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

Powerful Russian folk trio makes triumphant return to city

Trio Voronezh back on Victoria stage for first time since appearing at Coupe Mondiale in 2013

Abbamania, Night Fever in spotlight at McPherson in Victoria

ABBA, Bee Gees songs will fill the Mac Feb. 7, along with Lady Gaga tribute

Vic High alumni named Victoria’s new Youth Poet Laureate

Neko Smart, the founder and coach of the Vic High slam poetry team, will serve a one-year term

Dance Victoria: The Trocks are in town!

Dance Days 2020 performance roster includes two powerhouse presentations

Pacific Opera Victoria exec member earns major honour

Yvette Guigueno to attend prestigious OPERA America leadership program this month in New York

Winners announced for inaugural Victoria Arts Council/Monday poetry contest

More than 100 entries received in five categories

Canadian polar bears’ ‘ingenious’ survival seen in BBC Earth series

Film crews also go to Tofino to watch black bears snap up crabs under massive boulders

Spring author’s reading series kicks off early in Sidney

Sidney and Peninsula Literary Society hosting Yasuko Thanh and Carla Funk for Feb. 7 event

The winners of London Drugs’ 2019 Amateur Photographer of the Year contest are…

After more than 26,000 entries, the winners have been selected across Western Canada.

‘How to Train Your Dragon’ filmmaker Dean DeBlois among Canadian Oscar nominees

Multiple Oscar-nominated Canadian talents on Academy Award hopefuls list

Most Read