‘Indicative of a truly corrupt system’: government investigation reveals BC Timber Sales violating old-growth logging rules

Two investigations, released under Freedom of Information laws, show a government agency ignored best practices and available data when auctioning cutblocks in the Nahmint Valley — home to some of Vancouver Island’s last remaining stands of unlogged ancient forest — where clearcutting continues to this day

Nahmint-Valley-Douglas-Fir-Clearcut
Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt surveys a sprawling clearcut filled with rare, old-growth douglas fir trees. Watt told The Narwhal that despite multiple and ongoing investigations into BC Timber Sales’ auctioning of ancient forest in the Nahmint Valley, he worries the agency will “just continue on with business as usual.” Photo: TJ Watt

Vast stands of old-growth douglas firs and cedars, toppled. A grim-looking individual, perched atop a stump, staggering in size, its history harkening back to pre-colonial times, sap oozing beneath their feet.

British Columbians are near-immune to such images these days, with old-growth clearcutting a common sight and common practice. But something about the images coming out of Vancouver Island’s Nahmint Valley struck a chord.

photo gallery posted by the Ancient Forest Alliance to Facebook in May of 2018 became a near-immediate viral sensation, being shared more than 4,800 times.

The organization, during an ancient forest expedition with the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, found exceptionally large douglas fir, including the fifth and ninth widest ever recorded in B.C., scattered among the remains of an extensive clearcutting operation.

The groups documented old-growth cedar stumps measuring a staggering 12 feet (3.7 metres) in diameter.

29543060_1764129970348249_5355189877212184576_n.jpg (533×800)Photo: Ancient Forest Alliance

Something felt wrong about the scope and scale of the logging operations in the Nahmint Valley to the expeditioners.

‘Indicative of a truly corrupt system’: government investigation reveals BC Timber Sales violating old-growth logging rules

Two investigations, released under Freedom of Information laws, show a government agency ignored best practices and available data when auctioning cutblocks in the Nahmint Valley — home to some of Vancouver Island’s last remaining stands of unlogged ancient forest — where clearcutting continues to this day

Some of you may have already seen the pictures.

Vast stands of old-growth douglas firs and cedars, toppled. A grim-looking individual, perched atop a stump, staggering in size, its history harkening back to pre-colonial times, sap oozing beneath their feet.

British Columbians are near-immune to such images these days, with old-growth clearcutting a common sight and common practice. But something about the images coming out of Vancouver Island’s Nahmint Valley struck a chord.

photo gallery posted by the Ancient Forest Alliance to Facebook in May of 2018 became a near-immediate viral sensation, being shared more than 4,800 times.

The organization, during an ancient forest expedition with the Port Alberni Watershed-Forest Alliance, found exceptionally large douglas fir, including the fifth and ninth widest ever recorded in B.C., scattered among the remains of an extensive clearcutting operation.

The groups documented old-growth cedar stumps measuring a staggering 12 feet (3.7 metres) in diameter.

Something felt wrong about the scope and scale of the logging operations in the Nahmint Valley to the expeditioners.

And they were right.

Nahmint Valley red cedar

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous, freshly fallen western red cedar in a BC Timber Sales-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni. Photo: TJ Watt

Before-After-9th-Widest-Douglas-Fir-Nahmint-1024x765.jpg (1024×765)
Before and after images of a massive douglas fir tree in the Nahmint Valley. According to the B.C. Big Tree Registry, this douglas fir was the ninth-largest of its kind in Canada. Photo: TJ Watt

Investigations point to government agency at heart of B.C.’s old-growth logging

Following their expedition, the Ancient Forest Alliance submitted a complaint to the compliance and enforcement branch at B.C.’s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The findings of two subsequent investigations would confirm a deep-rooted suspicion that BC Timber Sales (BCTS), the government agency responsible for auctioning provincial logging permits, was thwarting protection rules and violating the principles of old-growth management plans. MORE

Fires and flooding: how B.C.’s forest policies collide with climate change

The province has prioritized timber sales over all else, but right now there is a chance to change that

Grand Forks flooding 2018
An aerial view of Grand Forks flooding, courtesy of Sergeant Mike Wicentowich, one of many RCMP officers dispatched in response to the flood. Interfor’s property can be seen centre left. Photo: Sergeant Mike Wicentowich

ritish Columbians have a complicated relationship with forests. Growing up, my favourite stand of old-growth trees was only accessible by a logging road. At the time, that barely seemed noteworthy: I knew forests held ecological value, and were also valued by local mills. But when the logging road became active again, and I started following empty trucks up and full trucks down, I began wondering whether those values were well balanced.

That tension still runs close to the heart of British Columbians. We promote our provincial identity as nature-lovers through old-growth forests on tourism ads. But in many ways, we never left the gold rush era of destructive, unsustainable industries that wreak havoc on the land. Meanwhile, the forest-based communities we cherish are increasingly at risk.

Forestry practices in B.C. have been criticized for a long time. Mill closures, forest fires and species extinction are all symptoms of disastrous forest policies and provincial government mismanagement. In today’s era of climate change, which is already having a measurable impact on forests, every bad policy is made worse.

Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, putting us on the frontlines of global climate change. But the time to “stop” climate change has passed. Now, we’re left bracing for the worst impacts of the climate emergency by adopting strategies to make our communities more resilient to increasing wildfires and devastating floods.

One of the most obvious strategies? Protecting the old-growth forests and intact forests — meaning landscapes not fragmented and degraded by industrial activity — still standing in BC.

Older, intact forests hold tremendous value to nearby communities by offering protection from the worst impacts of climate change. But not if we continue to clearcut one of our best defences. B.C.’s outdated forestry policies have undermined these values by prioritizing timber harvest over all else. It’s time to change that.

Old-growth forestry in the Nahmint Valley. Photo: TJ Watt / Ancient Forest Alliance

Resilient forests, resilient communities

Poor logging practices and industrial infrastructure threaten rural and urban communities alike. With provincial forest policy amendments underway, now is the time to make sure our communities get the conversation — and results — we need.

Until July 15, B.C. is seeking public input on key legislation, the Forest and Range Practices Act. A joint submission by 28 organizations puts climate change and landscape resiliency front and centre, defining resiliency as the “ability of an ecosystem to cope with disturbance or stress and rebuild itself without losing its defining characteristics.” MORE

 

Clean power, right in the heart of fracking country

“Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Don Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year.” 


The Bear Mountain wind project in BC. Photo by Don Pettit

Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

“Everything was rolling along nicely. We could have had factories producing wind blades, and we were on the verge of launching a major wind industry with thousands of jobs in B.C.. But just as it started to get going they dropped it.”

“Wind prospectors were coming into the region from all over the world. We wanted to tap into that and try to make at least one of these wind facilities at least partially locally owned — which we did. And I think we set a very high standard for community-supported wind development.”

Their ground-breaking work led to PEC’s inaugural green energy project, the Bear Mountain Wind Park, being fully commissioned in 2009, even as fracking activity was peaking in the Peace. B.C.’s first large-scale wind park at 102 megawatts, it stands a few kilometres south of Dawson Creek and continues to power the South Peace region.

And then, in 2010, things inexplicably went south.

Along with other early adopters of clean energy across the country, Pettit has helped lay the groundwork for an industry that now attracts tens of billions of investment dollars each year. A report issued last week by Clean Energy Canada, entitled Missing the Bigger Picture, calculates that the renewable energy sector employed about 300,000 workers in Canada in 2017 and has significantly outcompeted the rest of the economy in growth.

Yet Pettit has noted intrusive, disturbing changes to those rural lands in the decades since he first arrived in Dawson Creek.

“Since then it’s been a steady stream of industrialization… but the biggest shift imaginable has been the arrival of the fracked gas industry. There’s flares blasting away, and they stink, and surveillance cameras with lots of ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Some of my favourite spots are essentially destroyed.”

The potential health benefits of a transition to renewable appear similarly impressive. A 2016 Pembina Institute analysis estimated that by phasing out coal-fired power entirely by 2030, 1,008 premature deaths, 871 ER visits and $5 billion worth of negative health outcomes would be avoided between 2015 and 2035. And unlike the air and water contaminants emitted by coal and natural-gas plants that sicken local populations and warm the planet, Pettit enthuses that solar energy has “no moving parts and no pollution.” in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

“Alberta has a program called community capacity building. It’s about communities wanting to replace some of the power that they’re using with solar, but they can also make them bigger than they need and put extra power into the grid and get paid for it.”

One significant benefit is a locked-in energy price so communities can build business plans. No such program exists in B.C..

When asked what the provincial government could do to promote its spread, he answers without hesitation. Instead of spending billions on Site C to power the fracking industry, which he says would mostly benefit big corporations in the short term, it could offer small, targeted incentives.  MORE

B.C. stalls on promise to enact endangered species law

The province is home to more species at risk than any other and is one of only three provinces that lacks stand-alone legislation to protect endangered species

Caribou

The B.C. government is backpedalling on a commitment to enact an endangered species law in 2020, sparking concern from scientists who say time is running out to save the province’s 1,800 species at risk.

“There’s no significant species at risk legislation on the docket for the foreseeable future here in B.C. … ,” Premier John Horgan told reporters this week, nearly two years after his mandate letter to Environment Minister George Heyman included instructions to “enact an endangered species law.”

The environment ministry confirmed that a plan to introduce legislation in 2020 — already pushed back from 2019 — is off the table but provided no details about why.

UBC biologist Sally Otto, who sits on the federal species at risk advisory committee, called Horgan’s comments “a troubling sign from government.”

“As a scientist, it’s very hard for me to watch as populations blip out, to see these declines year after year and think that we as a society are not taking responsibility to prevent that from happening. she said. We’re the ones on watch. And we are watching as species decline.”

Scientists say our planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals and is experiencing the most rapid loss of species since the elimination of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientists estimate as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species may be headed toward extinction by 2050. MORE

RELATED:

‘It just takes too damn long’: How Canada’s law for protecting at-risk species is failing

Legislation introduced to require all new cars sold in B.C. to be zero-emission by 2040

https://globalnews.ca/video/rd/1487479875572/?jwsource=cl

WATCH: In a move to phase out gas-powered vehicles, B.C. has introduced legislation that would require all new cars and trucks sold in the province to be zero emission by 2040. Richard Zussman reports.

The B.C. government will require all new vehicles sold in the province to be zero-emission by 2040. The plan will be phased in over time, with new legislation mandating that 10 per cent of new light-duty vehicle sales be zero-emission by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

“British Columbians are eager to make the switch to zero-emission vehicles, but price and availability can be barriers,” Minister of Energy Michelle Mungall said.

“To reduce those barriers, we are providing rebates as part of CleanBC, and now we are bringing in legislation that will improve availability.” MORE

B.C. audit blames ‘gaps’ in provincial law for growing oilpatch liabilities


Oil and gas infrastructure is seen behind a chain link fence in this undated file photo by Louie Villanueva

The number of abandoned oil wells in British Columbia almost doubled between 2007 and 2018 and funds collected from operators to cover cleanup costs for a growing number of orphaned wells are insufficient, the province’s auditor general said in a report issued on Thursday.

A major reason for that is that the industry’s regulator, the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), lacks the power to compel operators to decommission and restore well sites in a timely way, said Carol Bellringer.

“We found that gaps in the provincial legislation governing the OGC meant operators weren’t required to decommission or restore their inactive well sites unless the OGC explicitly ordered them to do so because of specific safety or environmental issues,” she said.

The provincial government has created a new law that will give the regulator more coercive powers, she said in a phone interview, but the regulations that would allow it to be enforced are still being drafted. MORE

RELATED:

A Fracking Disaster: BC Failing to Make Polluters Pay

B.C. creative sector points the way in sustainability, diversity

Image result for BCs creative industries

Increasingly, the work uniting B.C.’s creative industries is a formalized pursuit of greater sustainability within the sector. My prediction for 2019 and beyond is that B.C.’s global reputation for creative expertise will be paralleled by a reputation for stewardship.

I believe our creative industries will lead the way across all the key pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, social and policy. MORE

80% of mountain glaciers in Alberta, B.C. and Yukon will disappear within 50 years: report

Combination of less snow and rapid melt causing glaciers to recede at dramatic rate, researchers say

The Wedgemont Glacier, north of Whistler, B.C. Of the estimated 200,000 square kilometres of Canadian glaciers, one quarter is found in the west of the country, with the remainder in the Arctic. (Steve Hamilton)

Climate change is causing glaciers in Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon to retreat faster than at any time in history, threatening to raise water levels and create deserts, scientists say.

David Hik, an ecology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the region is one of the hotspots for warming and the magnitude of change in the glaciers is dramatic. MORE