Race to the bottom

Jim calls to ask if I’ve heard that there are plans to log Baxter’s. I tell him I haven’t, that I’m shocked, and that this kind of BS has just got to stop.

Jim calls to ask if I’ve heard that there are plans to log Baxter’s. I tell him I haven’t, that I’m shocked, and that this kind of BS has just got to stop.

It’s bad enough that the loggers have ruined so many viewscapes along the Skeena, taken big chunks of old growth right next to the river, and bad enough that they’ve left giant waste piles of wood that was once vital to the health of the surrounding ecosystems, but this just too much.

Yeah, says Jim, we’ve got to put our foot down somewhere.

After I hang up, I call Brinkman, the contractors who are strip mining the forests for Coast Tsimsian resources. The head guy isn’t there so I talk to the forest planner. He admits they have holdings on the Copper, some of which they are planning to cut soon.

There are issues, I tell him emphatically. Can I come by so we can talk about it.

Sure, he says.

We make a date for mid afternoon.

Webb and Doug released 50 trout on the weekend. He wants to go fishing. I do too, but when I tell him about the logging planned for Baxter’s and the meeting I’ve got planned, and that I have to deliver flyers for Nathan Cullen and meet with the planner at Brinkman’s after that, he immediately grasps the importance of both endeavours and offers to join me.

According to my pedometer, we walk 13 km then take a few leftover leaflets to NDP central where we discuss the mayhem in forestry with Francoise.

Separating the forest licenses from the mills was a mistake, she suggests.

We agree and continue to discuss the issue between ourselves over a couple of bowls of hearty soup at the Starfish Deli.

By the time we’re fed up, it’s mid afternoon, time for the meeting.

We drive to the Brinkman office. It’s located next to Polly’s Cafe, in the offices of what was once called Planet Starship, or something silly like that, by its former owners, Skeena Cellulose. I remember meeting with Rick Brouwer and Kevin Derow there, years ago, in heady times when the mill that is now graffiti rubble was humming.

We meet Richard Chavez. Don’t log that area I tell him. And I tell him why. I tell how it’s a beautiful mix of old and new timber. I also tell him of the notched stumps, the remnants of the old mill, how it’s a heritage site, how it has horse trails through it, how it is a preferred walkway for steelheaders, how it is used by over wintering moose, how it contains three creeks that rear salmon and a high water channel that magically fills up with coho every fall. And, I tell him that the lower part of the site has been diminished by severe erosion already and that removing the roots of old riparian trees will aggravate that problem.

If you leave the usual 30  metre leave strip, says Webb, those trees will blow into the river.

Richard looks confused. He takes out his maps.

It’s not ours, he tells us. That’s Kitselas Forest Products.

We apologize for the mistake, but before we go, Webb asks Richard why his company logged the second growth near the Sleeping Beauty Trail when it was about to double in volume and price. If we didn’t, another company would have, he  tells us. It’s the way the system is set up. It’s the government.

We hop in my truck and make for KFP. It’s snowing low down. The distant clear cuts, still white, stand out in bold relief on the blue hillsides. Two trucks loaded with clear export logs pass us as we approach the 4-way stop.

Terry Collins is the man we want to see a man in the Kitselas Band Office tells us. We run into Terry in the parking lot. I give him the same pitch I gave Richard. He tells us that they do hold the right to log Baxter’s but assures us they will log the same way they logged Williams Creek, selectively. He tells us we won’t be able to tell it’s been logged. I ask why KFP doesn’t just leave the land intact.

He tells us that KFP timber cruisers once discovered a heritage site full of culturally modified trees and canoe logs that the Lax Wilams had used for centuries.

We backed right off, he said. Another company moved in to log the site. The Lax Wilams filed suit. The company appealed to the B.C. supreme court where a judge ruled in their favour and they logged the site.

And that is how it goes in the province where forest stewardship has gone by the wayside and where, if things go on like this, we will be left with no tourism, no fish, and a lot of big ugly clear cuts.