A couple dozen residents gathered in front of Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell’s office today to send their message against the logging of old-growth rainforests on Vancouver Island.
A letter, signed by more than 20,000 B.C. residents, calling for the immediate protection of the last intact but unprotected old-growth stands across B.C., was presented there and at MLA constituency offices on the Island, Sunshine Coast and Lower Mainland, during similar protests organized in part by members of the Sierra Club BC Forest Team
Protesters called on the province to establish and Old-Growth Protection Act using the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement as a model, support First nations, create long-term forestry jobs and immediately halt logging in critical old-growth forest hotspots.
The Parksville protest included many from local environmental groups, including Arrowsmith Parks and Land Use Council, Friends of French Creek, Broombusters and Arrowsmith Naturalists. All were passionate about sending their message to the provincial government that the Island’s old-growth rainforests are in crisis.
“Why on earth are we allowing anyone to cut these old-growth forests down? They’re never going to grow back,” said Joanne Sales, Broombusters director.
In the past year, more than 16,000 B.C. residents have sent letters to the provincial government calling for the protection of ancient rainforests. According to the Sierra Club of BC, during that same period, about 10,000 hectares of old-growth forest has been clearcut.
“We want [the province] to know our old-growth forests are in crisis and we want them to stop logging old growth,” Sales said.
On Vancouver Island, old-growth forests are being cut at the rate of three square metres every second, or about 34 soccer fields per day, according to an information sheet from the Sierra Club of BC.
Sally Soanes, member of the Arrowsmith Naturalists, said the damage caused from logging old-growth forests is “horrendous.”
“Our hiking groups go out every 10 days, the damage is everywhere they go,” Soanes said. “They’re clearcutting right to the water, right to the creeks. French Creek watershed is in real trouble and that’s because it’s on private land and they’re cutting everything.”
In Nanaimo, about 20 people from the Sierra Club, Leadnow and other environmental advocacy groups gathered at Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley’s constituency office.
Nina Ristogi, a volunteer with the Sierra Club said B.C.’s old-growth forests are among the “rare and precious” ecosystems on Earth and the most able on the planet to sequester carbon to help prevent global warming and if they are cut, because of climate change, they will never grow back and their ability to hold soil, protect watersheds, mitigate climate change and other environmental benefits will lost.
“We now have the highest rate ever of raw log exports in B.C. that we’ve ever had and we know about climate change,” Ristogi said in her address to the gathering. “We know about biodiversity and the need to protect biodiversity. Not cutting trees is what scientists say is the most important thing we could possibly do and they say, in particular, old-growth forests sequester the most carbon and so we need to protect them above all else. We need to protect our old-growth forests.”
Ristogi went on to express disappointment with the current NDP government’s failure to take steps on its promise to switch to more sustainable types of forestry since it came into power.
“That promise has not been kept,” she said. “There has been no real noticeable change … in those 18 months.”
The B.C. government announced in mid-January the Coast Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson was in town Jan. 24 and spoke with the News Bulletin about the plan, saying the government wants to see more domestic log processing, less export of raw logs and better utilization of forest fibre.
“What I hear from communities like Nanaimo and others is we want to increase public trust in the oversight of a public resource, and that’s the forests, and increase social licence that the forest industry has to work in the forest,” the minister said.