Heartwood is a social impact documentary built on a foundation of solid journalism, cinematic storytelling and dynamic cinematography.
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.
What's at stake
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.