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General News · 1st January 2013
David Shipway
What kind of politics will 2013 bring to Cortes Island and it's forests?

In 2009, Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives analyzed how much usable wood was being left behind at logging sites in BC. The statistical analysis found that for the 5 year period from 2004 to 2008, more than 17.5 million cubic metres of usable wood was simply abandoned at logging sites. Ben, well seasoned in forest politics, said that he was shocked by the volume, since this number still only represents what was actually admitted through stumpage payments during the Liberal's generous "take or pay" regulatory relaxation regime.

But Ben also knew that people just don't understand big numbers very well, so creating a mental image helps:

"That is enough wood to fill a line of logging trucks lined bumper to bumper on the Trans-Canada Highway from Vancouver to Halifax and almost all the way back again."

Can you now imagine that volume of wood, trees simply cut down and wasted?

This leads me to wonder if anyone on Cortes actually realizes what the current harvest proposal of 13,600 cubic meters per year for our small Community Forest would actually look like. It seems like a modest number, but is it really? So I created the Google Earth graphic attached below to help us all try to visualize this.

If the current CFA application was signed off today, the very first 5-year Forest Stewardship Plan must, by law, map out cutblocks for a harvest of 68,000 cubic metres of scaled logs.
A standard highway-legal logging truck carries about 30 cubic metres and is about 20 metres long, so the local bumper-to-bumper line of loaded logging trucks would be over 45 kilometers long. Since we barely have that much pavement on Cortes, I plotted a line along the main road only half that length, meaning the logging trucks would then fill BOTH lanes, all the way from Whaletown to Mansons, the long way via Squirrel Cove.

Next time you drive, bike or hitch that way, see if you can imagine that volume of merchantable wood being extracted every five years, just from the Community Forest. True, this deluge of wood wouldn't be going to waste, but to get that much wood to market there will indeed be plenty. In a paradigm riddled with acronyms, this could be our CCCB - the Cortes Community Carbon Bomb.

Considering the public forest land base on Cortes is predominantly a maze of rocky outcrops and meandering wetlands, there's good reason to wonder if our communities or the forests can support anything even close to this continuous rate of extraction. Maybe just half of that? But can we honestly sign a legal contract with the Crown and then not deliver? While we might publicly celebrate a hasty tenure agreement, will Island Timberlands be puzzled by our sudden communal enthusiasm for status quo Timber Colonialism, or just be thoroughly amused by the hypocrisy?

Will we regret having accepted the advice to "just get the tenure and work everything else out later" from the same professionals responsible for designing the Sunshine Coast Community Forest, which is now the scene of ongoing protests, road blockades and arrests? Imagine that sort of "work everything else out later" repeating here.

We could first create a more substantial, conservative and well-justified Management Plan than the thin one deemed "inconsistent" on MoFLNRO's desk right now. But this can only be done with better foresters and ecologists, and better means for full community involvement. We could then negotiate to win something we won't be ashamed of later, from a position of strength and solidarity.

The Cortes Community Forest may be the best solution for the Cortes TSA, but it must be created by Partners willing to build carefully on a genuine foundation of Ecosystem-Based Management, with a more ecologically-determined rate of harvest that fully protects all other values.

As a house builder, my own advice to both communities is to finish that good foundation really well now, before too many logs are piled up on top of it.