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  • Primary forest survey: Quadra Island

    Project Staff
    The map below, dated November 1, 2021,  was provided to Sierra Quadra by TimberWest-Mosaic. Although the map purports to show the location of existing old forest (250+ years of age) in the Special Management Zone 19 portion of Quadra Island, several areas that are actually old primary forest are shown on this map as being 81 to 120 years of age or younger.

    Project Staff
    This small 1.5-hectare stand in Woodlot 1969 contains relatively rare (on Quadra Island) older Western hemlock. Most Douglas fir in the stand had previously been selectively logged (circa early 20the century). The larger hemlock in the stand ranged up to 10.3-feet in circumference at breast height in August 2023.






    Project Staff
    There are two areas of old/mature forest along the first ridge above Kanish Bay, visible in the drone photographs below. To date they have not been explored on the ground by the project.

    The northern area of old/mature forest along the ridge above Kanish Bay. This view is looking south toward North Mountain.

    The southern area of old/mature forest along the ridge above Kanish Bay.

    David Broadland
    One of Quadra Island’s largest areas of old forest lies less than a kilometre southwest of Darkwater Lake. Logging company Fletcher Challenge cut a large block east of the forest in 1986. The western side of the forest runs down a steep slope toward Discovery Passage, and the forest on much of that slope has been previously hand-logged. The approximate area of remaining primary forest is shown outlined in green in the illustration immediately below.

    The forest is entirely within Woodlot 2032, which is operated by Younger Brothers Holdings. The company’s Woodlot Plan shows only a small portion of the old forest would not be subject to logging. But two areas of the forest where Younger Brothers stipulated no logging would take place now have had logging roads built through them. The areas outlined in green below were to be areas where logging “would be avoided.”

    As of October 2022, the company had flagged an area of the old forest east of its main logging road, apparently in preparation for logging the old forest there.
    Landscape-level planning for Quadra Island has never been completed (and possibly never started), and as a result no old-growth management areas (OGMAs) have been created. Without such planning, a coordinated, island-wide consideration of where old-growth forest still exists, and how much of it there is, has never been undertaken by the Ministry of Forests.
    This has left rare old-growth forests on Quadra Island—such as Darkwater Forest—at risk of being logged. Instead, “planning” is taking place woodlot by woodlot, rather than at the landscape level. Landscape-level planning would have required that at least 9 percent of the Crown forest land base on Quadra Island be designated as OGMAs. Such planning should have established legal OGMAs in areas where there actually was old forest.
    But under provincial regulations, woodlots are required to identify 8 percent of a woodlot’s area as “Wildlife Tree Patches” whether the areas they designate as old forest are old forest or not. Woodlot 2032 has significant areas of old-growth forest—greater than 8 percent of the total area of the tenure—while most other forest tenures and the provincial parks on Quadra (in which non-legal OGMAs can be designated) have little or none.
    By this project’s current reckoning, to meet even the artificially-low minimum level of old forest required for biodiversity conservation (>9 percent)—as stipulated by provincial guidelines—no old forest on Quadra Island should be logged.

    Darkwater Forest contains primary forest including large old trees.

    The primary old forest is within Woodlot 2032. The woodlot operator, Younger Brothers Holdings, has built logging roads through the forest, including in areas that Younger Brothers’ Woodlot Plan had indicated logging would not occur.

    The area of primary old forest is located southwest of Darkwater Lake.
    Below, several views of Darkwater Forest. The forest is located on a rocky, west-facing slope. Earlier logging in the area avoided the steep, rocky area, the only reason this forest is still here. Yet Younger Brothers’ Woodlot Plan includes this as an area where logging will take place, and an area at the north end of the forest has been flagged for cutting in 2022. The density of old-growth Douglas firs is as high as any of the remaining old forest on Quadra Island. They range in size up to about 15-feet in circumference at breast height.








    David Broadland
    Above Yeatman Bay, on the east side of Mount Yeatman, there are extensive areas of old forest. The project has photographed these groves by drone and from Okisollo Channel but has not yet visited these areas on foot. Some of them are in Main Lake Provincial Park, but they are mainly in Cape Mudge Forestry’s Woodlot 1970. In 2022 the company was currently building a logging road into the area, which also contains second-growth forest.




    David Broadland
    At the northwestern end of Deepwater Valley, there are several areas of old forest that escaped initial logging in the area, likely as a result of being at the top of steep-sided rocky outcrops. These areas were economically or physically inoperable for logging equipment.
    These areas are all in TimberWest’s TFL 47 and the company is actively logging in the valley below them. They were mapped in 2021 as “priority deferral areas” by the provincial Old Growth Strategic Review’s Technical Advisory Panel even though the likelihood of them being logged soon is low due to physical constraints.


    David Broadland
    This grove of cedars is in We Wai Kai Nation’s Woodlot 1970, on the east side of Quadra Island at Ralph Point north of Yeatman Bay. One of the cedars in the grove measures 31.6 feet in circumference at breast height in September 2021. There are roughly 30 cedars of significant size and a few large Douglas firs in the grove area.

    The Nation’s Woodlot Plan map does not show this as an area where harvesting will be avoided, but rather it is mapped as a “Visual/Recreational Management Area.” A visit to the grove in September 2022 showed a logging road has been built just to the southwest of the grove. A “Cutting Boundary” had been flagged through the grove.

    Ralph Point Grove on Okisollo Channel. Elephant Mountain on Maurelle Island is directly across the channel from Ralph Point.

    Western red cedar at Ralph Point, September 2022. (Photo by Paul Bishop)
    Photos below were taken by David Broadland in September 2022













    David Broadland
    Okisollo Resources is actively logging in areas of Woodlot 2031 that contain old forest. On Hummingbird Mountain’s southeast side, there remain (as of 2019) two areas of old forest, shown in the image below outlined in green. However, Okisollo did extensive logging in this area in 2020 and may have logged old forest in the outlined area to the left.



    David Broadland
    There is an extensive area of primary forest (never roaded or logged) north of Thrush Lake (near Saltwater Lagoon) that contains old-growth forest. The trail to Maud Island passes through a portion of the forest. TimberWest has been logging towards this area for several years.

    View of old forest north of Thrush Lake
    TimberWest began logging nearby in 2008. The location of old forest is shown in the satellite image below.

    The images below were taken from a drone. The first image looks north and the subsequent images look progressively further south toward Thrush Lake.


    The image below shows a 2017 TimberWest clearcut that overlapped the area containing old-growth forest.




    The stand is mainly small-diameter hemlock. The Douglas fir are much older and one tree with a diameter of 3-feet at breast height was found in the forest. All the fir show the area was burned in the past; the 1925 fire burned this area. The forest floor is sparsely vegetated and almost entirely covered with step moss. The areas appears to have only a thin layer of soil, which may account for the fact that it has never been logged: the trees are smaller and less commercially attractive than other low-elevation areas on Quadra.

    David Broadland
    This grove, west of Raven Lake, is mapped in the Old Growth Strategic Review Technical Advisory Panel’s mapping of Remnant Old Ecosystems. Its existence appears to be supported by satellite imagery and a drone flight (see images below), but has not, to date, been ground-truthed. It is in TFL 47.
    The ministry’s Vegetative Resource Inventory identifies this as about 4 hectares of 263-year-old forest (2021). The area’s elevation precludes large-diameter trees and it was likely left because it is on steep slopes.

    Satellite imagery shows old forest in the location shown

    The area of old forest can be made out in the shadowed mid-ground

    David Broadland
    Satellite imagery suggests there are three groves of old-growth forest on the top of Mount Ashlar (a project placeholder name), the prominent mountain due south of Ashlar Lake. Another grove just north of the narrowest section of Small Inlet is also likely.
    The project has not yet ground-truthed any of these four areas.


    Mount Ashlar, on the north side of Small Inlet

    Project Staff
    These areas of primary forest are just northwest of the gravel pit on Granite Bay Road.

    The areas of primary forest are visible in the image above in the centre foreground and the left of centre middle ground. Mount Seymour is in the background, the gravel pit on the left.

    Logging has recently occurred in the north end of the more northern area.

    The old forest is likely greater than 250 years of age.

    A surviving Douglas fir vet is very tall.

    The views from the east end of Raven Ridge, above the northern area of old forest, have spectacular views, including of Main Lake to the east.

    Project Staff
    Hummingbird Mountain is on the left above Newton Lake. The groves are visible on the left (north) side of the summit.

    In this photo of Waiatt Bay, Hummingbird Mountain is on the left side near the head of the bay. Clearcuts on the right side of the photo are by TimberWest. Drone flights indicate there is little other primary forest remaining on the south side of Waiatt Bay.

    Project Staff
    There are at least four areas of old forest (or concentrations of old trees) at Abandoned Bay, as shown in the images below. These are on the east side of Quadra Island north of Yeatman Bay. They have not yet been explored on foot. Okisollo Resources and Cape Mudge Forestry are actively logging in the area. Three additional clearcuts have been made since the satellite image below was taken. Cape Mudge Forestry also built a logging road in 2022 that runs south toward Yeatman Bay. 



    Project Staff
    THE EASTERN END of Raven Ridge (photo below) contains remnants of primary forest, mapped by the BC CDC as a red-listed ecological community. The lake in the foreground has been tentatively named Copper Lake and the high point on the ridge above it as Copper Mountain (for reference purposes only).

    Below: The patches of remaining primary forest at the top of Copper Mountain

    Project Staff
    This remnant grove of old forest has not yet been visited on the ground by the project. A drone flight was made in 2022 that confirmed this is old forest (photo below). TimberWest created a clearcut in the valley bottom below the grove in 2021-22.

    Forgotten Grove can be seen to the right of the TimberWest clearcut. Newton Lake and Hummingbird Lake are visible in the background.

    Project Staff
    This is how old growth forest is being managed for biodiversity on Quadra Island, which is a Special Management Zone under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan in which conservation of biodiversity is considered a higher objective than timber extraction. (Photo by David Broadland)
    A large portion of TFL 47 and all of the 10 woodlot licences on Quadra Island are within Special Management Zone 19. This is a provision of the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, which took most of the 1990s to create. The plan was intended to end the conflict between the logging industry and the public over the extent of logging on Vancouver Island. About 16,000 hectares of Quadra Island, because of its high non-timber values, was given Special Management Zone status.
    One of the provisions of SMZ 19 was that remaining old forest would be protected. Since Quadra Island had been heavily logged in the early twentieth century and then badly burned in 1925, what old forest remained had experienced regrowth of western hemlock and Douglas fir in between the old veterans. Amongst the strategies indicated by the VILUP to conserve biodiversity in SMZ 19 was this: “maintain existing old forest in the zone, as well as second growth with high portion of veteran trees…”
    This is exactly the kind of forest that was logged in this location.
    Old trees have been left standing while everything between them has been cut. Since the main objective in leaving old forest intact is to protect biodiversity, the practice of taking everything except the biggest, oldest trees is clearly not meeting the objective of protecting biodiversity.
    Old-growth forests on the Discovery Islands are always a mix of different tree species of different ages. The younger trees are not plantation regrowth, or “second growth.” They are an essential component of an old-growth forest, which is a dynamic process that can go on for thousands of years. On Quadra Island, like elsewhere, the plants and animals that live in these forests are not found in plantations created by humans following clearcutting: The Northern Goshawk, the Marbelled Murrelet, the Northern Red-legged Frog, the Northern Pygmy Owl, the Wandering Salamander, and so on. They all need a complete old-growth forest to survive, not just the big, old trees.


    Project Staff
    Along the southern shore of Hummingbird Lake is an area of intact old-growth Douglas-fir forest. It lies within Woodlot 2031, which is operated by Okisollo Resources. The area of old-growth is unprotected. In the photograph below, which looks towards the east end of Hummingbird Lake, the old-growth forest is visible on both side of the lake and high on a ridge southeast of the lake. The right side of the photograph shows the south side forest.

    Project Staff
    The peninsula at issue

    The peninsula between Waiatt Creek (left) and Hummingbird Lake (on right) is covered with an old-growth Douglas fir forest with trees around 350 years of age. 
    On the north side of Hummingbird Lake, a peninsula juts to the southwest. Surrounded almost entirely by water, the striking feature contains one of Quadra Island’s finest examples of an intact old-growth Douglas-fir forest. A ring count of a recently fallen tree suggests the older trees in this forest are about 350 years old. The forest is on publicly-owned land on which a licence to cut trees was granted to Okisollo Resources. When the company was awarded a woodlot licence (WL 2031) in 2007, the company refused to put any kind of reserve on the area.
    But the old-growth forest in this area is supposed to be protected under provisions of the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan’s Special Management Zone 19. That provision is still in legal effect but is being ignored by the ministry of forests and the woodlot tenure holder.
    Sadly, in 2019, Okisollo began logging the old-growth forest along the north side of the lake, to the west of the peninsula.
    Old-growth Douglas-fir on the peninsula

    Old growth on the peninsula are as dense as can be found anywhere on the Discovery Islands

    View of the peninsula old growth and Waiatt Creek from above.

    A blue-listed Northern Red-Legged Frog observed in the forest on the peninsula

    A healthy understory of Western Hemlock grows between the Douglas fir veterans

    Growth rings on this fallen Douglas fir indicate the older trees on the peninsula are 350 years old



    Hummingbird Lake empties into Waiatt Bay through Waiatt Creek, a salmon-bearing stream




    The east end of Hummingbird Lake, as seen from the peninsula


    Project Staff
    Wolf Mountain lies on the south side of the pass between Newton Lake and Hummingbird Lake. The northwestern end of this high ridge is an area of primary forest on a steep slope. Part of the area is within Small Inlet Provincial Park. The rest is split between TimberWest’s TFL 47 and Okisollo Resources’ Woodlot 2031. Okisollo has mapped its portion of the forest—which is likely too steep to log in any case—as an area where harvest is to be “avoided.” TimberWest’s forest stewardship plan doesn’t reveal its intentions for this area.

    The old forest on TimberWest’s side of the mountain (outlined in green above) is on a steep slope.

    The side of Wolf Mountain in WL 2031; Newton Lake on right.

    Wolf Mountain from Okisollo Resources’ 2019 clearcut of old forest on the north side of Hummingbird Lake

    Project Staff
    This small area of primary forest lies just north of the northern boundary of Main Lake Provincial Park and just west of a small unnamed lake (see below). The area lies within Woodlot 2031 (Okisollo Resources), and the operator's forest stewardship plan indicates it is an area where harvest is to be "avoided." As of mid-2021, the project has not surveyed the area.

    Project Staff
    Woodlot 2031 (Okisollo Resources) has mapped an area on the north side of Mount Yeatman where harvest is to be “avoided.” Presumably this is an area of primary forest but it has not been surveyed on the ground by the project as of mid-2021. The area is the bright green object in the southeast corner of the woodlot map below, which borders on Main Lake Provincial Park. Satellite imagery (see below) shows the area to be steep and unlikely to be a significant area of productive primary forest. Other areas of Woodlot 2031 have significant areas of productive primary forest. None of these have been “reserved” by the woodlot tenure holder.

    Below: Area of Woodlot 2031 near the summit of Mount Yeatman where logging is to be “Avoided” (outlined area on right side)

    Below: A closer view of the area mapped by Okisollo Resources as a reserve.

    Project Staff
    BODEGA POINT RESERVE is a mapping designation in Woodlot 1969's (Cape Mudge Forestry) forest stewardship plan. It has no legal protection. As of 2021, this project has visited the area and flown a drone over it. We have no information on the age or size of trees in the reserve, but the area appears to be primary forest.

    Bodega Point Reserve as mapped in WL 1969's forest stewardship plan.

    The reserve looking northwest. Logging by Fletcher Challenge in the 1980s is visible on the far left, abutting the reserve.

    The reserve as seen from the south, looking up Discovery Passage

    Project Staff
    There are a number of large Douglas firs along the banks of Luoma Creek south of where it flows under a steel and concrete bridge on the logging road. The largest tree has a circumference at breast height of 21.1 feet. TimberWest has logged around several other vets in this area. A count of growth rings of nearby logs show these trees are approximately 350 years in age.



    Below: A log near the grove, left by TimberWest, showed that this tree, with a diameter of about 4.2 feet, was at least 350 years old.

    Project Staff
    Tiny Kingfisher Lake and wetlands are on Saxon Creek. The forest around the grove has been heavily logged in recent years by TimberWest, but the lake and scattered old-growth Douglas firs on the hill south of the lake are an oasis compared to the nearby clearcuts. The full extent of the remaining primary forest in this area is unknown as of 2021. The largest tree found in a preliminary survey had a circumference at breast height of 14.4 feet. Saxon Creek contains fish and had a beaver dam on it in 2019. Plants observed included Douglas Aster, Eyebright, Musk Flower, and Marsh Skullcap.






    Project Staff
    The top of Raven Mountain (below) and some of Raven Ridge, which runs to the east, contains areas of primary forest. The project has not yet visited these areas on foot, but drone images confirm some patches of old forest remain after previous logging. The BC Conservation Data Centre has used satellite imagery to map a red-listed ecological community in this area, but has not confirmed this with an on-the-ground survey.


    Project Staff
    There is a patchy band of primary forest below the steep/cliffy area on the south side of Deepwater Valley. There appear to be five areas of primary forest, but only one (second from right in image above) has been visited on foot to date. In that patch the old firs are from 8-foot to 11.3-foot in circumference at breast height. One tree that had been cut by a poacher (see video below) had a diameter of 2.8 feet (8.4-foot circumference); a ring count suggested the tree was 235 years old when it was cut.
    The five images below show five areas of old forest on the south side of the valley; going down the page, they progress from east to west.








    Project Staff
    The Nugedzi Lake old-growth forest is Quadra Island's largest area of intact primary forest. It lies entirely within TimberWest's TFL 47. The map above shows TimberWest's own mapping of 250+ years-old forest in the area. In the photo below, the northern edge of the forest to the right of Nugedzi Lake is clearly demarcated by shadow. Most of the forest south of that line is old sub-alpine Douglas fir, Mountain Hemlock and Western Red Cedar.



    Project Staff
    The Long Lake Grove is a remnant of primary forest with 30 to 40 old-growth Douglas firs in a contiguous grove lying north of Long Lake. When visited in late June 2020, several One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) plants were found in flower (see photo below). This plant is only found on Quadra Island in areas of old-growth Douglas fir.

    The largest old-growth firs in the grove are generally around 11.8 feet in circumference at breast height. 

    One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora)

    Gnome Plant (Hermitomes congestum)

    There are a number of other areas in the Beech's Creek-Long Lake area that have remnant patches of old-forest and some groups of large firs and cedars. TimberWest has begun logging in this area and logging is occurring in between old Douglas fir vets, destroying their value for biodiversity conservation.
    The image below shows where old trees and old forest has been either confirmed on the ground or identified by drone flights.


    Project Staff
    The largest tree in Cedar Bog Grove, a Douglas fir measuring 25.1 feet at breast height, March 2019
    CEDAR BOG GROVE is a group of about 40 old-growth Douglas firs and red cedars scattered around the north, east and south sides of a cedar bog southeast of Granite Bay. The largest Douglas fir has a circumference of 25.1 feet at breast height. There are a number of firs around 20 feet in circumference. A western red cedar measured 26.2 feet in 2019.
    This is one of three groves along the western side of Clear Lake. All of the groves are accessible from Clear Lake if you have a boat to get across the lake. Cedar Bog and the grove are all (just) inside Main Lake Provincial Park.
    To get there by vehicle and foot, turn right off Granite Bay Road onto the logging road (Two Mile Lake Road) at the main intersection in downtown Granite Bay. Drive past the Newton Lake Trail parking lot until you get to a steep hill (about 1.1 k from Granite Bay Road). Park out of the way of traffic near the bottom of the hill. Follow the logging road, which passes Two Mile Lake, on foot. About half a kilometre past the lake is an unmarked trail going south. If you pass a beaver pond on its north end, you have gone a little too far. The trail into Floating Islands Lake leads to the lake’s east end. From there, it’s a 0.6-kilometre bushwhack to the grove. There is no trail. Skirt around Cedar Bog on its south side. The grove begins near the east end of the bog. In the summer, listen for osprey; there’s a long-active nest in an old Douglas fir on the south side of the bog. The 25-footer is beside the creek that empties the bog at its eastern end.

    The two areas of primary forest adjacent to the bog that form Cedar Bog Grove

    A Western Red Cedar measuring 26.2 feet in circumference at breast height in December 2018

    Project Staff
    Grieg’s Grove is one of three areas on the west side of Clear Lake, all within Main Lake Provincial Park, that contain primary forest, including large, old-growth Douglas firs and cedars.
    The largest tree in Grieg’s Grove is a Douglas fir measuring 22.0 feet in circumference at breast height in August 2019. It is close to the shore of Clear Lake. The grove climbs up the hill to the northwest.



    Project Staff
    Approximate extent of the Clear Lake Grove
    THIS GROVE of about 100 old-growth Douglas-firs is in Main Lake Provincial Park. The tree  below is the second largest in circumference, 25.2 feet at breast height. A drone established its height at approximately 270 feet (90 metres).

    A nearby neighbour (Douglas fir) has a circumference of 26.4 feet at breast height (photo below). We are uncertain about the age of these trees, but they are almost certainly older than 500 years.

    Measuring the largest tree in the Clear Lake Grove: 26.4 feet in circumference at breast height.

    Species found in the grove include Western Toad, Northern Red-legged Frog and Single Delight.



    Project Staff
    THERE’S AN AREA of primary forest, including Douglas fir and mountain hemlock, at the east end of Darkwater Lake. There’s a trail into the lake from a parking area beside the road. Watch for large rocks on the right side of the road as you go west toward the lake.
    The area of primary forest can be seen in the photo below: a thin band between the lake and the area of regrowth to the east.


    Project Staff
    There are significant areas of primary forest, including old-growth Douglas fir and cedar, on Woodlot 2032, which is on the west side of Quadra Island. Part of the Darkwater Mountain Grove is in this woodlot. The tenure holder's mapping of old growth and reserves is shown above. Drone flights and visits on foot to some of these areas confirm the general outlines in the map. For the most part, the tenure holder is planning on leaving old forest, which is certainly a requirement under Special Management Zone 19 provisions of the Vancouver land Land Use Plan.
    Some of the old forest in Woodlot 2032 contains large Douglas fir and cedar.
    Given the scarcity of old forest on Quadra in general, and the need to increase that, the planned partial modification of one of the larger areas of apparently intact old forest on WL 2032 is cause for concern. That area is shown in the image below.

    As well, a significant area of the slope below WL 2032's main road appears to have areas of intact old forest. The steepness of this slope makes it probable that it was only selectively logged perviously. This area was not affected by the 1925 forest fire, but a forest fire in 1957 affected parts.


    Project Staff
    The southeast side of Darkwater Mountain, above Darkwater Lake, has an area of about 5 hectares of primary forest consisting of old-growth Douglas fir interspersed with a younger understory of mainly western hemlock or mountain hemlock. This area lies entirely within Woodlot 2032 (Younger Brothers). The forest stewardship plan for Woodlot 2032 indicates that “Harvesting will be avoided” in this area. On a visit, the project observed a blue-listed Wandering Salamander and a blue-listed Northern Red-Legged Frog.

    The slope above Darkwater Lake (left side of photo) contains an area of primary forest 

    The largest tree in the grove is a Douglas fir that measured 14.6 feet in circumference at breast height 

    A blue-listed Wandering Salamander observed in the primary forest area


    Project Staff
    On the north and east sides of Darkwater Mountain, there is an area of primary forest. The image immediately below shows the northern edge of this forest.  

    The image below shows the same area (in foreground) as above, but looking south toward Darkwater Lake. The southerly extent of this patch of old forest can just be seen (below the lake).

    This area is in Woodlot 1969 (Cape Mudge Forestry) and is mapped as “Darkwater Mountain Reserve”.  That designation provides no legal protection.




    Heart-Leaved Twayblade


    Project Staff
    These scattered areas of primary forest sit atop a hill in the midst of a logged area. They were observed during drone flights in 2020, but have not been visited on the ground. The BC Conservation Data Centre has mapped a nest of a red-listed Northern Goshawk in this general area.

    In the photo above, the foreground is old logging by TimberWest in what is now Woodlot 1969. The Goshawk Groves are approximately indicated by the green dots.

    Above, looking north, one of the patches of primary forest (right side of image in foreground).

    David Broadland
    The 2001 Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, which included Quadra Island, was a decade in the making and was supposed to resolve conflicts on publicly owned land between logging and other values. An example of how the objectives of that planning have been undermined is illustrated by the logging of old forest at Hummingbird Lake.
    IN JULY 2019, on a hike just east of Newton Lake on Quadra Island, my wife and I came across a logging operation on the north side of Hummingbird Lake. It was a Sunday, and work was paused. From previous visits to Hummingbird Lake and from research on where past logging has occurred on Quadra, I knew this was what is known as “primary” forest: no roads had ever been built and there had been no previous logging. Such areas—undisturbed by industrial activity—are now exceedingly rare in places that have significant human populations living nearby, including Quadra Island.
    The old-growth forest contained many large, veteran Douglas firs that had survived previous natural disturbances, including 1925’s large fire that burned much of Quadra Island with varying intensity. Since that fire, a mix of hemlock and fir had grown back between the big, old Douglas firs, which had continued to thrive. This forest is in the CWHxm2 biogeoclimatic zone and, coast-wide, the remaining old-growth forest in this zone is at 9 percent. Below 10 percent, forest ecologists say, biodiversity is at high risk.  

    The logging road Okisollo Resources punched through an old-growth forest north of Hummingbird Lake in 2019
    Finding a logging operation in this extraordinary place was disappointing. This was exactly the type of forest that was supposed to have been left undisturbed under the provisions of the 2001 Vancouver Island Land Use Plan’s Higher Level Plan Order. Quadra Island had been included in that ground-breaking attempt to end the heated conflict on Vancouver Island between logging and other values. One of those values was conservation of biodiversity. In Quadra’s case, the VILUP gave biodiversity conservation a higher priority than timber extraction. And that boiled down to protecting the remaining old-growth forest (>250 years old) and managing logging so that there would always be at least 25 percent of the area covered with mature forest (>80 years old).
    The fact that Quadra Island was the only non-Vancouver Island area to have been selected for a Special Management Zone is testimony to the land use planners’ understanding—25 years ago—of the high level of non-timber values present in Quadra Island’s forests, and the strong interest in the community to protect those values.
    On the day I visited the site, the logging company, Okisollo Resources of Ladysmith, were in the process of cutting the younger hemlock and fir that had grown up since the 1925 fire. Except for some old-growth felled to build the logging road, the old firs still stood. The operation seemed poised to take out everything but the old fir vets, a practice that has been employed throughout SMZ 19 by TimberWest to meet the old-forest obligations of SMZ 19.

    The old-growth forest in the midst of being logged by Okisollo Resources
    This practice—cutting between the old trees—doesn’t actually protect biodiversity, according to forest ecologist Rachael Holt, even though that is the intent of the old-forest provisions for SMZ 19. But it appeared that Okisollo Resources was, like TimberWest, going to leave most of the big firs—about 50 of them remained—spread over a 3-hectare cutblock. I estimated another 5 to 10 had already been cut to build the roads. That many old firs on that small area is as dense as any old-growth stand I have ever found on Quadra Island.
    About a month later, I was able to obtain a satellite image that seemed to confirm that Okisollo had left the veteran firs. It showed most of the big trees not in the roadways—now about 45 of them—had been left. In the satellite image below, the west end of Hummingbird Lake is visible at the bottom. This beautiful little lake is a short distance east of Small Inlet Provincial Park and close to the southern edge of Octopus Islands Provincial Park. Neither of those parks has a comparably-sized area of old-growth forest within its boundaries.

    Satellite image of Okisollo Resources cutblock just north of Hummingbird Lake, on Quadra Island, in August 2019

    RETURNING TO THE SITE about 9 months later, we found that all but 5 of the old Douglas fir vets in the cutblock had been felled. A number of big logs still lay beside the road. The growth rings of one of those showed it had been about 370 years old when cut. The tight-grained log was sound and appeared to be high quality wood.
    The Ministry of Forests’ Harvest Billing System, which records the volume logged and the stumpage paid for trees cut on Crown land, shows that Okisollo Resources likely paid about $3800 in total stumpage for the 50-or-so old-growth Douglas fir trees it felled in August of 2019. That’s roughly $75 per tree.
    Those trees definitely met the ministry’s definition of “old” (greater than 250 years of age) and, under the provisions and intentions of SMZ 19, should have been left standing.

    View of the cutblock at Hummingbird Lake in June 2020. This is the same area as is shown in the drone photograph at the top of this page, which shows the abundant wood left in the cutblock.

    Logs left behind by Okisollo Resources showed the old-growth had been around 370 years old
    The requirements for biodiversity conservation stipulated for SMZ 19 were that at least 9 percent of the entire area of Okisollo’s Woodlot Licence tenure should be left as old forest (greater than 250 years of age), and at least 25 percent of the area would be covered with “mature” (greater than 80 years of age) forest. These were the levels of old and mature forest for areas where an “intermediate” level of biodiversity conservation was the objective. Okisollo’s Woodlot Licence tenure was one of the few areas on Quadra Island where the “at least 9 percent” might have been achieved.
    Given the history of extensive logging on Quadra Island since 1880, establishment of SMZ 19 meant conserving all remaining old forest since less than 10 percent of the area in the zone is covered by old-growth.
    The specific strategy to reach the required percentages of old forest and mature forest recommended by the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan for Quadra Island was to “maintain existing old forest in the zone, as well as second growth with [a] high portion of veteran trees...”
    That was the strategy that extensive land use planning had determined should be applied to the 3 hectares where Okisollo Resources had just cut about 50-60 large, old Douglas firs and all of the younger trees between them.
    But since SMZ 19 was created in 2001, the Campbell River District office of the Ministry of Forests had slowly but surely introduced more and more Woodlot Licence Program tenures into the zone, a form of tenure that is immune to the objectives for old and mature forest established by the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan. There are now 11 Woodlot Licence tenures in SMZ 19, occupying roughly half of the zone—each of them virtually free to ignore the requirements established by the plan.
    Okisollo Resources was granted such a tenure in 2010, 9 years after SMZ 19 had been created and 6 years after regulations for Woodlot Licence tenures had been rewritten so that they didn’t have to meet government objectives for old and mature forest. This repeated location of Woodlot Licence tenures in a Special Management Zone has the appearance of the Ministry of Forests intentionally undoing land-use planning.
    Following our discovery that Hummingbird forest had been felled, I filed a freedom of information request for the record of communications between the Ministry of Forests and the forester responsible for the planning and approval of this cutblock. I have often heard the logging industry claim that a company has to satisfy dozens of stringent regulations before it can cut old-growth forest. This seemed the perfect opportunity to find out what those regulations were.
    The records provided by the ministry showed that the company’s forester—who is also a principal of Okisollo Resources—advised the ministry in an emailed “notice of commencement” that, “There are scattered [fir] vets in the block, as well as evidence of fire.” The forester also provided a brief description of the ecological community in the understory.
    The response from the ministry was: “Thank you for the NOC. Please be advised that in order for me to add the cut blocks to Woodlot CPs; you need to send the following information (as noted below) which shows both Gross & NAR hectares.”
    That was it. There was no information exchanged between the ministry official and the company forester that would have allowed the ministry to assess whether “scattered vets” might actually be a rare stand of old forest adjacent to two provincial parks that had next to no old forest themselves. All that mattered to the ministry was the gross area that would be cut.
    The biodiversity and other objectives stipulated for SMZ 19—and for all the other 20 0r so SMZs scattered around Vancouver Island—are still legally in effect. In 2021, the Forest Practices Board reported on a complaint regarding logging by BC Timber Sales in SMZ 13, which is in the Nahmint Valley on Vancouver Island.
    In its report, which was critical of BC Timber Sales, the board wrote, “The public needs to be confident that objectives established in land use plans will actually be carried through and implemented in forestry operations.”
    It is difficult to see how the Quadra public can have confidence that “objectives established in land use plans will actually be carried through and implemented in forestry operations” in SMZ 19.
    By transferring land in SMZ 19 into the Woodlot Licence Program, the Ministry of Forests was knowingly undoing the protections that had been worked out by 10 years of land-use planning undertaken in concert with the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Mines. Those protections were intended to end “the War in the Woods,” as it was called back then.
    The Forest Practices Board—the independent watchdog which is supposed to be there for the public interest when logging operations go awry of regulations—has recently confirmed that it isn’t going to do anything to rectify the problem on Quadra Island.
    Soon after my second visit to Hummingbird Lake, Quadra Island resident Rod Burns filed a complaint with the Forest Practices Board, raising the issue of Okisollo Resources cutting old forest. The Board undertook an investigation; in June 2022, the board issued its findings.
    The report stated, in short, that Okisollo Resources had complied with “legal requirements.”
    The investigation, however, clearly did not establish the actual facts of the case. The report admitted that no investigators had actually visited the site, yet it authoritatively described the old forest there as “scattered old trees,” just like Okisollo had described it to the ministry.
    I contacted Forest Practices Board Chair Kevin Kriese following release of the report. Kriese clarified that it was the Board’s understanding that only 10 trees had been cut, a number Okisollo Resources apparently did not disagree with. As mentioned above, however, between 50 and 60 old trees were cut. Without having done an independent on-site assessment of what forest had been there before the logging—easily ascertainable by counting stumps—the Forest Practices Board report lacks credibility.
    But the Board’s report did contain an interesting paragraph outlining why Woodlot Licence tenures aren’t expected to manage for old growth values and, more importantly, what became of the legal responsibility for meeting the requirements of SMZ 19. It stated:
    “When members of the BC Legislative Assembly first debated [The Forest and Range Practices Act], the Minister of Forests discussed the exemptions in section 13(3) of FRPA. The Minister explained that it is not practical to regulate old-growth forests on the small scale of a woodlot licence. Instead, government regulates old-growth forest management at the landscape level. For the Quadra landscape unit (Figure 1), which covers the woodlot licence and tree farm licence 47, this means that the holder of the tree farm licence addresses the legal requirements to manage old-growth forests under their forest stewardship plan. Again, the woodlot licensee is exempt from following government’s objectives for the retention of old-growth forests.”
    There are two things about that statement that I would draw your attention to.
    First, the Board’s conviction that old and mature forest are being managed on Quadra through the “Quadra landscape unit (Figure 1)”—will be news to the local district office. No such plan exists. It has been promised for many years—a promise going right back to the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan days, but it has never materialized into the public realm.
    Second, the Forest Practices Board report puts all of the legal responsibility for ensuring that the provisions for old and mature forest in SMZ 19 are met on TFL 47—which is tenured to TimberWest (aka “Mosaic Forest Management”).
    The physical area of SMZ 19 is exactly the same now as it was in 2001—approximately 16,000 hectares. But now, instead of the requirement for managing for old and mature forest being spread over the entire area of SMZ 19, that responsibility now falls entirely on about half of the original area of SMZ 19, the area occupied by TFL 47.
    It has been pointed out to TimberWest that if the entire legal responsibility for providing the spatial requirements for old and mature forest falls to them, they are almost out of room to log on Quadra Island.
    TimberWest’s response has been to claim that it will “coordinate” with the Woodlot Licence tenures to ensure the requirements of SMZ 19 are met.
    Does this make sense in terms of protecting the public interest? No, of course not. Such “coordination” would require, as TimberWest has admitted, that TimberWest negotiate with some of the other Woodlot Licence tenure holders to put some of their old and mature forest in permanent reserve so that TimberWest could keep cutting on TFL 47. But that would only happen, of course, if some entity existed that could reliably ensure such legal agreements were actually made and were enforced.
    The Ministry of Forests, obviously, has no interest in seeing such an agreement in place. Its actions over a number of years precipitated this bizarre, unworkable situation in the first place.
    It will take concerted public involvement and vigilance to ensure that the minimal biodiversity conservation provisions set up for Special Management Zone 19 are implemented. While were at it, it’s time to raise the level of biodiversity conservation from “Intermediate”—as set out for SMZ 19—to “High.” That would be more in tune with what we now know about the collapse in biodiversity and the need to conserve forests to mitigate climate change.

    Project Staff
    BEECH’S CREEK FLOWS into Deepwater Bay. A dozen or more old-growth Douglas fir and Western red cedar trees on the slopes above the creek survived the first round of logging. TimberWest has been logging in this area since about 2010 and have left standing trees greater than 250 years of age, as a half-hearted response to the requirements of SMZ 19.
    The company’s plans for the future include putting a road through Beech’s Creek Grove and continuing north along Quadra’s western shoreline to Deepwater Valley, joining up with an existing logging road. The area the proposed road would pass through contains primary forest.

    The grove contains Douglas fir and Western red cedar. The cedar below is the largest with a circumference at breast height of 25.2 feet.

    A visitor is likely to come across more than one Northern Red-legged Frog, which are now blue-listed in BC.

    The biggest Douglas fir is estimated to have a circumference at breast height of about 24 feet.

    A Western Red Cedar on the steep slope above Beech’s Creek.

    Beech’s Creek

    There are a number of other areas in the Beech's Creek-Long Lake area that have remnant patches of old-forest and some groups of large firs and cedars. TimberWest has begun logging in this area and logging is occurring in between old Douglas fir vets, destroying their value for biodiversity conservation.
    The map below shows where old trees and old forest has been either confirmed on the ground or identified by drone flights.

  • The map below is TimberWests account of forest by age class on Quadra Island. It doesnt indicate all of the old forest that has been confirmed by the Discovery Islands Forest Conservation Project, but most of the areas shown in brown are areas of old forest (>250 years).

  •   Return to the Discovery Islands primary forest survey page  

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