Cars and trucks lined Dufferin Road on both sides and around the corner onto Rena Road as a large crowd of 80 or more came out on a cold winter day to greet the New Year at the forest refugium at DL 33 in Nanoose on Saturday. Local people brought holiday visitors from Victoria and Kamloops and elsewhere. They demonstrated their appreciation of a beautiful Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) forest and lamented its near extinction – shocked to discover that this mature remnant could be slated for destruction unless citizens ‘step up to the plate’ to save it. The Cutting Permit was signed by the Forest Service in late December, even though the CDF is known to be a globally-imperilled forest ecosystem.
The crowd was greeted by host Annette Tanner of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and heard remarks also from Scott Fraser, MLA, Alberni-Pacific Rim, and Kim Recalma-Clutesi, respected elder, cultural leader, and historian of the Qualicum First Nation, who attended with her husband. “What is at stake here is not the loss of some fine Douglas-fir and cedar trees, although that’s important,” said Annette Tanner of the Mid-Island WCWC, “What’s at stake here is the death of an ecosystem – which is a much more significant thing than individual trees. An ecosystem is so much more. It’s the result of competition and co-existence of a set of plants, shrubs, trees and many other living things which evolve together over time and reach a state of relative equilibrium with each other and with their share of light, water and nutrients.”
Many plants, birds, animals and amphibians associated with the CDF are already red- or blue-listed as endangered because there’s so little habitat left. Tanner pointed out that ecosystems are often named by their dominant tree type because those mature trees are so important to all the other living things in the forest system. “Now it seems possible that those dominant trees will be taken from DL 33,” said Tanner.
Gary Murdock, a member of the Arrowsmith Parks and Land-Use Council (APLUC), former Forest Service technician, said “The government claims that logging 30 percent of DL 33 will have only minor impact. That’s simply not true when you are talking about ecosystem survival in a plot surrounded on three sides by clearcuts. This threatened logging could be the end of a mature, thriving ecosystem on this site, there’s no doubt about that.” said Murdock.
MLA Scott Fraser addressed the crowd briefly. “What is most shocking about this situation is that DL 33 is Crown land, where the government has full authority. You may have heard of a recent, protective Land Use Order imposed by the provincial government on Crown Land CDF forest. Unfortunately, the government’s own appointed watchdog panel, the Forest Practices Board, says that the Land Use Order was not nearly enough to change the extinction risk for this ecosystem. They say ‘Before the LUO, the risk was high, after the LUO, it is still high’. In fact, the Forest Practices Board says the government must save all mature CDF on Crown land in order to move the risk to “moderate”. But since the government is ignoring the Forest Practices Board, the problem is now in the lap of citizens. It’s up to us now to save this,” said Fraser.
Both WCWC and APLUC understand and respect First Nations land claims, said Berni Pearce, APLUC member. “We don’t believe the government is doing its duty to First Nations by dumping controversy and conflict on them. The one-time-only cash yield is highly doubtful under current lumber prices and the global economy.”
But Pearce is convinced there is a face-saving solution. “In addition to other possibilities, the government can apply its newly completed Carbon Offset Protocol to DL 33. We believe the protocol can provide benefit to the Nanoose First Nation, the legal licensee at DL 33, for NOT cutting at DL 33, and the standing mature forest could be of greater long-term benefit to them as an ecotourism site than cutting it. I believe a respectful solution can be found that would be of equal benefit to the First Nation and could win some much-needed goodwill for the government.”