Friday, August 19, 2005


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

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


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