Background.

  1. The Walbran valley, located upstream from the Pacific Rim National Park-West Coast Trail, is a 13, 000 hectare coastal ancient temperate rainforest watershed, within traditional unceded Nuu-chah-nulth territories of the Pacheedaht and Dididaht First Nations.
  2. Roughly 1/3 of the Walbran valley has been compromised by clearcut logging, within TFL ( Tree Farm License ) 44 and 46.
  3. The intact portions of the Walbran Valley, along with the adjacent Carmanah valley to the north and Smaller Cullite and Sandstone Creek drainages to the south, comprise the last, large temperate rainforest wilderness representing a mere 4 % of the original low-elevation temperate rainforests on southern Vancouver island, an ecosystem supporting volumes of plant biomass double that of a tropical rainforest, which provide an invaluable service in mitigating against runaway climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon.
  4. After four years of sustained public pressure to prevent road-building incursions into this area, now renowned as ground zero in the ancient forest movement, the Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park was created in 1995, protecting 16, 365 hectares of old-growth temperate rainforest.
  5. Under heavy pressure from logging companies, The Central Walbran Valley Ancient Forests, an area of 485 hectares containing some of the largest and oldest western redcedars in the world, was omitted from the park, to the disappointment of the environmental community. However, due to it’s being a highly contentious area, only one cutblock was cleared in twenty years, while the remaining unprotected portions of the watershed were heavily logged.
  6. In June 2015, Surrey-based company Teal-Jones Group applied for approval for eight cutlblocks in the Central Walbran Valley Ancient Forest, triggering a renewed wave of public interest in the protection of the Central Walbran valley.
  7. This area is renowned for the fabled Castle Giant, one of Canada’s oldest trees ( at 1,200 yrs. old) and outstanding ecological, old-growth forest and recreational values, offering perhaps the best accessibility to high-quality, low-elevation backcountry ancient forest wilderness camping and hiking on Vancouver island, including magnificent emerald swimming pools, the Seven Steps to Heaven waterfall, gigantic trees and rare karst formations; as well as being critical winter range for Roosevelt Elk and rearing habitat of many rare, threatened and endangered bird species that depend exclusively on old-growth forests for their continued survival including the seabird Marbled Murrelet, the Northern Goshawk and Pygmy owls.
  8. The Central Walbran Valley Ancient Forest, though unprotected, is the most popular access point into Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
  9. The area is hydrologically at the heart of the watershed, where the many creek branches converge, before the Big River ( Kaix:ics, ) flows to the ocean. Further logging in this sensitive area presents a risk to salmon spawning habitat downstream and other fish species that require cold, clean water, free of siltation and log debris.
  10. The Central Walbran Ancient Forest is a global biological heritage worthy of protection and offering a sustainable long-term economic future in eco-tourism, harvesting of non-timber forest products and traditional First Nations uses of the old-growth rainforest, benefitting local communities. Intensive management of second-growth forests, value-added manufacturing of finished wood products and a ban of raw log exports can generate sufficient economic renewal in forest-dependent communities to alleviate any further need to keep cutting old-growth forests.
  11.                           A Brief Walbran chronology;
  12. 10,000 Years ago. Ice sheets of the last period of glaciation on Vancouver island begin to retreat, carving broad U-shaped valleys, with fast rushing rivers of glacial meltwater creating mineral-rich alluvial river bottoms, the ideal environment supporting spawning habitat for ocean-going salmon and the growth of some of the biggest stands of Sitka spruce and Western redcedar trees on earth, spreading from an ancient temperate rainforest refugiae not covered by ice sheets on north Vancouver island’s Brookes Peninsula, an ecosystem producing more volume of plant biomass than anywhere in the world.
  13. A coastal First Nations culture going back possibly 10,000 years establish traditional lifeways in which Western redcedars become an integral part of the material culture, providing wood and fibre for shelter, clothing, transportation, cooking and carving. Hundreds of indigenous winter villages, seasonal fishing camps and harvesting sites flourish along the biologically productive west coast. Nuh-chah-nulth ( meaning between mountains and sea) ancestors of the people of Pacheedaht/ Dididaht name the Walbran Valley, Kax:ics, meaning Big River.
  14. Contact- present. European explorers establish colonies, military/missionary outposts and introduce smallpox which decimates 90% of the indigenous population, beginning the process of colonialism, a systemic set of policies aimed at depopulating the land of it’s indigenous inhabitants for the purposes of extracting resources and empire-building, achieved through the banning of the potlatch, the legislating of the reservation system forcibly amalgamating and relocating distinct tribal peoples into restricted enclaves with limited access to traditional land-base and resources; introduction of residential schools and the creation of a State- imposed system of governance, undermining traditional values and the authority of the hereditary chiefs and leaving an intergenerational legacy of trauma and associated social and economic problems communities struggle to heal and overcome to this day.
  15. After 150 years of commercial logging, all but 9% of the most biologically productive low-elevation old-growth temperate rainforests on South Vancouver island are cut down, with large-scale industrial clearcuts, the dominant form of timber harvesting after WWII, bringing about mass environmental destruction: eroded slopes, devastated salmon streams, the loss of biological diversity, wildlife habitat an significant carbon storage capacity, a key factor in mitigating climate change.
  16. 1954. B.C Forest Minister “Honest Bob” Sommers, was jailed on conspiracy charges for accepting a $10,000 bribe from Western Forest Products for the issuing of the province’s first tree farm license (TFL), giving logging companies cutting right to vast tracts of Crown/ unceded First Nations lands, turning biologically and structurally-diverse forest ecosystems into monoculture tree farms, in exchange for job creation in local forestry communities. The TFL system remained, though the Forest Minister was jailed.
  17. 1987. Naturalist Randy Stoltmann, finds the tallest tree in Canada, a 312′ Sitka Spruce, in lower Carmannah Valley, spearheading the Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) campaign to protect all of Carmannah Valley from logging.
  18. 1990-1992. The Carmannah Forestry Society initiates a volunteer trail-building effort to provide public accessibility along approximately 20 km of primitively constructed trails, stairs and boardwalk in Carmannah Valley and the neighbouring Walbran valley watershed to the south, allow thousands of visitors to witness some of the most spectacular ancient forests left on Earth, building public pressure to protect this global ecological heritage.
  19. 1991. Peter Knighton and family (Nyakhom) of the Qwabadowa’tx, tribal peoples and hereditary guardians of Carmannah, move back to their traditional village site at the mouth of Carmannah River, asserting their hereditary rights and independence from the government-imposed reservation at the north end of Nitinaht Lake.
  20. Summer 1991. Following a Vancouver island tradition of non- violent direct action in defense of roadless forest wilderness used successfully in the Tsitika Valley, Sulphur Pass and Strathcona Park, Friends of Carmanah  and the environmental Youth Alliance support an on- going series of tree-sits, road blockades, high-profile banner hangings, hunger strikes, office occupations, prompting international actions, in a sustained effort to defend the last roadless wilderness on South Vancouver island, past the bridge over Walbran River, culminating in over 40 arrests over several months, with sporadic subsequent civil disobedience actions in the next three years. The Walbran Blockade halted logging operations fro weeks on end, effectively preventing approximately fifteen kilometres of road-building in pristine wilderness, inside and outside of today’s park boundaries.
  21. 1992. South island IWA local presidents, representing forest workers in the Walbran Valley; and island environmentalists reach an historic agreement, the South Island Forest Accord, which recognized “corporate greed” as the root of both forest destruction and unemployment in the forest industry and calling for a shift to a sustainable forest industry based on protection of old-growth forests and increased employment in managing second-growth forests and value-added wood product manufacturing.
  22. 1992-present. Scientific breakthroughs in the Walbran Valley, lead to the discovery of the Anderson Lake trout, a genetically unique sub-species of Rainbow Trout found nowhere else on earth; the identification of the first Canadian nesting site of the blue-listed Marbled Murrelet, a rare seabird that nests exclusively in coastal old- growth forests; as well as numerous new species of canopy insects never before identified by science; and rare, endangered and old-growth dependent species such as the Queen Charlotte Goshawk and the red-listed Western Screech and Pygmy owls, all indicators of the critical importance of protecting diminishing old- growth forest habitat.
  23. 1994. After multi-stakeholder round table discussions, the NDP government established Carmannah/Walbran Provincial Park, protecting approximately 10,000 hectares of intact , contiguous temperate rainforest wilderness in Carmannah, Walbran and adjacent Logan, Qalay’it and Sandstone creek watersheds to the south, a controversial park boundary leaving clearly the most popular recreational destination spots of the Walbran valley at Walbran ( Fletcher) Falls, Castle Grove and Central Walbran Ancient Forest outside of the park and open to further clearcut logging, raising objections of the environmental community, ignored by successive provincial governments.
  24. 1999 -present: WCWC Victoria revives campaign for full protection of the critical old-growth forests of the Upper Walbran Valley left out of the park, involving public hikes, trail-building expeditions, ecological surveys of proposed cutblocks, and rallies and protests, spanning a decade of ancient forest activism focused on full protection of the Walbran Valley’s ancient rainforests.
  25. 2001-2014. 20,000 jobs were lost in the BC forest industry due to overcutting, raw log exports and mechanization, with small town mills across the province shutting down, as profit margins of global transnational logging companies sharply increased; with record job losses incurring directly from 24 million cubic metres of logs being exported from BC’s shores, amounting to an 1000% increase of log exports since the BC Liberals took power!
  26. 2011. At a 20 year re-union of the Walbran Valley Blockade cutblock survey flags are found 50 metres from the fabled Castle Giant (in Castle Grove) one of Canada’s largest standing ancient redcedar trees, measuring 16′ in diameter,
  27. 2012. Ancient Forest Alliance campaigns to get Teal Jones Group to move logging operations away from the Upper Castle grove. In October, the Ministry of Forests states that the company has decided not to approve the Upper Castle Grove cutblock.
  28. 2014. A landmark BC Supreme Court decision recognizing aboriginal title of the Tsilqot’in First Nations, sets an historic precedent in B.C for the need to consult First Nations leaders with regards to all land use in their traditional territories.
  29. Friends of Carmanah Walbran embark on a campaign to work with local First Nations, diasaffected forest workers, environmental groups and concerned citizens for protection of Castle Grove and Central Walbran Ancient Forest in a provincial land conservancy with potential for tribal park designation adjacent to Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park and transition to a sustainable ancient forest economy that sustains the forests it depends in, with lasting long-term benefits to local communities in ecocultural tourism, non-timber forest product harvesting, campground and trail management, eco-forestry and traditional food plant and medicine gathering, as a viable alternative to the ‘business as usual’ cut and run practises liquidating the last of the unprotected great ancient forests within the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht/ Dididaht/ Qwa-ba-di-wa First Nations.
  30. May 2015: Teal Jones proposes 8 new cutblocks in the Central Walbran north of the Walbran River, and requests approval to cut block 4424.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s