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  • (2022-04-06) Open letter to Mosaic Forest Management regarding plans to log Island Timberland's private managed forestland on Cortes Island

    Sabina Leader

    Mosaic Forest Management

    Colin Koszman/ Land Use Forester

    Molly Hudson/ Director of Sustainability


    Good Morning Molly and Colin,

    Spring Greetings from Cortes Island.

    Thank you for your invitation to comment on Mosaic Forest Management’s 3-year draft plan for Island Timberland’s (IT) private managed forest land (PMFL) holdings on Cortes Island. 

    My husband and I moved to Cortes Island in 1992 and have been permanent residents since; we are professionals in physiology and ecology respectively, self-employed under our own consulting firm.

    As an ecologist, I was impressed when the Cortes Island Forest Committee (CIFC) commissioned Herb Hammond/ Silva Forest Foundation (SFF) in 1996, to undertake “a detailed ecological study and computer based mapping” of Cortes Island, to inform forest management on island. Central to the SFF philosophy was/is the concept of ecosystem based conservation planning (EBCP); the focus of which is to first identify what to protect and second, what to use.

    EBCP is not based on the need to fill timber quotas or meet company profits, rather, it is based on the knowledge that preservation of the environment and ecosystems in which we live, is first priority.

    EBCP protects and maintains ecological integrity and biological diversity at all spatial scales; most importantly, CIFC adopted the landscape level for their initial planning process.

    SFF produced a series of maps for the CIFC that described the ecological landscape of Cortes Island: protected landscape network, ecological sensitivity to disturbance, landscape connections etc. These maps provide a valuable baseline for forest management on Cortes Island.

    My first introduction to IT PMFL holdings on Cortes Island came in 2008, when IT publicly announced timber harvesting plans for these lands. IT advised the Cortes community that, in their opinion, timber extraction was the “highest and best use" of these lands. 

    In order to respond to IT in an informed and responsible manner, the Cortes community undertook to inform themselves; we initiated a citizen-science mapping project of IT lands. Trained teams of citizens ground-truthed the sensitive ecosystems that were mapped for Cortes Island during the Sunshine Coast Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory (SEI) 1999. The SEI was undertaken to address the increasing rate of loss of ecologically significant lands and important wildlife habitat in the Strait of Georgia. All five provincially designated sensitive ecosystems were represented on IT PMFL, including mature forest, “the other important ecosystem class” that provides the significant function of buffering the sensitive ecosystems within the landscape. From our fieldwork, we generated an inventory of species and ecological communities at risk (SEAR) referencing the BC Conservation Data Centre’s (CDC) data base in Victoria. 

    Taking our field data and looking at it through the lens of EBCP and alongside the SFF mapping, we were able to identify leave areas on the IT land base, that were integral to healthy ecological function at the landscape level.

    1. The Delight Lake Watershed was identified as a leave area, notable as a primary water recharge area at the heart of the island with intact hydrology and water quality. This watershed also boasted a diversity of sensitive ecosystems: Wetland (WN), Riparian (RI), Terrestrial Herbaceous ((HB), Woodland ((WD) and Old Forest (OF). Our field work confirmed that this high habitat diversity equated with high species diversity; significantly, several SEAR were observed. 

    SFF mapping had identified this watershed as a strong biological node along an important riparian landscape connector north to south.

    1. Our fieldwork also resulted in the Basil Creek Old-Growth Reserve proposal, which identified both old-growth forest and old-growth recruitment forest, as leave areas, in the Basil Creek Watershed.

    We are now ten plus years down the road and the Cortes community’s local ecological knowledge has grown substantially and continues to be informed by research initiatives spanning a full spectrum of studies: ecological function, conservation biology, human-wildlife coexistence, connectivity science and climate resiliency.

    Once again, our community is being asked to comment on draft logging plans for the IT PMFL on Cortes Island.

    The ever present “elephant in the room” these past ten years has been and ever more ominously continues to be… climate change. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a sobering read and prompts each of us to take a precautionary approach to proposals such as that drafted by Mosaic Forest Management, for timber extraction on Cortes Island.

    In my opinion, the “highest and best use” of the majority of the IT PMFL on Cortes Island, today, is clearly conservation and I would, therefore, be pleased to proactively participate in a process whereby Mosaic Forest Management return these lands to community hands.


    Sabina Leader Mense

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