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.