Friday, April 21, 2006


For the third time in as many weeks more than a hundred people rallied on ‘the hump’ of Mt. Arrowmith in order to stop dozens of fully loaded logging trucks that leave the Alberni Valley every five minutes. Mill workers, log scalers, environmentalists, union reps, the Mayor of Port Alberni, the local MLA, along with citizens from Parksville, Qualicum, Port Alberni, and other parts of the Island were all speaking the same language. They have had enough of massive corporations reaping all the profits and leaving the local communities without resources, long term benefits, or the essential ingredients of life such as clean drinking water.

In Alberni mills have shut down, the entire Sprout Lake division has been shut down, and the Franklin division has been reduced from 500 to 100 employees due to raw log exports and mechanization. TimberWest recently logged the watershed forests that feeds into Beaver Creek causing massive erosion and mudslides that have directly impacted local residents who have had to suffer no less that four boil water restrictions in the past few months.

The situation in Oceanside is much like that of the Alberni Valley. Englishman River and the Little Qualicum River provide drinking water for the residents of Parksville and Qualicum as well as several outlying communities. The forests that provide the watersheds that feed into these rivers are being heavily logged by both TimberWest and Island Timberlands (formerly BRASCAN renamed BROOKFIELD)

In a symbolic gesture of respect Island Timberlands and TimberWest allowed their logging trucks to be stopped briefly at the brake check on ‘the hump’ before moving on to log sorts in Nanoose and Crofton. Jim Sears, manager for Island Timberlands, refused to speak with me while he monitored the situation and made sure that the logging trucks kept rolling past the people.

A cougar hunter was much more talkative, and explained that he walked the ridge from the hump to Cathedral Grove every morning with his dogs. A few days earlier he had come upon a survey crew that was plotting a logging road for Island Timberlands from Loon Lake across the slope above Cathedral Grove. The plan is to log the entire ridge, which is primarily old growth forest, including heli-logging the giant trees adjacent to the provincial park that grow between the highway and the railway.

When I mentioned this to BC Parks manager Chris Kissenger he claimed that he knew nothing of logging plans along the park boundaries. The Master plan for the Provincial park states; “BC Parks BC will ensure its goals are met by: working with adjacent landowners to ensure compatible land use decisions which consider the park as an integral park of a larger land area setting.” When Island Timberlands logs the ridge above Cathedral Grove the wind tunnel effects alone will dramatically effect the trees inside the park through ‘edge effect’ and ‘blowdowns.’

Down in the valley a camp that was built over the course of 26 months was dismantled in a matter of days and the sensitive forest was returned to the same condition as it was five years ago when public protests began. The citizens who protected this delicate ecosystem from being destroyed removed all signs of their presence as a sign of good faith towards an announcement made in the legislature by the Honourable Minister for the Environment Barry Penner who said; “At this point, I can inform members of the house and the public that B.C. Parks does not have any intentions at this point of proceeding with the new parking lot option at Cathedral Grove.”

Despite the fact that Minister Penner said “at this point” twice, the onus now lies firmly upon the BC government to work with the public towards an alternative solution in Cathedral Grove. The environment is not safe until the status of a class “A” park is extended to the 21 hectares currently zoned as a recreation area in order to allow for logging, road building, and bulldozing. Scott Fraser, MLA for Alberni-Qualicum, will raise this issue in the legislature and the public will hold the government to its word.