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  • Planned logging on the Discovery Islands

  • 2024-03-03 TimberWest's proposed cutblocks south of Morte Lake

    David Broadland



    Comments on cutblocks 11629, 11630, 11631, 11632 and 11633 southwest of Morte Lake

    This comment applies to all of the 18 new cutblocks TimberWest is proposing.

    In total TimberWest wants to log 37.39 hectares over the 18 cutblocks listed for 2024. This will result in the release of a carbon bomb into the atmosphere. By “carbon bomb” we mean a prolonged release of biogenic carbon to the atmosphere at a rate far greater than would naturally occur if TimberWest had not logged these forest stands and had, instead, let them grow through their natural lifecycle.

    How big is the carbon bomb?

    We use 2019 as a reference year. TimberWest removed an average of 1466 cubic metres of logs/hectare during its 2019 operations on Quadra Island. It left approximately the same volume of logging waste in clearcuts as the volume of logs it removed. Some of this waste was burned in slash piles but the remainder was left to decompose in the clearcut. That means the company was responsible for the premature decomposition of approximately 3000 cubic metres of biomass (logs plus waste) per hectare logged. That 3000 cubic metres/hectare would prematurely release the equivalent of 2400 tonnes of carbon dioxide per hectare logged.

    The total carbon emissions resulting from the 18 new cutblocks TimberWest is proposing on Quadra Island for 2024 (it has already logged two others this year) would be approximately 89,736 tonnes (37.39 hectares x 2400 tonnes per hectare) of CO2-equivalent emissions (see “Our methodology”, here). This is equivalent to putting 19,500 average Canadian passenger cars back on the road for a year.



    Slash pile burning by TimberWest near Beaver Lake in 2020


    Even though TimberWest exports as raw logs virtually all of the forest it logs on Quadra Island, it could argue that some of the carbon removed from its clearcuts will be sequestered for many years in wood products manufactured in those countries. But consider what actually happens to the forest biomass after it is logged in BC. Most of the dead biomass left in a clearcut—which amounts to approximately half the volume of the original biomass that was in the stand before it was logged—is returned quickly to the atmosphere, much sooner than it would have been if the forest had been left standing. For the portion of that biomass which is burned in slash piles, the return is immediate.




    Just over half of the volume of the logs that are removed from the clearcut quickly become wood chips or sawdust; that’s because the utilization rate at sawmills is only about 50 percent (46.5 percent in BC). Most of the carbon in the sawdust and wood chips becomes sequestered in products such as cardboard, paper and other short-lived products and is returned to the atmosphere relatively quickly. Provincial carbon scientist Caren Dymond’s research (page 13) shows that only 11 percent of the carbon contained in logs removed from the stand is still safely stored 100 years later (graph below). So eighty-nine percent of the carbon in that volume has returned to the atmosphere.




    Since the volume of logs removed is only about half of the biomass that was originally in the forest stand, only a small fraction—about 6 percent—of the total carbon in the original biomass of the stand is likely to stay out of the atmosphere longer than 100 years. On the other hand, if the original forest had been left standing, Ministry of Forests growth and yield curves show the forest would most likely have continued to sequester more and more carbon over those 100 years.

    If the area cut is replanted and successfully grows back it would eventually recapture some of the carbon lost to the atmosphere; but in the meantime, the carbon debt created can never be repaid.

    Related to this sobering reality is the question of how logging companies will respond to the need to address climate change by mitigating (or not) the role they play in making it worse. TimberWest/Mosaic Forest Management announced on March 16, 2022, that it can make more money from letting trees grow and selling carbon credits than from logging its privately owned land. At that time, its Chief Forester Domenico Iannidinardo told the Globe and Mail, “We expect to make at least as much from the BigCoast initiative as we would earn from harvesting these forests.”

    So TimberWest is choosing not to log some of its privately owned land because it can make more money by letting the trees stand instead of logging them. They are able to do this because the threat of climate change and the need to mitigate that has created a new set of economic opportunities. We suggest that TimberWest could lead development of a similar market for sequestering carbon in publicly owned forests by significantly reducing the volume of trees it logs on publicly owned land. Whatever it can do to reduce the carbon bomb it is creating with these 18 clearcuts in 2024 will help to reduce its impact on climate change—not to mention forest fire hazard and biodiversity loss.

    This would create an outcome that is much more beneficial for the Quadra community than continuing to maximize logging on the island to produce logs for Chinese and Japanese mills and workers to process.

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  • Maps of approved logging on publicly owned land on the Discovery Islands

    The maps below show the areas where cutting permits have been approved by the Ministry of Forests but have not yet been logged, and where logging has occurred over the past twenty or so years.

    There are three main categories of logging on public land in The Discovery Islands. Logging in TFL 47, logging in BC Timber Sales operating areas and logging in woodlots. So far the latter are exempt from any requirement to notify the public about their planned operations. They could voluntarily do so, but none are except for the Cortes Forestry General Partnership.

    TFL 47 is located on Quadra, Sonora, East Thurlow, West Thurlow and Hardwicke Islands. The first map below shows cutblocks in TFL 47 that have an active approved cutting permit—marked as “Active”. Other red-coloured polygons are areas that have already been logged. To see a list of “Active” but not yet logged cutblocks, go to this page.

    BC Timber Sales operates on West Redonda, Maurelle, Sonora and East and West Thurlow Islands. Its planned cutblocks are shown in the map immediately below the first map.


    TimberWest planned logging in TFL 47

    Use the + or - buttons to zoom in and out. You can pan around the map by clicking on it and and dragging. Click on any proposed cutblock (coloured polygon) to view the logging company, size and proposed cutting date.


    BC Timber Sales planned logging

    The interactive map below shows cutblocks planned by BC Timber Sales, which operates on Maurelle, West Redonda, East Thurlow and other islands and areas adjacent to the Discovery Islands. Use the + or - buttons to zoom in and out. You can pan around the map by clicking on it and and dragging. Click on any proposed cutblock (polygons outlined in green) to view the logging company, size and proposed cutting date.

  • The Discovery Islands Forestry-Tourism Working Group Map

    This map shows locations where logging companies may have logged, may be logging, may have cutting permits to log, may have applied for cutting permits to log, and may apply for cutting permits in the future. It does not appear to be in synch with the new Forest Operations Map which shows new applications for cutting permits. At this point its main value is as an indicator of the locations where logging companies might be thinking of logging over the next five years.


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