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

Friday, January 04, 2008


I was soaked by blasts of mist blown into my face by the intense pounding of water on rock at Englishman River Falls during the last high water event. The relatively narrow cleft in the rock, carved out by the constant onslaught of water, funnels the river down into a deep canyon worn over the course of centuries.

A swirl of mist sprayed into the air with a chaotic pulsating rhythm. The moisture either dropped back into the foaming rage of the waterfall or became airborne and drifted high up into the canopy of the forest.

Heavy rains combined with the rapid melting of a recent snowfall combined to swell the river to the point that it spilled over its regular banks at several places along the length of the river. A thick mat of tree and shrub roots covering the forest floor, help slow the flow of water during heavy rains and retain moisture during the dry seasons. This dual function allows the forest to survive through all the seasons of the year and prevents massive erosion during extreme weather.

I remember watching the miracle of clouds being created by the ancient rainforest in the Walbran Valley. It was late spring, heavy rains had been pouring down for several days, when the weather broke into a beautiful clear sunny day, which warmed the air and my bones.

From my perch on a massive cedar stump in a clear-cut provided by TimberWest, I had a perfect vantage point of the entire low valley bottom forest surrounding Anderson Lake. The ancient rainforest is intact for several kilometers between the clear-cuts of TimberWest, on the south side of the valley, and Weyerhaeuser on the north.

Unlike a second growth tree farm, the canopy of this primeval forest is far from uniform. Much of the forest is made up of a mixture of Western Pacific Hemlock, Balsam Fir, with a few thousand-year-old yew trees as well as a smattering of deciduous trees along the river. In the foreground I could see thousands of old growth Pacific Red Cedar trees, with their broken crowns and bare wood exposed, poking out of the canopy.

Many of these Cedars have been recorded as being over 1000 years old with a few veterans noted at over 1800 years old. In the distance I could see the towering trunks of Sitka Spruce, dwarfing the other tree species by reaching to nearly double their height. A stand of these massive Sitka, registered as being between 700-900 years old, grows in the fertile soil along Walbran Creek.

I could see everything with perfect clarity through the clear air when I first sat down. Then slowly I began to perceive a slight haze forming over the treetops. I watched a humming bird work the salmon berry bushes below me for the pure sweet nectar of their pink flowers for a while, when I looked up the haze had turns into a soft mist.

Slowly, wisps of mist drifted between the treetops and began to form swirls of delicate clouds. Small pockets of dense fog were forming all across the valley, and some of them were blending into each other. Soon the tops of the giant Sitka Spruce were obscured completely by the rising fog.

Then things began to change rapidly. A blanket of thick fog formed over the entire valley and soon I could not see any of the trees below. In a few hours the entire valley, several square kilometers, was socked in by dense fog, reaching from one mountain ridge to another.

The forest had pumped the moisture from the ground back into the atmosphere. The roots had sucked up a large volume of water, dumped by rain clouds blown in from the Pacific Ocean. The water was then pumped up through hundreds of thousands of trunks to the needles of the predominately coniferous forest and released into the atmosphere with the help of the sun. The resulting bank of fog remained in the Walbran Valley until the next day when an off shore wind picked up and blew the massive cloud into the next valley and beyond.