Ultimatum issued over Clayoquot Sound
The media is now reporting every other day on this issue. August 2nd in Tofino is the first demonstration planned. I still cannot believe we are in 2008 and still dealing with these issues. Sad reflection of Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver Island.
Ultimatum issued over Clayoquot Sound
The Canadian Press
July 27, 2008 at 1:11 PM EDT
TOFINO, B.C. — The war in the B.C. woods is on the verge of erupting again, as environmentalists and logging companies face off over forestry activity in the pristine rain forest of Vancouver Island's Clayoquot Sound.
Environmental groups have issued an ultimatum to two forestry companies: Get out by Monday, or face the kind of blockades that shut down logging in the sound more than a decade ago, as well as a few new tricks that the anti-logging camp has honed since.
Maryjka Mychajlowycz, a forest campaigner with the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, said she couldn't elaborate on what action environmentalists would take. Ms. Mychajlowycz's group has already scheduled a rally in Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, next weekend.
“The intact valleys are our line in the sand,” said Ms. Mychajlowycz. “That's our bottom line.”
Clayoquot Sound was ground zero for the logging protests of the 1990s, which saw blockades, confrontations and mass arrests on both sides. It was the first major victory for anti-logging protesters and is now a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Now two companies, MaMook Natural Resources Ltd. and Coulson Forest Products, are active in Hesquiat Point Creek, just north of Maquinna Provincial Park in the northern reaches of the sound.
MaMook is owned by local First Nations and Coulson Forest Products is based in nearby Port Alberni, B.C. Both companies operate in a joint venture with First Nations.
Ms. Mychajlowycz said the companies have already built one road into Hesquiat Point Creek, have stopped the construction of another road and have plans for a third.
She said logging has also finished in three nearby blocks in the Escalante area and is now taking place on both sides of Hesquiat Harbour. The Hesquiat Point Creek is important because it is a smaller part of a larger intact forest, she said.
“We are asking for a two-year cessation of any immediate plans,” she said.
Ms. Mychajlowycz said two years would give environmental groups, First Nations and the province the chance to develop a “conservation solution” and secure funding resources for ecologically friendly economic opportunities.
Stephanie Goodwin, of Greenpeace, said six environmental organizations, including Forest Ethics, the Sierra Club, Western Canada Wilderness Committee and the Natural Resources Defense Council, are concerned about the plans.
She they have tried to reach a solution with MaMook and Coulson directly, however, an amiable end to the stand-off appeared increasingly unlikely as the Monday deadline approached.
Ms. Goodwin said Greenpeace has tried unsuccessful to meet with Coulson for the nine months and feels it has few other options but to return to the woods.
She said other logging companies have respected the pristine areas of Clayoquot Sound for the past 15 years.
“This logging of pristine areas directly undermines that,” she said.
If environmentalist and logging companies can't agree on a solution, Ms. Goodwin said the provincial government can always step up to the plate. So far, there has been no comment from the province.
Clayoquot Sound First Nations say they know how to log and manage the environment responsibly.
John Frank, deputy chief councillor of the Ahousaht, one of the native bands that owns MaMook, said the environmental groups shouldn't tell First Nations how to manage their own lands.
“They think that we can't think,” he said. “We can think, and we're not bimbos. We are a people that have a real strong sense on how environment should be, well-cared for, in the way it needs to be.
“It's not as though we're going to go knock down every tree.”
Representatives of the Hesquiaht First Nation did not return calls for comment.
Ken Matthews, forestry manager for Coulson, said First Nations bought the tree farm licence from International Forest Products Ltd. back in the spring of 2007 and harvesting has taken place in previously logged watersheds since.
But he said the companies are running out of fibre in those watersheds and have to look at others like Hesquiat Point Creek.
Under 170 regulations set out by the Clayoquot Sound Scientific Panel, which was set up after the raucous blockades of the 1990s, 90 per cent of the Hesquiat Point Creek watershed is protected through reserves, Mr. Matthews said.
He said the companies plan to log in only three cutblocks, some 30 hectares in total, and pull out 15,000 to 17,000 cubic metres of wood.
Mr. Frank said that will give First Nations the chance to benefit from the $17-million log barges that pass the community regularly and employ as many as 15 band members.
He said it's more than the environmental groups have delivered.
“Environmentalists promised us $4-million,” he said. “They said ‘we'll help you create an economic driving machine that will help you.' But where is it? It still hasn't hit my table.”
He said they were empty promises.
“Step out of the way so we can move forward in a good, positive way with the other industries that want to work with us,” Mr. Frank said.