HANNA PETERSEN Mark Worthing from the Sierra Club BC gives a presentation at the “Let’s Talk Forests” event at Cafe Guido.

Old-growth forest debate ignites discussion

Old growth debate returns to Port Hardy

A returning discussion series about old-growth forest once again drew a passionate crowd of foresters and residents from all over the North Island.

It was a full house at Cafe Guido in Port Hardy on Nov. 2, where the Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee hosted their discussion series “Let’s Talk Forests”.

After an introduction by Kwakiutl Chief Rupert Wilson, a presentation was given by the event’s hosts Mark Worthing, a Conservation and Climate Campaigner for the Sierra Club BC, and Torrance Coste, a Vancouver Island Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. The two outlined their positions and concerns for the state of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island.

“It is our organization’s perspective that Vancouver Island’s original forest covers the original ecosystems that are at the brink of collapse and that the timing is an extremely unfortunate one in relation to our climate context, ocean acidification, and degradation,” said Worthing.

Worthing also spoke about the previous event held in Port Hardy, which took place last March. “It was kind of tense, it was kind of awesome,” said Worthing, adding, “we learned a lot, we found nerve points where we learned what was really sensitive – there were ways we were not using our language that was inclusive or collaborative, so we are looking to shift that a bit.”

Coste further clarified the Wilderness Committees position during his presentation. “We see the current state of old growth and the current state of the forest on Vancouver Island as an ecological emergency.”

He said they weren’t interested in solutions that protect ecosystems but ignored Indigenous Nations or workers that depend on the forestry industry, and “whether you take me on my word or not on that it’s up to you, but it’s our honest intentions.”

Many topics were addressed during the discussion portion of the event, with those in the audience quick to jump in by asking a question, making a statement, or clarifying a point.

“To be frankly honest, I moved up to Port McNeill in 1979 because I married a faller,” said Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland. “Forestry raised my family and it is kind of like a red rag to a bull for small communities that live, breath, eat, and raise their families in forestry to have people that come from a different area telling people up here how our ecosystems need to be preserved, or what we need to do.”

She also noted a motion has come forward at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to support the formation of an advisory committee focused on the management and preservation of old-growth forests which would consist of First Nations, local government representatives from forestry communities, industry and environmental representation.

“Because everybody needs to be in on the conversation,” said Ackland, adding, “this is wonderful for community, but we all need to be around the table at the same time.”

Megan Hanacek, a biologist with the Association of BC Forest Professionals, added, “What you are proposing would primarily fall north of Campbell River. I think if you are looking for input you need to really engage the communities north of Campbell River.”

A debate also occurred over the percentage of protected “productive” and “non-productive” old growth, with Hanacek and the presenters concluding they were “coming up with different numbers”.

The conversation also turned towards the economy as a whole and forestry’s place in it.

“You touched very briefly on the fact that we have the richest resources in a very rich country and we are creating the least amount of actual real economic bonus for our communities,” said Garth Holden, a street outreach worker. “Day in and day out I deal with the realities of a collapsed economy.”

‘Namgis Chief Don Svanvik brought up the question of stumpage, the fee that businesses or individuals pay when they harvest timber from Crown land in B.C. “What I don’t hear talked about is stumpage, the province has got a license to print money with it.”

Port Hardy Coun. Fred Robertson noted that “we are a resource-based community that is transitioning.”

After echoing Mayor Ackland’s comments that everyone needs to be at the table, he added, “it’s about bringing people in from government as well – but from our perspective, it’s pretty simple we want to see the sustainable benefits from the forests stay in our communities.”

After over an hour of discussion from a variety of differing perspectives, the event concluded with Worthing and Coste offering to speak with participants individually if they had further comments to make.

Port Hardy was one of six stops on the tour, discussions also took place in Campbell River, Duncan, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, and Courtenay.

Just Posted

10 tonnes of plastic cleared from North Coast beaches

Living Oceans Society spent three days sorting the marine debris

Court orders protestors to leave fish farm site

“The adjournment allows us to compile our evidence and present it in 30 days.”

NISS Students find out what journalism is all about

Four students visit the Gazette for a work experience

Disability Tax Credits in jeopardy for Type 1 diabetics

“It’s something I deal with every day of my life.”

Port Hardy Residents still waiting for Telus Fibre Optic

Mansourati was unable to say who Telus would be contracting to finish the ninth fibre serving area.

100,000 bulbs shine bright for Lights of Hope

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver launched its annual campaign to raise funds for equipment, research

‘I will now live in consistent fear’: Allan Schoenborn granted escorted leaves

The Merritt man was deemed not criminally responsible in the killing of his three children in 2008

Hammy the deer dodges conservation officers in Prince Rupert

The famous Prince Rupert hammock deer maintains his purple threads

‘No shirt, no service, no Canada’

Shirtless Tacoma man arrested after Canadian border officials say they found meth in rental vehicle

Nasty note on B.C. windshield sparks online outrage

Vernon’s Bailey McDonald is using a painful experience to start conversation about invisible illness

Port Alberni resident robbed with weapon, thieves steal thousands

Most of the stolen currency is in Canadian $100 bills. The police investigation is ongoing.

Single vehicle crash on Old Island Highway sends driver to hospital

A single-vehicle crash just north of Courtenay early Friday morning sent one… Continue reading

Federal funding to combat guns, gangs and opioid crisis

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said illicit drugs are often main cause of guns, gangs violence

INTERACTIVE MAP: Follow the 2017 Tour de Rock

Follow the Tour de Rock, as they pedal more than 1,000 kilometres fundraising to combat paediatric cancer

Most Read