Seeing Red - British Columbia's Old Growth Forests

SalishSeaNior

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Joined
Nov 15, 2020
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25
Location
Okanagan Valley, Canada
In a separate trip report today, Alex talked about and posted images of a coastal remnant old growth forest in Willapa Bay. That reminded me of an article in the on-line Journal the "Narwhal" detailing the current state of British Columbia's "old growth forests". The article was published on February 9, 2021, and is titled:
"B. C.'s Old Growth Forests Nearly Eliminated New Province Wide Mapping Reveals"

In the article is a link to an interactive map titled "Seeing Red, map" which is a stark visual that shows how little of "Supernatural British Columbia" is in a natural state. I know from what I have read on this forum, that many of you, Canadian and American, treasure the wild areas of this province. But we are still loosing them at an alarming rate. My intent in posting this thread is simply to let you, who love to paddle here, know what the reality is right now.

Now that I am nearing the end of my 7th decade on this planet, I have grown increasingly concerned about the scale of Industrial logging, pipeline expansion and mining in my home province. I paddled in Haida Gwaii and Clayoquot Sound in the early 80's when the "war in the woods" began as a movement. My brother, his girlfriend and I also paddled out to Vargas Island in early spring 1989 and camped for a week after the Exxon Valdes oil spill. We raked oil and bagged it all along the north and west sides of the island. We cleaned up a lot of oil and placed it in orange and yellow bags that were easy to spot from the air or water. We wore rain pants, rubber gloves and gum boots that were smeared with foul, toxic sludge. It was very hard unpleasant and toxic hazard work. All those clothes were bagged and left for pickup when we left. The first nations did much of the coordination for our clean-up. We didn't see any government officials, oil industry crews, and few other folk, except for locals and the first nations people. Vargus Island was pretty much ours to clean up and it was incomprehensible how much of the coast would be left contaminated and uncleaned at the time. That experience has stayed with me ever since.

A lot of positive things have happened environmentally in B. C. since the 80's largely due to first nations efforts and a much more limited citizen rebellion. But the "war" is far from over; it is merely a little more equal. The Provincial Government and the Resource Extraction Industry have been slowed down a bit, but are still hungry for the few remaining patches of old growth forest that we have. Industrial extraction of resources is just not sustainable, but still it goes on. Names of places like Gwaii Hanaas, Great Bear Rain Forest, Chilco Lake, and others evoke visions of large untouched natural spaces in the Province.

Not quite so simple, there is still much industrial logging going on in the Great Bear Rainforest, even with the objection of first nations folk who have won a say in Supreme Court of Canada decisions. The Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat was stopped by the Government of Canada, but that has been replaced by the construction of a pipeline for natural gas. The tanker route to Kitimat goes right through Camano Sound, between Campania Island. Gil Island and Princess Royal Island. Jon knows whereof I speak. This is near the fjord like channels, where the B. C. Ferry Queen of the North ran aground and sank, in March 2006. And the route goes on through the heart of the Great Bear Rain Forest, where logging as stated, also continues.

DSCF0094.JPG

Campania Island and Camano Sound from Aristizabal Island.

In my own area, in the Okanagan, every time I drive to the coast or to the North Interior, I pass large pit mines, and many massive clear cuts. The proposal for a South Okanagan National Park Reserve to protect one small area of the last of one of Canada's most endangered ecosystems looks like it will go ahead, but at least 30 percent of the local population are vocally opposed. The list goes on.

For context British Columbia's population is about 5.1 million people, largely centred in limited urban areas as the map shows. The land area is 944,735 square kilometres (364,800 sq mi). British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometres (17,000 mi), and includes deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited. Few people, lots of space, but modern industrial resource extraction has pillaged much of it. So, please read the article, have a look at the map and perhaps you will begin to see red? My intended result is to have at least a few more folk who will know the facts, rather than just the myth of "Super Natural British Columbia".

Let me say now, that I am not opposed to resource extraction in principle. Well managed, responsible, sustainable use of forests, oil and mineral resources would be fine with me. What I am against is large multi-national companies who own "property rights" to the environment and want to come in and "extract resources" as quickly, cheaply and profitably as possible. When done, they are gone, the jobs are gone, the environment is raped and often there are things like orphaned oil wells, huge clear cut sites, badly damaged streams and estuaries, toxic spill sites and abandoned industrial facilities. All left behind for we tax payers to clean up. Not my idea of good corporate behaviour.

In the past couple of years, I have been reading about countries and even local governments giving constitutional protections and legal rights to the environment. This is sometimes cited as The Constitutional Right to a Healthy Environment. In the linked article, there is a very interesting map of the world that shows which countries provide some level of constitutional protection to the environment and those that do not. Note North America, neither Canada, nor the U. S. have any constitutional protection for the environment. Why is this? Under both Canadian and American law, Corporations are recognized as persons, they have many of the same rights as you and I, including property rights. Yet, they can declare bankruptcy and disappear legally, while the people who made the bad decisions remain largely untouchable and in possession of profits they might have made. There is another recent thread here with a story of the mill at Port Alice as a current example. This is a telling symptom of the priorities we have as a society. Profit must be protected, the environment, not so much. Perhaps, we the people of North America should begin to push our lawmakers to actually give the environment equal protection to that of Corporations? I certainly worry for the future of my grandchildren if we don't begin to change our cultural priorities with respect to the environment that we depend on for life itself.

Anyway, I have gone on for long enough. While this is not strictly paddling talk, it relates directly to our experiences in the wild places where we all love to spend time. Very much pining for the remaining wild Fjords!

Cheers, Rick
 

AlphaEcho

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Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
111
Location
Quadra Island, BC
That's a lot you've just laid out. Yeah, it is a paddling topic. Experiencing the spirit of the wilderness is a big chunk of why I go out there. That spirit has diminished every season of my 5 decades of living. In large and small ways, it is disappearing.

I've flown over this province for many years and the cut-blocks are everywhere. When biologists document that wildlife are living in ever smaller islands of wilderness, and traveling along shrinking corridors; when our oceans are becoming deserts due to unrelenting pressures from industry; yeah I see red.
 
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CPS

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Oct 27, 2020
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83
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BC
It's deeply disheartening to fly over B.C. and look at the patchwork forests. I get that timber is a necessity for our society, but it's also deeply disappointing how much goes to waste.

What's especially tough to hear is the average citizen just being dangerously poorly informed about the state of ecosystems and human impact on them.
When I was living in the Kootenays I often heard that Grizzlies wandering into town were a direct result of the trophy hunting ban on grizzlies. No one would even entertaining the thought that degraded and fragmented habitat was causing the bears to try to find better food sources in the valley. The consensus among residents was that there were simply too many bears. Research into the number of bears as well as tracking their movements doesn't match that perception.

There are some glimmers of hope. Like an article I saw about an old home being deconstructed as opposed to demolished. Maybe the old growth timber these old houses are made from is worth enough to offset the extra cost involved. I doubt it, especially when the option to destroy existing old growth with relatively little blowback exists.

It's really dispiriting to see the amount of apathy, particularly in my generation, towards protecting our ever decreasing wilderness. We see that things are messed up and just sort of shrug.
 

AlphaEcho

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Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
111
Location
Quadra Island, BC
Maybe the old growth timber these old houses are made from is worth enough to offset the extra cost involved.
It is a measure of how near the end of old growth stock is that this is even a consideration. There was a trend in the home renovation crowd (the "flippers") of buying "old barn wood", to the point where people who owned old barns had thieves stealing their doors, lofts, etc. That may have been a fad to begin with, but it is in earnest now.
 
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