VICTORIA -- The B.C. Wildlife Federation has joined the battle over the Stein Valley, and the opening volley of the powerful conservationist organization doesn't bode well for the pro-logging forces.
Before you skip the rest of this column because you don't live anywhere near the Stein Valley, northwest of Lytton, let me caution you: the battle over the future of this valley is shaping up as a decisive one on the environmental front. The outcome will have dramatic bearings on future confrontations between conservationists and advocates of multiple use of our forests.
The organization was drawn into the dispute by one member of the executive without the board of directors' explicit support, but for better or worse, the B.C. Wildlife Federation with its 170 plus affiliated clubs, comprising more than 38,000 members, is in it for keeps.
In a widely--distributed letter, Eugene Rogers, chairman of the federation's forestry committee, accused the pro-logging forces of contaminating the debate over the future of the Stein Valley with "misinformation, downright lies and fear-mongering."
Along with the scathing letter, Rogers sent out a six-page "critique" of "Share the Stein," a slick and colorful tabloid publication, issued last spring by the pro-logging interests to sway public opinion in favor of logging the mid-Stein Valley, while preserving the Lower and Upper Stein as wilderness areas.
A sentence on the front page of the publication said it was "produced by the Share the Stein Committee, representing the people of Lytton, Boston Bar, Lillooet and Hope, who support multiple use of the Stein," but the effort bore the unmistakable imprint of Pat
Armstrong, who was hired by the pro-logging coalition to lead the fight against the environmentalist groups. Armstrong works out of the B.C. Forest Products offices in Vancouver.
The demolition job on the "Share the Stein" publication was not authored by the B.C. Wildlife Federation. That honor goes to Trevor Jones, a consulting engineer retained by the Save the Stein Coalition, but the mere fact that it was distributed by a wildlife federation executive member, under the organization's letterhead, gives it the federation's tacit approval.
Jones' response to statements in the publication is devastating. Point for point, he contradicts what he calls "misinformation." Share the Stein, for instance, referred to the valley as "rugged and inaccessible." Jones says it's accessible at several locations, from which 2,000 people, "including elderly, blind, and small children" hiked to a number of festivals held in the valley last year.
Share the Stein said the valley would provide forestry-related jobs for 30 years. Jones said logging the valley would provide jobs for four to eight years.
Share the Stein said 91 per cent of the valley's total area would be left untouched. Jones said that logging roads would destroy nearly 100 per cent of the valley's non-alpine areas. Share the Stein quoted the IWA's Jack Munro as saying, "we can't have every valley in this damn province as someone's personal refuge." Jones said the Stein is the only major unlogged river valley among the thousands in southwestern B.C.
At this point, the question is not so much who is right, the environmentalists or the logging advocates? My gut instinct tells me that both are doing everything they can to get public opinion on their side. And neither side is above confusing the issue a little if it's to their advantage.
The important question is who will gain the upper hand in this battle? And the answer to that depends on which side succeeds in getting public opinion behind it.
With the albeit reluctant entry into the war of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, the environmentalists have won an important skirmish.
The federation is one of the most respected environmentalist organizations. Its views cannot and will not be ignored, and Rogers' views on the issue have now become the federation's. As a federation official told me, "the words have been spoken. They are out there and can't be taken back."
But the war isn't over yet. Both sides will continue to fight it out with every weapon at their disposal. Both sides will, at times, insult our intelligence.
I still believe that the mid Stein Valley should be and will be logged. Hard as I may try, I cannot subscribe to the view that the removal of trees constitutes environmental rape, not if it's done properly.
Left to her own devices, nature would burn down the whole valley sometime in the next few hundred years. And she would not go about it selectively. She would burn down every damn tree. And then she would grow new ones. That's the way it was before man began to manage the forests. I see nothing wrong with man beating nature to it.