When last we heard from Ken Wu, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee's Victoria campaign director had announced he would be stepping aside to travel the world. But those plans have been put on hold, with Mr. Wu launching a new environmental group in response to a wilderness committee decision he says will downsize the campaign against old growth logging on Vancouver Island. But Joe Foy, a senior staffer with committee, has rejected Mr. Wu's interpretation of that decision.
Speaking to reporters at Saanich's Francis/King Regional Park, Mr. Wu said the Ancient Forest Alliance - whose founders include the committee's former junior campaigner Tara Sawatsky and Metchosin photographer T.J. Watt - "will fill a void."
"The Western Canada Wilderness Committee's office, its old growth campaign, it's three old growth campaigners, its storefront and its Website will be closed shortly - not my decision," he explained. "And I believe it's important we continue to educate and mobilize the people of Victoria."
In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Foy confirmed the committee's store in Victoria is being replaced with an office because the store "wasn't a money-making venture for us."
But he said no jobs are being eliminated, although some of their responsibilities are being changed. As a result, the committee's old growth campaign on the island will be directed from Vancouver as part of a province-wide effort against such logging.
"It's perfectly legitimate for Ken to be concerned. It's a really important campaign. But I think he's got it wrong," said Mr. Foy.
Still, the committee's national campaign director described Mr. Wu's decision to continue his environmental work as "awesome."
"The campaign and the movement in the general can very much use Ken Wu," he said.
The following is a complete copy of the news release announcing Mr. Wu's new group.
January 19, 2010
New BC Organization "Ancient Forest Alliance" Launched to Protect BC's Old-Growth Forests and Forestry Jobs
Media Conference TODAY in Old-Growth Forest
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
11:00 am - Meet in Parking Lot (off Munn Road) of Francis King Regional Park (20 minutes from downtown Victoria), then 3 minute walk to Victoria's largest Douglas Fir tree for media conference with Ken Wu, Tara Sawatsky, and TJ Watt
***NOTE: Photographers and camera people may want to bring a flash or lighting in case it is dark in the forest
A new organization working to protect BC's old-growth forests and forestry jobs, the "Ancient Forest Alliance" (AFA), is being launched today by Victoria environmentalist and former Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC) campaign director Ken Wu, former WCWC forest and marine campaigner Tara Sawatsky, and Metchosin photographer TJ Watt.
The new organization will undertake expeditions to document the endangered ancient forests, heritage trees, and clearcuts destroying the remaining old-growth forests on Vancouver Island and in southern BC, and work to undertake public education and mobilization campaigns to ensure their protection. The AFA would not be constrained by charitable status that forbids organizations from rejecting or endorsing politicians and parties due to their stances on important issues.
"We'll be able to hit much harder - and also give stronger rewards - to politicians and political parties based on their stances regarding the fate of ancient forests and BC forestry jobs," states Wu.
The organization is calling on the BC Liberal government to:
- Undertake a Provincial Old-Growth Strategy that will inventory the old-growth forests in BC and protect them where they are scarce (ie. Vancouver Island, southern Mainland coast, southern Interior, etc.)
- Ensure the sustainable logging of second-growth forests, which now constitute the majority of forest lands in southern BC.
- End the export of BC raw logs to foreign mills in order to ensure a guaranteed log supply for BC mills and value-added processing facilities.
- Assist in the retooling and development of BC coastal sawmills and value-added facilities to handle second-growth logs.
- Undertake new, democratic land-use planning processes to protect endangered forests based on new First Nations land-use plans, ecosystem-based scientific assessments, and climate change mitigation strategies through forest protection.
See the new (rough) website at www.ancientforestalliance.org
"With the closure of most of the Wilderness Committee chapter in Victoria, including the local old-growth campaign and its campaigners, there is a void that needs to be quickly filled. We need a positive alternative that will continue the campaign - but more effectively this time without the handcuffs of charitable status that limits what one can say and do about politicians and the government," states Ken Wu, Ancient Forest Alliance spokesperson. "We're talking about half a million hectares of old-growth forest at risk on Vancouver Island alone. There's too much at stake, and there's no way we're going to let this campaign slip away in Victoria and let government and industry go unchallenged here. We need local campaigners who know the local areas and the local citizens who are determined to save our ancient forests and to ban raw log exports."
Currently the BC Liberal government contends that old-growth forests are not endangered on Vancouver Island, while the NDP supports an old-growth strategy to inventory and further conserve old-growth forests, and the BC Green Party supports an end to old-growth logging and raw log exports on the Island.