‘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

New Democratic leader John Horgan during Monday's campaign stop in Sidney. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
NDP John Horgan wins Langford-Juan de Fuca

BC Green candidate Gord Baird takes second place early in the polls

(BC Hydro outage map)
UPDATE: Power restored to more than 3,000 Sooke residents

Two polling stations impacted by outage

The mottled sky, the lights coming on at water’s edge and in Victoria West, and the reflections on the building windows make for a scenic sunset photo in Victoria’s Selkirk neighbourhood. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Sunset on the Selkirk in Victoria

Send your photos to editor@vicnews.com for a chance to see them in the paper

Christopher Mauro, right, assistant manager of the Sidney Save-On-Foods, and Nick Luney, youth initiatives director for the Victoria Pride Society, celebrate the success of a pandemic fundraiser for the local Pride Society. (Courtesy Save-On Foods)
Grocery managers across the Island pull together for Queer youth

With Victoria Pride Parade and Festival cancelled, Save-On-Foods staff found a way to raise funds

Shay Baker, 17, hasn’t been seen or heard from since Oct. 21 and is wanted on outstanding warrants. (Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police searching for high-risk missing youth

Shay Baker, 17, is wanted on outstanding warrants

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 20

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson,  BC NDP leader John Horgan and BC Green leader Sonia Furstenau. (File)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Climate change and sustainability promises from the parties

Snap election has led to a short campaign; here’s the lowdown on the platforms

Most Read