Another logging confrontation may be coming on Quadra Island.

On November 15, 2021 a little group of Quadra Island ‘grannies,’ calling themselves the Friends of Hyacinthe Creek, shut down the Mosaic Forest Management logging operations in Tan Creek.

Eileen Sowerby – Photo by Rod Burns

“We said they could take out the logs that they’ve already cut. My goodness, they got so many the first day and a half before I found them and  we stopped them. This was cutting above the headwaters of Tan Creek that goes into Mud Lake and coho spawn in the bottom,” said Eileen Sowerby.

She emailed that, “The lower reaches of Tan Creek are a nursery for Coho fry, but, due to the creek drying up in the summer in recent years we have had to rescue the fry from creek puddles and move them to the lake.”

Mud Lake feeds into Hyacinthe Creek.

“I think Mosaic waited for us to die off because the average age of the four grannys was 73, but I am still able,” said Sowerby.

The Beaver dams that have been holding the water back during the summer months for thousands of years also cause flooding on Walcan Road – so road workers have been destroying them – Photo by Rod Burns

She expects Mosaic to return.

“Mosaic are huge. They are the largest private landowners in BC. They own 8% of Cortes Island, I’m sure you know that, and it’s different there because they own the land. This is just a tree farm license,” explained Sowerby.

In May, the logging giant signed a harvesting agreement the We Wai Kai First Nation and Roga Contracting to form a new company, Way Key Ventures.

“They’re going to train We Wai Kai to log and sell them thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment to do it.  To me, it doesn’t matter who’s doing it, the survival of the Coho come first. So if I have to, I will blockade with my cedar hat on and my blanket,” explained Sowerby.

Eileen Sowerby (right) and two friends in the ceremonial blankets and cedar hats given to the them by the Homalco First Nation – Photo by James Hackett

She was referring to the ceremonial hat and blanket the Homalco First Nation gave her last month.

Sowerby and two of her friends had been the title holders of 47 acres on Read Island.They never considered the land to be theirs. It was originally purchased for a project that did not work out. Twenty-five years later they decided that as Read Island is part of the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation, they would give it back. The Homalco responded through a special celebration at their centre in Campbell River, which was where Sowerby and her friends were given ceremonial hats and blankets.

Walcan road cuts through the Reed Lake wetland – Photo by Rod Burns

She has been watching Mosaic and its predecessor, TimberWest, log the Hyacinthe Creek water shed for over 20 years.

“They’re very, very nice about it and very polite, but the creek is drying up and in 2021, for the first time in my memory, was absolutely dry,” said Sowerby.

She believes there are three reasons for this: climate change, a new road through the wetlands and logging.

“The lack of water is due to probably mostly climate change, but we can stop the logging. There’s no way that continual logging will help salmon in any way,” she said.

Sowerby is a former board member of the Quadra Island Salmon Enhancement Society (QISES), which has records of the Coho salmon returns to Hyacinthe Creek for 74 years.

Eileen Sowerby also emailed a year by year count from 1947 to 2021

“In 1947 there were 3,500 coho. How they counted them, I don’t know, but there were a lot. I’ve been counting fish there too, in the creek. Last year, in November, there were 20 seen, the year before that there were two,” she explained.

“The Chum are fine. They just stay there for a few months and they are continuing okay, but the Coho are going. This is probably a 10,000 year species of Coho that are genetically stable and strong to maybe withstand climate change because they have such diversity.”

She does not expect the Coho to disappear right away. The numbers of fish that return to spawn vary from year to year. They may continue to return for 20 years, but the basic trend is a downward curve.

Sowerby tried to get the Quadra Island Salmon Enhancement Society involved in the fight to preserve salmon, but they are nonpolitical so she left the board to become one of the founders of the Friends of Hyacinthe Creek.

Hyacinthe Creek – Photo by Rod Burns

“We want no more logging in the Hyacinthe Creek Watershed,” she said.

Top image credit: Tan Creek reduced to a trickle – Photo by Rod Burns