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General News · 28th February 2012
Noba Anderson
On Wednesday, February 22nd, we had a fruitful second meeting with Island Timberlands and left with detailed operational maps for their intended logging activity on Cortes Island (see community bulletin boards) and a commitment from them to hold off on road building and logging until at least September. However, unless this information and time can be leveraged into solutions, conflict still seems inevitable. This is why I am involved – to try to find solutions to potential conflict. “We need to do activity there and need to find some way of getting there,” said Bill Waugh of Island Timberlands. Their current plans provide for a 20,000 cubic meter cut in 2012, however, no contracts have yet been made for Cortes activities.

Those speaking up on Cortes have a very different vision of forestry than that proposed by Island Timberlands. I am hearing very loud and clear that Cortes Islanders want protection of remnant old growth in whatever form it is found including provision for connectivity and mature forest areas left to become old growth. As a Cortes delegation, we wanted to look to the best available science and therefore referenced the Ecosystem-Based Management Handbook developed by the government/industry/ENGO funded independent science Coast Information Team science panel which developed standards for BC’s Central Coast. This science indicates that 70% of natural old growth by ecosystem type should be maintained at the landscape level. It goes on to say that 30% retention of natural old growth is considered to be high risk to ecological integrity. Some of the Island Timberlands forest lands proposed for 2012 harvest house stands that comprise the less than 1% old growth remaining in the endangered ‘Coastal Western Hemlock – Very Dry Maritime’ biogeoclimatic zone, making these lands of provincial ecological significance. In our meeting, we identified old growth as being anything 140 years or older as this is one of the basic indicators of Marbled Murrelet* habitat. Island Timberlands has committed to leaving individual old growth trees over 250 years old, unless they are a safety hazard, but are not willing to leave old growth groves. “I’m not interested in [old growth] recruitment on our land,” said Bill Waugh. “There is a lot of Crown land that that can be done on.”

One of our other basic requests is that 100 to 200 meter buffers be left along streams, wetlands and waterfront areas. These figures also come from the Coast Information Team science panel’s work. Island Timberlands’ buffers are in the order of 10 to 20 meters with the intention to fall valuable trees within those buffers into the cutblock and removed. Within their harvest areas, Island Timberlands removes all the trees with the exception of identified leave trees in some blocks. The request from Cortes is largely to use a more single tree selection or small opening approach where a fully functioning forest ecosystem is left behind throughout space and time.

Island Timberlands has agreed to receive and integrate into their mapping system any further information that we would like them to consider in their planning. We have already given them the Ministry of Environment’s Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory and Marbled Murrelet habitat mapping as well as the ground truthing mapping work that had been conducted by locals over the past two years and layers from the Cortes Ecoforesrty Society’s work with Herb Hammond. If you have other information that you think important for them to consider in their planning, please let Sabina Leader-Mense, David Shipway or myself know ASAP. Island Timberlands has no silvicultural plans beyond replanting their harvest blocks; no thinning or care for the lands they have bought beyond harvest. Nor have they made any consideration for species at risk, endangered plant communities, or sensitive ecosystems beyond what is shown in their harvest plans. They have no other mapping for their Cortes holdings beyond what is now posted in the community.

Once they have integrated all the information we send them into their mapping system, we will walk with them in March through their proposed logging areas to discuss operational details and then meet again with all that information in April to begin the problem solving exercise. Island Timberlands has also committed to conducting another public field tour in a different proposed logging area than the December tour. The delay in harvest operations will hopefully give us time to problem solve and try to find an alternative to the conflict that seemed inevitable last week. Part of that solution may be purchase of some of their land holdings. “We know what the value of the land is,” said Waugh. Given the gap in land and timber valuation we saw on the Whaletown Commons property that the Regional District tried to purchase from them, this may be a hard road but one that will be further explored.

Finally, Island Timberlands have agreed to employ hand fallers over a many month harvest period rather than use heavy machinery and take out the cut over a mere few weeks. The time between now and September will give interested Cortes residents a chance to get ‘safe certified’ and possibly meet other criteria that Island Timberlands may require of their contract workers.

If you have any questions or further comment, please feel free to contact me. 250-935-0320 or directorcortesisland.com.

In gratitude, Noba Anderson


*Marbled Murrelet is a red listed endangered species of bird that is dependent on old growth forests with large upper moss covered branches for nesting.