An industrial logging machine is mowing down Vancouver Island forests at an accelerating rate for the purpose of raw log export. Corporate owners with close yet complex relationships and recurring faces view these forests as distressed assets in need of liquidation. The government of BC, hungry for short term cash, clears the way for them.
It’s the same kind of machine that operates the world over for the profit of the global asset shareholder, and it has arrived on Cortes Island. Here, it faces a community of 1,000 residents deeply rooted in the ecological integrity of island forests, a community that has fought industrial scale logging for the last twenty years with a high level of success, a community dubbed “socially inoperable” by MacMillan Bloedel.
A petition signed by nearly 7,000 people reflects that community. The petition was emailed, facebooked and tweeted from one alarmed lover of Cortes Island to another reaching deep through island residents, across Canada and beyond. Petitioners include old time island families, well-connected citizens of the continent’s biggest cities, authors, influential environmentalists, seasoned forest campaigners and local schoolchildren worried about the future of their home. Most of all, petitioners include people who care deeply about the legacy they will leave.
Cortes Island touches thousands because it is one of the world’s unbroken places, both accessible and wild, a place of experiences that inspire wonder and restore a sense of belonging in natural world. Cortes Island is precious in itself and it’s a microcosm of how the short term goals of a very few people are destroying the ability of the biological world to renew itself, something that none of us can honourably claim to own. We must preserve the rightful legacy of those who will live with our consequences when we are gone.
About Cortes Island
- Cortes Island lies between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It has a year round population of 1000 hardy souls and a summer population of 3 to 4 thousand. Hollyhock Conference Centre and Linnaea Farm contribute to Cortes Island’s reputation as an educational center for nature-based practices and values.
- IT’s parcels consist of 2700 acres that bisect the island from east to west. These lands hold the deepest soils, the biggest trees and the island’s central water recharge area.
- Pockets of old growth are part of the 1% of old growth that remains in BC.
- These old growth, mature second growth forests and extensive seasonal wetlands are home to 10 species and 10 ecological communities that by provincial legislation are threatened, endangered or of special concern. Species include the: common nighthawk; barn swallow; olive sided fly catcher; sooty (blue) grouse; northern goshawk; band tailed pigeon; red legged frog; pacific sideband snail, great blue heron and northern pygmy owl.
- The Cortes Island community has worked for over two decades to oppose industrial scale logging and bring ecosystem based forestry to these lands.
- According to Wayne French, Operations Manager for IT, industrial scale logging operations will include key areas in need of protection, including old growth stands and delicate wetland areas.
About Island Timberlands and Brookfield Asset Management
- BAM has $110 billion in assets under management and delivered an annual return of 23% from 2000 to 2010.[i]
- Brascan, now BAM, purchased Cortes Island land as part of a purchase of 635,000 acres of BC forest lands from Weyerhaeuser. BAM divided the private and public forest land assets, closed the mills, and restructured the management of private forest lands for faster harvest and more export of raw logs.
- BAM created Brookfield Infrastructure Partners to hold IT and other global assets. BIP is headquartered in the Bahamas where it avoids certain Canadian taxes and civil liabilities.
- Under BAM/IT management, BC raw log exports have skyrocketed. More than 62% of raw logs exports come from privately managed forest lands. Raw log exports increased by more than 50% in 2010, with more logs shipped to China than during the previous 20 years combined. In the first three months of 2011 alone, BC’s coast exported 40% or 1.3 million cubic metres of logs, a 300% from the same period in 2009.[ii]
About the Province of BC
- IT and other huge timber companies are major contributors to the Liberal Party of BC which, under Gordon Campbell, removed protection from privately managed forest lands and replaced it with a highly flexible, industry friendly Act which does not prohibit activity on forest land but provides voluntary guidelines with oversight by a council that is closely connected with logging industry owners.[iii]
- According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, forest liquidation rates have resulted in: Logging at double the sustainable rate with one company’s stock of Douglas fir slated for depletion within 25 years; waste of usable wood; and job loss because trees are no longer delivered to coastal mills.[iv]