Upper Clearwater Valley, 15 August 2018
This webpage has two parts: first a summary overview of the issues at hand, and second a timeline chronicling the “rest” of the story – that is, from early April 2017 down to today, or thereabouts. (Skip ahead to beginning of timeline. Skip ahead to end of timeline.)
The purpose of our Death by 1000 Clearcuts website is threefold: first, to call upon the premier of British Columbia to establish a moratorium on industrial logging adjacent to southern Wells Gray Park until such time as its Mountain Caribou show definite signs of recovery and the Guiding Principles agreement is reinstated as a formal government objective; second, to prevail upon the federal Minister of Environment to act on an emergency protection order that has languished in her office since early April; and third, to call upon CANFOR to stand down from further logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou near Wells Gray Park.
The story now unfolding in the Upper Clearwater Valley has many elements, not least including some of the big ticket social and environmental issues of our time: disregard for science, disinformation, post-truth politics, cynicism, nature deficit disorder, habitat destruction, deepening climate change, environmental destabilization, species extinction, economic destabilization, growing fiscal inequality, increasing unemployment.
For convenience, these issues can be organized under four headings:
1. Our prevailing Neoliberal Mindset: This is the view, first, that the Earth and its nonhuman inhabitants have value only insofar as they contribute to human well being; and second, that human well being requires constant economic and material growth. Taken together, these beliefs demand the ever-expanding conversion of natural resources into monetary wealth and, from this, the implacable creation of ‘sacrifice zones.’ Sacrifice zones are places where people find themselves obliged to give up their own long-term best interests in exchange for short-term employment based on finite resource extraction. Such employment ends when the resource in question becomes depleted and, so to speak, tomorrow is finally overtaken by today. What happens next is never pretty: Community Alert.
2. Broken-treaty Governance: To judge from events in the Upper Clearwater ValleyGuiding Principles, B.C.’s provincial government cannot be depended upon to uphold formal agreements with its citizens. Such behaviour harkens to a shameful time in Canadian history which most of us like to think is securely in the past – except it isn’t.
3. Climate Denialism: Forestry operates over timescales measured in decades or longer. As climate change deepens, past weather events can no longer be counted on to predict future weather events. Yet CANFOR steadfastly refuses to accept that the impacts of the cutblocks it clearcut logs today will play out against a backdrop of increasingly extreme weather. In mountainous regions, this places downstream communities at long-term risk of flood.
4. The Sixth Global Extinction: Planet Earth is now undergoing a human-induced extinctionary spasm, the like of which has been seen only five times in the four billion year history of life. Aligning well with this is the precipitous decline of the Mountain Caribou – arguably Canada’s most blatant intersection with global extinction. As such, the story now unfolding in Wells Gray Park raises two disturbing questions: (1) if Canada, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, is unwilling to secure a future for its most iconic endangered species, then what hope is there for better outcomes elsewhere; and (2) is this really who Canadians are, that is, in their heart of hearts?
SO WHO’S TO BLAME?
The multiple wrongs being perpetrated upon a small rural community and a nearby endangered species are of course systemic; they mirror our prevailing understanding of the world as resource. Yet at higher resolution they invite censure on the part of five institutions and governing bodies that to varying degrees are no longer working on behalf of the public good.
First, to CANFOR, for failing to live up to its social license. Consider the chasm that separates CANFOR’s public commitment to its social license from its actions on the ground. First, here’s what Don Kayne, CANFOR President and CEO said about his company on 9 July 2012: “We will not support actions that impact parks, riparian areas or areas that provide critical habitat for species at risk, or other important environmental values such as biodiversity and old growth.” And now, here’s how CANFOR actually behaves out in the real world: Canfor rushes to clearcut critical habitat for endangered Mountain Caribou.
Second, to the B.C. Liberals for short-sighted environmental deregulation that over 16 years punished the environment and hollowed out rural communities. Above all, the policies of Christy Clark (and before her Gordon Campbell) betrayed the efforts of earlier B.C. governments to give lasting sanctuary to B.C.’s plants and animals, not least the Southern Mountain Caribou: Decline of Mountain Caribou in Southern Wells Gray Park.
Third, to the honourable Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for seeming indifference to the pending extinction of a Canadian icon: for shirking her responsibility under Canadian law to adjudicate in a timely fashion an emergency petition on behalf of a federally listed species at risk, here the endangered Southern Mountain Caribou: Emergency Alert.
Fourth, to British Columbia’s professional bodies, the Association of BC Forest Professionals and the College of Applied Biology, for failure over many years to censure professional foresters and biologists whose behaviour transgressed their codes of ethics. In effect these organizations have turned a blind eye to the kind of behaviour that now threatens the future of endangered species like Mountain Caribou. They have much to atone for: Unprofessional Reliance.
And fifth, most regrettably, to Canada’s mainstream journalists, for indifference toward an international tragedy. The Canadian media has been curiously reluctant to bring to public attention the demise of this country’s icon of mountain wilderness: the mountain caribou. As mentioned, these animals are arguably Canada’s most potent intersection with the sixth great extinctionary episode now sweeping the planet. If the media spotlight’s not intended for the likes of them, then who in the name of all that’s wild and alive is it meant for?
WELLS GRAY CHRONICLE: APRIL 2017 THROUGH AUGUST 2018
The period from early April through late August was a critical one vis-a-vis Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou. Here are some highlights: (1) a formal petition is sent to the federal government asking for an emergency protection order against further logging in Critical Habitat for Caribou near Wells Gray Park; (2) both CANFOR and the B.C. Forest Service are made aware of this petition; (3) CANFOR responds by logging yet another large cutblock in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou; (4) after 16 years of environmental deregulation, the B.C. Liberals are voted out of office; (5) the federal government fails to respond in a timely fashion to an emergency petition on behalf of Mountain Caribou; and (6) formal complaints are prepared against two key professionals – a forester and a biologist – whose actions will likely accelerate the decline of Wells Gray’s endangered Mountain Caribou.
Now the details:
|Spring 2017||Spring 2018|
|Summer 2017||Summer 2018|
3 April 2017. DeSmog Canada publishes an article by Damien Gillis establishing a link between CANFOR’s donations to the B.C. Liberal Party and its being given permission to log in Critical Habitat for Mountain Caribou: B.C. Liberals Grant Major Political Donor Permission to Log Endangered Caribou Habitat.
6 April 2017. The Prince George Citizen carries an article by Mark Nielsen on Canfor’s proposed logging near Wells Gray Park: Logging threatens Wells Gray caribou herd, petitioners say.
7 April 2017. Acting on behalf of the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society and other environmental groups and individuals province-wide, William Andrews, lawyer, files an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. In his cover letter, Mr. Andrews notes that “the Minister’s decision under section 80(2) of Canada’s Species at Risk Act must be made in a timely manner, bearing in mind the emergency nature of the order requested.” Accordingly, a decision is requested with 45 days of receipt. Here is the application in full.
7 April 2017. The Wilderness Committee issues a press release titled BC won’t protect endangered caribou habitat, groups ask Ottawa to step in. The press release prompts a follow-up interview with CBC radio but otherwise fails to attract media attention. It can be read here: BC won’t protect endangered Caribou habitat, groups ask Ottawa to step in.
18 April 2017. Kamloops This Week carries a hard-hitting letter to the editor by local resident Roland Neave: Letter to the editor in Kamloops This Week.
24 April 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, sends a letter to Rachael Pollard, District Manager of the B.C. Ministry of Forests, requesting that she defer decision-making regarding CANFOR’s planned cutblocks until the federal governmentid=”wells_gray_chronicle” decides whether to grant the emergency stop order applied for on 7 April. The letter remains unanswered.
26 April 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, sends a letter in care of Stefan Borge, CANFOR, asking for cessation of logging activities that could adversely affect the Mountain Caribou of southern Wells Gray Park. Specifically the letter requests that logging be deferred on the east side of the Upper Clearwater Valley pending a decision by the federal government whether to make an emergency order under the Species at Risk Act. The letter remains unanswered. Letter to Stefan Borge, Canfor.
2 May 2017. Former Wilderness Committee national policy director Gwen Barlee submits an opinion piece to the Times Colonist. The document is never published but can be read here: Letter to the editor of the Times Colonist.
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2 May 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases a protest video in which local residents ask CANFOR to stand down from clearcut logging in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Federal Government reviews the petition for an Emergency Stop Order: Clearwater citizens send a message to million dollar BC Liberal donor Canfor.
15 May 2017. Sun Peaks News publishes an article by Jeana Mustain reporting on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order currently under review by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change under Catherine McKenna: Logging of Clearwater Valley goes federal.
23 May 2017. A decision by Catherine McKenna, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order falls due but is not received. Instead, Barry Smith, Director of the Pacific Region of the Canadian Wildlife Service, writes to say that CWS has been “engaged in gathering information on potential threats to the recovery or survival of” the Southern Mountain Caribou, recognizing “the importance of this issue, as well as the need to respond in a timely matter.” Letter from Barry Smith.
25 May 2017. Despite repeated requests to refrain from logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Emergency Order is under review by the Federal Government, Canfor commences logging a 180 ha cutblock on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley.
31 May 2017. A letter is received from CANFOR confirming its intention to clearcut log five proposed cutblocks in the area covered by the Emergency Protection Order.
1 June 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases a video establishing the link between Canfor’s logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou and the precipitous decline of the southern Mountain Caribou: Current Canfor logging operations in critical habitat for Mountain Caribou.
4 June 2017. Kamloops This Week runs an article by Cam Fortems on the petition for an Emergency Stop Order: Anti-logging residents await answer on appeal to federal government.
7 June 2017. Two months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
10 June 2017. Canfor finishes logging 180 ha in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley near southern Wells Gray Park. Cleanup activity continues for some weeks.
29 June 2017. Canadians for Caribou releases drone footage showing the extent of Canfor’s recent logging on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou: Canfor rushes to clearcut critical habitat for endangered Mountain Caribou.
29 June 2017. The Wilderness Committee issues a press release titled Logging ruins endangered southern mountain caribou habitat. Unfortunately the press release fails to attract media attention. It can be read here: Logging ruins endangered Southern Mountain Caribou habitat: Conservationists demand BC and Canada immediately ban logging within critical habitat.
29 June 2017. A caribou-friendly petition on Change.org is updated in light of the defeat of the B.C. Liberals and the end of 16 years of neoliberal policies. The petition asks the new NDP government to establish a moratorium on logging near southern Wells Gray Park in federally designated critical habitat for the survival and recovery of Mountain Caribou. Link here to add your name: Help save the uniquely Canadian Southern Mountain Caribou from pending extinction.
7 July 2017. Three months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
26 July 2017. DeSmog Canada publishes an article by Damien Gillis documenting Canfor’s recent logging near Wells Gray Park in Critical Habitat for Mountain Caribou: Endangered Caribou Habitat Clearcut During B.C. Election Uncertainty.
27 July 2017. It is learned that CANFOR proposes to log around 50 additional cutblocks near southern Wells Gray Park within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou: Kamloops TSA Planning Base.
29 July 2017. The Upper Clearwater Referral Group receives a letter from CANFOR asking for input on a newly proposed clearcut on the western slopes of the Upper Clearwater Valley within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou.
1 August 2017. CANFOR is undertaking road improvements in the Spahats Valley near southern Wells Gray Park preparatory to logging two high-elevation cutblocks situated within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou.
7 August 2017. Four months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
7 August 2017. The Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society submits two formal complaints pertinent to CANFOR’s recent and on-going logging near southern Wells Gray Park within Critical Habitat for Caribou. One complaint is addressed to the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals, the other goes to the College of Applied Biology of B.C. Both point to serious disregard for professional ethics.
29 August 2017 The Upper Clearwater Referral Group sends a letter to Premier John Horgan advising him of the threat of extinction of Wells Gray’s south Mountain Caribou herd. Here’s the letter: Caribou Alert.
7 September 2017. Five months after receiving a petition for an *EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER* on behalf of Wells Gray’s southern Mountain Caribou herd, and four months after the requested deadline for a decision, Catherine McKenna, Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, still hasn’t come through with a decision. In the meantime, 180 ha of federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou has been lost, and CANFOR has signalled its plans for at least fifty additional cutblocks within critical caribou habitat.
13 September 2017. Having ignored repeated arguments to place restraints on intrusive logging practices in the Upper Clearwater Valley, and three months after Canfor claims to have finished clearcutting vast areas on its western slopes, the Ministry of Forests announces a “Visual Landscape Inventory Update” for the Clearwater Valley. A meeting to be held on 26 September will ask for input on “viewpoints and viewscapes valued by the public” – too late for the well-being of Wells Gray’s Mountain Caribou, and too bad, alas, for Clearwater’s long-standing efforts to enhance its wilderness tourism economy. In the words of local resident Erik Milton: “I have to say that the request from forestry seeking input into visual impact in the valley crushed me a little. That they could ignore our suggestions, efforts, and plea’s for almost six years then clearcut large parts of the valley – and then have the audacity to ask for input afterwards seems almost orchestrated to me. In any case, it is as clear a signal as we’ve ever had as to the attitude of our bureaucrats toward democracy.”
6 October 2017. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, writes to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, asking for a decision on the Emergency Order submitted to her ministry by lawyer William Andrews on 7 April 2017. “While the applicant would prefer that both their resources and those of the Canadian Wildlife Services go towards protecting this endangered species and their habitat, they have been fundraising to support an application to the Federal Court.”
7 October 2017. A half year ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. Incredibly, no decision has been forthcoming.
13 October 2017. Despite repeated requests to refrain from logging within federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou while the Emergency Order is under review by the Federal Government, CANFOR reportedly commences further logging on the western slopes of the Clearwater Valley.
15 October 2017. Alive publishes an on-line article by Daniela Ginta on the plight of Wells Gray’s caribou. It’s called “Saving What’s Left of the Caribou: Why We Should Care”: Here’s the link: www.alive.com/lifestyle/saving-whats-left-caribou/.
17 October 2017. William Andrews, lawyer, addresses a letter to Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, requesting a decision on the Emergency Order by October 31, 2017. “If you fail to respond substantively by that date then my instructions are to initiate an application in Federal Court for an order requiring you to make a decision under s.80(2).”
26 October 2017. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, responds to William Andrews’ letter of 17 October saying, in part, that her Ministry “continues to work with the Government of British Columbia to advance efforts to protect and recovery this iconic species and its critical habitat while taking the appropriate and timely actions necessary to assure that the species’ survival and recovery are not jeopardized.” The meaning of such a statement, coming nearly 7 months after submission of an emergency protection order under SARA, must be left to the readers’ judgement.
29 October 2017. The Upper Clearwater Referral Group has still received no response from Premier John Horgan to their letter of 29 August in which he is implored to take action on behalf of the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou herd, now teetering on extinction. Here again, for the hell of it, is the letter: Caribou Alert.
31 October 2017. CANFOR’s logging operations in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou on the west slopes of the Clearwater reportedly began on Friday the 13th of October and reportedly continue today on Halloween. Scary stuff for members of the world’s second largest remaining Southern Mountain Caribou herd! Doubtless they take at least some comfort from Catherine McKenna’s meaningful words of 26 October 2017, above.
7 November 2017. Seven months ago today, William Andrews, lawyer, filed an application with the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change for an emergency stop order on further logging and related road building in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou in the Upper Clearwater Valley near Wells Gray Park. No decision has been forthcoming.
17 November 2017. Today CANFOR finishes logging a high-elevation oldgrowth forest immediately south of Wells Gray in federally designated Critical Habitat for Caribou. Work began in mid October. Link here for a glimpse of what CANFOR has been up to. Meanwhile, logging on the west side of the Clearwater Valley continues, now in its second month. Busy, busy, busy…
6 December 2017. Enough is enough. Today William Andrews, lawyer, files an application by Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society in the Federal Court of Canada for an order that Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna make a decision on whether to recommend an emergency order for the protection of the Wells Gray Thompson caribou herd.
29 January 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Robert S. McLean (Director General of the Assessment and Regulatory Affairs Directorate of the Canadian Wildlife Service) provides a handy summary of legalistic issues around species protection in Canada.
30 January 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Blair Hammond (Acting Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada) provides a useful if incomplete history of events pertinent to the decline of the Wells Gray South Caribou herd.
2 February 2018. Today William Andrews, lawyer, reports that a court date has been set for a hearing on 9 and 10 May at the Federal Court in Vancouver. See you there!
28 February 2018. Today William Andrews, lawyer, submits to the Federal Court of Canada his “Applicant’s Memorandum of Fact and Law,” in which he outlines the legal case for obliging Minister Catherine McKenna to form an opinion on whether the Wells Gray South herd faces imminent threats to its survival or recovery – something that ought to have happened ten months ago.
26 March 2018. In an affidavit to the Federal Court of Canada, Blair Hammond (Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada) acknowledges a major decline in the Southern Mountain Caribou population between 2017 and 2018.
24 April 2018. A consortium of 12 BC environmental groups sends a letter to Catherine McKenna (Federal Minister of Environment), George Heyman (BC Minister of Environment) and Doug Donaldson (BC Minister of Forests) requesting a moratorium on further activities detrimental to caribou in BC. The letter provides some helpful background and is well worth a read.
4 May 2018. In order to avoid a federal court challenge by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, Federal Minister Catherine McKenna posts a summary of her ‘imminent threat analysis’ for mountain caribou in southern and central British Columbia. Tragically, the Wells Gray South herd is not included as a herd in need of federal protection.
9 May 2018. An article in the Vancouver Sun published today by Randy Shore highlights what’s at stake for the BC government in its refusal to protect the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou. Here’s the story.
10 May 2018. “Federal foot-dragging over protection of endangered southern mountain caribou herds has brought a strong rebuke from a Federal Court judge this week. … Justice Michael Phelan, in a decision on a judicial review launched by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, described the lack of action by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as “egregious.” Here’s the story. And here’s the judgment itself.
12 June 2018. Under threat of legal action by the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, the federal government finally responds to “three” (actually four) submissions for emergency protection for Deep-Snow Mountain Caribou under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. In her decision, Minister Catherine McKenna determines that seven herds – three of which no longer exist and another three of which have eight members between them – are indeed at risk and may qualify for federal protection. The Wells Gray South herd, however, is not included among the herds up for protection. Why? Because it has 111 members, whereas the cut-off point for protection is arbitrarily set at 100 members. Never mind that the herd has declined by half in the past decade. With respect, protection for herds already doomed to extinction is no protection at all.
23 July 2018. Today the BC government brings out its Woodland Caribou Plan: Wells Gray South Subpopulation in draft form. Tellingly, this document ignores the crucial importance of Wells Gray Park – which broadly overlaps with two of the six remaining herds with more than 100 members – to the success of any attempt to recover and sustain Mountain Caribou into the future. Indeed, it’s tempting to conclude that the BC government, having precipitated the herd’s collapse over the past decade, has now effectively written if off – a tragic miscalculation if so.
8 August 2018. Today the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society meets in Vancouver with government officials seeking protection for the Wells Gray South caribou herd. In attendance are Sue Milburn-Hopwood (Assistant Deputy Minister Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada), Blair Hammond (Regional Director, Pacific Region, Environment Canada), Raul Rasmussen (Executive Director, Species at Risk Recovery, Resource Stewardship Division), Darcy Peel (Acting Director Caribou Recovery), Rachael Pollard (District Manager of Forests), Jennifer McGuire (Assistant Deputy Minister of BC Environment Ministry taking responsibility for Caribou), Jim Stanton (Assistant Deputy Minister, BC Parks), Laura Farquarson (Director General Regional Operations, lead on Mountain Caribou file). The BC government is given seven weeks from this date to come up with a decision for this herd.
9 August 2018. Today the Wilderness Committee releases photos showing ongoing clearcut logging in the Spahats Creek drainage, near the southern boundary of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Says WC campaigner Joe Foy: “The fact that our federal government has designated this forest as critical habitat for southern mountain caribou, who face an imminent threat of disappearing, apparently makes no difference to the B.C. government who continue to permit this extinction logging. I don’t know what is worse — the fact that B.C. has permitted this or the fact that Canada is not enforcing its own laws.”
9 August 2018. In a letter sent out today to its supporters, the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society announces that Canfor intends to log a long-contested cutblock on the western flanks of the Trophy Mountains later this year. The cutblock is labelled T121 and is within an area designed as Critical Habitat for Caribou under Canada’s Species at Risk act. Regional Manager Rachael Pollard awarded the permit for this cutblock in December 2016 in a act of betrayal that scuttled six months of negotiations between government, industry and the Wells Gray Referral Group.
29 August 2018. Today marks one year since the Upper Clearwater Referral Group sent a letter to Premier John Horgan imploring his government to take action on behalf of the Wells Gray South Mountain Caribou herd, pushed ever toward extinction by its environmental policies. At latest count, the herd now numbers 111 animals, more than a 50% decline in the past decade. Still no answer. Here again is the letter, for the record: Caribou Alert.