Province forsaken its role on Cortes

The War in the Woods has changed complexion since I first started covering hostilities more than 20 years ago...

The War in the Woods has changed complexion since I first started covering hostilities more than 20 years ago as an environmental war correspondent in the Clayoquot Sound combat zone.

For me, the fight in those days was defined by brazen environmental opportunists like MP Svend (White Swan) Robinson who was most dangerous if you happened to be standing between him and a TV camera. This news just in — I was not a friend of the environment movement.

Jump ahead two decades and we find a much different contest being waged on the forest floor and in the boardrooms. While the spoils of war are still the remaining stands of old growth and the ecosystems that support them, the field of battle has shifted and the combatants’ tactics have evolved.

A good example of changing times is the current environment-versus-logging impasse on Cortes Island. It is more a war of words and diplomacy than the bitter blockade combat that defined the Clayoquot. The land in question is not public, it is private. And the gulf island ecosystem in question is not just sensitive, it is hyper-sensitive.

On Cortes, at least, the face of the environment movement has changed. The patchouli anarchy that defined it 20 years ago has mellowed and matured. The career enviros are still there, but their ranks have filled out with an eclectic gathering of regular folks — from kids to their grandparents to more than a few retired loggers.

Currently, an unofficial time out is being observed in the standoff between Cortes Island’s environmental activists and Island Timberlands, a subsidiary of Wall Street giant Brookfield Asset Management.

It should be noted that while this drama plays out on tiny Cortes, the Brookfield boardroom is in a state of high anxiety because of China Investment Corp. (CIC) is considering purchasing a sizeable chunk of Island Timberlands.  CIC is the investment arm of the People’s Republic of China with $200 billion of China’s foreign exchange reserves to play with. No pressure there.

On Cortes, three things are remarkable. First, the resident environmentalists and Timberlands have been debating the company’s logging plans for about four years without coming to serious blows.

Second, the environmentalists are not trying to ban logging altogether. They are asking for Timberlands to adopt an ecosystem-based approach — eco-code for selective logging that spares old growth.

Third, Timberlands has exercised a measure of restraint and has not immediately sought an injunction. Efforts are being made to bring the two sides together for what the environmentalists call “an informed discussion about the best use of the resource.”

Back in the early 1990s, the provincial government was fully engaged attempting to referee such conflicts even though there was precious little common ground. Twenty years later, with dialogue increasingly in vogue, the question is: Where is the provincial government?

A big issue in the Cortes dispute is the extent to which our government regulates activity on private land. The private foresters claim they are governed by more than 30 acts and regulations. However, the environmentalists say companies like Timberlands are allowed to apply a model of “professional reliance” which means that there is little meaningful regulatory oversight.

It’s a pity the current administration has all but forsaken its role as steward and peacekeeper in the woods. A measure of leadership would go a long way right about now. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on film production on central and north Vancouver Island, says Vancouver Island North Film Commission. Pictured here, production of TV series Resident Alien in Ladysmith earlier this year. (Black Press file)
Film commissioner says COVID-19 cost central Island $6 million in economic activity

Jurassic World: Dominion, Chesapeake Shores among productions halted due to pandemic, says INFilm

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Stephen Laidlaw, prepator with Nanaimo Art Gallery, hangs a photograph of Anna Wong, a B.C. print maker whose works are on display at the gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, Dec. 4, and runs until Feb. 7. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores life work of overlooked B.C. printmaker

‘Anna Wong: Traveller on Two Roads’ features more than 70 art works and personal belongings

Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus released their first joint album, <em>The Invasion</em>. (Photo courtesy Raymond Knight)
Nanaimo rappers Konfidential and Teus release first joint album

Duo plan elaborate live-streamed CD release for ‘The Invasion’

Next month Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases his solo debut album, ‘Wildlife.’ (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo musician Spencer Hiemstra releases solo debut album

New record ‘Wildlife’ about taking chances and going through changes

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

Most Read