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.


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