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General News · 23rd December 2011
Carrie Saxifrage
Update: Over 250 signatures already!

Signing tip: If you are having trouble signing the petition after someone else has signed it on your shared computer, delete the "cookies" in your browser for petitiononline.com. For example, in Firefox you choose Tools > Options > Privacy > Show Cookies > then select and delete cookie for petitiononline.com.


The link to the petition:
http://www.petitiononline.com/petitions/PCIFores/signatures

Island Timberlands will start logging on Cortes Island this January, according to Wayne French, Operations Planner for IT.

Three factors have contributed to the threat to Cortes Island forests and the transformation of other treasured forests into exported logs and ravaged landscapes targeted for residential development. First, huge multinational corporations use BC’s privately managed forest lands for premium shareholder return. Second, the BC Liberals have left private forest lands virtually unregulated. Third, raw log (and job) export are radically increasing.

BC forest and Brookfield Asset Management
Brascan, which became Brookfield Asset Management, bought 635,000 acres of fee simple timberlands in BC from Weyerhaeuser in 2005 for management by its subsidiary, Island Timberlands. Weyerhaeuser bought those lands from MacMillan Bloedel in 1999. MacMillan Bloedel originally bought the Cortes Island lands from a local logger for under $30,000.

In the sale of MacMillan Bloedel to Weyerhaeuser, the provincial government imposed the condition that Weyerhaeuser negotiate in good faith with the Cortes Island community for a satisfactory solution for the island’s private forest lands. This requirement has not been met by IT.

BAM has corporate offices all over the world and a board of directors that includes Jim Pattison and a tar sands CEO. It has $110 billion in assets under management and delivered an annual return of 23% from 2000 to 2010. Following the purchase of Weyerhaeuser, BAM divided the private and public forest land assets, closed the mills, and restructured the management of private forest lands for faster harvest and more export of raw logs.

BAM touts IT as the second largest private timber lands holding in BC and the second most valuable private timberland estate in Canada. That value is not just trees. BAM is known as a real estate management company and when IT talks to Cortes Islanders, it is often Chris Dawes, the real estate manager, who shows up.

According to naturalist and journalist Briony Penn, it is no surprise BC has become the target of global capital:

"Who could resist British Columbia, a great little banana republic on the doorstep of America that meets all those great investment criteria? Safe? For sure, there are no Zapatistas here. And cheap? Once you’ve creamed the forest off the top, you have free real estate that can be sold. Moreover, we have a provincial government that seems easily swayed by corporate investors" Penn wrote for Focus Magazine.

In fact, IT and other BC timber companies are major contributors to the Liberal Party of BC which, under Gordon Campbell, obligingly removed what little protection existed for privately managed forest lands.

Friends with benefits: Multinationals and BC's Liberal government
The Provincial Government deregulated privately managed forest lands at the behest of the multinational corporations which provide huge campaign contributions. Prior to 2002, the Assessment Act and Forest Land Reserve Act helped to reduce the impact of urban development and rural settlement on privately managed forest land. The BC Liberals repealed the FLR Act in 2002 and replaced it with the Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFLA ) in 2004. Douglas Harris of the UBC Faculty of Law has described the act as “a highly flexible, industry‐friendly Act, which does not prohibit activity on forest land, but provides incentives to forest land owners who comply with its provisions.”

PMFLA sets out very general “objectives” for soil conservation, water quality, fish habitat, critical wildlife habitat and reforestation with no compliance review by provincial government foresters. Oversight is provided by a Council which has been criticized as too closely connected to the logging industry owners, resulting in a form of self-regulation.

Research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, shows forest liquidation rates that have resulted in:

*Logging at more than twice the rate that forest industry auditors say can be sustained threatens the environment and economy alike;
*Trees logged at younger and younger ages;
*Successful petitions to the provincial government for forest companies to pull their private holdings out of Tree Farm Licences to avoid regulations aimed to ensure sustainable management;
*Douglas fir logging, in particular, at a near liquidation pace, with one company’s entire “merchantable” stock slated for depletion in 25 years.
*A high level of waste of usable wood
*Loss of jobs because trees are no longer delivered to coastal mills
*A huge increase in raw log exports from BC’s coast, 62 per cent of which come from private forestlands
*Tens of thousands of hectares of private forestland being readied for sale as real estate developments or other “higher and better uses.”

The liquidation of private forest lands means that communities lose essential wildlife habitat and vital ecological services that include drinking water, carbon absorption, erosion and flood control, micro climate stability, and salmonid protection. The present rate of forest liquidation also ignores the long term value of the high end market for BC’s legendary wood by favouring quantity over quality.

Cutting BC's forests: faster, faster, faster
In 2010, BC log exports increased by more than 50%. More logs were shipped to China than during the previous 20 years combined. In the first three months of 2011 alone, BC’s coast exported 40% or 1.3 million cubic metres of logs, a 300% from the same period in 2009.

Liquidating BC forests to sell lumber to China
With such huge powers at play, it seems possible that all of BC’s private forest lands will be liquidated and sent to China. We clearly need a new paradigm for privately managed forest land. Many communities have protested mightily against the depredation against their water sheds and favorite places: Port Alberni, Cowichan Valley, Port McNeil, Cathedral Grove, and Nanaimo, to name a few. Such protest can seem more like art than strategy, giving expression to communities’ aspirations moments before they are bulldozed under.

But BC's forests have no political voice other than ours. We need to converge for more effective advocacy both for our home forests and for a new paradigm for private forest land management. Our tools include: protests (in January, Cortes Island will be a good place to stand up for forests); fierce opposition to the rezoning of forest land for real estate development; strategic voting through organizations such as the Conservation Voters of BC; complaints to the Association of BC Professional Foresters for unethical conduct; letters to government and corporate officers (see below) and public advocacy journalism that holds individuals responsible for their corporate actions.

Oh, yes, and signing by the thousands on petitions to protect locally and ecologically significant forests.

Email Addresses:

Protect Cortes Forests:

BAM CEO Bruce Flatt: send to both bflattbrookfield.com and kvysebrookfield.com
IT CEO Dashan Sihota: send to both darshansihotaislandtimberlands.com and dsihotaislandtimberlands.com
Reform private forest land management:

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson: steve.thomson.mlaleg.bc.ca
Premier Christy Clark: premiergov.bc.ca.

A version of this article, with links, is on thevancouverobserver.com. You can visit the VO, "like" the article and send it to people you know want to protest IT's industrial scale logging.

http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/earthmatters/2011/12/23/logging-pristine-bc-island-forest-begin-january-brookfield-asset?page=0,3