A Quadra Island community is increasingly frustrated by its inability to protect vital watersheds from being clear-cut despite the increasing risks of climate change.

Many residents in the Copper Bluffs community and elsewhere on the island have been urging Mosaic Forest Management to reconsider logging remnants of mature forests, particularly in stream sheds and wetlands.

Despite long-standing opposition from residents, Mosaic has harvested six parcels totalling five hectares from tree farm licence 47 (TFL 47), which spans most of the island north of Gowlland Harbour and Hyacinthe Bay.

The logging removed much of the remaining mature forest circling a small lake in a watershed already degraded by logging, said longtime resident Jim Leishman. Known as Swan Lake, the pond is often frequented by trumpeter swans when they come south for the winter.

After last week’s logging took place, Leishman surveyed the largest parcel and found a number of small streams feeding the lake damaged and buried under debris. He also noted the tree buffer between the clear-cut and the pond’s edge was scanty with mostly poor-quality trees remaining.

“They’ve removed the mature growth, which acted as one of the last [forest] sponges left on the lake,” Leishman said, noting the surrounding watershed’s ability to absorb rainwater has already been compromised by extensive logging.

Many residents of Quadra Island's Copper Bluffs community are dismayed that Mosaic went ahead and logged near a lake in a nearby watershed despite their objections. Photo via Jim Leishman

Mosaic did not respond to Canada’s National Observer’s requests for an interview.

However, in an emailed statement, Mosaic said it remains committed to ongoing collaboration with Quadra Island communities and residents.

Quadra Island's Copper Bluffs residents are angry Mosaic Forest Management is logging sensitive areas in nearby watersheds — a move they believe puts the community at greater risk from drought and wildfire.

Mosaic originally planned to log the parcels adjacent to Swan Lake in fall 2023 but delayed operations to allow for further community engagement, the email said.

The company also contracted an independent report to see if logging on the cutblocks would endanger drinking water quality for residents.

“Our professional foresters, biologists, and area planners carefully considered safety, recreation, water quality, fish, visual quality, wildlife, and other values when planning the area,” the email said.

However, island resident Kailea Rendle is cynical about the company’s good faith when it comes to community engagement. The company logged the Swan Lake area against residents’ wishes with no significant alterations to its plans, particularly for the largest block above the lake.

The logging company has ignored residents' concerns about the significant climate impacts of logging the sensitive areas in the watershed and aggravating the danger of drought and wildfires, Rendle said.

The Swan Lake parcels may be small, but the resulting environmental impacts will be compounded by numerous other recent clear-cuts near the pond and throughout the watershed, Leishman stressed.

Mature forests are critical to slowing winter rains, allowing water to filter into aquifers that feed residents’ wells. They also help dampen increasingly dry conditions that threaten fish and wildlife and set the stage for severe wildfires during summer.

Mosaic map of TFL 47 logging cutblocks (proposed or recently cut outlined in orange with other recently logged cutblocks in yellow) adapted to identify the Missing Links wetland and Swan Lake.

Severe drought on Quadra Island is no longer an isolated event. The island is part of the eastern Vancouver Island water basin, which has suffered Level 5 droughts (the most extreme rating) for the past three summers.

An exceedingly low snowpack and record-high temperatures this winter are setting the stage for another provincewide drought and another savage wildfire season. Like many communities across B.C., Quadra Island fought to contain a wildfire last year.

Residents have even greater concerns about Mosaic’s future logging plans for a cutblock bordering critical beaver wetlands and three popular hiking trails in the Missing Links watershed that feeds wells for the Copper Bluffs community, said resident Rolf Erdmann.

Residents say they have been pushing Mosaic to respond to their concerns since 2020.

Aside from preserving the views from the bluffs at the top of the trails, maintaining the ecological integrity of the Missing Links watershed is vital to buffer the risks of fire, particularly for Copper Bluffs residents, who are outside the Quadra Island Fire Department’s response zone, Erdmann said.

Mosaic has not responded in a transparent manner or to community concerns, Erdmann said, adding they still don’t know what the forestry company’s plans are for the parcel.

The community’s trust in Mosaic has eroded further after getting an email from the company suggesting it has no interest in logging the Missing Links watershed, he said, yet the forestry giant has still secured a cutting permit for the area.

In its email statement to Canada’s National Observer, Mosaic acknowledged plans to log in the Missing Links watershed have been in the works for several years.

“We are listening to the community’s feedback on the harvest plan and have deferred this block until at least 2025 to allow for further engagement.”

The province’s long-standing promise to transform the logging industry to prioritize ecological, community and cultural values over timber extraction when managing forests isn’t playing out on the ground, Rendle said.

By the time any shift actually occurs, the opportunity to preserve the island’s most valuable mature forests so they can transition into much-needed old-growth areas to boost communities' resilience to climate change will likely be long gone.

“It really feels hopeless,” Rendle said, noting families choose to live in the small remote island community because they appreciate and want to protect its natural beauty and environmental values.

“We gathered in every way we knew how to voice our concerns and protect our community and it made no difference.

“It’s so clear to me that they couldn’t care less about our well-being.”

Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

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In general, the Logging industry (or as they now prefer to be known as the Fiber Industry - obfuscating their tree ecocide) is indifferent to their potentially catastrophic clear cutting process and failure to replant or rehabilitate their gross destructiveness.
And now we learn that it is almost impossible to reconstruct a functioning and healthy forest through the ill informed efforts of crews of tree planters who poke holes in the denuded and wrecked soil of a once healthy biome, tamping down the doomed seedling destined for dehydrated death by starvation.
We have learned to do better but the profit motive and lip service to regulation combine to destroy forests wholesale.

There once was a novel whose title was "The Word for World is Forest"