Rick James photo: The blitzed valley bottom of Tomas Creek, head of Comox LakeRick James photo: The blitzed valley bottom of Tomas Creek, head of Comox Lake

Winter again here in the Valley: more flood warnings and subsequent boil water restrictions, a big ugly tube the bottom of Ryan road along the old Island Highway while local politicians scramble around to come up with mega-tax dollars required for a deep water intake up at Comox Lake. And how did all this come about?

Perhaps we should reflect on how the entire east coast of Vancouver Island was once a magnificent stand of ancient Douglas fir, western hemlock and red cedar forest. And that today there’s only minuscule fragments left; two easily accessible ones being Goldstream Park and Cathedral Grove on the way to Port Alberni.

Then consider how the Cruikshank, Tomas Creek and Willemar Lake valley bottoms were denuded of their forest covers and left bare to have their humic layers, sands and gravels all flushed down the toilet into Comox Lake. And how did that come to happen? The corporate entity known as TimberWest has effectively stripped all these drainages of not only all their 1st growth but the 2nd growth timber as well over the past 15 years. And how you might ask were they able to get away with this travesty? Well, we can lay at the foot of an incredibly toxic public policy while keeping in mind that all the forest land above us is all private property owned outright by TimberWest.

Back in 2003, when our current Liberal government first came to power it was quick to pass Bill 88, the Private Managed Forest Land Act. This came about following a government shift in attitude where there was no longer to be direct government oversight at all over private forest lands. Instead management was to be left to “professional reliance.” As a result, a Private Managed Forest Land Council was created with two members appointed by the forests land barons themselves, another two by the Minister of Forests, with council members appointing an additional person as council chair. In essence, as one old logger so aptly phrased it, “the fox was left in charge of the chicken house.”

No longer directly responsible to the surrounding community, TimberWest felt in no way obligated to provide us peasants down here in the Comox Valley with their annual harvest rates for the past 20 years for their Oyster River Division (the old Comox Logging & Railway claim). And good luck too with finding out from them what they’ve decided for themselves what a sustainable rotation of timber is now. Like are the rumours coming out of the woods true? That 40 or even, gad sakes! 30 year old stands are ripe for cutting?? Well, probably so since they don’t speak of harvesting logs as such anymore, now it’s just all ‘fibre’ (For a quick look at what’s gone down google: University of Maryland Global Forest Change)

And who might you ask are the actual owners of this toxic corporate entity? Would you believe that it’s both our provincial civil servants’ pension fund, the bcIMC, along with that of the federal public sector, PSP Investments. Most disturbing to say the least and with that being said, I would think it’s about time all our government employees got together and seriously discuss ethical investing and then move onto divestment

Rick James, Courtenay, B.C.