We are excited to announce that Heartwood has been selected by CineVic in Victoria to advance to the next round of considerations for the Telefilm Micro-Budget Program! Despite the name of the program, the fund is not so micro. This grant could bring in over $125,000 in funding to produce this project as a 7-part web series with a virtual reality component. Fingers crossed we get the almighty green light! Check out director Dan Pierce's pitch video for the grant above.
A new video update from Heartwood director Daniel J. Pierce from his cabin on Cortes Island.
The small community that lives on Cortes Island, a remote and richly forested spot off the British Columbia coast, is known for fiercely protecting its trees. It's been successful in the past at fending off big timber companies, yet Cortes still hasn't been entirely spared the chainsaw. Just like the rest of the province, clearcuts are scattered about the island in various states of partial regrowth. Only isolated groves of old growth trees remain.
Cortes has a way of attracting some of the top eco-intellectuals in the world. Some have set about to heal these wounds by purchasing clear-cut lands and attempting to restore them.
One of the biggest names on the island is mycologist Paul Stamets, who is best known for deploying fungi to clean up humanity's worst messes. He has been coming to Cortes from his home in Washington State since 1988 to teach workshops on mushroom cultivation and foraging. In the early 2000s, he bought 160 acres of land on Cortes—90 acres of intact forest and 70 acres that had been clear-cut.
When I first travelled to Cortes Island, off the coast of British Columbia, in 2012, Oliver Kellhammer was one of the first people I met. Kellhammer is a landscape artist and permaculture instructor. He splits his time between New York City, where he teaches at the New School, and working in his garden on this small island in the fjords between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C.
Kellhammer has described Cortes as a "mostly overlooked, densely forested blob of rock," so idyllic and seemingly far from the real world that it can feel like inhabiting "the label of a Celestial Seasonings tea box." The small island is also a living laboratory of innovative forestry projects.
If there is one thing I have learned from the past four years of producing my new documentary series Heartwood: A West Coast Forestry Documentree, it is that there is no shortage of people who all agree that B.C.’s forest sector is in desperate need of some new ideas – particularly on the coast.
I have gone sailing with tourism operators in the Discovery Islands, whose clients are complaining of hideous scars on the hillsides of busy tourism corridors. They have come around the world to see pristine wilderness, not industrial clear-cuts, and they are saying they should have gone to Alaska instead.
I have driven in pick-up trucks with disillusioned loggers, who are fed up with the contracting out of falling jobs by the major timber companies. These fallers are now responsible for their own insurance and their own safety, while the timber companies assume no responsibility for the people who harvest the trees.
I have marched in the streets with out of work pulp and paper workers, who are tired of seeing their jobs exported overseas. Over 40,000 forestry jobs been lost and over half of coastal mills have closed in the past decade, while log exports have increased by over 1,200 per cent.
In 2012, I took a fateful trip to Cortes Island – a northern gulf island three ferry rides away from Vancouver – to document the Cortes community’s fight to fend off an impending logging operation by coastal timber giant Island Timberlands.
Community members took us deep into the woods privately owned by Island Timberlands and showed us the hidden pockets of old-growth that the company was targeting. I was struck by how passionate and knowledgeable these Cortes residents were about the land, sharing a trove of fascinating information about the fungal networks underlying our footsteps and their relationships with the giant trees that were scattered throughout this complex and ancient ecosystem.
The early 1990s was a pivotal time for the forest industry and for forest activism in British Columbia. Massive demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience resulted in hundreds of arrests in Clayoquot Sound in response to large-scale clear-cutting on the west coast of B.C. and Vancouver Island. International protests and market campaigns forced the government to strengthen forestry regulations and establish new parks and protected areas.
One of the most famous stand-offs occurred at a bridge crossing into the Central Walbran Valley, one of the most spectacular ancient temperate rainforests left on Vancouver Island, in Pacheedhat First Nation territory, an hour north of Port Renfrew on bumpy logging roads.
Activists launched blockades, tree-sits, hunger strikes and international demonstrations that forced the B.C. government to create the Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park, which protected over 16,000 hectares in the Carmanah and Walbran Valleys. (This conflict was the subject of one of Velcrow Ripper’s early documentaries called “The Road Stops Here.”)
However, for whatever reason, the heart of the watershed — where several streams converge and the biggest and best trees grow — was left out of the park. This relatively small area (only 486 hectares, a little bigger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park) came to be known as “the bite” because if you look at the area on a map, it looks like someone took a bite out of the park.
Beginning in 2006, following clear-cutting in the Beaufort Range on private forestlands owned TimberWest—the largest private landowner in BC—heavy rains caused flash floods, which carried heavy siltation and debris down into the Alberni Valley. Drinking water was contaminated, a boil-water advisory was issued, and several landowners suffered severe property damage. The impacts of this event continue to be felt to this day.
One local property-owner, Wayne Crowley—a former logger and road-builder in the forestry industry—was hardest hit by this disaster. To this day, whenever there are heavy rains, flooding and debris run down from the clear-cuts above his property, washing out his roads, contaminating his local water supply, and piling gravel upon his lands.
The Private Forest Land Council (PFLC)—the industry-led body that oversees logging on private lands—determined that the cause of the damage was some drainage culverts that were too small, which became blocked with debris and washed out onto Wayne's property. Wayne, who was a professional road-builder in the forest industry for decades, also claims that TimberWest's shoddy road-building practices were partly to blame for the washouts.
Another possible factor could have been that the act of clear-cutting on steep slopes has been proven to increase the chance of landslides by up to ten times. Clear-cutting removes the water storage capacity of the soil, causing rainwater to run down in greater volumes, causing greater erosion. However, the PFLC diminished the impacts of these other factors in their final report, focussing solely on the insufficient size of several drainage culverts.
Eventually, the Private Forest Land Council fined TimberWest the maximum amount of $25,000. TimberWest also paid Wayne an additional $35,000 to put the matter to rest. But Wayne refuses to give up until true justice is served. Wayne claims that the roads above his property have not yet been fixed and are still causing problems to this day. TimberWest has never accepted full responsibility for its actions and Wayne is looking for accountability.
In this video, Wayne takes us on a tour of his property to show us the damage that's been done. Photos taken from around the time of the initial event illustrate the destructive power of the flash flooding that continues to plague his land. And the MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim, Scott Fraser, who has been involved in this situation from the beginning, provides his own insights on this story and the systemic failure that allowed it to occur.
Powell River has been fighting for its urban forests, which are slated to be logged by Island Timberlands.
I.T. has been at the forefront of many forestry conflicts on the west coast of British Columbia, from Cortes Island to Port Alberni to Powell River. Communities are uniting to oppose the logging practices of Island Timberlands, which is the second largest landowner in BC, with over 235,000 Ha. of private managed forestland on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. I.T. is majority owned by the BCIMC, the arms-length investment firm of the BC government, which invests all the public sector pension funds. The BC Teachers' Federation, whose pensions are invested in I.T., recently filed a motion to oppose I.T,'s more controversial logging practices in the Alberni Valley.
UPDATE: After I.T. did not respond to the concerns of the community, stemming from their logging in active bird-nesting season, activists from the Powell River Forest Coalition blockaded I.T.'s machinery and forced the company to withdraw from the area. With the coming of fire season, the company has not yet resumed its operations, but could return in the fall. We will continue to follow this situation closely.
BC's Ancient Forest Movement is a diverse coalition of First Nations and settler communities, youth and elders, unions and businesses, which is united against industrial scale logging of old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and the coast of BC.
They're fighting for the conservation of high priority forests on private lands owned by TimberWest, Island Timberlands and others; the curtailment of raw log exports; and investments in sustainable second-growth forestry and secondary industries that will create jobs for British Columbians, while allowing the forests
to mature and regenerate.
In order to achieve these goals, the Ancient Forest Alliance is calling for a $40 million per year Park Acquisition Fund for the next ten years (for a total of $400 million), which will allow the province to purchase these priority lands from private timber companies and restore them to the commons. They would also like to see the protected areas that were deregulated in 2004 by the BC government reinstated, such as those that were previously set aside for deer and elk winter ranges.
And in the meantime, they want the timber companies to back away from logging these high conservation value forests, such as old growth and community watersheds, until the funds can be raised to purchase these lands.
Communities from Cortes Island, Quadra Island, Powell River, Roberts Creek, Port Hardy, Parksville, Port Alberni, Port Renfrew, Kwakiutl territory, Hul'qumi'num territory and Victoria are standing together under the banner, "No Community Stands Alone."
Join the movement!