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Red indicates logging the past 20 years
General News · 4th May 2022
Noba Anderson
(Update and correct video link here now)

Thank-you to the near 150 people who attended the Cortes Forest Celebration on April 20th and to the many volunteers who helped pull the event together! I tip my hat to the presenters, the tech support and to all of us for our love of this place and passion to see it treated well. The evening presentations were video recorded (thanks Mark Vonesch) and are available here. It is an hour and a half and well worth the time!

Cortes Radio also recorded the audio and broadcasted it on FolkU which can be listened to at www/ under ‘Cortes Community & Our Forests.’ Two articles were also written about the matters and are both at Cortes Currents.

The red and black satellite image of our region heading this article is pulled from the University of Maryland’s Global Forest Change project. It shows in red the forest cover lost in the past 20 years. What is obvious to anyone who knows the landscape in this region is that almost all the black, lands not logged in the past 20 years, are either park or mountain… with the remarkable exception of Cortes Island. Cortes still has most of its forests standing, due to our continued commitment and action.

I have been helping to host an on-going open community discussion about how we respond to Mosaic/IT’s proposed logging plans. It was from these discussions that the Forest Celebration was born. Those meetings are always posted in the calendar section at and our actions are shaped by those that show up. The next one will be Friday at 3 under the tent at the Mansons Village Commons behind the radio station.

Much of the discussion now is how to best prepare and show up for Mosaic/IT’s open house on May 17th from 10-3 at the Gorge Hall. As per Cortes custom, we often turn open houses into community meetings and the group who assembled last week is asking that the community shows up again in numbers on Tuesday, May 17th at 10:30.

I offer here my summary of the Community Forest Celebration from April 20th, although all the slides and personality are lost here, so I strongly encourage you to watch the video of the evening if you missed it!

Warmly, Noba Anderson
Regional Director, Cortes Island

Kristen Scholfield-Sweet began the Forest Celebration evening by saying, “I also would like to acknowledge a loss that this settler community experiences, perhaps so deep and profound that we don’t even know it, and that is that we do not live on the bones of our ancestors. Those bones have someone else living on them. And one of the remarkable things about a place like this, and love for a place like this, is that, over time, over generations, we come to be this place, so that our children, and our children’s children, can live on our bones. And I think in very deep way that is the point of tonight.”

After this welcome, the presentations for the evening began with Bruce Ellingsen sharing about this community’s history with forest lands, from first settler times and early logging, though the Cortes Ecoforestry Society, our ecosystem based mapping, our memorandum of understanding with the Klahoose Forest Nation and to today’s Community Forest efforts. There is a huge amount of great knowledge and detail shared and well worth watching.

Mike Moore then shared our 40-year history of resistance to traditional logging and outright protests and blockades starting in 1990. He outlined how Island Timberlands’ last round of proposed industrial logging here in 2008 spurred many proactive community responses including our sensitive ecosystem-based mapping project, the establishment of the Children’s Forest Trust to purchase some of IT’s holdings, the renewed push to secure a community forest tenure from the Province, the Wildstands effort formed to head up the activism, Dan Pierce’s Hartwood movie series (more below on that), and the purchase of the Whaletown Commons. He said that “IT went away, they labeled Cortes as socially inoperable… and things have been pretty quiet ever since.” He went on to say that “So many different companies have come and gone, all wanting to log our island. But many of the faces have stayed the same since that first blockade 32 years ago to the day!” Again, so much history was embedded in Mike’s words and well worth reviewing in detail – not to mention seeing photos of us over time.

Next up was Gemma and Dan who spoke about the biodiversity of this area and outlined why this area is so special. They spoke of Cortes having so many sensitive ecosystem types and of our community’s efforts to document them and their inhabitants through bioblitzes and other means. Dan said that “so far we have identified about 2000 species from 5 different kingdoms of life and this is just barely scratching the surface of what’s out there on this island… These numbers are going to go way up.” Many great maps were shared that are viewable on the video.

Kai Harvey then shared about Dr. Suzanne Simard’s Mother Tree Project and Cortes’ ground truthing and mother tree mapping project which, for the past three years, has been laying the groundwork for the Mother Tree Project to come to Cortes. Kai said that “Mother trees are large trees within a forest that act as a centralized hub supporting mycorrhizal fungi that facilitate connection, communication and resource exchange among trees. The UBC Mother Tree project started in 2015. It is a large scientific field-based experiment that builds on prior research with the central objective of identifying sustainable harvesting and regeneration treatments that will maintain forest resilience as the climate changes in BC.” Cortes is now being formally considered by Dr. Suzanne Simard and her team to join the Mother Tree network. “The oldest trees we have now are 140 to 150 years old other than the old growth leave tree,” Kai said. “Knowing this, we must re-define what old growth is to include these 140+ year old trees.” She then showed maps of the mother tree mapping overlayed with Island Timberlands logging plans to show how they are targeting our oldest trees. She goes on to say that “It is clear that the proposed draft logging plans are not planned sustainably but rather are looking to take the oldest and biggest trees that our island has in the next three years.”

Sonya Friesen then presented more on the ground truthing of the Cortes Mother Tree project which uses the Cortes Protected Landscape Network mapping from the 1990s, the Province’s Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory mapping and forest cover maps and then goes out into the field to verify and improve the data. This effort, in addition to finding the large trees, aims to verity creek locations, document riparian areas and take note of areas of significance. She shared watershed mapping urging us to think in terms of watersheds rather than private land lot boundaries. Cec Robinson, said when speaking to a photo of newts in his hands, “To me this is magic. This is my church.” He carried on speaking of trout present in the areas slated for logging and Sonya finished by speaking of some of the key wetlands on the parcels slated for logging.

Lovena Harvey then presented on Cortes forests in the context of global climate change. “The draft logging plans as presented by Mosaic” Lovena says, “would certainly push the climactic balance on our small rocky island,” she says. She goes on to say that “The two major sources of climate de-stabilizing CO2 are burning fossil fuels and how we treat the land, especially our forests.” So continues, “The draft logging plans as presented by Mosaic represent a business as usual approach, meanwhile there is nothing usual about the current climate catastrophe that is unfolding… In BC, the wood harvested from our forests emits more CO2 than all our transportation and buildings combined… To reduce the climate threat and to give our struggling forests a break we need to let more of our mature forests grow. Cortes is happy to be the guineapig of forest conservation. Living on an island we are acutely aware of the threat of wildfire and are happy to keep our trees and the moisture, stored carbon, healthy ecosystems and intact watersheds.” She said that trees are our best bet as climate champions in our fight against such prevailing damage. Intact forests mitigate floods, she said and “serve as giant sponges, absorbing, storing and then releasing water slowly providing for year-round moisture, cool microclimates and water purification.” She concludes by saying that “We are in a state of emergency! If these draft logging plans were to go forward, the monetary gain would affect the delicate balance of life on our island, effectively holding us hostage to a set of values and beliefs we do not support or agree with, with possibly devastating impacts to our local ecosystem, watersheds, fish, wildlife and us. The fabric of our island.”

Christine Robinson was the last presenter who spoke about the Children’s Forest Trust that germinated in 2009 when Island Timberlands announced their logging plans for Cortes. At this time, their private lands around Carrington were identified as priority for protection. “We really do intend to hold the northern wilds as wild,” Christine said. The Trust’s vision is to establish a legacy of protected forests on Cortes Island, to nurture relationships between children and nature, to acquire and protect the Children’s Forest, and to educate and conduct research. “Hundreds and hundreds of walks! Camping! We have, really in the past 12 years, the children, the families and the people of Cortes Island have claimed ownership of this place with their hearts. In actuality, these parcels are still owned by Island Timberlands. Mosaic Forest Management has stated publicly that the Children’s Forest parcels are not part of their proposed three-year harvest plans.” Christine shared that the Trust and IT have been “working together toward purchase.” She concluded by saying that “We are hopeful that the successful purchase of the Children’s Forest will lay the groundwork for acquisition of further Mosaic/Island Timberlands parcels on Cortes.”

We then shared the short Heartwood film of Tosh Harvey which can be viewed here, along with many other great films done by Daniel Pierce about Cortes, some of which are:

I concluded the presentation component by speaking to the multi-generational effort and deep commitment on this island to treat the forests with respect. I then put back up on the screen an image from Bruce’s presentation, which is the main photo attached to this article. I said that this map tells our story and is the product of our multi-generational effort. I then shared, in summary, that there are essentially three categories of alternate options to a business-as-usual harvest approach, all of which are being concurrently worked on:
- knowing the land base and negotiating changes to harvest plans
- resistance in the form of shareholder activism and protest, and
- purchase or alternative land financing options.
I welcomed the representatives from Mosaic, said that I hoped the evening had been informative for them and acknowledged the awkward position they were in on Cortes.

From there, the evening transitioned into a short Q & A and sharing.