A recent logging operation on Stoney Hill, one of the Six Mountains. (Larry Pynn photo)
Champion of old growth logging uses industry magazine to attack North Cowichan grassroots conservation movement
Sig Kemmler's logging company top municipal earner last year
Truck Logger BC Magazine describes itself as the “preeminent source for timber harvesting and forestry perspectives, information & news.” But, based on its recent article on North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve, nothing could be further from the truth.
The article, which appeared in the magazine’s fall issue, is a gross distortion of reality and an attempt by commercial outside interests to question the legitimate, grassroots conservation movement of North Cowichan citizens.
It deserves to be exposed, including for the sake of those independent loggers who believe the magazine is providing its members with a fair representation of forest issues.
The first thing that struck me about the article is the fact that it carries no byline. I contacted editor Jennifer Kramer, who identified contributing writer Ian MacNeill as the author; he wrote on community forests in the same issue of the magazine.
MacNeill is a long-standing freelancer whose resume includes Grocer Today and ‘What! A Magazine’ — whatever that is. His article is titled ‘Cowichan Community Forest: A Not-So-Good News Story’ and reads like a news release written by old-guard advocates of status-quo industrial logging in the Municipal Forest Reserve.
The most glaring part of the story is a reference to the Municipality earning “as much as $3 million annually” from logging in the reserve — without any reference to the source of this information or any explanation of how the figure was derived.
The Municipality’s 2019 Forestry Annual Report, for the period 1987 to 2019, shows that the Forest Program earned an average profit of barely $130,000 per year. Sixty-three per cent of timber in 2019 was exported as raw logs.
I ran the phantom $3-million figure past a municipal official; this person had no idea where it came from. Kramer, who has refused to allow a rebuttal to the article, promised to look into it and “if there is an error there, I’d be more than happy to correct it, for sure.” It’s now approaching two weeks, and I have not heard back from her.
I contacted Bill Nelson, president of the Truck Loggers Association, hoping for a more satisfactory response. He promised to get back to me this past week, but has not done so.
Once again, independent loggers deserve better from their organization.
MacNeill’s article quotes just one individual, Sig Kemmler, who also happens to sit on the board of directors of the Truck Loggers Association and also serves as the magazine’s Editorial Board Chair.
Kemmler photo: https://bit.ly/36GsU0j
With a little digging into North Cowichan’s latest Statement of Financial Information, I found that Campbell River-based Integrated Operations Group — co-owned by Kemmler — earned the most money last year from logging activities in the Municipal Forest Reserve, $67,480 for blowdown removal.
Kemmler is also a champion of old growth logging, swimming against the tide of public opinion. An opinion poll released in November 2019 showed 92 per cent of British Columbians support protection for old growth. (https://sierraclub.bc.ca/9-in-10-support-protecting-old-growth/)
That same month, Kemmler wrote to the province’s Old Growth Strategic Review to trumpet the economic benefits of logging old growth, arguing that such logging is “sustainably managed” — a ridiculous statement.
We all know there is nothing sustainable about old growth logging because once it’s cut it becomes part of timber harvesting going forward.
Kemmler complains in the article that conservation voices in North Cowichan “have made good use of social media platforms and have the time and inclination to organize and attend public events.” More nonsense. People make time for what’s important. The latest research shows that four billion people — half the Earth’s population — use social media. (https://www.digitalinformationworld.com/2020/07/half-of--the-global-population-now-uses-social-media.html) And what’s this I see? Kemmler’s own logging company is on Facebook, and his wife Johanne, an elected trustee for the Cowichan Valley School District, is on Facebook and Twitter. Imagine that.
Walk down memory lane and you’ll also find that Kemmler has repeatedly resorted to social media of the day — newspapers — as far back as the 1980s to assert his complaints, including on water-quality issues, and air pollution from Crofton mill.
The article also asserts that North Cowichan council agreed to a moratorium on logging pending consultations because it was “clearly rattled” by public opposition. Let’s be clear: council did the right thing in the face of overwhelming public opinion and I applaud them for that. Only councillor Tek Manhas has taken the unfortunate position that logging should continue while the engagement process is underway. (https://www.sixmountains.ca/north-cowichan-rejects-manhas)
In conclusion, it’s important to note that the conservation campaign for the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve — also known as Six Mountains — respects the importance of logging in our province. It is not even about the province-wide campaigns to protect old growth, none of which exists in the heavily logged Forest Reserve.
Working for a unionized sawmill helped put me through college. I understand the need for this renewable industry and value its day-to-day products.
That doesn’t mean that every stand of trees is fair game for timber harvesting. The Municipal Forest Reserve is minuscule compared with the provincial forest base.
We are discovering here, in our backyard, that other values — biodiversity, tourism, recreation, viewscapes — take priority over a few direct logging jobs.
Note also that the University of BC forestry department has informed North Cowichan that it stands to earn as much or more from carbon credits by leaving the forest standing than cutting it down. Even major forest companies have gone the carbon-credit route. (https://www.sixmountains.ca/the-six-million-dollar-forest)
The public recently identified green spaces and recreation as easily the most important attributes of North Cowichan. Of 1,201 individuals who participated in a survey, 624 named “natural green spaces and surroundings, specifically the mountains, rivers, forests and ocean” as what they loved about the Municipality. Another 304 identified “access to outdoors for recreational activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking and swimming.”
Residents are choosing a new conservation vision for the Six Mountains. Too bad that Truck Logger BC Magazine remains blind to the obvious.
Visit sixmountains.ca for more information.
— Larry Pynn, Nov. 15, 2020