Heartwood is a social impact documentary built on a foundation of solid journalism, cinematic storytelling and dynamic cinematography. 

Our Mission

Our mission is to harness the power of multiple media platforms, to peel back the layers of science, history, politics, economics and ecology, in order to reveal the full picture of what is happening in the backwoods of British Columbia.

Through our storytelling, we hope to inform and inspire people across the political spectrum to organize around ending raw log exports and old-growth logging, and shifting to sustainable, second-growth, value-added forestry.

We believe documentary has the power to spark a discussion about the kind of relationship we want to have with our forests – and the kind of forests we want to leave for our children.

If you have a bank account and you only spend the interest, you’re always going to have the principle. And it’s the same in the forest. If you only spend the interest – which is your annual growth rate – you will always have the forest.
— Merv Wilkinson, Wildwood Forest, Eco-Forestry Guru

What's at stake

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows an old-growth Douglas fir forest on Cortes Island that has been targeted for potential logging by Island Timberlands.

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows an old-growth Douglas fir forest on Cortes Island that has been targeted for potential logging by Island Timberlands.

CORTES ISLAND OLD-GROWTH FORESTS

Cortes Island is a remote island in the Salish Sea that is facing proposed industrial logging by Island Timberlands (I.T.), which happens to be targeting the last few pockets of old-growth on the island. In 2012, Cortes community members launched a blockade that prevented I.T. from harvesting their private forestlands. They have not returned to the island since.

This is a map of Cortes Island. The areas highlighted in red are owned by timber giant Island Timberlands. The Community Forest land base is scattered across the island and will be added to the map soon. NOTE: Area D, the Whaletown Commons, has since been purchased by the Strathcona Regional District and protected as a regional park – a big win for the Cortes Island community.

This is a map of Cortes Island. The areas highlighted in red are owned by timber giant Island Timberlands. The Community Forest land base is scattered across the island and will be added to the map soon.

NOTE: Area D, the Whaletown Commons, has since been purchased by the Strathcona Regional District and protected as a regional park – a big win for the Cortes Island community.

THE CORTES ISLAND COMMUNITY FOREST

Parallel to this story, the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Community Forest Co-op was jointly awarded a Community Forest Agreement in 2013, which granted the community the chance to sustainably manage all the public forestlands on Cortes Island, which they intend to do in an ecosystem-based forestry model, while fostering a local value-added economy.

Bruce Ellingsen is a long-time saw-miller and eco-forester who has been advocating for a Community Forest on Cortes Island for over two decades. He is now sits on the board of the Community Forest.

Bruce Ellingsen is a long-time saw-miller and eco-forester who has been advocating for a Community Forest on Cortes Island for over two decades. He is now sits on the board of the Community Forest.

SOUTH COAST OLD-GROWTH FORESTS

Over the past century, industrial logging has largely resulted in 90% of the most productive, low-elevation old-growth rainforests on Vancouver Island being transformed into second-growth, monoculture tree-plantations. And the last few pockets of ancient forest are still being targeted for logging to this day.

This map by Sierra Club BC shows the Original old-growth forest cover on Vancouver Island versus the Remaining old-growth forest cover today.

This map by Sierra Club BC shows the Original old-growth forest cover on Vancouver Island versus the Remaining old-growth forest cover today.

OLD-GROWTH VS. SECOND-GROWTH

A lot of people think that by planting young trees, the forest industry is restoring what they have taken from the landscape – and indeed reforestation is a vital component of forestry today. But these second-growth tree farms possess nowhere near the ecological value as their ancient predecessors.

Old-growth forests support Indigenous cultures, sequester more carbon, retain more water, support more biodiversity, and provide greater tourism and recreational opportunities for surrounding communities. Second-growth forests are often densely planted, provide less food for wildlife, and support far less biodiversity than old-growth forests.

These images by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance illustrate the difference between an old-growth forest on the left and a second-growth tree plantation on the right. The old growth has a rich understory and a diversity of tree ages and species. The second growth is noticeably more barren than the old growth.

These images by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance illustrate the difference between an old-growth forest on the left and a second-growth tree plantation on the right. The old growth has a rich understory and a diversity of tree ages and species. The second growth is noticeably more barren than the old growth.

PRIVATE MANAGED FORESTLANDS

Vancouver Island and the south coast of B.C. has some of the largest tracts of private managed forestlands in the province, dating back to the E&N Land Grants of the 1860s, in which the Federal government granted millions of hectares of unceded Indigenous lands on Southeast Vancouver Island to coal-baron Robert Dunsmuir, in exchange for building the railway. Over the last century, the E&N lands have passed through various corporate owners. Today, the vast majority of these lands are owned by TimberWest and Island Timberlands.

This image by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows recent road-building and clear-cutting on the steep slopes of McLaughlin Ridge – the main drinking watershed for the CIty of Port Alberni and one of the last old-growth Douglas fir forests left anywhere on the south coast.

This image by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows recent road-building and clear-cutting on the steep slopes of McLaughlin Ridge – the main drinking watershed for the CIty of Port Alberni and one of the last old-growth Douglas fir forests left anywhere on the south coast.

In 2003 the BC Liberal government allowed these companies to remove their private lands from the Tree Farm License system, and established a new set of weakened laws for forestry on private lands, which resulted in thousands of hectares of old-growth wildlife habitat losing protections. Today, these companies are targeting these valuable areas in a mad dash to liquidate what's left of this prime timber before such practices are outlawed.

Meanwhile, 85% of the Hul'qumi'num Nations' traditional territories on Southeast Vancouver Island are privately owned by timber companies. With no recourse in the Canadian courts for regaining control over private lands they never willingly gave up, Hul'qumi'num is taking their case to the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, an international human rights tribunal.

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows Watershed Forest Alliance activist Jane Morden standing with fallen old-growth timber, on private lands owned by Island Timberlands near Port Alberni.

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows Watershed Forest Alliance activist Jane Morden standing with fallen old-growth timber, on private lands owned by Island Timberlands near Port Alberni.

RAW LOG EXPORTS

It used to be that if logging companies wanted to harvest public timber, they were required to operate local mills, which created thousands of good-paying forestry jobs. But in 2003, when the BC government deregulated the industry, this requirement was removed, which has in part led to a staggering increase in raw log exports and a wave of mill closures in BC.

Since 2001, when the BC Liberals came to power, the number of coastal mills has dropped by half, log exports have more than doubled and over 30,000 forestry jobs have been lost.

This image by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows a log export ship docked in Port Alberni about to set sail with a full load of raw, unprocessed BC timber bound for foreign markets.

This image by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows a log export ship docked in Port Alberni about to set sail with a full load of raw, unprocessed BC timber bound for foreign markets.

WOOD WASTE & SLASH BURNING

It is common practice in the industry to clear-cut vast swaths of land, cutting all the trees in a given area, and only taking a small portion of what is actually marketable. The "economically marginal" timber that forestry companies make little money on is simply left on the ground to rot or heaped into massive slash piles and burned on the hillsides. This results in depletion of topsoils, the release of massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, the wastage of millions of cubic meters of public timber and the loss of thousands of potential forestry jobs.

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows TJ's van parked amongst massive piles of waste wood heaped into slash piles, waiting to be burned. Notice how small his van is relative to the wood piles.

This photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance shows TJ's van parked amongst massive piles of waste wood heaped into slash piles, waiting to be burned. Notice how small his van is relative to the wood piles.

SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA

It is long past due that B.C. evolved beyond this industrial mindset around forestry, which is depleting our old-growth forests, depleting our soils, putting endangered species in greater and greater peril, making it ever more difficult to practice traditional Indigenous cultures, contributing to climate change, providing less benefit to forest-dependent communities, eroding local economies, and resulting in the waste of vast amounts of public timber.

This image from the Heartwood series shows a faller in the Cortes Community Forest assessing which trees he is going to cut in their first selective harvest operation.

This image from the Heartwood series shows a faller in the Cortes Community Forest assessing which trees he is going to cut in their first selective harvest operation.

But around the world and even within British Columbia, there are examples of communities like Cortes Island that are demonstrating more sustainable and sensible models of forest stewardship. The principles of sustainable forestry are rooted in taking far less than the annual growth of the forest, leaving what's left of the old growth and focusing on second-growth logging, doing low-impact, selective harvesting, balancing timber value with all the many social, ecological and economic values in a forest, and making the best possible use of the timber that we cut, going all the way up the value-chain to high-value wood products.