Upper Clearwater Valley, 1 September 2007
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 through late August 2017. (Skip ahead to timeline.)
The purpose of this 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 no longer work 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 THROUGH AUGUST 2017
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:
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 Upper Clearwater Referral Group and the Wells Gray Gateway Protection Society, 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 government 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
30 August 2017. Four months after receiving a petition for an *EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER* on behalf of Wells Gray’s southern Mountain Caribou herd, and three 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.