Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The highest standards of logging in British Columbia Designated as Special Management

I just returned home from a journey that has given me a new perspective of international perceptions of forestry in British Columbia. I traveled to Sweden where I was interviewed for a job to shoot a documentary film, deep in the rainforest of Africa.

The Swedish director will spend 4 months filming Pygmies in the tropical rainforest of Congo. I won’t be joining her for a variety of reasons. However, I learned how persuasive and effective the international green-wash campaign, launched by the BC government along with international logging corporations, has been at convincing the world that logging in BC is wonderful.

It just so happened that the film director’s husband is a logger. Originally from France, Xavier worked in Africa for many years as a forester with large logging companies. He now works for the government in Sweden, managing sustainable logging of public land. The Swedish outlawed clear-cut logging years ago and it is illegal to cut down trees on more than a few acres at a time.

He used Google-Earth to show me the logging in Cameroon and Congo where he had worked. He explained that the logging companies target specific species of trees which were cut down selectively. Road building did much more damage to the wilderness than the logging, and they open up pristine rainforest to poachers who destroyed many endangered animal species as well as trees for firewood and building material. From the satellite images, it was easy to find the maze of logging roads, but the forest seemed intact and was completely void of large clearings, other than occasional village sites.

Then I showed him Vancouver Island, which is completely covered by a complex patchwork of clear-cuts, that cover the entire land mass. A seemingly endless maze of logging roads connect massive open clearings, combine with sprawling industrial and residential developments to take over the majority of the Island. A few intermittent parks stand out as green wilderness in the checkerboard of destruction.

Xavier could not believe his eyes, and spent an hour zooming in on individual sites to confirm that what he was looking at was really logging in Canada. He had been lead to believe that Canada had some of the best logging practices in the world, but confronted by the reality he was witnessing, he realized that British Columbia has archaic approaches to forestry. I then showed him some of my video of logging on public land in old growth forests here on Vancouver Island, an area that is under the highest regulations afforded by the BC government, under the designation of ‘Special Management.’ Xavier was completely awestruck by the devastation and sheer scale of the clear-cuts. He had never seen such wasteful and destructive logging operations in his entire life as a logger.

Congo and BC have very different rainforests that are both being destroyed by international corporations with little regards for local citizens. In BC private logging companies log public land at the invitation of the ruling political party while regulations are monitored by industry. Very little of the profits reach the public and yet the citizens allow these practices to continue. In Congo the International Monetary Fund gave billions of dollars to the ruling dictator, with very little of this money reaching the public. Today the IMF wants its ‘loans’ back, but the money is gone so international companies are now cutting down the rainforest for cash, while the local population gains very little.

When I returned home, via the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, I was greeted by a sign kiosk stating: “British Columbia is a world leader in sustainable forest management, conservation and protection.” Below the heading: “British Columbia’s Forests – A World Leader in Forest Management,” the sign states: “An independent academic study confirmed that British Columbia has among the most stringent forest regulations in the world. More than ¼ of the province’s forest are protected or under special management. Less than 1% of the forest is harvested each year – always promptly reforested with native species.”

I encourage you to include a bit of reality in your greetings to family and friends around the world. Don’t let the myth continue, its time to face the truth. I wish you all a Happy Winter Solstice!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I have hiked along trails worn through the bush on road allowances in Errington and Coombs for most of my life. Some of these are more established than others, and some have become part of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s trail systems. These trails provide a unique look at private properties and their approaches to water management.

A trailer park with more than 10 RVs, where people live year around, has no proper sewage treatment system. I have watched, and smelled, the raw human sewage flow on the surface of the ground onto the neighbour’s property. The RDN has been notified about this problem numerous times but refuses to do anything to correct the situation.

One trail runs along ditches that drains industrial seepage from the Errington Cedar Mill. These ditches were dug when children were still playing in the field adjacent to the old Elementary School. The well I drank water from as a student at that school became contaminated when the Mill began operations. To date, many of the local property owners still can’t drink water from wells near this ditch.

A number of industrial saw mills somehow managed to expand in my community, along with many car wreckers, trailer parks, and other industry. All this despite bylaws under the Official Community Plan (OCP) for Electoral Area ‘F’, which zone most of these properties as ‘rural-residential.’

The OCP for Area ‘F’ was adopted in 1999 after public consultation, making this area one of the very last in British Columbia to introduce bylaws that regulate land- use for private property owners. There has been strong resistance to these bylaws in this area by business owners, who have responded with none-compliance and legal battles with the RDN.

Since the early 1970’s many local residents have lobbied for bylaws that would protect landowners from industrial sprawl, development, and public health concerns such as contamination of drinking water. Area ‘F’ encompasses most of the land directly uphill from Parksville and Qualicum Beach. Water flows downhill and many contaminants flow with surface water. Much of the drinking water in these urban centers is taken from surface catchments like Englishman River and the Little Qualicum River.

Local municipal elections will be held on Saturday, November 15, 2008 along with a regional referendum regarding water. Vote for protection, help your neighbour get to the polling station, and help change the local government.

This year there are two candidates running for the position of Regional Director for Electoral Area F. The incumbent, Lou Biggemann, has shown his colors as a supporter of development, private business, and commercial industry since 2002. I have met Biggemann at several public events where he has verbally expressed displeasure with my writing and my stance on the environment while himself defending industry and development in this area.

Ceri Peacey is also running for the position of Regional Director of area F, she is a director with the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society in charge of the Hamilton Marsh Committee. I have heard her speak to the regional board in Nanaimo, with passion and articulation, calling for action to protect the watershed. She has put a great deal of time and energy into public awareness of the environment and she asks for input from others. Peacey is calling for change and understands the importance of the OCP to the residents of this community.

The RDN’s referendum will ask voters in Electoral Areas A, B, C, E, F, G and H to support ‘Action for Water.’ This bylaw focuses on improving public awareness, and promotion of existing resources. The hope is that this will eventually lead to regulations and enforcement, which can protect drinking water in this region.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


On a recent walk around Labour Day Lake, I was enchanted by the mycological world that erupts with the return of the rains. I spent the entire day examining mushrooms with a wide range of colours: bright yellow, orange, red, dull purple, green, white, and every variation of brown. Some were so tiny they made the evergreen needles look big, while others were the size of soccer balls. They grew on rotting logs, amongst the evergreen needles, and high up on dying trees. Some looked extremely delicate and others hard shelled.

I particularly enjoy hiking at this time of year because of the profusion of life that comes out of death. Decaying wood and the thick layers of humus that have accumulated over the years, forming a rich forest floor, dotted with a diversity of mushrooms. I have only seen such an abundance of mushrooms in old growth forests where centuries of vegetable matter decaying into soil provides a lush environment for fungi.

Mushrooms that appear on a wide variety of surfaces in the forest are actually the fruiting bodies of fungi, which for the most part are hidden below the surface and can stretch out for great distances. They are an indication of a healthy and vibrant forest ecosystem. Water is purified through soil, which is stabilized by tree root systems, that live in a semiotic relationship with fungi.

Labour Day Lake is the main water source for the Cameron River, which flows into Cameron Lake at Cathedral Grove and then into the Little Qualicum River. This water becomes the drinking water source for Whiskey Creek and the Town of Qualicum Beach. Human Resources Development Canada invested in the recreation site around Labour Day Lake by hiring out-of-work forestry workers to build trails around this sub-alpine lake.

Island Timberlands owns the land around Labour Day Lake and has plans to log this old growth forest in the near future. In 2005 a Federal court ruling stated that the BC Liberal government must have meaningful negotiations with Hupacasath First Nation before Island Timberlands could privatize 70,300 hectares of forestland in TFL 44. The deal went through anyway and now the land is being logged with no regards for the public or the environment.

Public drinking water is being threatened from many different angles including: logging, mining, residential developments, insecticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, sewage, ditching of roadways, farming, golf courses, and wetland diversions. At some point the interest of water protection must come first. Private land owners cannot be allowed to destroy the watersheds that provide the public with drinking water.

Every level of government, municipal, provincial, and federal must work together in order to establish laws that are able to supercede the rights of private landowners, when it comes to protecting the safety and quality of drinking water. Today water does not have any real protection under the law, because our society is based around private ownership of land.

What you can do to change the status quo is to make water protection an election issue by asking your local candidates what they plan to do about private destruction of public water. Local municipal Elections are fast approaching on Saturday November 15, 2008 and the BC Provincial elections will be on May 12, 2009.

I live in the Nanaimo Regional District area F where there are two candidates running for the position of area director. The incumbent, Lou Biggemann, has shown his colors as a supporter of development, and commercial industry. I have met Biggeman at several public events where he has verbally expressed displeasure with my writing and my stance on the environment.

Ceri Peacey is also running for the position of director of the RDN area F, she is a director with the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society in charge of the Hamilton Marsh Committee. I have heard her speak to the regional board in Nanaimo, with passion and articulation, calling for action to protect the watershed. She has put a great deal of time and energy into public awareness of the environment and she asks for input from others.

Vancouver Island is a rock in the ocean, which dries out completely during the long draughts of summer and fall. Some years are exceptionally dry while others include sporadic rains that dampen the moods of many locals, but do little for the water table. Aside from human consumption, fresh water is essential for salmon, fresh water fish, tourism, forests, plants, and animal life. Water is the essence of life! Where’s the protection?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Sunday October 5, 2008 Rally protesting logging in Cathedral Grove by Island TImberlands, owned largely by the BC Government.

Cathedral Grove is under attack again, this time by a company that the BC government owns 25% of through a numbered company in Manitoba. Does the public know that the same government responsible for protecting this unique old growth forest is logging adjacent to this world famous provincial park?

Scott Fraser, MLA for Port Alberni-Qualicum said; “The BC government is the single largest investor in Island Timberlands, which is putting the public at risk by logging along the boundary of the park. The government has a very important responsibility to protect public safety in Cathedral Grove. I need to know what the government is doing to protect the trees in the park from wind-throw caused by adjacent logging.”

The province of British Columbia has thousands of employees, who contribute a portion of their earnings to a pension fund. The BC government has established an agency to invest this money. According to their website, “The British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) provides funds management services for public bodies and publicly administered trust funds. Public sector pension plans constitute the largest client group.”

The workers who contribute to these trust funds in recent years have included: B.C. Association for Schools, Teacher’s Pension Plan, Union of BC Municipalities, Saanich Police Board, British Columbia Pension Corporation, just to name a few. This same website states: “bcIMC has a limited partnership investment in Island Timberlands, a private timberland company located on Vancouver Island.”

Premier Gordon Campbell was at the Olympic games in China when he announced that his government was increasing the salaries of many CEOs of government companies. Doug Pearce, CEO for bcIMC was given a raise from $599,013 in 2007 to $726,737 for 2008 along with considerable raises to other executives in the firm. Meanwhile Brookfield has moved most of its holdings for Island Timberlands to Bermuda.

“The government is supposed to look out for the public interest, meanwhile a company the BC government has invested in heavily has established an off-shore company in Bermuda to minimize Canadian taxes,” said MLA Fraser.

In fact the BC government is the largest single investor in Island Timberlands, since bcIMC bought 25% of all shares for Island Timberlands in 2005, when the logging company was first established by Brookfield Asset Management Inc. However, Brookfield is listed under the heading of Real Estate on the bcIMC website not as Forestry. The investment is being made through a numbered company based in Manitoba.

In 2005 Island Timberlands was created with private land holdings that had previously been publicly owned as part of Tree Farm License #44. Despite the fact that Madam Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court in Hupacasath First Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) found that the Province had a duty to meaningfully consult the Hupacasath about their claimed rights and concerns in regard to 70,000 hectares of private timberlands within their ancestral territory before deciding whether, at the request of then-owner Weyerhaeuser, to remove those lands from Tree Forest License 44 (TFL 44)

The old growth forest that is about to be logged by Island Timberlands is separated from the main trailed park by several meandering canals of the Cameron River. Due to the steep slopes to the south, this leaves little room for the 300-meter buffer the logging company claims they will be leaving between their clear-cut and the park boundary.

A wind-assessment conducted for BC Parks states; “…the sheltering effects of the stands to the south and west should be maintained. This could be accomplished by acquisition of adjacent lands as noted in the park Master Plan.” This same forest has been considered for purchase by The Nature Trust of British Columbia.

In the past week there has been a public outcry that reflects the local, national, and international passion for the Old Growth forest of Cathedral Grove. The locally elected representative for this riding has tried to raise public concerns. MLA Fraser explained; “I couldn’t question the government directly because they have cancelled the fall session of the legislature. So, I went into the offices for the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Transportation but they weren’t there.”

Government effects environment and that why I’m a green voting NDP federally so I don’t split the vote, thereby electing a conservative in my riding. Proportional representation would be much better.Monday October 6, 2008 Rally to protect Cathedral Grove at Island Timberlands' NorthWest Bay Division south of Parksville, BC

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Qwaxsistalla stands overlooking his family’s Tekilekw. He points out three distant ridges on surrounding mountains which, when triangulated with a single wooden post, mark the corner of a root garden that has been cultivated by his family for thousands of years. He looks over a grassy floodplain thick with a multitude of colourful flowering plants.

Chief Adam Dick is sharing this knowledge with the people of Kingcome Inlet and the world by hosting a traditional harvest, pit-fire cook, and feast to celebrate this year’s crop. This type of feast, honoring the traditional ways in which his people tended, harvested, and relied upon the plants that grow on the flood plain estuary, has not been held in over seventy years.

In order to document this historic event he invited several leading academics, graduate students, and myself. Abe Lloyd, a graduate student at the University of Victoria, with the guidance of Chief Adam Dick has spent the past year cultivating the family plot of land using traditional methods.

Several small boats brought everyone down to the Tekilekw and the harvest began using traditional yew tools to dig out the edible roots used as a food source by coastal first nations. Three of these plants have root strands, which vary in thickness and must be cooked properly to avoid indigestion while providing proper nutrients. Springbank clover (Tuxsus), Pacific silverweed (Dliksem), and Nootka lupine (Kwani). The fourth plant harvested was Riceroot lily (Xukwem), which has a bulb which divides into small ovals, some of which must be replanted to allow the plant to regenerate.

Elders, adults, and children participated in the harvest, which was bountiful. Stones from a nearby landslide were collected for their fire resistant properties. Sword ferns, Salal bushes, and Thimbleberry bushes were gathered. The roots were cleaned and tied together in small bundles using plant stocks. The riceroot bulbs were wrapped in pouches made from Thimbleberry leaves. A hole was dug in the sandy soil. A fire was built with cedar and rocks were laid in the coals.

After a ceremony, hosted by Chief Adam Dick and elders from the village, an alder post was held up in the middle of the pile of hot rocks. Whole Salal bushes were thrown on top of the rocks. Next a layer of Sword fern fronds was placed to cover the entire pit. Whole potatoes, carrots and onions were placed on the ferns. More ferns were laid on top. Then the traditional roots, wrapped in Thimbleberry leaves and contained inside a cloth bag for each of the 4 types of roots, were placed on the ferns. Whole Thimbleberry bushes were placed to cover the entire pile. Two large canvas tarps covered everything and water was poured into the hole left when the alder post was removed. The entire pit was covered with a thick layer of sand.

Pit cooking of the harvested roots took three hours. A ceremony with elders in traditional regalia honored the opening of the cooking pit. A wonderful feast commenced inside the Big House, followed by a dance that celebrated the animal kingdom with drumming, masked dancers, and a teller of the story.

The events of this week-end were documented by Dr. Nancy J. Turner, an ethnobotanist and professor at UVic, along with Dr. Douglas Deur from the University of Washington. Between them they have written many books on the subject of first nations along coastal British Columbia and their relationship with the environment. They are changing the perception established by early anthropologists, which claimed that local first nations were hunter-gatherers who ‘randomly’ accessed the land’s resources. This theory is being replaced by evidence that first nations actively cultivated the land in order to reap larger crops, altering the natural landscape to increase plant productivity.

Together they published “Keeping It Living: Traditions of Plant Use and Cultivation on the Northwest Coast of North America” based on information provided by Chief Adam Dick who now resides in Qualicum Bay.

Known traditionally as Qwaxsistalla, he is the Clan Chief of Kawadillikala (wolf) Clan of Kingcome Inlet and was educated in the ways of his people by the Chiefs and his grandparents who sheltered him from the residential schools imposed on his generation. This system, imposed by the Canadian government, strictly prohibited indigenous language, culture, and beliefs. The knowledge that remains is now being passed on through events like this harvest celebration.

All along the coastline of British Columbia, rivers run through estuaries that were traditionally cultivated by First Nations. Many of these have been destroyed or are being threatened by development, pollution, and other human activities. Locally the estuary floodplains of Englishman River, French Creek, Little Qualicum River, and the Big Qualicum River as well as smaller estuaries such as those of Craig Creek, Shelly Creek, Morning Star Creek, and Kincade are no exception. This Sunday help celebrate BC River's Day.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


View from a seaplane over the mouth of Klaskish Inlet heading towards East Creek Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Flying out of Coal Harbour, over Quatsino Inlet on the northwest corner of Vancouver Island, I looked down at a coastline dotted with fish farms, tree farms, and clear-cuts. We headed south along the rugged Pacific coast and flew past Red Stripe Mountain, logged from the waterline up and over its peak at 639 metres (2096 feet).
Back in May I wrote of my journey by logging road into the Upper East Creek Valley where I discovered that the highest standards of logging in the province, much flaunted by government and the logging industry, are nothing short of clear-cuts and environmental destruction on a massive scale.
We flew up Klaskish Inlet and over the estuary of East Creek with its beautiful tidal fields and interwoven channels. The lush forest below carpeted the valley floor and swept up the steep slopes to the tops of the surrounding mountains. It was difficult to keep track of the meandering creek as we soared higher into the watershed and the valley split into several narrow canyons.
Suddenly the thick foliage was ruptured by a gapping hole that ripped open the canopy to reveal bleached stumps and crushed wood debris. The clear-cuts became more recent as we circled the upper valley of East Creek, below I could see a grapple-yarder at work, a fully loaded logging truck driving over a bridge, an excavator building a new road, and vehicles parked at the edge of a cut-block which still contained fresh cut trees. The upper watershed looked like a patchwork quilt of destruction woven together by sparse threads of trees.
I was glad when we finally drifted back down over the pristine rainforest and made our descent towards the ocean. The pilot skillfully landed the Beaver Seaplane behind an island and taxied towards a sandy beach. I jumped into the water and helped position the seaplane while my friend and the pilot unlashed our kayaks. We waded onto shore and the pilot took off, leaving us alone in the wilderness of Klaskish.
Having obtained permission from their descendents, the Quatsino First Nations, we entered the ancient village site of people who lived here for nearly 10,000 years prior to contact with western civilization. We spent the afternoon marveling at culturally modified trees, which had been altered by first nations hundreds of years ago.
The forest was dense from the ground up into the canopy. Life flourished on every surface with diversity that boggled my mind. This feeling continued throughout our trip as we explored the estuary of East Creek, paddled up past the tidal surge, and spent time examining some of the giant trees that grow close to the shoreline.
One of these was a massive Pacific Red Cedar which measures 54 feet in circumference and was hollowed out by fire many years ago, creating a cave which could easily shelter several people. Sitka Spruce, which appeared to be relatively short for this typically tall species, were surprisingly wide and numerous.

We paddled north along 8 km of rugged coast exposed to the Pacific Ocean. Luckily there was little wind but swells and rebounding waves make for a rough ride with chaotic wave patterns that took us 3 hours to navigate. We were impressed by the abundance of healthy kelp gardens along the way. When we reached the safety of Heater Point and entered into Klaskino Inlet, we were greeted by several Sea Otters, and realized they are likely the cause for the healthy kelp.
These rare and endangered species were nearly trapped to extinction for their furs and were completely wiped out along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Sea Urchins are one of the main food sources for this cute furry mammal and the main food for Urchins is kelp.
This is significant because kelp beds are the breading grounds for plankton, as well as many small fish, which provide the base for the entire marine food chain. Biologists were noticing that the kelp beds were disappearing and they acted with an experiment that included transporting Sea Otters from Alaska and releasing them along the west coast of Vancouver Island. This project began in 1969 with 89 adults, which have established a healthy population between Tofino and Cape Scott where approximately 3,000 were counted in 2004.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Monday August 18 at 6:45 am I pulled on my steel-toed cork boots, buttoned up my timber-cruising vest, and put a hard hat on my head. With a firm grip on my video camera I climbed up a steep embankment following two fallers headed for the timberline. Hiking through the debris of the slash-cut we followed a ribboned route, which they had cleared of many branches, by balancing along logs bucked to length. We regrouped at the edge of the old-growth forest and discussed the practicalities of my videotaping them at work.

While the 24-year old, with 5 years falling experience, cut away the huckleberry bushes and small saplings, the older faller talked with me about the reality of his industry. According to him Weyerhaeuser and TimberWest had left workers out to dry and couldn’t care less about the local communities. He blamed the downturn in forestry on the greed of those same corporations who continue to flip Tree Farm Licenses with the help of government to turn a profit.

He was outraged by land deals being made by Western Forest Products and TimberWest that are to turning timberland into real estate. His thoughts were that the land belongs to the people of this province and it should be illegal for multinational investment corporations, backed by banks, to sell it out from under the public for profit. Sounds a lot like what I’ve been writing about for years.

I was placed in a safe zone and the older faller stood behind me ready to pull me out if there was trouble. First the young faller determined the lean of the tree, then he cut out a wedge of wood with an undercut, and then he moved to the other side of the tree for the back-cut. With the help of a wedge he tipped over the 4-foot-in-diameter Western Hemlock, pulled out the chainsaw, and walked back 10 feet where he watched the tall tree crash to the ground with a thundering boom. Then he cut down 3 more trees. Two giant Sitka Spruce trees towered over us but it would take these men most of the day to clear the smaller trees in the area before tackling them. However, they did want me to videotape the Sitka being felled and asked me to return the next morning.

The rest of the day would take a novel to describe in detail. On the way down to sea level I drove past several excavators building new roads and a blasting crew preparing their drilling machine. At the log dump I watched a massive log boom of prime old-growth cedar logs being loaded onto a barge, which can hold 16,000 cubic meters of wood. Two giant towers dropped gargantuan claws into the water and pulled up massive bundles of logs while sidewinder tugs pushed more wood into their range. You’ll have to wait for the film to get the full effect.

In the afternoon I climbed into the cab of a Super Snorkel about 15 feet off the ground and watched the operator swing the massive claw out into the clear-cut and grab a log. With ease, he manipulated the levers so that long cables pulled the massive timber down the steep slope onto the road where he threw it onto a pile. A Hoe-chuck excavator crawled through the slash across the steep slope in search of logs, which he could toss down the hill to the claw of the Super Snorkel.

That evening, in the loggers’ bunk house, as I gathered signatures on release forms for my film entitled “Such Great Heights”, the men were very intrigued by my production. The Hoe-Chuck operator, sitting on his cot beside a laptop computer, copied down my website: promising to check up on me right away.

I decided that I had to leave without videotaping the giant Sitka Spruce being felled because it was no longer safe for me to be there. Today we live in a world where local residents from different walks of life may have very similar convictions about the fact that multinational corporations are destroying our world, but we are separated by the spin created by those very same corporations. Government and big business continue to pit the workingman against environmentalists, First Nations, and the general public, while they run away with the cash.

Together we need to create the future for our communities, island, province, country, and planet. We can’t leave it up to greed. We must unite to demand an end to corporate control of our forests. I have left the people and places in this article anonymous out of respect for the men who showed me their work, up close and personal. To them I am grateful. Let us dispel the myths.

Thursday, August 07, 2008



One of my favourite places to hike has always been Mount Arrowsmith. The first time that I ventured up the mountain I was eleven years old and hiked up to the ‘Saddle’ between Mt. Cokley and Mt. Arrowsmith, with 2 friends and one adult. We tried to hike up to the main massif but snow made it too difficult so we resorted to sliding down the steep slopes, which was lots of fun.

Since then I have hiked every approach to the mountain that I know, including up and over Mt. Cokeley starting at the ski slopes, the saddle route, the Judge’s route, and several others that you’ll have to find on your own. The views of the many peaks of the mountain from the ‘saddle’ are extraordinary with steep cliffs falling off to an emerald coloured lake, which hold ice until well into summer.

The hike up to the alpine ridges is through forests that are shadowed by the steep mountain slopes, have extremely short growing seasons, and are covered by snow through much of the year. Yellow Cedar (Cypress), Mountain Hemlock, and Alpine Fir are the dominant tree species. At higher elevations the rocky ridges are dotted with very old trees that take on the appearance of Bonsai, due to the extreme conditions and short growing season.

In spring and summer the alpine meadows and slopes are covered with a multitude of flowers of every colour imaginable. These include blue listed endangered species like: Olympic mountain aster, Lance fruited draba, Sand dwelling wallflower, Woodland Penstemon, and White wintergreen. Heather and flowering berry shrubs grow in abundance along the trails.

On one of my first hikes I watched a pair of young marmots browsing along the slopes near the lake. This colony of the most endangered species in Canada has now disappeared, likely due to logging on the slopes all around Mt. Arrowsmith. The value of Yellow Cedar for export to foreign markets is now so great that logging companies are clear-cutting the alpine forests. Yellow cedar is usually only found at higher elevations and is the oldest tree species in our region growing with documented living trees dating back 1500 years.

A small park exists with the name of Mt. Arrowsmith Regional Park, but it is located on Mt. Cokeley and does not protect any of Mt. Arrowsmith. The entire forest surrounding these two mountains is privately owned by Island Timberlands who continue to log higher up the slopes each year. In 2006 senior management from Island Timberlands assured the public that they would buffer the important hiking routes to Mt. Arrowsmith. Since then they have heavily logged the areas in question with no regard for preservation of the trails.

The slopes beside the Judge’s route have been clear-cut extensively in the past year and the slopes of Mt. Cokeley, beside a small lake on the road to the old alpine ski lodge, have also been heavily logged. Almost half of the trees that were cut down appear to have been left behind. Much of the wood debris that is being left to rot has suffered the fate of long butting, a logging practice where only the prime part of the trees is taken, leaving the rest behind in order to save on transportation costs. This practice is not allowed on publicly owned land but there are no penalties for this type of waste on private land.

The European Union has stipulated that they will only buy lumber that is certified as meeting with environmental standards. Island Timberlands claims they are meeting these standards but do the buyers really know what is happening on the slope of Vancouver Island’s mountains? Trees being cut on Mt. Arrowsmith are over 4000 feet above sea level, with a growing season so short that it takes hundreds of years for a tree to reach only 18 inches in diameter.

These sub-alpine forests are extremely important for our local aquifers and streams because they slow the melting of snow and prevent evaporation. The shade from these trees allows for a slower run off from the mountain and extends the flow of water into the lands below well into the dry months.

For more information and to support the preservation of Mt. Arrowsmith check out:


Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Back in January I wrote an article entitled “LAND GRABS AFFECT US ALL”, about the privatization of BC crown forestland. Last week the Auditor General of BC released his report, slamming the Ministry of Forests’ handling of publicly owned land, which was given to Western Forest Products (WFP) for private development.

Here is a quote directly from the report by John Doyle, Auditor General: “Overall, the report concludes that the removal of private land from TFLs 6, 19 and 25 was approved without sufficient regard for the public interest. The report notes that: the decision was not adequately informed — it was based upon incomplete information that focused primarily on forest and range matters and the interests of the licensee, with too little consideration given to the potential impacts on other key stakeholders; consultation was not effective and communication with key stakeholders and the public about the decision was not transparent; and the impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to help inform future decisions.”

Much media attention has been given to the land around Jordan River, just west of Sooke, where 28,273 hectares of land was taken out of the publicly owned tree farm by the Ministry of Forests and given to WFP without any financial compensation. However that only accounts for lands privatized within TFL25 while lands privatized in the other TFLs have gone mostly unnoticed. TFL19 is much larger and is located around Gold River, Tahsis, and Zeballas while TFL6 lands are located around Port McNeil, Port Alice, Coal Harbour, and Winter Harbour. The market value of ocean side property in these areas will equal massive profits for WFP and will alter the landscape forever.

The intention of the Tree Farm License system was to legally bind the timber to the land so that logging companies would be obliged to provide work in those areas for generations to come. The spiraling downturn in the forestry industry is as a direct result of these obligations being altered by the current BC government. Raw log exports, mill closures, and privatization of land are allowing logging companies to profit without putting back into local communities for the future.

At the heart of this controversy is the fact that Minister Rich Colman’s older brother, Stan Coleman, works for Western Forest Products where he is their Manager of Strategic Planning. Public outcry has been growing since this story first surfaced. As a result, Premier Campbell shuffled Rich Coleman from his cabinet position as the Minister of Forests, Range, and Housing to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development on June 23, 2008.

Pat Bell was appointed as the new Minister of Forests and Range from his last posting as Minister of Agriculture and Lands and Minister of State for Mining. A government website states; “Prior to becoming an MLA, Mr. Bell owned a trucking company and co-owned a logging company.” Bell has been defending the actions of his predecessor since his appointment.

None of this scandal should come as a surprise to the voting public, after all the BC Liberal party came to power in 2001 with millions of dollars in financial contributions from the largest logging companies in BC. These companies are mostly owned by multinational investor groups. Waterfront property is already at a premium on the international real estate market and the Winter Olympics will shine a light on BC real estate. Placing publicly owned land in the hands of private investors will mean the average BC citizens will be left out of the deal.

According to the government’s website Gordon Campbell was a developer before becoming the mayor of Vancouver. The same site states: “Before his election to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Coleman ran a real estate management and consulting company.” The privatization of public resources in BC has become the hallmark of the Gordon Campbell Liberal government: BC Rail, BC Ferries, BC Hydro, BC Forest lands, and now they are working on BC water.

What is needed now is a judicial review to follow the auditor general's report. This would mean that the BC Supreme Court would investigate allegations of any wrong doings and the consequences could merit legal actions. Otherwise the Campbell government will continue to shuffle cabinet and flood the media with spin in the hope of sliding yet another issue under the carpet so that they will be elected again Tuesday May 12, 2009.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Strathcona Park was established in 1911 as the first provincial park in British Columbia; to this day it is the flagship for the entire park system. What happens in Strathcona usually sets precedent for parks throughout the province.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort (CWR) has requested that BC Parks amend the Master Plan for Strathcona Park to allow horses into the protected lands. CWR would like to build a horse trail 14km into Strathcona Park through the pristine Bedwell Valley to You Creek. There they plan to build tent platforms, corrals, and toilets for their exclusive clients. This camp will be located to provide easy access to Cream Lake and Bedwell Lake. The trail would start at their main resort on Bedwell River at the head of Bedwell Inlet, which is in the heart of Clayoquot Sound.

The general public will not benefit from this deal, since the resort is only accessible at great costs and the price for a stay there is very expensive. 3 Nights=$4,750 or
7 Nights=$9,450. The cost of barging horses from Tofino to the mouth of the Bedwell River, where CWR is located, is $3000 and rising with fuel prices. Last fall a group of hikers from Friends of Strathcona Park paid $500 for a water taxi so that they could hike into the Bedwell Valley. As a result of these costs the proposed horse trail would be for the exclusive use of CWR guests.

BC Parks creates Master Plans for all provincial parks after consultation with the general public as well as groups that represent park users. The policies established in these plans are then upheld by government staff and reviewed publicly every few years. Today the policy from the Master Plan for Strathcona Park clearly states that no horses are allowed in the Bedwell Valley.

One of the main reasons for not allowing horses onto parklands is that they eat hay, which often contains seeds from invasive species resulting in the spread of noxious and exotic plants. Horses can spread the seeds from foreign grasses, thistles, genetically modified canola, alfalfa, clovers, and other non-native plants which then grow into seeding plants. In this way an entire ecosystem can be destroyed because rare native plants can no longer compete with newly introduced species, which spread like wildfire.

The digestive system of a horse can be very slow, allowing seeds to remain inside the stomach for as long as a two weeks. An online report from National Parks in the Austrian Alps states; “Studies have shown horses can retain weed seeds in their gut for up to 14 days and these can then germinate in manure in national parks.” CWR claims they will use sterilized food for the horses, however this is next to impossible to monitor. There are also very few suppliers of sterilized hay and what little is available is extremely expensive.

Other concerns include: soil erosion from steel-shoed horses, trampling and grazing impacts on a delicate ecosystem, and damage to the banks of streams, rivers, and lakes.

The Bedwell Valley is a wilderness that provides habitat year around for Bear, Roosevelt Elk, Cougar, Wolf, and many smaller mammals. It is a safe haven for animals that are hunted everywhere else. Interaction between horses with people and these wild animals is inevitable with a trail that will be frequented by SWR guests. The standard response by BC Fish and Wildlife, when wild animals ‘threaten’ people, is to shoot the animal.

Situated in the heart of the Vancouver Island Mountain Range, Strathcona park was established in part to protect significant and environmentally sensitive areas such as alpine meadows, moss beds, alpine wetlands, snow grass and sub-alpine forest communities. The occasional group of hikers who makes it all the way to the Bedwell Valley will cause very little damage to the environment. Regular groups of multiple horse riders will significantly impact this sensitive ecology. Allowing horses into Strathcona Park may establish a precedent for all parks in BC.

Please let BC Minister of Environment Barry Penner know about your concerns. Phone:
250 387-1187

 PO Box 9047
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This week I hiked up the Nanoose Notch in search of the beautiful purple Camas flowers that grow in fields under the Garry Oak and Arbutus. The purple Camas was an important staple in first nation’s diet and only grows in the rainshadow climates. I was disappointed because I had missed the bloom by a few weeks. However, I was impressed by a large group of flowering Death Camas, a cream colored cluster of flowers, which also grows from a bulb but is deadly poisonous.

I started my hike after turning right off Fairwinds Drive onto Anchor Road, then Chain Road, and finally onto Link Road. After walking past a large holding tank for water built by Fairwinds I noticed new construction. A building site has been leveled next to an existing house. Several carcasses from Arbutus and Garry Oak trees lay in piles surrounded by newly exposed rock and debris.

The view from the south face of the Nanoose Notch is spectacular, overlooking Nanoose Bay and the surround 2nd growth forest with Mt. Moriarty and Mt. Arrowsmith off in the distance. I can understand why someone would want to build a house there. How many more houses will be built on this slope? How much of the Garry Oak ecosystem will be blasted and leveled to make way for buildings and roads? Where they will get their water from?

On the other side of the hill Fairwinds continues to blasts roads through similarly rare ecosystems and many more are planned. In their most recent newsletter Fairwinds states: “The 1350 acre oceanfront community of Fairwinds has 700 acres remaining to develop which translates into 1600 to 1800 units depending on density. In order to meet the changing times and evolving needs of the community, a detailed masterplan is being prepared with an emphasis on Community and the Environment.”

Public input is needed to protect the rare and endangered Garry Oak ecosystems found on the Nanoose Peninsula. There is an opportunity to significantly change the status quote by developing plans that protect key sites like the Nanoose Notch. Significant buffers around the two lakes, bluffs and meadows should be protected from development while enhancing the quality of life for those who live in the community. Nanoose is one of the last strong holds of the Garry Oak ecosystem, which has been brought to the brink of extinction in British Columbia by agriculture and housing development.

Nanoose Notch is owned in part by Fairwinds with the remainder falling under the jurisdiction of the Federal Department of Defense for a submarine and weapons testing facility. To their credit Fairwinds has built trails or maintained old ones to allow the public to walk on their private land around Enos and Dolphin Lakes as well as onto the slopes of the Nanoose Notch. A joint private and federal partnership should establish an ecological preserve rather than a park, where the emphasis is on human recreation, which can do great damage to such a delicate plant community.

Garry oak ecosystems support high numbers of blue and red-listed species of flora and fauna. These plant communities are red-listed by the BC government and listed as rare and endangered by the federal government of Canada. The Nanoose peninsula is unique because it hosts all of the rare ecosystems that are associated with the Garry oak include maritime meadows, coastal bluffs, vernal pools, grasslands, rock outcrops, and mixed transitional forests.

The designation of plant communities is usually identified by the dominant species, in this case the Garry Oak. However, the entire ecology is dependent upon the other parts that make up the whole. Many bulbs and smaller plants die out if the trees that protect them from the elements are removed. The BC Conservation Data Centre concluded: “At least 694 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants have been identified in Garry oak and associated ecosystems in British Columbia. Garry oak ecosystems are home to more plant species than any other terrestrial ecosystem in coastal British Columbia.”

Send email to or contact the Fairwinds Administrative Office 3455 Fairwinds Drive, Nanoose Bay, BC, V9P 9K6 Phone 468-7054

Friday, June 13, 2008


I spent several days in Vancouver for the premier of a friend’s film titled “Up the Yangtze” which has been held over in every major city in Canada. The thirst of the audience across North America has surpassed the numbers attending any Canadian Documentary Theatrical release. All these people want to see the largest dam in the world at the head of the Yangtze River, in China.

Then I attended the ‘Building Green’ conference in Courtenay where I spoke to one of the keynote speakers, who is a highly respected engineer. He told me that the largest man made dam in the world is actually in northern Alberta, around Fort McMurray. This massive structure was built to hold back the toxic waste tailings from the processing of the tar sands. A massive reservoir continues to grow because the extraction process destroys between 2 to 6 barrels of water for every barrel of raw oil. This water becomes toxic and is being stored along the Athabasca River behind an ever-growing dike constructed from rock, sand, and gravel.

An ‘out of sight out of mind’ attitude is allowing the Canadian public to buy into the economic boom that is being heralded as a great success. The processing of oil from tar sands is the most inefficient way to produce energy in the world.

A newly released book by bestselling investigative journalist William Marsden is dedicated to Alberta’s Energy Industry and is titled: ‘Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (And Doesn't Seem to Care)’ The author stated; "They're going to be the architects of their own destruction." One scene describes fishermen along the Athabasca River, downstream from the tar sands, who had complained that all the fish tasted like gasoline but then the fish began to disappear.

Canada cannot sign any international environmental agreements while the extraction of the tar sands continues. We can’t have both, its one or the other. The Harper government has made its choice and if firmly behind the oil companies. The public has very little information about this catastrophic environmental degradation being perpetrated in the of interest profits.

The Boreal forest, one of largest in the world, is being destroyed at a horrific pace to make way for open pit mines to extract the tar sands. The forest that is being leveled and scraped away has been scientifically proven to form the weather patterns that affect much of eastern Canada. While some of the wood is being used for pulp and other purposes much of the forest is simply being leveled to make way for massive machinery, which scrapes the earth away to extract the tar sands.

In British Columbia Gordon Campbell’s Liberal continues to work towards lifting a long-term federal ban on offshore oil exploration. On Vancouver Island they continue to replace hydro electric with gas burning energy sources, both of which come from the area around Fort St. John. The BC government is also increase the amount of coal burning in this province with surplus energy destined for the USA market.

Yet, the spin-doctors for the federal Conservatives and provincial Liberals continue to claim that they are going green. Ignoring scientific evidence by advocating economic prosperity at the expense of the environment. These political parties would have the public believe that they are fighting global warming, combating climate change, protecting clean water, and working towards a sustainable future. What is actually being done?

Ask questions of your provincial and federal elected representatives and let the Prime Minister know you have concerns about the reality of claims that the government of Canada is working to protect the environment.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Photo #1 - BC Ministry of Forests approved the logging of Klaskish Creek by LeMare Lake Logging between 2003-2006
Photo #2 - BC Ministry of Forests approved LeMare Lake Logging for Upper East Creek 2006-2008 The single trees along the bank which may not survive seasonal winds are considered a watershed buffer
Photo #3 - BC Ministry of Forests has approved logging of the Lower East Creek Valley by Western Forest Products Fall 2008

I just spent two weeks in one of the last ancient rainforests on Vancouver Island, west of Port Alice. After passing over the last mountain ridge, where a bulldozer had plowed a tunnel through 10 feet of snow, we descended into the East Creek valley, which has been pristine since the last ice age 10,000 years ago.

In the past few years LeMare Lake Logging has blasted over this mountain ridge and felled most of the old growth forest in the upper watershed of East Creek. Massive stumps from ancient Cypress (Yellow Cedar), Mountain Hemlock, Pacific Red Cedar, and Balsam Fir trees are all that remain in clear-cuts devoid of life. Thin strips of trees separate the roads from the main water tributaries.

We watched as more trees were being felled. Hundreds of truckloads of logs lie on the sides of the roads, waiting for the snow to melt so they can be hauled to the boom yards for shipping. The public has been led to believe that logging is kept away from the watershed of creeks, but that is not the case.

Western Forest Products will be moving in to replace LeMare Lake Logging in the next couple of months and they will destroy the lower valley. As far as the BC Ministry of Forests is concerned this is a done deal with no public process for approval.

East Creek is designated as a Special Management Zone by the Vancouver Island Land Management Plan and was considered a Natural Disturbance type #1 by the Forest Practices Code. The public was promised that the highest standards of logging regulations would be upheld in this ancient forest. However, the ‘Results Based Forestry Code’, introduced by Gordon Campbell’s BC Liberal government, leaves it up to the logging companies to report on their logging activities with no public approval process in place to monitor environmental or ecological degradation in the old growth forest.

A few weeks before my trip to East Creek, I went to Victoria to find out information about logging in the area from the BC Ministry of Forests. When I arrived at the Forest Service’s office tower I found no waiting room, no receptionist, and no index list of personnel just a security guard inside a plexi-glass cubicle who spoke to me through a metal speaker. He made several phone calls, but was unable to find someone to help me at the Forest Services office and finally instructed me to go to another building where I would find the Forest Practices Board.

The elevator opened to 4 locked doors with panels for security swipe cards and no nameplates. Several minutes later a man got out of the elevator and slid a card in the security panel. I asked him if this was the Forest Practices Board and mentioned the name the security guard had given me. The man told me to wait and locked the door behind him.

Eventually a woman opened the door and asked me to sit in a tiny lobby partitioned off from a maze of cubicles by wall dividers. Ten minutes later a man appeared with a rolled map of the entire province with zones indicating Tree Farm Licenses. This map is so vague that it is of no use for navigation. As I asked questions two more men appeared but none of them had very much information to provide. I was referred to an online website where I would have to register for a BC identity number in order to access government maps.

A decade ago when I was doing similar research about the Walbran Valley I went to the Forest Ministry office in Victoria. The lobby walls were covered with racks full of detailed logging road maps from across the province, available to the public free of charge. A registered forester explained detailed logging plans for the area provided at the expense of the logging company. He then photocopied several maps for me and e-mailed me a digital version of the entire proposed logging plan. A complete copy of the Forest Practices Code arrived at my home a few days later. The logging plans were subject to public review, input, and ministry approval prior to the company blasting roads and felling trees.

Today the old growth temperate rainforest of East Creek is being blasted for logging roads, trees are being cut down, yarders are dragging the logs across the watershed, and the ecosystem is being destroyed.

Based on what I witnessed, the public does not know that this is happening today, and the Ministry of Forests has approved it. Take action to protect Vancouver Island's Ancient Forests by joining the online petition at:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


The most personal environment of all is the individual human body. In order to stay healthy many of us make specific choices about what we eat, drink, and take for medicine. Personally I have eaten a vegetarian diet for the past 15 years and I try to eat mostly organic produce. When I am faced with an ailment I search for the most natural health products available, although when push comes to shove I listen to my doctor and take what he prescribes.

On April 8, 2008 Bill C-51 was introduced to the House of Commons in Ottawa. It has just passed through its first reading, which means that it is not law yet! This bill will allow Health Canada unprecedented powers over the public in terms of what we can consume for our own health benefits. Through regulations, fee structures, and taxation this bill will put many smaller companies out of business allowing for large multinational pharmaceutical companies to take over completely regarding the sale of natural health products.

Basically, C-51 changes the definition of the word drug to include all natural health products. This means that Health Canada will be given the power to force natural health products off the market. All such products will be treated as drugs that must face the same fees, regulations, and taxation as pharmaceuticals.

To date no death has been attributed to a natural health product. However, the Federal government of Canada has been trying for decades to regulate this growing industry to ‘protect’ the public from the unknown. In 2004 the Federal government introduced natural health product regulations, which required anyone selling these products had to conform to a licensing requirement. To date 60% of license applications have failed and it is expected as much as 75% of all Natural Health products currently sold in Canada will become illegal if Bill C-51 is passed.

Under the new law Health Canada would be able to act outside the court system by entering private property without a warrant, seizing property at their discretion, and without reporting seizures to a Court. They will be able to levy fines up to $5 million and/or seek 2 years in jail. Primarily this will apply to natural health practitioners, producers of natural heath products, and retailers. Health Canada is currently hiring more enforcement officers and has been holding recruitment meetings at universities across the country.

In recent years the natural health product have become more readily available to the general public. North Americans consume by far the largest portion of natural health products in the world, although many of these products originated from Asian and European sources. These produces are in such demand that the profits have become substantial and have attracted the attention of Multinational pharmaceutical companies. These investment-driven giants are able to put up millions of dollars to meet regulatory demands as well as clerical devices such as Drug Identification Numbers. These scan-based serial numbers must appear on all packaging of drugs and costs tens of thousands of dollars per product. They will become mandatory by Federal law if Bill C-51 passes.

Many suppliers and producers of natural health produces are small businesses, which cannot afford the exorbitant fees needed to meet Federal licensing requirements. The science behind these products are sound and the produces are healthy, having proved themselves for years, but meeting the criteria for ‘drugs’ means that they will have to spend millions to prove that the public should continue to be able to buy them.

Dr. James Lunney, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Alberni, was a vocal supporter of a private members bill to protect supplier of vitamins during his first term in office as a member of the Alliance Party of Canada. As a Doctor of Chiropractic he seemed to understand that the body needs natural products to heal and thrive. Today Lunney has fallen silent and appears to be towing the party line with his vote in the coming decision regarding Bill C-51.

Let your local MP know about your concerns with Bill C-51 and please send letters, free of postage, to: Prime Minister Stephen Harper & Health Minister Tony Clement, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Friday, May 09, 2008


The Pacific tree frogs are singing in the wetlands, after a long winter of hibernation in the mud. Their eggs laid, in balls of transparent gel attached to twigs or grass stems, these tiny amphibians will climb into the trees and spend the summer eating insects.

Rough-skinned newts, commonly mistaken for Salamanders with orange bellies, can be seen crawling slowing from their nests under logs towards pools of still water. They will mate and then the females will lay individual eggs on the leaves of submerged vegetation. The hatched larvae take 4-5 months to reach maturity and rely on standing water for survival. The adult will stay in water for as long as possible and then move to the damp shade under logs and rocks.

The natural drainage of the Oceanside region, for that matter much of the east coast of Vancouver Island, is such that water was retained in wetlands. Although it rains a great deal during the fall, winter, and spring months the summers are usually dry. These annual extremes between flood and drought demand that water be held back for several months in order for life to prosper.

Wetlands by definition retain water throughout the year, several types are found in this area including: Marsh, Fens, and Woodland Swamps. Marsh areas have an abundance of grass and other vegetation along with open water, which combine with peat moss to act as a sponge that maintains water levels throughout the year. Hamilton Marsh is the only local wetland that qualifies for this distinction and it is owned by Island Timberlands who plan to log the forest around it and develop the land for real estate.

Fens, or peat-forming wetlands, can be found at a variety of locations from the lowlands up into the sub-alpine. The ridge overlooking Oceanside is currently covered with large patches of white snow. Those are clear-cuts: the result of logging in the past few years where there were once an abundance of fens.

By far the most abundant wetland type, in this area, are forest swamps. Historically, surface water has been retained in low spots under the shade of trees where thick sword ferns cover the moist soil, even during a prolonged draught. Many landowners drain these areas to allow for development. The run-off is then accelerated during the rainy season leaving very little or no moisture in the summer, particularly if the wetland in covered with backfill.

Currently many government agencies have limited jurisdiction over water but none of them have the clout to make private and corporate landowners comply in order for local drinking water to be protected.

The BC Ministry of Environment and Minister Responsible for Water Stewardship and Sustainable Communities has not enacted any legislation with regards to water. However they have named their water action plan: “Water for B.C. — Safe, Sustainable, and Valued by All” According to Minister Barry Penner’s website: “The plan is built around three broad goals: public health and safety, healthy watersheds and responsible use, and encourages British Columbians to adopt a sustainability ethic around caring for and protecting water resources and aquatic ecosystems.”

No mention of corporate responsibility, although big business uses by far the largest amounts of water in this province to flush mines, cool pulp mills, drill for oil, and cool metal smelting plants. Oceanside has 7 golf courses, with several currently under construction. Each 18-holes uses more than 1 million liters of water every summer’s night. Logging corporations, like Island Timberlands continue logging the ‘aquatic ecosystems’ such as the banks of Hamilton Creek as seen on Highway 4A between the town of Qualicum Beach and Coombs.

The BC Ministry of Health can intervene in the case of extreme situations. The Regional District of Nanaimo has very limited authority over water. The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans prescribes 30-meter setback from Rivers and Creeks but does not enforce these limitations on private lands.

Ironically, the BC Ministry of Transportation has the most control over the flow of local surface water. Ditches have been dug along every roadway to drain surface water. The goal of this Ministry is to discharge the water to the ocean as rapidly as possible. This in direct contradiction to nature, which seeks to retain the water for the dry season so that life can exist during the summer droughts.

Monday, April 14, 2008



In days gone by Grafton Avenue ran through orchards and field of berries. Royalty in England ate jam from Errington on their scones and crumpets with afternoon tea. During the early part of the twentieth century Vancouver Island farms produced 85 percent of the food that was consumed locally.

Over time the petroleum industry has dominated the food industry by providing increased transportation networks as well as cheap chemical fertilizers. So then suppliers could ship produce around the world and monopolize on cheap labour forces in other regions. Limitations of weather dictated by the seasons could be overcome by ordering produce from thousands of kilometers away, even from the other side of the equator. Consumers began to depend upon these supplies and the low prices with little thought for the cost to the planet.

In other countries pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, genetic modification, can be used with little or no regard for standards or regulations in place where the consumer is buying the produce. People working the fields, preparing the food, and packaging it for transportation are faced with extremely low wages, dangerous work conditions, and long work weeks.

The Brazilian rainforest is being cut down and burned to make way for Soya beans, beef cattle, or corn to produce bio-diesel. The soil is so poor that it has to be abandoned after a year or two and the process is repeated. The lush jungle of the rainforest will take tens of thousands of years to grow back. The produce is then shipping around the globe to provide consumers with cheap food or fuel.

Located around lakes and rivers that can provide water for cultivation, low valley bottoms and estuary deltas have provided humanity with fertile soil to grow the majority of food needed for the growth of civilization. Populations grow with the abundance of food and increasingly demand more land to build houses and commercial structures. This balance between farmland and development has been going on for as long as civilizations have conquered the natural world.

Today some people in British Columbia, and in particular around Oceanside, want to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve in order to subdivide their land for housing development, building golf courses, and industry. Their claim is that the land is standing fallow so it should be put to use.

The fact is that the land can bring in more immediate cash today with a heightened real-estate market than if could in the short term as a hay field or low yielding farm. For the most part farming has become a losing proposition locally since it is extremely hard to complete with the global market controlled by multinational corporations.

On April 18, 1973 BC’s Land Commission Act came into effect. The Provincial government appointed a new Commission, to establish a special land use zone to protect agricultural land. The "Agricultural Land Reserve" was established in collaboration with local governments and protected 5% of BC, which was the most critical to the province’s food production. The ALR was very popular for many years because the public saw that development was slowed and farms were being protected.

Today Vancouver Island is almost completely dependant on the rest of the world for food. Try going to any grocery store locally and find an item that was produced on Vancouver Island. If you find one buy the item and tell your friends. A few local markets during the summer provide local farmers with the opportunity to sell their produces.

Cormie’s farm on the south side of Parksville has been growing and selling produce grown either on their own land or by mostly local farmers for over thirty years. There are other examples of local success including Little Qualicum Cheese Factory, Blueberry Fields Farm in Coombs, and the Coombs Country Market with a few local items including the goats on the roof.

Consumers are the only ones who can change this trend by demanding that local farmers be represented in local stores. Paying more for local produce makes sense when you factor in the costs to the plant.

Please let your Mayor and Council, MLA, and Regional Director know how you feel about allowing Agricultural Land to be developed locally.

Friday, April 04, 2008



Walking down by the ‘Clay Banks’ along Englishman River I look up at the bottom of the steep bank that has been eroding into the water for as long as I can remember. Today, just a few spindly trees, teetering on the edge of the vertical drop, roots dangling in the air, top this massive clay monument. Half way down the 40 meter bank is the latest casualty, balanced at a strange angle, rootball exposed to the elements, waiting for the next heavy rains to dissolve the clay before this tree slides down into the river.

Over the last few years TimberWest has logged a massive clear-cut to the edge of this sheer drop-off. Island Timberlands has also been using feller bunchers to cut down the fifty year old tree farm that runs along Englishman River. The forest lands on the south side of the river are privately owned and therefore the BC Ministry of Forests claims no responsibility for ‘forest management’ and the BC Ministry of Environment leaves it up to the companies to do the right thing.

The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans does have jurisdiction along the river corridor and has considerable clout to prevent damage to the river. However, as is the case with many other rivers like it across the province, the DFO have approved this logging on the banks of Englishman River.

Directly across the river, is a large salmon enhancement project. Water has been diverted from the natural flow of the river, into man made channels that have been designed for rearing salmon. Local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Salmon Foundation, BC Ministry of Environment, Human Resources Development Canada, Stream keepers, The Nature Trust of BC, and other agencies have all been involved in this ongoing project.

Salmon returns have increased but nothing like those prior to the 1980s when multi-national logging companies began to clear-cut 2nd growth forests/tree farms on privately owned land along the river. Englishman River continues to be listed as one of the most endangered rivers in British Columbia, due to logging and real estate development.

When Weyerhaeuser bought out MacMillan Bloedel in the late 1990s it took the Chief Forester of BC’s recommendation that the rotation of a tree farm be 80 years between harvesting, and cut it in half. 40 years is now the standard rotation time for logging on Vancouver Island by all the logging companies. Much of this land can be logged with feller-bunchers, which means that very few people are employed while vast tracts of land can be clear-cut in a very short time. Island Timberlands, TimberWest, and Western Forest Products own the majority of private land on Vancouver Island.

Many questions arise when managing land: Is the land privately owned, managed by the crown on behalf of the public, and have first nations been consulted? What are the most important values for this land? Should we see the land as forestry, watershed, recreational park, Jurisdiction is key, since much of the time several agencies are responsible and they do not always consult with each other, and plan management together.

Stream Keepers are planting trees to fill in gaps in the forest made by excavators as part of the Englishman River Watershed Recovery Plan. Over the past few years large logs (referred to as large woody debris) have been placed along the river and tied to trees and/or piles of blasted rock with steel cable. The hope is that these log jams will slow the flow of water and create pools, which will provide habitat for fish fry. In the process excavators removed trees and the under-story of brush in order to access the riverbanks. A few months after Stream Keeper volunteers had done their planting, at one site along the bank, excavators returned and crushed all of these seedlings.

Managing nature has been left up to government and private industry for many years in British Columbia. Each election changes the priorities and most initiatives are undertaken on a project-by-project basis. Many different agencies, working on their priorities, overlook the bigger picture in order to complete specific tasks. As a result complimentary projects are not united, and often one project fundamentally undermines another.

Friday, March 21, 2008



Using dynamite to blast the trunks of trees into smithereens may make falling a 600-year-old Douglas fir safer for the humans doing the work. That’s is the contention of the workers compensation board with regards to the contractors working for BC Parks and the Ministry of Environment in Cathedral Grove. According to media reports there are 9 danger trees that must be felled in order to make it safe for tourists to walk on the paths in the Provincial Park.

Spring is here, birds are nesting, Elk are in the valley with calves, and small animals are giving birth to their young. A tour of the area, with parks manager Dave Foreman and several key participants in the falling, revealed that more like 40-50 old growth trees would be blasted along paths, the highway corridor, and anywhere BC Parks identified as a threat. There will be no straight cuts left by chainsaws so the counting will be difficult.

Parks have always been designed by human beings for humans, and when their needs change so do the parameters of the parks. However there is a point where parks are altered by humans to the point that they no longer reflect the nature that they were designed to preserve.

Strathcona Park, the first and oldest BC Provincial Park established in 1911, has been dissected and compromised over the last century. Logging, highways, and mining have been allowed to alter the integrity of this park. Portions of the initial parkland have been pulled out of the protected area by government and sold or traded to logging companies.

Parks can also play a key role in rehabilitating a compromised ecosystem while providing recreational and educational opportunities for the public. A prime example locally is the Englishman River Regional Park, which runs upstream from Top Bridge to Morrison Creek. Officially opened to the public last fall by the Regional District of Nanaimo, the Nature Trust of British Columbia, and several other partners this park includes second and third growth trees ranging in age from freshly planted to approximately 50 years old depending on the age of the cut block. The park compliments the Salmon Enhancement Project, Englishman River Watershed Recovery Plan, and several other rehabilitation projects along the Englishman River. This park combines public needs with restoration presenting many opportunities through stream keepers and other groups that help to educate the public.

The needs of people and nature are interwoven and continue to be linked but society tends to try managing nature in order to tame it. Controlling nature may seem like a practical solution to societies fear of the wild but managing parks for people tends to compromise nature to the point that is destroyed. The BC Parks Act makes no bones about the fact that most parks, with the exception of certain components of a class “A” park, have been set aside for the public to use for recreational purposes.

Carmanah Provincial park, directly across the Island from Oceanside due south on the west coast, was protected in 1989 and the lower Walbran Valley was added in 1991. The public demanded this protection to save some of the last ancient temperate rainforest as well as to establish a reserve for the Marbled Murrelet to nest.

Logging has continued all around the Carmanah/Walbran park and today the clear-cuts run directly along the boundaries. All access to the park is on industrial logging roads and when the trees licensed for logging are gone from the companies that built these roads will have no reason to maintain them. In fact, 2 years ago TimberWest threatened to remove a key bridge so they could move it to another location. Already, the roads entering the park are in such bad shape that it discourages the public from visiting. With fewer and fewer visitors the government is already beginning to grumble that the primary purpose for a park is to provide the public with recreational opportunities. Industry has already built the roads in and would like to continue logging. Where is this leading? No people in the parks, unused timber just standing there rotting, roads in place, need for economic stability in a declining forest industry…

Saturday, March 08, 2008


This week I took a journey into unknown territory, in an environment that kept me out of the sun. I spent two days listening to architects, construction engineers, designers, municipal planners, authors of building codes, certification administrators, energy consultants, and building contractors of every discipline. I learned a great deal as one of 400 participants in the ‘Building Green in a Changing Climate’ conference and trade show held in Courtenay.

Public demand for environmental standards and accountability has sparked change in the construction industry and some companies are complying with tough standards in order to attract customers. Rising material costs, as well as an increase in operational costs for all buildings, have combined with skyrocketing energy costs. The result is that the construction industry is beginning to realize that it must seek out alternatives. In today’s market place building ‘green’ makes sense economically.

A great deal of creative and technical innovation is being generated with amazing results that will effectively revolutionize the building industry. However, only a small percentage of industrial, institutional, or residential construction projects are currently being built using green thinking and materials. The ground swell has begun and now it is up to the public to move it forward so that industry follows through with this green trend.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a market driven system, which is attempting to prove to consumers that building construction meets with the highest environmental standards. LEED is an internationally recognized rating system that encourages the construction of green buildings, administered by the Canada Green Building Council. Accredited professionals are trained and certified to monitor projects in order to award buildings with coveted ratings.

LEED has 5 principle categories by which it assesses construction projects for environmental sensitivity: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality. Certification is based on the number of points awarded for their compliance with these standards. Innovation in the design process can win additional points and negative points from noncompliant areas can be off set by points gained in other areas of the overall project.

One contractor admitted that they separated all of the construction waste material, went to great lengths and expense to transport it to the proper facility, and then discovered that it was all dumped into the same land fill. None of the material was recycled because the governing authorities had not implement any recycling at that facility. However, the building received LEED points based on the fact that the contractors had done their part to recycle the material. Other large projects reached targets of 95% recycling of waste materials where the proper facilities were available in larger urban centers.

In today’s real-estate market on Vancouver Island, with the potential for massive returns on investment dollars, entire communities are being built from scratch. The theory is that environmental devastation, caused by bulldozing large tracts of land, can be off-set by the ability to plan an entire town based on platinum rated ‘green’ standards. On paper it may work to move environmental points from one area to another, but on the ground when the road is blasted in and the trees are cut down the ecosystem is changed forever.

The term ‘Net-Zero’ refers to the energy consumption of a building, this along with ‘carbon neutral’ were catch phrases used repeatedly throughout the conference. In the forefront of my mine was the term “Green wash!” However, I truly believe that many of the professionals who made presentations at ‘Building Green’ want to change construction and are working towards a green future.

A strong argument was presented about sustainable building practices, since current construction practices tend to produce homes which may only last 30 to 40 years. European models have proven that residential buildings can exist for hundreds of years by using the proper care and attention to design, construction, and materials. The call was for building standards that will increase the longevity of buildings so that they are accountable to the amount of energy and resources put into them, thereby effecting environmental sustainability.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Wednesday February 13 morning, before first light 70 police officers arrested 7 people dedicated to protecting the Langford Cave and Garry Oak ecosystem near Goldstream park. Swat teams stormed over the forest arresting 2 tree-sitters and 5 others at gunpoint (many shotguns, hands guns, and rifles) A great deal of force was used, although no charges were laid and it appeared difficult to find a judge who would go along with this police action.

Last week I was giving a tour of the area to a TV crew from France when 2 RCMP officers approached me for my name. I reminded them of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that entitles every citizen in Canada to privacy, association, and freedom of the press.

I began to talk with one officer about the Gary Oak Ecosystem that was going to be destroyed by the planned highway interchange. He didn’t think it was a problem and then related his own personal story. He wanted to build a second garage beside his home and found the local bylaws prevented him from simply cutting down 2 massive Garry Oak trees in his backyard. He was forced to hire an accredited arborist who wrote a letter stating the trees had to go before the garage could be built. Then he had to acquire a permit to remove the trees which was only issued after he provided a receipt for 2 replacement Garry Oak trees over 6 feet tall. He was obviously upset that he couldn’t simply destroy the ecosystem that was in his way but the result was the same. No more ancient Garry Oaks in his backyard, just young seedlings.

Garry Oak Ecosystems are endangered according to the BC Ministry of Environment, who state: “Restricted to southwestern British Columbia, these ecosystems are among the rarest in the province.” They contain a diverse array of animal and plant life, including Northern Alligator Lizards, Easter Lilies, Camas, and Shooting Stars. This unique grouping of species only occurs within the Coastal Douglas-fir Zone on south eastern Vancouver Island and some of the gulf islands. Over 97% of the Garry Oak ecosystems have been destroyed by development.

Oceanside’s Nanoose notch is a rare example of an intact hillside, however a walk along those bluffs will reveal development on all sides where the rocky outcroppings are being bulldozed. Hopefully Fairwinds and the Department of National Defense will be encouraged to protect this rare ecosystem.

First Nations named the mountain SPAET, long before wealthy athletes dubbed it Bear Mountain, and it played a significant part in their culture. Garry Oak flourished on this mountain providing important medicine and food plants such as camas. Several sacred caves are concealed below SPAET; tiny entrances open up into massive chambers hidden below the surface. Vancouver Island has many hidden caves, due to a phenomenon known as Karst, whereby rainwater seeps though the hard rocky topography wearing away the softer limestone.

When First Nations tried to protect one of these caves they met with strong residence by Bear Mountain developers who filled it in with tires, debris, and rock before collapsing it with dynamite. Police and government downplayed the situation and the courts approved an injunction to prevent key First Nations from visiting Bear Mountain property.

Between 1998 and 2001 the BC Land Reserve Commission rejected several attempts by Western Forest Products to transfer crown land from the tree farm license on Skirt Mountain to private ownership.

The BC Liberal party came to power May 2001; 2 months later BC granted 44 hectares of Crown land on Skirt Mountain to Western Forest Products for $1.05 million. This land is adjacent to Goldstream Provincial Park. 6 months later the Land Reserve Commission allowed several hundred hectares to be taken out of the Forest Land Reserve, which WFP sold for $7.5 million to private developers. A few months later the District of Langford re-zones this property allowing large-scale development.

Between 2002 and the present, the Bear Mountain Parkway was built through the former Forest Land Reserve lands. An 18-hole golf course was built on the former Crown lands and WFP lands, along with a village-centre of shops, condominiums, an hockey arena, and a high-rise Westin hotel. Several hundred luxury homes were built on terra-formed platforms, formed by blasting the mountain in long troughs and then leveling the rubble into flat pads, where Garry Oak and Arbutus meadows once stood.


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Growing up in Errington, my neighbour across the road was a grumpy old man who lived with his wife in a doublewide mobile home. He was the only person in the area who posted a Social Credit sign at the front of his driveway during every provincial election.

From 1952 to 1956 Robert Sommers was Forests Minister of British Columbia. On his watch, and with the persistence of Commissioner Gordon Sloan who investigated the logging industry, the Tree Farm License system was established. The basic concept was that large tracts of publicly owned land would be divided and managed by the Ministry of Forests. Each TFL would assure a timber supply for a particular logging company. In exchange the company would have to provide mills, jobs, and stumpage fees. The TFLs were tied to the communities and were supposed to provide sustainable logging and economic security in perpetuity for future generations.

In 1958 Robert Sommers was convicted of bribery and conspiracy. He went to prison. Premier W.A.C. Bennett and his Social Credit government were able to dodge accusations that they were involved in the selling of large tracts of publicly owned land sold to individuals and corporations. These sales were made before the lands were put up for public action, as required by provincial laws. Bob learned to tune pianos in prison. The land sales were final. Some people got rich. Forests were clear-cut as far as the eyes could see. The forestry industry boomed for many years.

Then the Youbou Mill was shut down after 73 years. 200 people lost their jobs along with approximately 400 people who lived by those people. The village of Youbou, on the shores of Cowichan Lake, was devastated. Clause 7 of the BC government’s timber agreement with TimberWest legally tied the TFL to the community. The Ministry of Forests waved that clause in 2001, allowing TimberWest to shut down the Youbou Mill and export raw logs from that TFL.

In 2002 the BC Liberals allowed 3.7 million cubic meters of raw log to be exported, this was the highest amount on record and translates to 100,000 full truckloads. According to the Youbou Timberless Society ( these exported logs would be enough to employ almost 4000 people and run 6 sawmills for a year.

Since then many more mills have been shut down around the province. The BC Liberals have been taking apart the TFL system and giving crown land to private corporations. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that First Nations must be consulted before any land is changed from crown to private, but to date the BC Liberals have not complied with these rulings.

Logging companies have obviously realized that their methods are not sustainable even after reducing the harvest rotations from 80 years, as recommended by the Chief Forester of BC, to 40 years. TimberWest, Western Forest Products, and Island Timberlands (Brookfield Asset Management) have all become land developers on a grand scale.

Honourable Rich Coleman is the Minister of Forests and Range and Minister Responsible for Housing. According to the ministry’s website: “Before his election to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Coleman ran a real estate management and consulting company.”

His older brother, Stan Coleman, works for Western Forest Products where he is their Manager of Strategic Planning. In 2007 the BC Liberals pulled 28,273 hectares of land, just west of Sooke, from a TFL and gave it to Western Forest Products without any financial compensation.

In June 2005 Stan Coleman was working for Cascadia Forest Products when private land was removed from TFL 44, near Port Alberni. Rich Coleman was appointed as Minister of Forests in June 2005. Today, this newly privatized land is owned by Brookfield Assets Management Inc. through its subsidiary Island Timberlands.

The Auditor General of BC is conducting an inquiry into the lands pulled out of the TFLs and given to private corporations. He needs your encouragement to put a stop to this blatant corruption. John Doyle Auditor General of BC 8 Bastion Square Victoria, BC V8V 1X4 Tel: (250) 387-6803 Fax: (250) 387-1230