Tensions grow over plan to log Central Walbran Valley’s ancient forests
Surrey-based Teal-Jones Group was in BC Supreme Court in Vancouver last week in an attempt to extend its injunction (court order) against the Wilderness Committee and other activists working to protect old-growth forests in the Walbran Valley.
Since November, independent activists have blocked several Teal-Jones logging operations in the Walbran. Teal-Jones asked the court to renew an injunction, which had expired on December 14th, aiming to restrict public access to the area for the next nine months.
Judge issues mixed decision
The judge chided Teal-Jones’ lawyers for not bringing this case to court in Victoria, where arguably more people with an interest in this issue – including some individuals named in the injunction – would be able to attend. The judge declined to expand the injunction to the scope that Teal-Jones had requested, but did grant an extension of the current injunction to January 4th. At that point, Teal-Jones will have to reapply to the BC Supreme Court in Victoria for the more expansive injunction it is seeking, in order to allow more interested parties to be in attendance.
The Wilderness Committee, which was named in the injunction, had previously challenged Teal-Jones in court, stating that they had nothing to do with organizing the blockades that were taking place in the Walbran Valley. They argued that the language was overly broad, as to prevent them from engaging in their lawful conservation and educational activities in the Central Walbran. The judge agreed to vary the injunction to allow lawful activities to continue in the area, so long as they did not interfere with Teal-Jones’ harvesting operations.
Government open door to rare old growth logging
While Teal-Jones has been logging in the Walbran Valley for years, its operations had been limited to the highly fragmented areas east of the Walbran River. However, tensions started ramping up when the BC government approved the first of eight proposed cut-blocks in the pristine and highly cherished area west of the river.
This is where one finds the famous Castle Grove, one of the most densely packed groves of old-growth red cedars on earth. This is all part of Teal-Jones’ Tree Farm License 46. It is one of the largest tracts of old-growth temperate rainforest on Southern Vancouver Island, containing massive trees and extremely rare and fragile limestone formations known as karst. This area west of the river is contiguous with Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park, making it more ecologically valuable than the area east of the river, which has been heavily fragmented by forestry over the years.
Ancient forests provide vital habitat
Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner for the Wilderness Committee argues that intact ancient forests like these have more value standing than as timber. He writes:
However, 96% of the low-elevation old-growth forests have been logged on Southern Vancouver Island.
“Today, the Central Walbran represents some of the finest of that last 4% that we need to protect,” points out Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner TJ Watt.
One of the last of its kind
Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club BC agrees: “In many parts of Vancouver Island and the South Coast there are few old-growth and other truly intact rainforest areas left and the risks of climate change impacts like drought, flooding and landslides are increasing. This means that we have to double our efforts to protect forests, improve forest management and reduce forest carbon loss,” he notes.
Business group calls for halt to old-growth logging
In nearby Port Renfrew—which bills itself as the “Tall Tree Capital of Canada”—the local Chamber of Commerce, representing 73 businesses in the region, has issued a statement calling on the BC government to prevent any further old-growth logging in the Walbran Valley.
“Big tree tourism has increased the total flow of dollars spent in Port Renfrew in our rental accommodations, restaurants, grocery stores, and businesses in general,” says Chamber president Dan Hager.“ Along with sport fishing, old-growth forest tourism has become a staple of our local economy.”
“Virtually unmatched” for tourism appeal
According to Ancient Forest Alliance executive director Ken Wu, the Walbran is “virtually unmatched for recreational and scenic grandeur in the world.”
“It’s just the perfect place to visit, and to riddle the whole area with clearcuts and giant stumps would be the lowest, worst use of a place like this,” Wu adds.
These diverse groups are calling on the BC government to revoke Teal-Jones’ cutting permit in the Central Walbran and incorporate this area into the adjacent Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park.