Central Walbran Valley Logging Conflict Escalates
A logging permit for the first of eight proposed cutblocks in the Central Walbran Valley was issued in September by the government of British Columbia to logging company Teal-Jones. The Central Walbran Valley, near Port Renfrew, is Canada’s most spectacular old-growth forest, and one of the largest unprotected old-growth forests left on southern Vancouver Island in BC.
Conservationists are preparing for an escalation in the conflict, and are employing remotely-piloted drones, a new tool in the battle to protect BC’s endangered old-growth forests. The Ancient Forest Alliance (AFA) is using a small drone equipped with a GoPro camera to monitor and document the endangered old-growth forests of the Central Walbran Valley. This has allowed the organization to capture aerial video footage of old-growth forests threatened by logging on steep, rugged terrain that otherwise would take hours to hike to.
Helicopter-based logging, or heli-logging, is expected for several of the eight proposed cutblocks in the Central Walbran Valley, including the first approved Cutblock 4424, due to the difficulty of road access in the mountains.
View Video of the Central Walbran Ancient Forest that includes recent HD Drone Footage.
“Drones are a new tool in the tool box that are helping us raise the environmental awareness about remote endangered areas that are normally out of the public spotlight, where companies believe they can log with little scrutiny. Plus it allows us to get some spectacular footage of our magnificent but endangered old-growth forests from vantage points rarely seen”, stated TJ Watt, Ancient Forest Alliance photographer and campaigner who shot the Walbran videos.
“Teal-Jones and the BC government have committed themselves to an intense battle by aggressively moving to log southern Vancouver Island’s most contentious ancient forest. The logging companies have already clearcut the vast majority of the richest and grandest old-growth forests on Vancouver Island – over 90% – and now they’re complaining that they’re running out of options. They’ve boxed themselves into a corner through their own unsustainable history of overcutting the biggest and best old-growth stands – and now they’re contending that it’s the conservationists’ fault and that they must log the last unprotected lowland ancient forests to survive. The one thing the BC government must not do is to reward unsustainable practices with more unsustainable practices – but that’s just what they’ve done by granting the first cutting permit to Teal-Jones in the Central Walbran Valley. It’s a myopic government facilitating the demise of an ecosystem for a company intent to go just about to the very end. Instead they need a quick transition or exit strategy to get completely out of our last ancient forests and into a sustainable, value-added, second-growth forest industry,” stated Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance executive director.
A 14-foot Stump in the Upper Walbran Valley, with Castle Grove in the distant background.
The 500-hectare Central Walbran Valley is one of the largest contiguous tracts of unprotected old-growth forest left on southern Vancouver Island (south of Barkley Sound) where about 90% of the original, productive old-growth forests have already been logged. It is home to the Castle Grove, perhaps the most extensive and densely-packed monumental western redcedar groves in Canada. The upper reach of the Castle Grove is threatened by several of the proposed Teal-Jones cutblocks. Species at risk include Queen Charlotte Goshawks, marbled murrelets, screech owls, and red-legged frogs, while coho salmon and steelhead trout spawn in the rivers.
The Central Walbran is popular for hikers, campers, anglers, hunters, and mushroom pickers, and is located on public (Crown) lands in Tree Farm Licence 46 near Port Renfrew in Pacheedaht Nuu-chah-Nulth territory. About 5,500 hectares of the Lower Walbran Valley were included in the Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park in 1994, while about 7,500 hectares in the Central and Upper Walbran Valleys were left unprotected.
Conservationists are escalating pressure on the BC government and the company through protests and public awareness campaigns, calling on the company to back off and the BC government to protect the two ancient forests. Teal-Jones Group is a Surrey-based company that logs and sells endangered old-growth forests – including ancient redcedar trees – for pulp, paper, and solid wood products.
Environmentalists are calling on the BC government to protect these areas from logging through expanded Old-Growth Management Areas (OGMA’s), core Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHA’s), and Land Use Orders (LUO’s).
On BC’s southern coast (Vancouver Island and SW Mainland), satellite photos show that about 75% of the original, productive (moderate to fast growth rates, forests of commercial value) old-growth forests have been logged, including over 91% of the valley bottoms and high-productivity, lowland forests where the largest trees grow. Only 8% of the original, productive old-growth forests on BC’s southern coast are protected in parks and Old-Growth Management Areas.
In a recent Vancouver Sun and Province article, the Teal-Jones spokesperson was quoted as claiming that “only 11,080 hectares of