‘Who’s keeping an eye on logging activities on Vancouver Island during COVID-19 ?’

‘Who’s keeping an eye on logging activities on Vancouver Island during COVID-19 ?’

With no watchdog around, conservationists are worried about old-growth logging activities and call for ‘modernized regulations’ in the forest sector

Who is keeping an eye on the forests?

That’s a question that environmental groups have been asking ever since COVID-19 put limitations on all major watchdog activities.

As logging continues amidst the COVID-19 lockdown, conservationists are worried that there’s no one around to monitor old-growth forest logging on North Vancouver Island.

Logging companies have been allowed to function amidst the lockdown, and this is “deeply concerning,” said Mark Worthing from Sierra Club B.C., as none of the watchdogs or environmental groups are “out there” at the moment.

Even groups like the Forest Practices Board or the provincial Compliance and Enforcement office pursue rogue cases based on complaints. In the absence of those, these groups have no structure in place to keep a tab on old-growth logging.

In an email, the Forest Practices Board said it hasn’t received any complaints related to logging activities on Vancouver Island during the COVID-19 restrictions.

The forest sector was designated early on by the B.C. government as an essential service during the pandemic. This was done because forest products play a critical role in producing essential goods required in COVID-19 relief efforts, said Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of BC Council of Forest Industries.

Forest products supply specialty pulp that goes into making face masks, gowns and other medical supplies, as well as building materials, energy products and tissues.

Yurkovich added that all companies carrying out harvesting activities must do so under government-approved cutting permits and are subject to compliance and enforcement inspections.

“We are not aware of any such (unchecked old-growth logging) activity taking place,” said Yurkovich, maintaining that audits are still occurring despite the pandemic.

B.C. has a 24- hour hotline to report poachers and polluters which is functional during the pandemic. Illegal logging can be reported by citizens on the hotline, provided they are out and witness it.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development also said that natural resource officers patrol for logging infractions under the Forest, Range and Practices Act.

Old-growth forest logging has drawn criticism from communities on the North Island in the past. Concerns have especially escalated for areas with ancient and sensitive ecosystems in the Tsitika Valley, Naka Creek, Tessium Creek and Schmidt Creek.

Logging activities have begun up slopes after clearing out valley bottoms, and this can further lead to floods and soil erosion that will affect the watersheds in these areas.

Most of these environmental concerns will continue to persist in the absence of “modernized regulations” that provide sustainable solutions, said Worthing.

The logging industry has been the engine of the economy for many communities on the Island, however, operational changes need to be made to avoid environmental damage. Moving away from old-growth logging is one such vital change, said Worthing.

Environmental groups also want forest sectors, provincial and federal governments to help communities transition from dependency upon finite resources.

In July 2019, the B.C. government appointed a two-person panel consisting of Gary Merkel and Al Gorley to provide a report on old-growth trees and forests after analyzing public perspective.

The ministry confirmed that the Old Growth Recommendation Report provided by Merkel and Gorley was received by minister Doug Donaldson’s office on April 30. The ministry will publicly respond to it within six months.

READ ALSO: Read Islanders might buy a forest for the third time

READ ALSO: Protesters in Campbell River call for moratorium on old-growth logging

CoronavirusEnvironmentforestry

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Island Health is expected to begin public consultations soon on its controversial plans to open a new wellness and recovery centre at 5878 York Road. (File photo)
Public consultations on Duncan wellness and recovery centre coming in February

Controversial facility on York Road scheduled to open in June

Jerry Dyck plans to purchase a new RV to drive across Canada in, once it’s safe to travel again. (Courtesy BCLC)
Victoria man plans post-pandemic cross-Canada RV trip after $2M lottery win

Retired electrician bought the winning ticket in Duncan

Providence Health Care has teamed up with partners, including Island Health, to launch the first remote cochlear implant (CI) mapping program for adults in British Columbia. Duncan’s Alan Holt was one of the first to test it out. (Submitted)
Remote cochlear clinic offers shorter commute for patients like Duncan’s Alan Holt

Duncan man one of the first to test virtual mapping program

Larry Fiege, right, from Fiege’s Farm shows a rapt audience the old-fashioned way to tap a Bigleaf Maple during the Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre Feb. 1 and 2, 2020. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)
Maple Syrup Festival in Duncan cancelled

The annual syrup festival is a popular event at the BC Forest Discovery Centre

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Island artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

Most Read