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


CHECK OUT VIDEO: http://islandboundmedia.blip.tv

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.

CHECK OUT VIDEO: http://islandboundmedia.blip.tv

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: www.brookfield.com