Friday, September 30, 2005


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


“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

Friday, September 02, 2005


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.