Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Richard Boyce filming an aerial garden growing 60 meters high up in the canopy of an ancient Sitka Spruce.

Over the past 5 years I have made a concerted effort to shed some light onto the nature around us with a view that we are here because of the environment that provides humanity with everything we need to live. My belief remains that we must protect the environment around us if we hope to continue to prosper as a species. I have had the opportunity to share my views about a wide variety of subjects with loyal readers and browsers alike.
This is the 125th article of my column ‘Island Lens’ which was first published by the PQNews on February 20, 2004. Today marks the final article for Island Lens, so that I can turn my full attention to the final stages of a film, which I have been producing for the past 3 years entitled; “Such Great Heights.” This feature length documentary film focuses on the unique canopy of the ancient rainforest that grows on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
It has been my lifelong dream to explore airborne gardens, high above the forest floor with their abundance of life that is as diverse as it is lush. During the production of this film I have been able to explore the canopy first-hand and gather stories from people who have spent years researching this incredibly unique environment. First Nations’ Elders have also shared their traditional knowledge with me and my camera.

Aerial gardens are unique ecosystems which have evolved over hundreds of years, as debris is caught in the nooks and crannies of massive trees where it composts over time. Eventually soil deposits develop which provide a rich base for windblown seeds, which flourish in the light. These aerial gardens provide habitat for unique insects, as discovered by a team of Entomologists from the University of Victoria who have recorded more than 125 insects that had never before been identified. Scientists in the early 1990s discovered that the rare and endangered Marbled Murrelet nests exclusively on aerial gardens making it the only known seabird in the world to nest in trees.

With a small crew of climbers, including a professional arborist, I have developed ways to film high up in the canopy, climbing ropes rather than the trees to limit the damage we do to the environment we are documenting. As a team we have created rope systems that allow us to move vertically and horizontally through the canopy of giant Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, and Douglas fir trees.

The temperate rainforests found in the low valley bottoms on the west coast of Vancouver Island have a biomass greater than anywhere on earth, meaning that the density of living organisms per square meter surpasses even that of the famous Amazon rainforest. Science has determined that rainforests are extremely important to the life cycles and functions of this planet. Trees filter air by taking carbon, nitrogen, phosphates, and other airborne chemicals in the atmosphere and fixing them into the soil where they provide nutrients, in turn producing vast amounts of oxygen. Forests are the lungs of our planet. Trees redistribute water, functioning as huge sponges to retain water and pumping vast quantities of water back into the atmosphere. Rainforests greatly effect weather patterns.

Ironically, in order for me to film in the pristine rainforest I have to drive to the most remote regions of Vancouver Island through seemingly endless clear-cuts, tree farms, and second growth mono-culture forests. Less than 2% of the original old growth forest remains in low valley bottoms on Vancouver Island. 85 of the original 91 watersheds have been completely devastated by logging over the past 150 years when the first steam sawmill was brought from England to Port Alberni. Today I estimate that there are three times as many logging roads, where the general public seldom ventures, as paved roads on Vancouver Island.

I am currently editing my film “Such Great Heights” with the goal of providing everyone with an opportunity to explore the canopy of the rainforest before it is completely destroyed. You can catch a glimpse by viewing a short video posted at my website:

Richard Boyce in the canopy overlooking logging operations on publicly owned land in the Upper East Creek, Valley, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Seaweed drying where many generations have spread out this important harvest.

The boat thrashed through the turbulent waters caused by gusts of wind combined with the rushing of the tides through a narrow channel between rocky islands. The tide reached a low of zero at 7am exposing a rocky coastline covered in a wide variety of seaweed well below the tide line that cuts a straight line along the overhanging forest.

The boat is filled to the brim with academics eager to learn about the past from two of the only people with living memory of how their people harvested seaweed and clams along this coast. The passengers included an Archeologist, an Ethno-Botanist, and a Marine Biologist specializing in seaweed as well as graduate students pursuing degrees in Entho-Botany, Environmental studies, and Linguistics who are documenting the journey for their research.

Known traditionally as Qwaxsistalla, the Clan Chief of Kawadillikala (wolf) Clan of Kingcome Inlet, Adam Dick leads us on a tour of his traditional Lok'key'wey. This Clam Garden was built thousands of years ago by his ancestors and was maintained through the centuries by his people. They constructed dikes made of stone to bridge the openings between large rock outcroppings between islands. Over many years these structures expanded the beaches, which supported clams and other marine life. The development of these fertile gardens, which were tended every spring and winter during the seaweed and clam harvest season, increased the numbers of clams many times over.

I try to imagine what it would have been like for a small child to be piled into a dug out canoe with his grandparents, paddling through the maze of islands with most of their belongings. Heading to a winter camp, where they could gather clams and hide from the authorities, in order to escape the torments of the residential schools. As a result of their efforts the knowledge passed down through countless generations, by a people who understood how to survive and flourish on this unforgiving coast, exists today.

With first contact between Europeans and First Nations peoples came diseases such as Small Pocks, Measles, and Tuberculosis, which wiped out the majority of people living on the coast of what is now British Columbia. Those who survived were forced to live on government controlled reserves and they were no longer allowed to move freely to harvest their traditional foods which were located in different places depending upon the season. Their children where forcibly taken to residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their languages. Cultural traditions such as the Potlatch, where knowledge was passed between the generations, were outlawed and punishable with extreme hardships.

On the return trip we stop at a tiny island to pick-up a team of graduate students, who have been harvesting seaweed according to traditional methods. One of them spread out squares of the thin green stands on a smooth rock face and comments that this is the perfect place for drying the seaweed with its southern exposure. I wonder how many people have used this same spot for the same purpose over the past millennia. When we return to the boat Qwaxsistalla tells us that he was reminded of his grandmother who spread seaweed in the exact same spot and remembers that the large tree towering over the rock was just a sapling when he last gathered seaweed with his grandparents.

Once the seaweed is dried and stored in a bent cedar box, layered between cedar boughs and pressed under a stone, dense bricks of rich black are ready to store or eat. It has a smell akin to caramel and the texture is similar to popcorn, except it melts in your mouth as it returns to its original state of thin smooth seaweed with a salty spice that is very unique. It’s delicious.

It turns out that the skipper of the boat is doing her postgraduate studies by researching SPLICE, a chemical used in fish farms to kill sea lice, which kill small salmon fry. Premier Gordon Campbell recently increased the number of fish farms and their capacity in the Broughton Archipelago although the effects upon wild salmon stocks have been shown to be devastating. Currently the BC government allows the use of this chemical agent, despite the fact that it has been banned by several countries including the USA because of its ill effects on the marine environment surrounding Salmon Farms.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Endangered Wetland Forest ecosystem flourishes
Wetland Forest dominated by Sitka Spruce, Douglas fir, and Western Red Cedar

Last Thursday I watched a group of 12 men in Timber Cruising Vests walk into the woods at the edge of the highway between the Inland Highway and the Coombs Junction, very close to the railway tracks. The next day I hiked into the same forest to see what they were up to and noticed a series of florescent pink flagging tape with the words Timber Cruise. These plastic markers surrounded a particularly large Douglas fir tree but I wasn’t able to find any more anywhere else in that portion of the forest.

Hiking towards the open water of Hamilton Marsh I discovered a lush wetland forest, completely different from the 2nd growth Douglas fir forest on the other side of the marsh, where the public accesses the viewing dock. The area I walked through has an abundance of water pools, many of which are connected by slow moving trickles of water, which seeped through out the uneven ground. Thousands of Skunk Cabbage, with bright yellow blooms surrounded by bright green leaves, thrust out of the rich soil, along with a wide array of wetland plants.

I found man Western Red Cedar, with a ‘Diameter at Breast Height’ (DBH), exceeding 1 meter. I was surprised to find a significant number of Sitka Spruce trees, which are rare and endangered on the east coast of Vancouver Island according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Many of these tall trees also had a DBH greater than 1 meter.

Somewhat to my astonishment, I found many large old growth Douglas fir trees, despite the fact that this species generally likes to keep its roots dry. These ancients flourish on mounds of soil surrounded by pools of water. Through out the forest Hemlock trees of every size grow in abundance along with Creek Dogwood, Ninebark, Salmonberry, and wild Cherry. This wetland forest has many of the characteristics of an old growth forest with multi-layered canopy; multi-aged trees, and multiple species of trees.

As I neared the open waters of Hamilton Marsh the ground became wetter, and the trees became much smaller, and appeared stunted in their growth. They were clustered together in very dense clumps, and the Douglas fir disappeared entirely. A few pine trees appeared, and the Creek Dogwood became so dense that I turned back and headed for the railway following an old logging track, as indicated by the parallel ruts that weave through the forest. I came upon many giant stumps from a time when the trees were hand cut with a straight saw, using planks to elevate the loggers above the flared butt of the trees.

As I walked back along the railway tracks I was reminded of the root cause of the private ownership of this magnificent forest. After all, it was the provincial and federal government who gave Robert Dunsmuir, a coal baron and the richest man in British Columbia at the time, 2 million acres of land in exchange for building a railway on Vancouver Island back in 1884. The land was sold off and as a direct result the southeast coast of Vancouver Island has practically no public land. Today parks make up less than 3% of the landmass on the south east of Vancouver Island, despite claims by the BC government that 12% of the province is park, equally distributed throughout the province.

Brookfield Asset Management now owns the land around Hamilton Marsh. It plans to log and flog this land as real estate through Island Timberlands. However, the railway is dilapidated and does not serve the public, which was the reason for the land gift in the first place. Island Timberlands’ Public Relations Director, McKensie Leine responded to inquiries by stating: “There is a Wildlife Danger Tree Assessor course going on right now. The class was doing the practical portion of the training and using the area to learn to assess danger trees.” Meanwhile negotiations with conservation groups and the Regional District of Nanaimo have reached an impasse and Island Timberlands logging and development plans stand ready to move into action.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Richard Boyce films a special management zone along Klaskish Creek on Vancouver Island, this is the highest standard of logging in BC according to Ministry of Forests.

Last week someone working for Natural Resources Canada contacted me through my website with the following e-mail message: “Hi - I am looking for some dramatic photos of our fabulous old growth forests. Doesn't have to be Vancouver Island, but the big trees are on the west coast. Do you have licensed photos we could purchase for a display for the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.” After a quick internet search I found their website:

I soon learned that this council includes all of the Forest Ministers and/or Natural Resource Ministers, for every province and territory in Canada along with the Federal Government’s Ministry of Natural Resources. “Governments working in partnership to ensure Canada remains a world leader in Sustainable Forest Management and supports a competitive forest sector.”

Upon closer inspection I realized that this council is the governing body responsible for green-washing the Canadian forestry industry. They lobby foreign governments around the world with presentations, which shows the world that the last of Canada’s old growth forests are for sale. They claim that regulations have changed and the environmental impact of logging has been reduced.

This government council is spending taxpayers’ money to promote a forestry industry, which continues to destroy the ancient forests of Canada at an ever-increasing rate with devastating consequences to both the environment and forestry workers. Logging continues to destroy watersheds while more lives have been lost in forestry in Canada than in the Canadian military overseas in recent years. Raw log exports increase and at the same time far fewer Canadians are being employed in the forestry industry than in past years.

The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers asked me to provide beautiful photographs of an almost extinct rainforest to help sell the last few old growth trees to foreign markets so that mostly international corporations can cut down the last few stands of ancient forest in Canada. I responded with a series of photographs of the ancient rainforest that I have taken over the past few years from all over Vancouver Island, which illustrate the reality of logging devastation.

I also included the following text:

With regards to your request for photographs of big trees, I am very interested in providing you with “some dramatic photos of our fabulous old growth forests.” However, due to the practices of the British Columbia Ministry of Forests there are very few such giant trees left. The biggest, oldest, and healthiest specimens are found only in the lush valley bottoms. Of the original 85 watersheds found on Vancouver Island at least 80 have been clear-cut logged and the majority of those left pristine are having logging roads built into them as I write this letter.

98% of those lush rainforests on Vancouver Island, where the largest, tallest, and oldest trees in Canada once grew, have already been cut down. Much of what little is left is not preserved and will be cut down in the next few decades. Any discrepancy in statistics is due to questionable methods of calculation used by the BC Forest Ministry which includes counting rocky mountain tops, the surface areas of lakes, and areas where trees seldom grow to make up a higher percentage of land mass which has not been logged.

Attached you will find a few examples of my life-long pursuit to photograph the rainforest of Vancouver Island. I have included a proportionate number of pristine images to reflect the current state of this incredible forest. That photo is of a Culturally Modified Tree, which was used more than 150 years ago to extract natural pitch for building, ceremony, and medicinal purposes. Notice that the tree is still very much alive and healthy today although it was used as a ‘Natural Resource’ by several generations of First Nations People.

I followed this with a request to everyone on my e-mail list, to send their own message and photos of logging to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. I encourage you to do the same. Their detailed contact information is readily available on their website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


“A young bear cub shot with my camera on Vancouver Island”

Walking at Top Bridge Regional Park I heard many gun shots from the adjacent rifle range. By the thundering retorts I could tell that these were big guns. Then I remembered that the BC Liberals introduced a spring hunt for Black Bear and Cougar, when they first came to power in 2001.

At the time there was considerable public outrage, but most people have forgotten all about it today, yet the hunt continues and today many Black Bears and Cougars are being shot to death. On Vancouver Island there is an open hunting season on Black Bear from April 1 to June 15. This follows the fall hunt that was open September 6 through December 10, 2008.

Fish and Wildlife BC used to restrict hunting of bears to the fall only because in the spring the sows are with very young cubs. Shooting the mothers tends to seal the fate of the little ones to death through starvation or predation. Black Bear cubs live with their mother for at least a year, learning everything there is to know about being a bear. During the winter, bears on Vancouver Island are in semi-hibernation and the sows give birth to their cubs. In early spring bears begin to move around, foraging for fresh grass sprouts and various young plant shoots.

Today a BC residents can buy a hunting license for $20 to hunt down and kill Black Bears. A gall bladder fetches $500 and the paws about $100 each on the illegal parts market. In 2001 the official wildlife count by the BC Ministry of Environment recorded 12,000 Black Bear living on Vancouver Island. By 2008 more than 1/3 of the population had been killed, with current estimates at between 7,000 - 8,000 Black Bears.

Hunters can also shoot Cougars anytime between September 2 and June 15. The typical method humans use to hunt Cougar is with a team of dogs, often with a radio collar, who chase the mountain lion until it climbs a tree. The hunters then locate their dogs and shoot the cougar out of the tree. In 1995 an estimated 750 Cougars lived on Vancouver Island but their population has been decimated to half that number with approximately 300-400 recorded by Fish & Wildlife BC in 2008.

In the early 1960s, sports fishermen and hunters lobbied the BC government to open all forestlands to the public for recreational purposes. Agreements were made between the private and public sectors, which have benefited millions of people by allowing countless trips for camping, fishing, hunting, birding, mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, swimming, and other recreational activities. In recent years both logging corporations and the BC government have imposed restrictions that reduce public access to forestlands.

In a conversation I had with Ronda Murdock, co-owner/operator of Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours, she explained: “We have been leading tours at Hamilton Marsh for the past two years, as part of the annual Brant Festival, but this year we were told by Island Timberlands that we are not welcome on their land.” Murdock went on to explain that on Tuesday April 7 she received a phone call from Makenzie Leine, spokeswoman for Island Timberlands, who told her that she would not be allowed to give the annual Brant Festival tour at Hamilton Marsh.

Leine also objected to Gary Murdock, who worked as a BC Forest Service Officer for 35 years, based on the fact that he appeared in a short video about Bear Den Island. According to Leine this video proved that Murdock trespassed on the tiny island in the middle of Englishman River where he explained the age of a tree that had been cut down by fallers working for Island Timberlands.

According to the current laws and regulations established by the BC government and Island Timberlands, a hunter with a gun, can hike to Bear Den Island, locate the den, track the animal, and shoot a Black Bear. All this based on the very public knowledge that a bear has a den on this tiny island in the middle of Englishman River as reported in the PQNews along with a photo. However, an eco-tour operator is banned from entering any property owned by Island Timberlands because he has told the public about logging in the middle of a river.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Looking at things from a new perspective changes the world.

As individuals we can effect a great deal of change on the world around us but the number one way we can effect change for the environment is by voting. This is due to the fact that every level of government sets the laws and regulations that all individuals and corporations are expected to follow.

Greenwash is all the rage but sooner than later we have to really change the human impact upon the environment because the planet is showing many signs of weakening under direct pressure from our species. The public has been demanding environmental protection for years. Based on what people are doing on a personal level in terms of recycling, etc… they want to make a difference but are left with only 2 choices when it comes to voting.

Thankfully, there is an alternative, which has been chosen by 150 citizens selected randomly from across British Columbia. The Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, after an extensive process, selected the Single Transferable Vote (STV) as the system that best suites BC’s population and political make up. Ireland has being using the STV electoral system successfully for 50 years.

You may remember that in the last referendum on May 17, 2005, BC came very close, with in fact 57.7% of voters endorsing STV. With such a fine margin the government had to agree to a second referendum after establishing a set of standards voted for by the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform. In order for the STV system to replace the ‘first past the post system’ voters use today, 60% of BC voters will have to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum ballot during the upcoming provincial election on May 12, 2009.

STV may seem complicated but is actually based on grade 6 math and is designed to make your vote count. Rather than being limited to one vote, you would be expected to list your preferences by writing the number one for your first choice of candidates; with number two for 2nd and so forth until you reach the candidates, which you don’t want to elect, where you would leave the box blank. This eliminates the need for strategic voting and allows you to vote with your conscience.

If adopted, the STV system would first be used in the BC elections of 2013 when voters would elect the same number of MLAs, that has been increased from 79 to 85, for this upcoming election. The entire province would be divided into a number of districts each of which would have between 2-7 MLAs. The Mid-Vancouver Island district would have 4 MLAs, which is equal to the number representing the same area today. You would be voting on a ballot with candidates from all parties, including independents.

Scrutinizers will still guarantee all the ballots and will oversee the imputing of data into computers, which will then do the math. Paper ballots will be kept in case a recount is necessary and as evidence of a fair count.

The reason we need a change is simple, during the 2001 election the BC Liberal party won 97% of the seats with only 58% of the popular vote and in 2005 they ruled with a majority of 56% of the seats in the Legislature but they only received 46% of the popular vote. That power shift allowed Gordon Campbell to cancel the fall session of the legislature in both 2006 and 2008 to avoid questions from the opposition. The very corner stone of parliamentary democracy is the opportunity for the public’s will to be heard by the government.

In 2005 the Green Party of BC received 9% of the popular vote but not a single MLA represents them in the Legislature. Under the STV system the BC Green Party would likely have had 3 MLA’s representing their voters’ base. Trends in other countries that use STV or a similar system, indicate that a broader spectrum of voters are represented in government and politicians are forced to come to agreements and compromises that reflects the will of citizens.

It is interesting to note that political parties, such as the BC Liberals and the BC NDP, currently use a similar STV process to elect their candidates and leaders because they know that the system the public uses today is not fair.

For more information checkout:

Thursday, March 12, 2009



The abundance of life along the shorelines of Oceanside at this time of year is truly profound. On a single walk I counted 30 eagles on boulders near the waterline while thousands of gulls pecked away at the herring roe washed to shore by waves.

The calm water of the Strait of Georgia, transformed into a bright turquoise color by the sperm of millions of male herring, was shattered repeatedly by the splashes of massive sea lions as they gorged themselves on adult herring just below the surface. Offshore thousands of Brant Geese were feeding on the herring roe and the eelgrass it clings to underwater. Harlequin ducks, with all their brilliant colors, navigated through the shallow waters between countless other ducks, gulls, and shorebirds.

Locally the Brant Festival provides many opportunities to learn more about shoreline wildlife and habitat. It is important to keep a respectful distance from these birds because they have a very limited time for feeding. Humans, dogs, and boats can disturb these seabirds and cause them to break away from the very important business of eating. The Brant Geese are just stopping here briefly to load up on protein from herring roe before they move north to nesting grounds in Alaska.

March 24th is the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which occurred along the Alaska coastline on Good Friday 1989. This giant oil tanker spilled 40 million litres of crude oil into the sea, killing seabirds, sea otters, whales, sea lions, salmon, seals and many other species along the coastline. This oil slick spread over 28,000 km2 of ocean.

Since 1972 the coastal waters of British Columbia have been protected from oil tankers by a federal moratorium. Today the federal government of Canada is being asked to lift this moratorium at the request of Enbridge Inc. Their proposed Northern Gateway project includes building a twin pipeline system running 1,170km from Bruderheim, Alberta (just north of Edmonton) to Kitimat, BC where a supertanker port would be built with 2 ship berths for tankers that can hold anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 tons of crude oil.

Even without any major spills, vast quantities of crude oil will be pumped knowingly into the waters along the BC coastline. This is because oil tankers regularly fill 1/3 of their hulls with water, pumped in from a foreign ocean, to act as ballast for the return voyage. When this ballast water is pumped out of the hull, to prepare for the next shipment of oil, it takes with it the oil dredges left behind when unloading the last shipment of crude oil. Governments around the world allow tankers to discard this type of waste oil, which can amount to 1% of the volume of the ballast water. In the case of a tanker that is able to hold 200,000 tons of crude oil this equals 650 tons of wasted oil pumped directly into coastal waters each time a tanker returns to a port such as Kitimat.

This is also how many invasive marine species are transported around the world, including: foreign mussels, oysters, eelgrass, seaweeds, and barnacles. These species will be flushed into the coastal ecosystem near Kitimat, along with the dredges of oil from the last shipment.

This entire Northern Gateway project is meant to bring oil extracted from the Alberta's Tar Sands, which is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, to the world market. However the public still has time to demand that the federal and provincial governments maintain the current moratorium on oil tankers and drilling along the BC coast.

A while back a cashier handed me a Loonie coin and I noticed that the loon was covered in black along with the coastline highlighting the text: ‘’ When I checked out the website I discovered that this was part of a Dogwood Initiative campaign to raise public awareness about the impending threat to the British Columbia Coastline. Dogwood Initiative is a Canadian non-profit group based in Victoria, which wants to ensure that BC residents have the right to make their own decisions about how the land they live on is used. A video with world renowned, and local painter, Robert Bateman explains the situation simply. Check it out at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


On a crisp clear winter’s day I found myself standing just above the hydro-lines on Rowbotham Ridge, which is clearly visible from almost anywhere in Oceanside with its unsightly cut-blocks. I admired a panoramic view of the Strait of Georgia. I could see clearly from Comox to Nanaimo and gazed upon many islands including Denman, Hornby, Lasqueti, Texada, Ballenas, and the Winchelse Group.

My view was partially obstructed by piles of logs that had been felled recently. I soon realized that they had been yarded out of several patches that had been left behind from earlier logging. These bunches of trees had been left as part of a selective logging practice known as Variable Retention, which is referred to by many as patch-cut logging.

The previous owners of this forestland, Weyerhaeuser, had obtained special certification for their logging practices in order to get past tight restrictions set by buyers of lumber such as Home Depot, and European markets. The standards needed to meet these regulations forced the logging multinational to leave small clumps of trees throughout their clear-cuts, including small buffers along watershed tributaries.

Certification was approved, trees were cashed in for dollars, and investors were paid. At the same time international and domestic consumers were duped into believing that logging in BC is regulated by the highest environmental standards in the world. Then Weyerhaeuser sold all of its forestland on Vancouver Island to Brookfield Assets Management Inc

Through the BC Investment Corporation 25% of Island Timberlands is owned by BC Government employees via their pension funds. Since 2005, profits from this logging company have been stored offshore in Bermuda by Brookfield Asset Management in order to minimize taxes paid in Canada.

Island Timberlands is now cutting down the buffer trees which completely defeats the purpose of Variable Retention logging practices. Multinational logging companies are now selling forestland all over Vancouver Island as real estate.

What the public doesn’t realize is that forestlands were established in BC during the 1950's and were put in place to promote sustainable logging that would provide economic stability for future generations. Stipulations were included that local towns would be supported, in perpetuity, by logging companies that benefited from forestland status. These regulations were put in place for the good of local economies. It was illegal for logging companies to sell forestland as real estate.

All private forestlands were included in the Tree Farm Licenses and were regulated by the Ministry of Forests through the BC Forest Service. Since 2001 Premier Gordon Campbell’s Liberal government has stripped away these regulations, cut back the Forest Service staff, and given hundreds of thousand of hectares to multinational forest companies, which they are selling as real estate.

Timberwest is selling 54,000 hectare of forestland as real estate between Courtney and Campbell River with a few plots in Oceanside. Western Forest Products is selling 1,800 hectares of real estate between the community of Shirley and Jordan River. Brookfield Asset Management Inc. has been strategically placing forestland on the real estate market along the east coast of Vancouver Island. A highly visible example is the land around Hamilton Marsh, just outside of Qualicum Beach, which has been logged in preparation for sale.

When you add up all the forestland converted to real estate recently, it represents a larger landmass than is encompassed by all the cities on Vancouver Island combined. Besides flooding the market with property at a time that the world is diving headlong into a massive depression, these properties will be governed by very few regulations yet they will place heavy demands on local water, sewage, and nature.

The fact remains: BC Liberal’s election campaigns have been largely funded, by the same logging companies that now stand to gain billions of dollars in real estate profits. This massive land sell-off is happening at the same time that thousands of forest industry workers are being laid off by these same multi-national companies. The next election is May 12, 2009 and will include a referendum on Electoral Reform, which is so desperately needed in BC.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009



Canadian Air Crane under contract to Island Timberlands (Brookfield Assets Management BAM) Logging an island in the middle of Englishman River - Sunday February 15, 2009

My last article sparked interest by Parksville’s City Council, who wanted to know more about the effects logging by Island Timberlands would have on the public drinking water supply. As a result Councilor Chris Berger asked me to take him on a hike to see an island in the middle of Englishman River.

The next day city council unanimously adopted an emergency resolution stating: “Therefore be it resolved that the City of Parksville strongly objects to this ongoing logging activity and urges the Provincial Government to take immediate action to halt all logging in proximity to the Englishman River…”

Sunday afternoon I headed up the BC Provincial Park’s service trail past the warden’s cabin, and onto the regularly used Hammerfest mountain biking trails with Councilor Berger, his eight year old son, and Phil Carson of the Arrowsmith Parks and Land-Use Council. A long established agreement with private landowner, Island Timberlands, allows public access to this popular recreational area.

We expected there would be no logging work on Sunday, particularly given the amount of noise complaints by local residents to Island Timberlands. We saw no signs warning the public of active logging.

After winding down the steep slope, on well established switch-backed trails, we crossed the river on a enormous windblown log. We stopped on a massive stump to count 600 rings of this Douglas fir tree that had been felled and cut into three long chunks near the bank of the one hectare island.

Federal and provincial governments have spent millions of dollars rehabilitating the Englishman River, one of the most endangered rivers in BC. Through the BC Investment Corporation 25% of Island Timberlands is owned by BC Government employees via their pension funds. Since 2005 profits from this logging company have been stored off-shore in Bermuda by Brookfield Asset Management in order to minimize taxes paid in Canada.

I began making my way towards the tree where I had photographed a bear inside its den a few winters ago while the other 3 members of my party headed towards the small channel which separates the island from the tree farm that surrounds the Provincial Park. Suddenly I heard this thundering roar and looked up to see a massive helicopter hovering just over the tree tops directly above me.

I ran down a 60 meter log and leapt off the far end into a tangle of bush and debris. I was able to take cover behind the bear den tree where I turned to see the helicopter breaking off a giant tree with its massive claw attached to a steel cable. The intense downdraft from the helicopter blades was hurling giant branches and debris to the forest floor with great force.

The helicopter flew away with the massive log, providing a window of opportunity for me to head for the river but the helicopter returned in very little time, cutting off my escape. The claw broke off a cedar tree directly in front of me. My path was blocked several more times, since the extraction of trees appeared to be random, giving me no opportunity to escape.

After about 20 minutes the helicopter flew away and didn’t return so I was finally able to clamber down a steep gully and wade through the smaller of the two channels that make this an island. From there I made my way into the relative safety of the tree farm where I heard voices calling me. Councilor Berger had called 911 when he reached the relative safety of the tree farm because he realized that I was trapped on the island and in extreme danger.

We waited half an hour before a logger from Canadian Air Crane finally showed up. He admitted that he hadn’t swept the logging site before the helicopter started working. He explained that he regularly can’t keep up with the helicopter and therefore he doesn’t sweep the logging area for people as is required by the Workers Compensation Board.

Island Timberlands made no public announcements that dangerous heli-logging operations would be going on 7 days a week, dawn until dusk, in close proximity to the Provincial Park, putting the public at great risk.

Today 99% of coastal old-growth Douglas fir has been logged, and a multinational investment corporation is destroying the watershed which is clearly not protected by forestry laws. Its time to establish laws which actually protect watersheds.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Governments stand by while Island Timberlands logs island in the middle of a river where this Bear dens in a Culturally Modified Cedar Tree on behalf of Brooksfield Asset Management Inc. on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

With the impending doom of YK2 I spent New Years Eve on a personal wilderness retreat. I camped out on a beautiful island in the middle of Englishman River where massive Douglas fir and Cedar trees tower over a diversity of undergrowth that has the distinct characteristics of an old growth forest. Thick moss grows everywhere and bright tuffs of lichens hang from branches, tree trunks, and shale along the river’s banks. This lush forest grows on an island of fertile sediment that has been deposited by the river over many centuries. This tiny jewel of forest is nestled in a deep ravine carved out by the river, somehow the trees escaped logging of the past.

To get there I followed the provincial park trail upstream from the upper waterfalls, walked through a tree farm logged by MacMillan-Bloedel in 1986, and crawled carefully over a fallen log to reach this tiny island paradise. Approaching the spot I knew would be the best for my tent I heard a noise. Clawing… followed by silence. Looking up into the forest ahead I saw a black bear about ten meters up a cedar tree. It was looking over its shoulders at me and looked very cute but didn’t move. I backed away slowing and found another route to the tiny beach where I set up my camp. I didn’t sleep very much with the thought of the bear but at that moment I thought we were both in one of the safest spots in the world.

The next morning I returned to the cedar tree with my camera and noticed that it appeared to have a cultural modification where the bark had been stripped off one side, perhaps to be used for weaving by First Nations people many years ago. The tree had healed itself, with the bark curling over the scar, but then fire had burned the dry exposed wood. This may have been caused by First Peoples attempting to fell the tree to use for a totem, canoe, or building. The bottom of the tree was burned out leaving a fairly large cavity.

I approached cautiously. A slight movement alerted me to a large nose, which was sniffing me out from inside a pile of leaves. The bear rose ever so slowly and looked at me. I took a photo when it was standing at full height, and then backed away slowly. The bear lowered itself back into the den and I returned home.

Today that very same island forest is being logged by Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which owns Island Timberlands. The massive trees are being killed with chainsaws that first limb all the branches, then top the crown off the tree, and finally cut down these veteran trees so that a helicopter can pull the giant logs into the air and dumps them on the side of a logging road.

This logging operation is pure desperation by the multinational corporation which is cutting down any remaining trees that can be sold on the collapsing world market. This brazen logging adjacent to a provincial park may be used to set a terrible precedent that logging in the middle of a river is okay. The Englishman River has been rated as an endangered river yet it provides drinking water to thousands of residents in the Oceanside area as well as spawning grounds for salmon that are on the brink of extinction.

The banks of Englishman River, from this tiny island forest upstream to the dammed reservoir at Arrowsmith Lake, are dotted with old growth trees that were left behind during logging operations of the past. Today, both the provincial and federal governments allow private corporations to destroy fragile watersheds. Ministries of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries all refuse to protect public water from private interests.

What is desperately needed in British Columbia, and across Canada, is legislation that protects watersheds regardless of private ownership of lands.

The upcoming provincial elections on May 12, along with the referendum on proportional representation, can make a difference. Until then you need to ask questions about our watersheds or nothing will change. To make your voice heard locally contact Island Timberlands or your local MLA. To find out more check out:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Many species of bird are threatened by Global consumerism Fair Trade can help change the way the world does business!

Today there are a few places around Oceanside that sell 'Fair Trade' products. This certification assures the consumer that ethical practices have been used to produce specific items. This form of trade sharply contrasts with the standard and established forms of trade, which have been used by multinational corporations for years at the expense of those living in the third world while destroying the global environment.

‘Fair Trade’ is helping communities in impoverished countries; establish sustainable practices that help to protect the global environment, while insuring that the workers get paid ethically. The entire system is dependent upon consumers who must make the choice to support this growing phenomenon. Namely you! Europe has been supporting this method of trade for decades, with a great deal of enthusiasm and effect but North America is slower to change.

The products look the same, and to most people the only difference is that they cost a little more, but the facts are in the ethics behind this movement that is changing the world. This social movement is organized and uses a market-based approach to empower producers in developing counties by advocating the payment of fair price while promoting sustainability. The result is social and environmental standards that help to transform the lives of people and the ecosystems that support them.

The most commonly fair traded products include: coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, handicrafts, fresh fruit and flowers. These items are produced primarily in impoverished countries and sold in wealthier countries such as Canada. 50% is paid to the producers when the order is placed and 50% upon delivery in the country of origin. The buyer is responsible for all transportation costs. The producers (typically individual people, families, and small groups) are paid far more for their products, an amount that allows them to live and build their communities. This ethical trade releases the people from their dependence upon large multinational companies who previously held a monopoly over the workers.

Women in Laos were nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize because of their work over the past 30 years using Fair Trade, by planting a forest of mulberry trees, establishing silk-worm farms, developing dyes using local materials, and building a sustainable industry which provides for their community while protecting the environment.

In Columbia, drug cartels rule vast regions where entire communities are ruled by cocaine. Fair Trade has been combating this vicious cycle by establishing farms that are no longer dependent on cocaine growers. The youth in these areas are no longer forced to serve cartels and live as part of their community without fear by growing coffee, tea, sugar, and food crops.

In many third world countries the standard agricultural practice, introduced by multinational corporations, is slash and burn where the soil is depleted after a few harvests making the area infertile for many years to come. Fair Trade has implemented sustainable farming in many countries over the past 30 years so that crops can grow in one area for a long time. This allows the community to survive in one place, much closer to their traditional lifestyle, while protecting the environment.

Shade Grown is another certification that goes hand-in-hand with Fair Trade and is specific to coffee, which is grown in between the trees, allowing for the habitat for birds and animals to remain. By contrast the standard industrial coffees are grown in massive plantations that have been slash-cut and burned to remove all living organisms. The soil is then depleted in a few short harvests of coffee and then more land is scorched to grow the next crop.

For birders like myself, this is very important indeed since many of my favorite species spend the winter in the south and live in the forests where coffee is grown. Industrial coffee destroys their habitat and Fair Trade Shade Grown Practices can help to protect these areas while still allowing the people to obtain a livelihood. Hummingbirds, Waxwings, Swainson’s thrush, Yellow Warbler, Western Tanager, and most Swallows spend their winters in southern countries where Fair Trade is needed to protect their habitats. You can help by supporting these ethical practices with your purchases.

For more information:

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Englishman River Falls Park has lost the lower Falls, forever!

I’ve explored much of the crystal-clear water of Englishman River, as it runs its course of 10 km between the source on Mount Arrowsmith and the estuary in the Strait of Georgia. Jumping off the cliffs at the lower falls in the provincial park led my friends and I to swim across the large pool to the gushing flow of water that was the falls. Skirting around the edge of the pounding water and thick spray we were able to access a fairly large cave in behind the cascading waterfall. We sat on a log, wedged between the rocks, and watched the light filter in through the emerald coloured waterfall. That memory will remain with me forever.

Today, that waterfall no longer exists. The water has finally carved through solid rock, allowing the river to flow under a massive boulder rather than over it. The deep canyon between steeply carved cliffs, etched out by the river’s flow of water, bears testament to the fact that this type of natural change has been happening for millennia. The disappearance of this waterfall reminds me to look at the bigger picture.

Multi-national corporations around the world are taking over control of the world’s water. The pretense is usually that the local governments cannot keep up with the public demands for increased water, safety and security. The result is that the price of water doubles, public access decreases, and poor people die of thirst. The fact is corporations have made water more expensive than anything the general public consumes because it is essential for us to exist. Water in small plastic bottles, fetches double the price of gasoline at your local convenience store.

Today Natural Glacial Waters, a local company, pumps fresh water directly out of Rosewall Creek, just north of Deep Bay. They export more than 24 million individual plastic bottles of water to Asia every year. Recycling has to be a question, but so does ownership of water. Who has the right to sell water?

In 1997 The World Bank, on behalf of multi-national corporations, forced the government of Bolivia to privatize their public water systems as explicit condition of aid for this impoverished country. The collection of rainwater by the people was made illegal. The people revolted, police killed ordinary citizens, but the people prevailed and eventually they were victorious. The government was forced to change and some of the multi-national corporations were expelled from the country. Water was returned to the people as a right, not a privilege to be paid for with cash.

“In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth.” This quote comes directly from a film I saw on the big screen during the holidays. “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” is winning awards, receiving rave reviews, and attracting a great deal of public attention. Check it out at:

The film goes on to state; “Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars.”

Maude Barlow, one of the main characters in the film proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war. A line has been crossed, as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?” As the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and the founder of the Blue Planet Project, Barlow has been raising awareness about this issue for decades and sees a sharp increase in support as people begin to realize the dangers. Find out more:

One of the most inspiring characters is a Canadian, Ryan Hreljac, who started raising money to provide clean drinking water for people in Africa when he was in grade one. Since then he has raised $2 million which have built 319 wells in 114 countries providing clean drinking water to nearly half a million people. Today he’s in High School.