The Week — July 21

CRD says no to biosolids at last, B.C.'s still got wood — oh, yeah

That's no pixie. A woman stands in front of Canada's largest tree — the Cheewhat Giant red cedar growing north of Port Renfrew —that borders stumps and clear-cut forests.

CRD says no to biosolids at last

The Capital Regional District has finally taken an official stance on spreading our poop on agricultural land: the answer is a firm no.

After months of heated debate, the CRD has passed a motion with overwhelming majority to ban the use of Class-A biosolids (formerly known as fancy sludge) on all CRD lands. CRD director Philippe Lucas, who originally championed the motion, says the decision comes as a “welcome commitment” to uphold CRD ideals around promoting sustainable agriculture.

“I’m extremely pleased to see this ratified by the board, and I’m grateful to UVic Law and all the others who were so passionate to see this through,” says Lucas. “Our farm land is such a precious commodity, and at least this is one threat we’ve now been able to remove.”

The ban means all biosolid use, distribution and marketing will halt on all CRD property, including the distribution of Pengrow, which was formerly available to all small-scale gardeners and farmers for no cost.

“This is not a motion to slow down or taper off the use of biosolids, this is a motion to immediately ban it for all land-application use from our CRD,” says Lucas. “This is meant to be a permanent fix.”

Out of the full board of 23 directors who attended the meeting, only three opposed the motion. One opposition came from Central Saanich mayor Jack Mar, who has been opposed to banning the use of biosolids from the beginning.

“Some people believe biosolids aren’t safe, but it’s a matter of opinion. From the beginning I’ve said put it on our forage land, like lawns and hay fields, not on our direct food fields, like blueberries. To me, that’s safe enough,” says Mar. “No one was making anyone use these biosolids, but now some people are making sure no one can use them. Is that fair? We still have to deal with them somehow.”

Lucas and others have proposed the CRD sends the biosolids to cement kilns to be dried and disposed, though Mar worries the option will be too costly and result in long, smelly wait times while the biosolids collect.

“Part of the reason we have a regional sustainability strategy is because the protection of our farm lands and our ability to have safe, sustainable food should be our top concern,” says Lucas.

We’ve still got wood

Exciting news for eco lovers and the Ancient Forest Alliance this week: Vancouver Island is still home to Canada’s largest tree — at least for now.

To celebrate Parks Day this past week, the AFA captured a YouTube video of Canada’s largest tree, a western red cedar named the Cheewhat Giant, growing in a remote location near Cheewhat Lake, north of Port Renfrew and west of Lake Cowichan. The tree remains the country’s biggest with a trunk diametre over six metres (20 feet), a height of 56 metres (182  feet) and listing 450 cubic metres in timber volume — or 450 regular telephone poles worth of wood. The tree remains preserved within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, which was created in 1971. Not all of B.C.’s flora has as successful a story, however. The video clip features new clear cuts and giant stumps of red cedar trees, some adjacent to the reserve that were logged as recently as this year.

“Future generations will look back at the majority of B.C.’s politicians who still sanction the elimination of our last endangered old-growth forests … and see them as lacking vision, compassion and a spine,” says TJ Watt, AFA co-founder. “We desperately need more politicians with courage and wisdom to step forward.”

See the clip “Canada’s Largest Tree — the Cheewhat Cedar” at http://youtu.be/Xw2Im8nSOdg. M

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