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Logging Vancouver Island's Englishman River's Shed

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by Richard Boyce
With the impending doom of YK2 I spent New Years Eve on a personal wilderness retreat. I camped out on a beautiful island in the middle of Englishman River where massive Douglas fir and Cedar trees tower over a diversity of undergrowth that has the distinct characteristics of an old growth forest.
Government stands by while Island Timberlands logs island in the middle of a river where this Bear dens in a Culturally Modified Cedar Tree on behalf of Brooksfield Asset Management Inc. on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Thick moss grows everywhere and bright tuffs of lichens hang from branches, tree trunks, and shale along the river's banks. This lush forest grows on an island of fertile sediment that has been deposited by the river over many centuries. This tiny jewel of forest is nestled in a deep ravine carved out by the river, somehow the trees escaped logging of the past.

To get there I followed the provincial park trail upstream from the upper waterfalls, walked through a tree farm logged by MacMillan-Bloedel in 1986, and crawled carefully over a fallen log to reach this tiny island paradise.
Approaching the spot I knew would be the best for my tent I heard a noise. Clawing; followed by silence.
Looking up into the forest ahead I saw a black bear about ten meters up a cedar tree. It was looking over its shoulders at me and looked very cute but didn't move. I backed away slowing and found another route to the tiny beach where I set up my camp. I didn't sleep very much with the thought of the bear but at that moment I thought we were both in one of the safest spots in the world.

The next morning I returned to the cedar tree with my camera and noticed that it appeared to have a cultural modification where the bark had been stripped off one side, perhaps to be used for weaving by First Nations people many years ago. The tree had healed itself, with the bark curling over the scar, but then fire had burned the dry exposed wood. This may have been caused by First Peoples attempting to fell the tree to use for a totem, canoe, or building. The bottom of the tree was burned out leaving a fairly large cavity.

I approached cautiously. A slight movement alerted me to a large nose, which was sniffing me out from inside a pile of leaves. The bear rose ever so slowly and looked at me. I took a photo when it was standing at full height, and then backed away slowly. The bear lowered itself back into the den and I returned home.

Today that very same island forest is being logged by Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which owns Island Timberlands. The massive trees are being killed with chainsaws that first limb all the branches, then top the crown off the tree, and finally cut down these veteran trees so that a helicopter can pull the giant logs into the air and dumps them on the side of a logging road.

This logging operation is pure desperation by the multinational corporation which is cutting down any remaining trees that can be sold on the collapsing world market. This brazen logging adjacent to a provincial park may be used to set a terrible precedent that logging in the middle of a river is okay. The Englishman River has been rated as an endangered river yet it provides drinking water to thousands of residents in the Oceanside area as well as spawning grounds for salmon that are on the brink of extinction.

The banks of Englishman River, from this tiny island forest upstream to the dammed reservoir at Arrowsmith Lake, are dotted with old growth trees that were left behind during logging operations of the past. Today, both the provincial and federal governments allow private corporations to destroy fragile watersheds. Ministries of Environment, Forestry, and Fisheries all refuse to protect public water from private interests.
What is desperately needed in British Columbia, and across Canada, is legislation that protects watersheds regardless of private ownership of lands.

The upcoming provincial elections on May 12, along with the referendum on proportional representation, can make a difference. Until then you need to ask questions about our watersheds or nothing will change.
To make your voice heard locally contact Island Timberlands or your local MLA.
To find out more check out: www.brookfield.com

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