Sustainable logging and sustainable water
Margaret Griffiths
Galiano relies on groundwater - the harvest of the heavens.

The whole forest to be clear-cut in 1987.
After the take-over of MacMillan Bloedel by Noranda, their Chief Forester came to Galiano and told the community openly and very honestly that the island's forests would be clear cut and replanted over an estimated twenty years. This was accepted by a saddened community. Logging began on the east side and seemed to be going more rapidly than expected. The spectacular east coast trail was logged with some trees saved along the shore as the islanders pleaded. Eagle nests about a kilometer apart along the shoreline were left with the nest tree standing alone in a clear-cut. The foreshore is a sensitive area where two ecosystems of land and sea meet, and the operation along the shoreline was watched anxiously. However, opposition to clear-cutting mounted as the cut came closer to residential areas, harvesting right up to the borders, changing climate in peoples' gardens, filling the air with smoke from the burning piles of debris - leaving watersheds bare to run-off rather than absorption.

Clear - Cut Alternatives
A group called Clear-Cut Alternatives formed to negotiate on behalf of the community. Their first success was saving a leave strip toward the south end along the roadside through part of the forest. The concern of the trustees was mainly the effect of clear-cutting, especially on high land, on the groundwater supply. Good water is every community's life-line, and an island with finite borders does not have piped-in water from elsewhere. Galiano has no large natural lakes. Most of its streams are seasonal. All water recharge areas are precious. Experience on other islands shows small reservoirs can become very polluted. Galiano has not experimented that way.
Clear cutting and groundwater.
Prior to the Supreme Court trial, one trustee who was singled out for 29 hours of examination for discovery realized that the onus for proving the affect of clear-cutting on ground water supply was being placed on Local Trust Committees, not logging companies. Although the help of the Ministry of Environment had been sought and the Minister offered negotiation in a crisis, it was claimed in examination and trial that this source of negotiation had not been sufficiently pursued by the trustee regarding fears concerning groundwater.

MB had quoted to her a study done in Colorado which showed that clear-cutting increases the water-supply. This study is understood to show that removal of tree cover from high land is known to catch an increase in snow which can eventually gravity feed a reservoir below. This was thought by the trustee to be not helpful in the conservation of groundwater.

The high watersheds.
In the case of Galiano the catchment area must remain porous- every worm hole even is precious, to take the water underground into the aquifers, and in the case of the elevated catchments gravity feed it slowly in the months of lowest water recharge (July - November) to the wells below. Any road or machinery that compacts the soil rather than leaving it porous is unhelpful, causing run-off. Anything that sends the water supply by surface from the high land quickly to the ocean is wasteful. Some wells go dry in summer as it is. Some aquifers become overdrawn and the coastal lots suffer salt water intrusion.

It has been said that where trees are removed, and no longer take up water, the supply left in the ground increases. This can be the case immediately and run-off can increase. Changes occur as the forest regenerates. In any case the flow on which established wells rely can be altered and the loss increased of groundwater flowing more quickly to the ocean.

More than a decade has passed since MB attempted to strike down Galiano's protective Bylaws 81 - 85. Since then the island has the benefit of a Provincial Government Study on groundwater. Areas fully drawn are flagged as water management areas. The island is mapped into water regions, often likened to bath tubs where water supply passes through almost in independence of the other "bath tubs".
Most of the elevated water catchments are in the high ground of the forest designated land, and in the current bylaws development and road building in these watersheds is strictly controlled to maintain the absorption and water recharge qualities of the soil.

Just how concentrated removal of trees will affect the flow of water below ground is open to study in the locality of planned operation. MB tried selection cutting on Galiano - a first which won positive publicity. The site was to be monitored for twenty years but has long since been clear-cut by the new owner, and the recorded data apparently lost. But as part of the sustainability study, a figure was arrived at by MB which has been accepted as sustainable for tree harvesting of the Galiano forest.

In the current bylaws an intent to log beyond this figure of sustainability, and export the logs from the home site, requires a development permit. This is granted on the findings of a hydrological study showing the effect of such logging on the water supply below ground that serves the common good.

2003 has seen a winter of low rainfall.

These protective bylaws will become increasingly important if climate change affects the water resource.