Vancouver Island Old-Growth Almost 75 Percent Gone

By the time the Clayoquot Peace Camp shut down in the fall of 1993, police had arrested 856 people for protesting clearcut logging in Clayoquot's ancient forest.

The event soon became the largest act of civil disobedience in Canada's history . Two years later the BC government put together a scientific panel to develop criteria on how best to log Clayoquot Sound. But the new rules did not end clearcutting in Clayoquot or anywhere else on the island. Today more than 70 percent of the island’ s old-growth is gone. The forests of Vancouver Island remain embroiled in controversy .

Tw o grandmothers have been sitting in jail this year as punishment for protesting. There are only six large intact watersheds left on the island. One of them, East Creek on Brooks Peninsula on the island’ s northwest corner, is knowns for its mossy , sunlit old growth forests, but activists warn it is in danger of becoming a second-growth tree farm.

Weyerhaeuser holds the rights to log the lower East Creek valley , but the company has promised not to log there. However , another company has proposed to build a road right through a marbled murrelet reserve into Weyerhaeuser's area, says Jill Thompson of the Sierra Club of Canada, BC Chapter.

“This is a BC government decision,” she says. “The government is knowingly leaving a very impoverished landscape for future generations on Vancouver Island. All the best old growth is already gone, and they keep approving industrial logging in the few good areas that remain.”

Besides the red-listed (endangered) marbled murrelets, East Creek is home to blue-listed (threatened) Roosevelt elk, black bear , wolf, cougar , and unusually healthy runs of all species of wild pacific salmon.

Vancouver Island marmots are all but gone, and now Joyce Murray , Minister of Water , Land & Air Protection proposes to kill wolves and cougars in a last-ditch to save them. Canada first listed the marmot in 1979 as endangered but did nothing to halt logging and road-building within its core habitat. There might be two dozen marmots left in the wild, plus another 80 in captivity.

“If Murray was truly concerned about recovering both deer and marmot populations she would be advocating an end to clearcut logging and the protection of remaining old growth forest habitat on Vancouver Island instead of kowtowing to sport hunting interests,” says Chris Genovali, executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Society in Victoria.

Close to Victoria, the Walbran Valley is one of the most southern and fertile temperature rainforests in BC, as well as one of the warmest and wettest. Last winter , Weyerhaeuser lifted a moratorium on logging in the Walbran Valley and are now logging the valley heavily .

On May 8, two grandmothers, Betty Krawczyk, 74, and Jen Bradley , 48, were arrested under a court ordered injunction for blocking Weyerhaeuser from accessing the forests of the ancient Upper Walbran watershed. Clayoquot Sound, the largest tract of intact ancient forest left on Vancouver Island, is about 33 percent protected in parks.  

Two logging companies have been removing trees from the other areas. One is a company owned 51 percent by the Nuu-chah-nulth and 49 percent by Weyerhaeuser . This company is known as Iisaak (pronounced Esock), which in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, which means "respect."

The company is staying out of the pristine valleys within its tenure, phasing out logging of old-growth and cutting at a lesser rate. But the other company, Interfor, is logging heavily at Clayoquot.

“Interfor is logging Clayoquot at an industrial rate,” says Lee-Ann Unger of Friends of Clayoquot Sound. “The company has also stated its intent to log in the Sydney and Pretty Girl V alleys, two of the last large pristine valleys on Vancouver Island.”

Interfor says its footprint at Clayquot is small. It says in 100 years, it will harvest just 4 percent of the sound’ s land base.

But last winter , Interfor built logging roads on the border of Pacific Rim National Park in southern Clayoquot Sound. The park is the core of the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve yet has no buffer .

“The park is not large enough to provide adequate habitat for the populations of bears, wolves, cougars and other wildlife that use the area.” Unger says. “Logging the forests surrounding the park directly compromises the park's ecological integrity .

Paul Koberstein