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Activists fight back against logging rare Coastal Douglas fir

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The Coastal Douglas fir (CDF) is one of the most threatened plant ecosystems in Canada. Only one per cent of old growth trees remain.

Today, sadly, there are even fewer old growth Coastal Douglas fir trees left on Vancouver Island then a week ago.

That's because logging has started on the 160-acre Nanoose Bay Forest, or DL33 as government officials like to call it. This forest is full of big Douglas firs, sensitive marshlands and swamps, and it is home to over 30 threatened plant and animal species.

The Coastal Douglas fir zone has an incredible variety of life and are found nowhere else. This ecosystem has a Mediterranean-like climate, with trees such as Coastal Douglas fir, arbutus and Garry oak, and is filled with rare and at-risk species like the marbled murrelet and alligator lizard. Because of this, and because of the biodiversity present, DL33 is an ecosystem of global importance recognized as such by UNESCO as part of the Mount Arrowsmith biosphere reserve.

Yesterday, I rushed up to Nanoose Bay to check out the logging first hand. I stood in a clearing surrounded by felled trees and stumps. The smell of gasoline and wet leaves filled the air. Some of the fallen trees were five feet across, which is a rarity indeed for Coastal Douglas firs. The logging was close to sensitive wetlands -- the same wetlands in which I saw endangered red-legged tree frogs just last year.

We measured trees standing over 6 feet across and hundreds of years old. The stand is full of tall veteran trees who survived past logging. The company says they only plan to cut second growth trees, but our on-the-ground fact-finding mission revealed many of the biggest trees already cut.

The entirety of what's left of the fragmented CDF ecosystem on Vancouver Island is under extreme pressure. As mentioned, a mere one per cent of the old growth remains. And only six per cent of the total ecosystem is on publicly owned land, and that makes it all the more reckless that the B.C. government is allowing logging on DL33.

Despite the thousands of people who have called for the protected of Nanoose Bay Forest, the government issued a cutting permit to this land. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence about the importance of this ecosystem, the chainsaws have started cutting.

Logging was stopped for two days last week as a handful of concerned environmentalists stood guard in the forest. The Snaw'Naw'As First Nations hold the timber license to DL33, plan to continue logging on Tuesday and have threatened legal measures to keep protesters at bay.

The Snaw'Naw'As First Nations, rightfully so, wants to provide jobs for its members. But there has to be another way. Logging the remaining Coastal Douglas Fir forests may be quick money, but the over 35 species at risk that depend on this forest can never be replaced.

There are no other Nanoose Bay forests and it will only take a few days before this one is gone. The provincial government needs to step in and make a land swap happen so that this area can be protected and the residents of the Snaw'Naw'As can still earn a living.

Logging is sure to continue unless the provincial government takes action to protect this special piece of a threatened ecosystem. If no action is taken, we are losing the critical habitat needed to make this entire ecosystem viable.

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