General News · 11th January 2012
Island Timberlands (IT) is coming to Cortes. It was some twenty years ago that a determined group of Cortes residents stood on a road and stopped MacBlo from clear cutting the very same cutblock where IT are proposing to start their industrial logging operation later this month. Battle lines back then were drawn between the corporation and individual stakeholders and also among friends and even families on the island.
Through dialog and negotiation with MacBlo, and each other, we came through that and the interpersonal wounds have largely healed in the ensuing years. The forest we saved is healthy second growth with an area of untouched forest near it's centre. This very same area is once again threatened with industrial “management.” That patch of virgin forest will not survive without a generous buffer in which no logging should take place. The hydrology of the area must be carefully preserved.
In 1991 there was much more weight given to the sanctity of private property, a concept used to it's maximum by the forest corporations in BC. We knew what legal rights the companies had. But we also knew that “legal” does not equate with “moral” or “ethical.” When the financial bottom line is the focus all other values are lost. There is no indication to date that corporate IT is any different. Profits to shareholders are the only corporate responsibility that gets any real attention. This is something that must be stopped if any quality of life on Earth is to survive.
Today we are far more conscious of the overall effect of industrial logging on those of us who live here. We are aware that there are almost no oversights by government on logging corporate owned land. The Forest Practices Act (which does not apply to corporate owned land) was effectively gutted by the Campbell government and “private” land has never been subject to much protection or oversight otherwise. Cutbacks in the BC Forest Service have left the logging companies to police themselves, a bit like leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse. There is no requirement to avoid excess extraction of timber, or to protect species and habitat that cannot be replaced once destroyed. There is little obligation to keep safe all streams and wetlands that can only exist in a healthy forest. Chemical weed suppression applications are not banned or significantly restricted. IT admits to using this stuff on their lands. Most of us on Cortes drink surface water and use it in our gardens where we grow our food. Many of the toxic chemicals sprayed end up in our water supply. Much of the proposed cutting is in the hydrological heart of our island where our drinking water comes from. Cortes island artisan wood workers need quality wood for their work. Is there is no plan to allow islanders to purchase some of this wood? Likely it will all go for raw log export because right now that is fast money. That's IT.
When IT is done they will leave. What will be left for the future? How will their work effect our water, our wildlife and the overall environment that we value and depend on?
The view of Private vs. Public has shifted in these two decades. Not so much in the courts, as in the minds of the people effected by IT's plans. That's all of us.
If IT is willing to work cooperatively with Cortes Island it will ensure a far more responsible operation; one that is not destructive. That works only if IT is willing to give serious consideration to our values in their logging plans, and only if the community is given a place at the decision table. At present no such offer has come from IT.
More than ever before I am aware of corporate greed and what it has done to the well being of the average citizen. This has been demonstrated again and again in the recent past. IT is no different. Oh, yes, they will happily sell us the forest lands in question. After years of paying a fraction of the land tax that you and I pay they want twice the assessed value!
Does that sound moral or ethical? Or is it simply corporate greed?
I leave that for you to decide.