bowser where two large golf courses are on hold, as well as public land being sold in Dashwood’s "Lost Trails Wetlands." LWBC has refused to renew the leases held by the Regional District of Nanaimo on regional parks at Little Mountain and Morrison Creek which may soon been up for sale.

Bill 75, Significant Projects Streamlining Act, was introduced and given Royal Assent within one month but did not incorporate the amendments recommended by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Executive on behalf of local governments. This act can be used to override Official Community Plans and land use regulations that reflect local goals for environmental and community sustainability.

Jobs are being sent south of the border as Raw Log Exports have more than doubled, resulting in the shut down of mills and dry-land sorts. The Forest Practices Code was replaced by the Results Based code which leaves the onus upon industrial corporations to self monitor their environmental impact on public forest land.

As a direct result of the actions of the BC Liberals seismic testing will soon be starting off the coast of BC despite a federal moratorium and public opposition. Scientific studies on the East Coast of Canada prove that the traditional migratory paths of marine mammals and some species of fish were disrupted by seismic testing conducted by oil companies which can harm marine larvae and reduce commercial fish catches up to 50%. Whales bleeding from their ears, fish dying from ruptured swim bladders, and other marine life unable to navigate due to exploded sound sensors may effect tourism in BC.

The BC Liberal have increased fish farming dramatically despite scientific studies that prove lice and disease spread into wild populations of salmon and millions of Atlantic species escape into the wild. They imposed a cull (Spring hunt) on cougars and black bears. Campbell opposed the ratification of the Kyoto Accord while promoting the use of coal and gas fired generations plants.

Now is the time for change. Politicians need to be reminded that both parties campaigned hard with the claim that they would protect the environment. You, the citizens of this province, can take this moment of opportunity to let your local MLA know just how important the environment is to you.

Friday, May 13, 2005

DON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN! Let politicians know you don't believe their lies about the Environment

Independant polls indicate that BC voters wants to protect the environment and save our province from ruin. Government pre-election advertising, paid for by the tax payers of this province, painted a very pretty picture of the environment. The BC Liberal re-election campaign collected $8.2 million in donations, primarily from large corporations like TimberWest, Interfor, Weyerhaeuser, BC Packers, and Alcan. This financial link may explain why the BC Liberals have pushed open the doors of our province to corporations at great expense to the environment and therefore the public of this province.

Land and Water BC has doubled the sale of publicly owned land to private developers. This is currently effecting crown land in Qualicum Bay and Bowser where two large golf courses are on hold as well as public land being sold in Dashwood’s "Lost Trails Wetlands." LWBC has refused to renew the leases held by the Regional District of Nanaimo on regional parks at Little Mountain & Morrison Creek which may soon been up for sale.

Bill 75, Significant Projects Streamlining Act, was introduced and given Royal Assent within one month but did not incorporate the amendments recommended by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Executive on behalf of local governments. This act can be used to override Official Community Plans and land use regulations that reflect local goals for environmental and community sustainability. In this way the BC Liberals plan to push through massive projects, like new golf course communities and fossil fuel burning generators, with no regard for the many years of hard work by locally elected representatives and community members to create an OCP which suites each specific area within the province of BC.

Jobs are being sent south of the border as Raw Log Exports have more than doubled, resulting in the shut down of mills and dry-land sorts. The Forest Practices Code was replaced by the Results Based code which leaves the onus upon industrial corporations to self monitor their environmental impact on public forest land.

Provincial parks and protected areas have been opened to commercial logging, protected area boundaries have been rolled back to accommodate mining, and park privatization has increased. The BC Liberals have drafted legislation, the so-called "Working Forest Initiative", which would give logging corporations private property like rights over most of BC's public lands. This proposed legislation would ensure that no more land would be taken out of industry’s hands and given back to the public in the way of parks.

The Campbell government took full credit for opening or expanding a series of parks which had actually been established by legislation created by the former NDP government. BC Liberals plan to put privately financed lodges, complete with long-term leases, into provincial parks. Over 20 million people visit BC parks on an annual basis, contributing half a billion dollars to the provincial economy. Over the past four years the budget to BC parks was cut by 30%.

The Ministry of Water, Land, Air, Protection (formerly known as the Ministry of Environment) introduced pay-for-parking at most Provincial Parks around British Columbia. The result has been a dramatic 25% decline in the number of people visiting our parks. Locally that includes parks at Rathtrevor, Englishman River Falls, Little Qualicum Falls, and, immediately after the elections, at Cathedral Grove, if the BC Liberals form a majority government.

As a direct result of the actions of the BC Liberals seismic testing will soon be starting off the coast of BC despite a federal moratorium and public opposition. A proliferation of Atlantic Salmon farms has brought disease and sea lice to the local wild salmon, a fishery which is serious danger of collapse.

Campbell has lifted the moratorium on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears, imposed a cull (Spring hunt) on cougars and black bears, and opposed the ratification of the Kyoto Accord while promoting the use of coal and gas fired generations plants.

If you would like to experience a natural old growth forest in its pristine state please join me for the premier screening of my film “The Art of Rainforest.“ 8 pm Friday May 20 and Sunday May 22 at the ‘Little’ Errington Hall.

Friday, April 29, 2005

STV REFERENDUM PROVIDES HOPE FOR THE FUTURE - Proportional Representation Needed!

Many people in the world today are concerned about the future of the environment that provides a life support system for humanity and all living organisms on the planet Earth. I am one of those people and I find it extremely frustrating to deal with politicians who are out of touch with their constituents. I can not reconcile governance in British Columbia today with true democracy. I want a system that recognize the fact that so many people are aware of the plight of the ecosystems that surround us, have realistic solutions, and are willing to work toward sustainability.

For many decades British Columbia’s politicians have been elected by very slim margins of the popular vote, yet they are represented in the provincial legislature by a massive majority. In the last election 42% of BC voters cast their ballots for candidates opposing the BC Liberal party. However, the last four years has seen 97% of the seats in the legislature controlled by BC Liberals under the firm hand of Premier Gordon Campbell. The current BC electoral system has allowed the ruling parties to govern with absolute power.

This brings to mind the phrase “Absolute power corrupts absolutely!” You may have noticed that after an election in BC the ruling party seems to work on its own agenda with little regard for public opinion. The Premier takes on the dictatorial role that most people associate with military authorities in far-off parts of the world. They become untouchable for four years.

Thankfully the coming election comes with a second ballot sheet in the form of a referendum to decide if BC should embrace electoral reforms. For 11 months, 160 ordinary British Columbians worked hard on the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. They came to a near-unanimous agreement to put forward to BC voters a proven system known as the Single Transferable Vote or STV.

This form of proportional representation shifts some power from party bosses to the voter and individual MLAs. STV works in Ireland where voters have twice endorsed this system through referendums called by politicians who were disgruntled by the power that they had lost. Political bosses hate STV because it shifts control to the voters and holds elected representatives accountable to their electorate, not their party bosses.

In Australia STV is used to elect their senate and New Zealand also uses a form of proportional voting to elect their government. Many European countries use electoral systems that allow for representatives from a wide range of political view points to form governments. This allows for real and meaningful debates that provide the voters with a voice that must be respected in government decisions.

This type of governance increases civility and moderation in politics. Coalition governments have proven to be financial prudent and exceptionally productive. Lester B. Pearson was Prime Minister of Canada with a minority government that produced Medicare and old age security which revolutionized public benefits.

The pendulum may swing in BC politics, but there has never been room for alternatives that truly represent the people. By voting Yes in the coming referendum you will help to shift the balance of power so that you might have a say in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2005

FIRST NATIONS STAND UP TO BC GOVERNMENT

This Cedar is a Culturally Modified Tree that lives on hundreds of years after it was bark stripped for weaving and later burnt for a canoe that was never felled.
The remarkably beautiful beaches of Oceanside have been home to people for thousands of years. Based on archeological evidence an estimated 10,000 First Nation’s people lived in the area now named Oceanside, along the east coast of Vancouver Island from Craig Bay to the Little Qualicum River, prior to contact with Russian, Spanish, and English fur traders. Many thousands more people lived to the north and south on the shores of the Strait of Georgia. By 1849, when the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island was created, most of these people had died from the ravages of European diseases.

Midden and other and other remains indicate that this coast was once alive with a civilization that respected the natural environment that surrounded them. They honoured the fact that the existence of human beings depends upon the well being of the natural world that provides all of the abundance that sustains humanity. Communities moved to different locations in conjunction with the seasons and lived in accordance with the laws of nature. What is truly amazing is how few remains of that civilization are left today, a testament to the low impact first nations had upon the planet.

Today that same coastline is broken by concrete and stone breakwaters while high-rise condominium developments, board walks, and boat basins are planned for the near future. How long will it be before a casino is built on the waterfront?

In May 2000 the Nisga'a became the first group of aboriginal people in British Columbia to sign a treaty with the provincial and federal governments. All other First Nations in BC have yet to negotiate and sign a treaty since they were never conquered, nor have they ever ceded their land to the British, the province or the federal government. "Just because they've come here and done a lot of damage, it doesn't mean they own it," said Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation. "We don't have any place to go, this is our planet here."

On November 18, 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 7-0 that the Government of British Columbia has a moral and legal duty to negotiate with aboriginal groups before permitting logging, mining or other disruptive activities to take place on disputed land. Haida Nation had won their challenge against the American logging giant Weyerhaeuser and responsibility was put squarely on the shoulder of the BC Government to negotiate meaningfully with Haida prior to allowing logging. The BC government ignored this federal court ruling and continued to allow Weyerhaeuser to log at an accelerated rate on Haida Gwaii(Queen Charlotte Islands.)

Haida claim that Weyerhaeuser has violated five of the six provisions they agreed to in a 2002 accord signed by the company, the Haida, and forestry workers. "Weyerhaeuser was going in and grabbing whatever they could on their way out the door," said Guujaaw, president of the Council of the Haida Nation. "We had a contract with them and they broke it."

On March 20, 2005 Haida said; ”Enough is enough” and blockaded all logging roads and log sorts on Haida Gwaii. Forestry workers showed their solidarity with first nations by refusing to cross these blockades. A week later Haida Nation seized several massive barges full of logs worth approximately $50 million from Weyerhaeuser and are now holding them. "We hope we can use this money to get hospitals here ... all our schools are in debt because they've been funded like everywhere else in the province," said Guujaaw, "We will support language and youth programs and help out recreational programs. After all the years and billions of dollars there's been nothing left by that company.”

This action, named Islands Spirit Rising, hopes to make the changes that are critical to a future that respects the land and the people who live on it. Learn more at: www.haidanation.ca/islands/islands.html

In Port Alberni Hupacasath First Nation Chief Judith Sayers said; “The recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Haida case was very clear that consultation must occur where lands could be denuded or damaged.”

Locally and around the province First Nations continue to be ignored by the BC Liberal government, crown land is being sold without their consultation, resources are being extracted before treaties are signed, and rights are being disregarded.

Friday, April 01, 2005

THE FINITE FOODCHAIN THAT FEEDS US

Walking along the coast of the Strait of Georgia I saw a fine film of tiny herring roe mixed in with the seaweed washed up on the shore. This does not compare to the huge mounds of roe that I have witnessed in past years. They remind me of the delicate nature of the marine ecology and the intricate system that develops microscopic organisms into mammals of all shapes and sizes.

Atlantic Salmon, reared in fish farms by the millions along the west coast of British Columbia, lack the pink colour characteristic of fresh wild salmon. A Seattle law firm has filed a class action suit against the largest supermarket chains charging them with misleading consumers because their salmon labels do not indicate why the flesh is pink.

Salmon flesh is pink because they ingest carotenoids in their food. Carotenoids are antioxidants which are as necessary for fish health as vitamins are for human beings. Wild salmon obtain these antioxidants by eating tiny crustaceans, zoo-plankton, and krill.

Salmon farms add colour to the feed by using manufactured chemical synthesis, the same chemical process that produces the billions of vitamins humans consume every day. They are identical to the molecules produced by biological synthesis in nature, but they are created artificially.

Public backlash against farmed Atlantic Salmon has forced fish farmers to start changing their ways. To escape the stigma created by chemically altering the colour of the Atlantic Salmon, fish farms are now demanding more natural ‘feed.’ In the Strait of Georgia the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is increasing the quotas for fishing krill.

As is the case with most ecosystems, there is a foodchain that begins with very small organisms which are eaten by increasingly larger predators. Humans are at the top of the foodchain but often confuse this with being in control. The survival of humanity is dependent upon the entire system of micro organisms developing into creatures that make up our food sources. Scientists agree that all environments provided by the planet Earth are finite. .

A krill is a shrimp-like invertebrate that grows to be 15mm-30mm long, weights approximately 0.57g, has a pink body, big black eyes, and 6 to 8 pairs of legs. Krill live together in large swarms offshore, diving to 150 meters deep during the day and feeding closer to the surface at night. A krill is a phytonic animal, which is a type of animal plankton that feeds on plankton and converts these tiny particles into protein. krill is the food base for whales, seals, squid, and many fish including salmon.

The production of pellets to feed Atlantic Salmon is devastating the Krill populations around the world. Very fine nets are scouring the waters to ‘harvest’ a cornerstone of the ecosystems that provides food for the rich marine life that inhabits the ocean. Taking a significant percentage of organisms out of the base of the marine environment could devastate creatures higher up the foodchain. This is happening locally in the Strait of Georgia.

Local fishermen, First Nations, conservationists, and Scientists have repeatedly voiced concerns about the negative effects of salmon farms on the marine environment and coastal communities. The ecosystem that supports us may not survive the escape of millions of farmed salmon into the wild, the transfer of disease from farms to wild salmon, or the pollution from fish waste. Then there are the threats to human health from the antibiotics and artificial colourants given to farmed fish.

The economic impacts of industrial salmon farming on wild salmon fisheries and sports fishing is astronomical. Large corporate fish farms are largely automated, providing comparably few jobs, and raise 500,000 to 700,000 Atlantic Salmon. Fish farms undercut the price of wild fish and do not come close to generating the capital that the sports fishing industry reels into the local economy.

What can you do? Ask the seafood department at your local grocery store if they have wild salmon and let them know that you refuse to buy farmed salmon. Contact the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada Honourable Geoff Regan E-Mail: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Friday, March 18, 2005

STUMPS BOUGHT - WILDERNESS SOLD

Countless times, over the course of the past year that I have been writing this column, people have thanked me for bringing up issues about the environment and the destructive forces that threaten to destroy the planet. Complete strangers encourage me to continue writing this column because they enjoy learning about subjects that rarely see the light of day. I humbly thank those people for letting me know that they care.

Provincial government ministers, MLAs, city councilors, and civil servants have provided input regarding my column by contacting the editor of the PQ News. At times they question details and provide their point of view, but they do not provide the public with the opportunity to become more informed or to participate in solutions to the problems that I have identified.

A case in point is the Lost Trails Wetlands in Dashwood where the sale of 300 acres of land owned by the public will close next week with little to no public consultation by Land and Water British Columbia. Announcements, made when decisions have already been made do not allow for issues to be discussed in a fair and meaningful manner. For information regarding similar deals around the province check out: www.lwbcwatch.org

I have noticed a trend with regards to the environment since the BC Liberals came to power. Several sensitive areas of ecological significance, that have been identified and earmarked for protection by biologists and other professionals, were allowed to be partially destroyed before any protection was implemented. In the local area I know of at least one marsh, an old growth forest, and the riparian zone along a river that have all suffered this fate.

A very disturbing concept was expressed to me by a government employee whom I cannot name because he or she might be fired. In order to protect a piece of land as park, wildlife corridor, or ecological reserve a price must be negotiated. To meet budgetary constraints, imposed by the BC Liberals, the private corporations that own the land offer to reduce the market value. This generally means that valuable assets will be removed from the equation.

The result is that sensitive ecosystems are logged and the majority of significant trees are removed by the company before the government pays market value for the land and names it a park. Since the land is private, the logs are exported. The government then makes an announcement to the public that they have saved and protected a piece of nature for people to enjoy, calling it a corporate gift. Millions of tax payer dollars are spent on lands where the natural wildlife habitat has already been significantly compromised.

Such is the case with the recent park expansion in Cathedral Grove where BC taxpayers put out $2 million in cash and $3 million worth of tax credits to American logging giant Weyerhaeuser to buy 140 hectares of land that has been logged extensively. WLAP Minister Bill Barisoff called this a Eco-gift. E-mail bill.barisoff.mla@leg.bc.ca

Meanwhile the only remaining stands of old growth Douglas Fir trees outside the park remain in the hands of Weyerhaeuser, who will either log or sell the land to Brascan.

At the same time the BC government is selling lands that the public believed to be protected as parks, while buying land that has been logged to make up for the short-fall in parks. The public outcry after the fact can not repair the damage, therefore people must stand up for their concerns before it is too late.

The first statement at http://lwbc.bc.ca is; “Land and Water British Columbia Inc. manages the allocation of Crown land and water resources on behalf of the Government of British Columbia and its constituents.”

People walk on the land and drink the water. It has been my experience that the public is concerned about the future of the planet. Many people understand that the quality of life enjoyed by humanity is very much connected with the well-being of the natural world around us. Corporations are not human beings, but they can be stopped. Land and Water British Columbia may be a corporation but the people of this province own it.

Friday, March 04, 2005

PARKS SOLD OUT FROM UNDER CHILDREN


Last week I had the honour of accompanying the grade four/five class of French Creek Elementary School in their exploration of Hamilton Marsh. My last article had sparked a discussion that led to a field trip and I was asked to join them to provide some commentary. The energy and curiosity of more than thirty children wandering through the wetland forest reminded me of my own school field trip along that same trail some twenty-five years ago. I wondered how many classes have explored this unique ecosystem over the years. How many of you remember those tours?

I was inspired by the thrill, joy, and enthusiasm shown by the school children as they hunted for cones from different species of trees, caught then released frogs, and gazed into the water looking for salamanders. Those children reminded me of the inquisitive nature of humanity that many adults have replaced with greed.

Ecologically significant properties around the province have been set aside by regional districts at the request of the local voting public. However, because all crown land is governed by the provincial government (subject to First Nations Treaties which still have not been negotiated or signed), those properties have been leased to local municipalities.

When the BC Liberals took power in 2001 they ordered Land and Water British Columbia to more than double the annual rate of sale by selling-off $77 million of public (Crown) lands each year to private real estate developers. Leases, held by regional districts around the province, were not renewed when their leases expired. This despite the provincial target that 12% of the landbase be set aside for parklands. On the mainland 95% of the land base is publicly owned and managed by the crown. On the east coast of Vancouver island, due to the Dunsmuir Agreement of 1885, only 5% of the land base is crown land.

LWBC is selling off public land in Oceanside. For many years local residents have been assured by the Regional District of Naniamo that Little Mountain, Morrison Creek, and land in Dashwood known as the ‘Lost Trails Wetlands’ have been protected as parks. Recently the leases on all three properties expired and were not renewed by LWBC. That is until local residents began to learn the facts.

In July 2004 Chris Walther, RPF and local resident Ed Jewer submitted a report providing a detailed analysis of the biogeoclimatic variants and aquatic habitats in the Lost Trails Wetlands. As a result LWBC was persuaded to renew a 10 year lease for a small municipal park with the RDN and has committed in principal 3 other parcels. Mr. Jewer is encouraged by this although he would like to see long term protection for these parcels and is still very concerned that there are more sensitive areas that need to be protected. " Of the 11 wetlands identified by LWBC report, only 3 wetlands have full protection, 2 others have partial." In a water assessment document provided to Mr. Jewer by LWBC it is stated that "The water absorption provided by this land likely plays a role in recharging ground water levels and supply of moderating flows to the Little Qualicum River." LWBC currently has the remaining parcels on the market for sale.

These reports, as well as one submitted by LWBC, were assessed by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. On January 27, 2005 Ecosystems Officer M. E. Henigman wrote; “As previously advised, the study area lies within the Coastal Douglas-fir, moist maritime (CDFmm) and very dry maritime, Coastal Western Hemlock (CWHxml) BEC zones, within which all forest ecosystems are red and blue listed in the province of British Columbia. As conservation mechanisms to preserve these BEC variants on private land are extremely weak, their protection on Crown land is essential if these ecosystems are to be maintained. Development of the study area, in particular logging the mid-to-older age timber classes, can be expected to accelerate the loss of these ecosystems on Vancouver Island.” This statement is quoted directly from a letter to Mark Hallam - Acting Manager, Major Projects - Strategic Initiatives Division Land and Water British Columbia Inc.

Mr. Jewer is continuing to encourage protection on the remaining Crown Parcels. The limited listing date of March 22 doesn't leave much time. For more information please contact Mr. Jewer at (752-1833) or visit WWW.LTWETLANDS.ORG

Friday, February 18, 2005

WEYERHAEUSER LOGGING AROUND HAMILTON MARSH - Will Brookfield's Timberlands continue?

Weyerhaeuser has started Timber Cruising at Hamilton Marsh by marking off the forest that they will cut down in the near future. Somehow the Regional District of Nanaimo, which put this sensitive wetland area on a priority list back in their 1995 Parks plan, has failed to protect this ecosystem. Supposedly some sort of negotiations are underway to protect something but the process is being rushed through before anything is made clear. This may seem very confusing and that’s because it is. However, the end result of all this will be the destruction of Hamilton Marsh as we know it.

For six years I was transported on a bus to school through the forest that stood between Coombs and Qualicum Beach. Many times I rode my bicycle along this windy stretch of road and enjoyed the “Sleepy Hollow’ effect created by the tall trees, swampy pools, giant ferns, and thick underbrush. On several occasions I followed the trails into Hamilton Marsh on guided tours where biologists and bird watchers pointed out many species of birds and vegetation. Since then I have continued to visit Hamilton Marsh with friends to check out this unique open water ecosystem which attracts an abundance of waterfowl. One year the ice was thick enough for locals to skate, many people showed up from Errington, Coombs, Hilliers, and Qualicum Beach. A community treat provided by nature.

Hamilton Marsh is a unique environment because it includes a large body of open water which is surrounded by a wetland forest. This marsh performs several important tasks for the surrounding region. It helps to filter, slow down, and store groundwater that flows into French Creek. In doing so it helps to regulate the flow of water into this Salmon rearing creek which supports a salmon enhancement-program as well as providing drinking water for residents downstream. During times of drought and times of flooding, this wetland helps to regulate the flow of water, acting like a sponge that is essential for the watershed around it.

Hamilton Marsh provides a habitat for a wide variety of birds, amphibians, insects, and mammals. Studies have shown that dragonflies are of particular interest due to their abundance and variety of species. Many people enjoy the trails that have been established by volunteers over the years. Members of the public are under the impression that government bodies at several levels have already protected this environmental jewel that is an important part of ‘our’ backyards. Information should be available from your RDN representative: corpsrv@rdn.bc.ca or contact the Chair of RDN Regional Parks Plan Select Committee Larry McNabb (250) 753-2792

Today, much of the wetland forest around Hamilton Marsh has been destroyed by Weyerhaeuser. A stroll down the ‘old Coombs cut-off’ reveals clear-cuts, burn piles, and devastation all around. Weyerhaeuser claims to practice sustainable logging which they call Variable Retention but what do they really care about ‘our’ backyard? Since 1999, when the Canadian company MacMillan-Bloedel was bought by the US logging giant Weyerhaeuser, thousands of workers have been laid off on Vancouver Island. I have seen logging of the most heinous destruction, thousands of acres of land have been logged and flogged for development, the export of raw logs has increased dramatically, log sorts have shut down, helicopters have poured thousands of tons of chemicals into our watersheds, and today Weyerhaeuser is attempting to sell all of its Canadian assets to Brascan. An investment company that deals primarily with real-estate, hydro-electric dams, and nuclear power plants.

On a much smaller scale I have watched two different wetland forests near my home in Errington transformed from shady wooded areas into virtual deserts after Weyerhaeuser logged these parcels of land for development purposes. Small pools, surrounded by a dense understory of ferns and lush undergrowth, held water into the autumn after even the driest summers. The moisture retained by these wetland forests helped to maintain the water table and provided life to a variety of flora and fauna. Today this same area is devoid of trees and the discharge of water during the rains becomes so intense that the soil is washed downhill, silt makes its way into the salmon rearing streams below. Under the heat of the summer sun this same land becomes cracked and the wind helps to parch the soil, turning the area into dry wasteland devoid of life.

Friday, February 04, 2005

ENGLISHMAN RIVER ESTUARY IS A WILDLIFE RESERVE - NOT FOR PROFIT OF FEW

Is nothing sacred? When is a wildlife reserve truly protected and for how long? Locals worked hard for many years to protect the Englishman River estuary for the good of birds and other wildlife that depend upon that wetland. In 1993, through the Pacific Estuary Conservation Program, the Parksville-Qualicum Beach Wildlife Management Area was established. This victory was a direct result of local citizens who cared, lobbied, rallied, camped out, protested, and persevered.

First Nations once prospered along this coast and centered much of their lives around river estuaries including the Englishman River estuary. In the 1870’s Europeans came to the area and began to farm the Parksville flats and altered the natural flow of water with dikes. They were reminded of the true forces of nature in 1918 when the highest tides of Spring met with seasonal flood waters of the Englishman River. 150 head of cattle were washed out into the Georgia Strait never to be seen again.

In the early 1970’s a stone dike was built, without the approval of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, along the Englishman River to hold back flood waters from washing over privately owned land. Several development proposals followed including a golf course, condominiums, and a RV resort that would encompass the entire area known as the Parksville flats. From the 1980’s on people worked hard to bring on board government and private agencies, raising almost three million dollars to buy out developers, in order to create a wildlife reserve on the Parksville flats.

The first action taken by Nature’s Trust, a not-for-profit organization which manages the Englishman River Estuary on behalf of all those who worked towards its protection, was to return the wetlands to tidal circulation. This included breaking the dike and removing a bridge over the renewed tidal channel that separates the Wildlife Reserve from the Surfside RV Resort and the Community Park. Tidal flow has returned to the flats and a buffer has been established between wildlife and a dense concentration of people. A delicate balance has been established to protect habitat for everyone.

In December of 2001, as a member of the Arrowsmith Ecological Association, I attended a meeting, which was closed to the public, where Glen Jamieson made a power point presentation of his proposed interpretive centre on the Parksville flats. Representatives from Nature’s Trust, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, BC Ministry for Water, Land, and Air Protection, Arrowsmith Watershed Coalition, and Canadian Wildlife Service listened to yet another proposal to develop the wetlands.

Many of those present expressed a great deal of concern about bringing thousands of human visitors to a sensitive estuary ecosystem reserved as habitat for birds and other wildlife. Jamieson finally admitted that his plans involved building a bridge over the same tidal channel where Nature’s Trust removed a bridge in order to protect the wildlife reserve from the direct and negative impact of tens of thousands of people.

Surfside RV Resort has a lot to gain with a bridge, which would effectively expand their backyard. Surfside has already altered the nature of the estuary with a massive stone causeway along the beach and mudflats. Crowds of people from the community park would gain easy access to the wildlife reserve. How would this affect wildlife?

All of the organizations who opposed Jamieson’s plans at that initial presentation were noticeably absent from recent negotiations. They must be consulted before continuing with development plans because they can provide insight into the well-being of this wildlife reserve. If you have an opinion please contact Parksville Mayor Randy Longmuir 954-4661or e-mail: citypark@city.parksville.bc.ca

Millions of migratory birds stop in the Englishman River Estuary to feed alongside several species of resident birds such as King Fisher and Eagle. Many birds nest in this lush, sensitive, and very limited ecosystem. All of these wildlife activities are made possible because this area is protected, primarily from human activities.

Birders from around the world make Oceanside a destination to bird watch and photograph wildlife in this picturesque environment, notably during the Brant Festival. They spend money locally but are here for the birds. The concept of an interpretive centre to educate the public about the sensitivity of endangered ecosystems and the wildlife they support is honourable, but cannot come at the expense of the very ecosystem we hope to preserve. The birds? I think they just want to be left alone.