The clear at Avatar Grove, near Port Renfrew  /   Photos by Diane and Jay Van Oostdam

Vancouver Island old growth faces a bleak future, say speakers

May 13, 2019 | Environment

By Pat Carl

A Friday night crowd of 100 listened intently as speakers from Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee illustrated the grim reality of what remains of old growth forest on Vancouver Island.

The shocked audience often sighed audibly as the speakers showed photos of recently clear-cut old growth and pointed out the roads already built to more easily harvest much of the rest.

Vancouver Island’s coastal temperate rainforest is a unique system, according to Mark Worthing of the Sierra Club, one that is disappearing at the astonishing rate of 34 soccer fields per day. Less than 10 percent of the original 3 million hectares of old growth forest still exists on the Island and SW mainland.

“Because of the climate crisis,” Worthing claims, “business as usual isn’t an option. Trees are the tools we need to fight the climate crisis.”

Diane Van Oostdam standing in front of Big Lonely Doug — Height: 70.2 meters/230 feet. Circumference: 11.91 meters/39 feet

Torrance Coste from the Wilderness Committee claims that old growth and even second growth forests are our best “offense and defense’ against climate change. Because the audience members benefit from BC government-owned timber sales, we all are responsible for the demise of old growth forests, according to Coste.

A third speaker, Stacy Harper, a graduate student at Royal Rhodes, is writing about the astonishing gift the Cumberland Forest Society made to its community when it purchased 110 hectares of forest near the township.

“Since Cumberland members have long been involved in the forestry economy, they have a special attachment to those 110 hectares,” Harper said.

he community has altered its relationship with the forest; while once the community harvested the forest, it now protects the forest. In interviewing one community member, Harper was told that when the government ‘owns’ the forest, it can do what it wants. When we own the forest, we can protect it.

Following the presentations, Galen Armstrong, a lead organizer at Sierra Club BC, fielded questions for the speakers. One question echoed the frustration many attendees felt who think assertive direct action is needed to save old growth and second growth forests and to fight climate change.

Both Coste and Worthing explained that their present positions require that they work within the legal and political guidelines provided by their organizations. But in his experience, Coste has found that “civil disobedience is the sound of not being heard,” which resonated with many of those in attendance.

Comox Valley residents Diane and Jay Van Oostdam recently traveled to the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew. Their photos illustrate the assault on old growth forests in BC.

Pat Carl is a contributor to the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project

This article has been updated to state Vancouver Island originally had 3 million hectares of old growth forest, not 360,000 hectares.




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