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HEARTWOOD: Forest Guardians of Cortes Island

Citizens on a remote BC island take on big timber as they try to end industrial clear-cutting and build a new kind of forestry economy.

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UPDATE: THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 2013

HEY EVERYONE! I AM SO EXCITED TO UNVEIL THE BRAND NEW WEB PLATFORM FOR HEARTWOOD: FOREST GUARDIANS OF CORTES ISLAND! THANKS TO THE GIRLS AT MOOSESTASH FILMS FOR BUILDING THE SITE. I WILL BE HEADING BACK UP TO CORTES ISLAND IN JUST A FEW SHORT WEEKS TO CONTINUE SHOOTING THE FILM. I'LL BE BRINGING YOU LOTS OF NEW MEDIA CONTENT FROM THE FRONT LINES OF THE CAMPAIGN TO SAVE CORTES ISLAND'S THREATENED FORESTLANDS FROM INDUSTRIAL LOGGING. CHECK OUT THE SITE AT WWW.HEARTWOODFILM.COM.

WITH GRATITUDE,

DANIEL J. PIERCE & THE HEARTWOOD TEAM

UPDATE: TUESDAY, MARCH 5th, 2013

ATTENTION! INDIEGOGO HAS GRACIOUSLY EXTENDED OUR FUNDING DEADLINE BY ONE WEEK! THE CAMPAIGN WAS SUPPOSED TO END TODAY AT 11:59PM, HOWEVER, IT WILL NOW END NEXT TUESDAY, MARCH 12th AT 11:59PM. WE APOLOGIZE TO ANYONE WHO CAME HERE THINKING THIS WAS THEIR FINAL CHANCE TO CONTRIBUTE. BUT WE STILL HAVE A LOT OF FUNDS TO RAISE IN THE NEXT WEEK, SO I ENCOURAGE YOU TO PLEASE SUPPORT OUR PROJECT IN ANY WAY YOU CAN. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. AND THANK YOU TO INDIEGOGO FOR GRANTING US THIS RARE EXTENSION. WE FEEL BLESSED.

DANIEL J PIERCE & THE HEARTWOOD TEAM

 

SYNOPSIS

Heartwood is a feature-length and transmedia documentary about the coastal forestry movement in British Columbia, Canada.

The feature component will follow citizens on the remote island of Cortes who are uniting under a common vision of healthy forests and thriving communities. As one faction of the island launches a blockade against timber giant Island Timberlands, the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Forestry Co-Op are leading the push for a Community Forest on much of the island's Crown lands. The area's ecotourism collective are campaigning to save their industry from the effects of industrial clear-cuts on the landscape. And renowned mycologist Paul Stamets is investigating how beneficial fungi could be used to heal the damage that has already been done to our forestlands. Cortesians are saying NO to industrial logging and YES to sustainable, ecosystem-based community forestry and ecotourism.

The transmedia component will expand the scope of this story beyond the shores of Cortes. This web platform will explore other communities up and down the coast of BC that are engaged in this same struggle with the same few timber companies, and those that are finding solutions through community-driven, ecosystem-based forestry. This interactive interface will allow local artists, activists, photographers, and filmmakers to upload media and stories of their own struggles and successes. The forum will allow forest communities to coordinate actions, share knowledge and create a united front against these big corporate logging companies. This social media hub could become like the central nervous system for forest activism and community forestry in BC.

Set against a backdrop of global social unrest, economic turmoil, accelerating climate change, and indigenous awakening, Cortes is a microcosm of a world in crisis. With our ancient forests depleted and the market demands of the developing world becoming more and more vociferous, communities are taking a stand against foreign investors with no connection to the land. These tenacious Cortesians will lead us deep into the woods of Cortes to show us why their forests are worth saving—and how far they are willing to go to save them.

A PLEA FROM THE DIRECTOR

The director, Daniel J. Pierce. Photo by Shelby Tay.director

My name is Daniel J. Pierce and I am a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker. I have a history of making films that explore the dynamics of people coming together to create change within their communities, often in defense of the natural world. I have a strong interest in expanding this theme to include the complex relations between indigenous and settler communities, as they reunite and work together to defend and heal our planet. After centuries of colonization, and amidst a new form of corporate colonization that is still going on to this day, these shared efforts also represent the start of a long healing process between our two cultures.

My first film, The Hollow Tree—which was licensed to CBC Documentary Channel and Knowledge Network—peaked my interest in these themes, particularly the rich history of forestry in BC. While that film was about the citizens of Vancouver trying to save a dead tree, it is only logical that my next film would be about people taking a stand for living trees. So I am here today to humbly ask for your support in my quest to tell an urgent story that is currently unfolding on Cortes Island, British Columbia. This tenacious community is about to square off against forestry giant Island Timberlands (IT), as they attempt to log 2,700 acres of their Private Managed Forestlands on Cortes Island.

WHAT'S AT STAKE

The Carrington Children's Forest. Photo by TJ Watt.Children's Forest

While Island Timberlands and their shareholders extract huge profits from British Columbia through industrial logging and raw log exports, communities like Cortes Island are left with the social and environmental consequences, such as contaminated water, eroded soils, ruined salmon streams, decimated landscapes, and divided communities—not to mention the heartache of losing ancient forest ecosystems, to which citizens have cultivated deep spiritual connections.

THE CHARACTERS

Fred Savage and his kids with Sabina Leader-Mense in Green Valley. Photo by Daniel J. Pierce.Fred, Sabina, Kids

Heartwood will feature a cast of Cortesians who are all working in co-creative partnership with the forest. Sabina Leader-Mense is a heart-centered biologist who is developing a sensitive ecosystem inventory, in order to better understand the wide range of rare plant and animal communities that rely on Cortes Island's threatened forests. Peter Schmidt is a former logger who was doing gyppo logging in the Gulf Islands and heli-logging in the Great Bear Rainforest since he was 16 years old—now he's more interested in keeping the forest up. James Delorme is the current Chief of the Klahoose First Nation, and he is trying to build a sustainable forestry economy for his people. Ron Wolda is a bushy-bearded forester and miller who runs the only eco-forestry operation currently on Cortes. But the real hero of this story is the forest itself, which nourishes life on this tiny island.

THE GOLIATH

Island Timberlands clear-cut on Mclaughlin Ridge near Port Alberny. Photo by TJ Watt.McLaughlin Ridge Port Alberni

Island Timberlands is owned by Brookfield Asset Management, one of the largest investment corporations on Wall Street and owner of Zucotti Park in New York City, who evicted the Occupy Wall Street encampment last year. The BC Investment Management Corporation—which manages all public pension funds in British Columbia—also owns a large stake in Island Timberlands; and CIC, China's state-owned investment corporation, is negotiating a 12.5% stake in the company for over $100 million. Island Timberlands currently owns 634,000 acres of forestland on Vancovuer Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Sunshine Coast. They were specifically created by Brookfield to harvest the timber on their Privately Managed forestland in BC.

ECO-TOURISM AT RISK

Clear-cuts are like a blight upon the pristine landscape of the Discovery IslandsDiscovery Islands clear-cut

In 2008, for the first time in the history of BC, revenue generated from tourism exceeded that generated from the entire forestry industry, including pulp and paper. However, in the Discovery Islands—one of the most popular and pristine recreation areas in the province—sustainable eco-tourism jobs are taking a back seat to industrial logging. With the slow recovery of the US housing market, and the voracious appetite of the Asian industrial complex, timber companies are making a comeback to the Discovery Islands. Most of this area was logged 80-100 years ago. However, those second growth forests are now reaching maturity and the logging companies are on the fast track to take what they can while the markets are good. Despite demands from the local eco-tourism lobby to put a moratorium on logging what few untouched corridors remain on their tour routes, new contracts are being issued by the provincial government without any consultation with local communities. People come here to see majestic coastal landscapes, not unsightly clear-cuts. Industrial logging activities without any consideration of visual quality objectives will ultimately result in fewer tourists coming to the area, and family businesses shutting down. All for an extractive industry that creates minimal local benefits, and exports most of the raw materials to foreign mills.

FORESTRY FAIL

A ship leaving BC with a cargo of raw logs. Photo by Jack Tobin.Santa Francisca

Island Timberlands is one of the largest exporters of raw logs in BC, most of which are fetching international prices in the US & Asia. Meanwhile, BC mills are shutting their doors and long-time forestry professionals are finding themselves out of work. As a result, BC is creating less than one job per thousand cubic meters of timber harvested annually, while countries like Sweden and Switzerland are creating between 3 and 11 jobs, while harvesting one tenth of the timber—because their forest policies enable citizens to add value to the wood before it leaves the country. It is clear that, due to the massive deregulation that has happened under the governance of the BC Liberals, the current model of industrial clear-cutting and raw log exports is not only failing the forests, but forestry professionals as well.

THE SOLUTION

Ron Wolda and his assistant harvesting windfall on Cortes Island. Photo by Daniel J. Pierce.Ron Wolda and Devon

Parallel to this story of conflict and opposition, the Cortes community, in parternship with the Klahoose First Nation, is on the verge of obtaining a Community Forestry License on most of the Crown (Public) Lands on Cortes—about 60% of the island. They want to see this land managed in an ecosystem-based forestry model. Unlike industrial clear-cut methods employed by companies like Island Timberlands, this smaller-scale approach would allow the forest ecosystem to flourish, while local communities can extract a living from the forest for centuries to come. In this way, Cortesians are demonstrating in no uncertain terms how they want forestry to be done on Cortes. But Island Timberlands—while making some amendments to its logging plans—has shown little interest in changing its paradigm.

Bruce Ellingsen, co-director of the Cortes Forestry Co-Op. Photo by Daniel J. Pierce.Bruce Ellingsen

THE CHALLENGES

I don't want to create the illusion that there is total unity on the island. There are some on Cortes who believe that the blockaders are standing in the way of important economic development. Island Timberlands has hired several contractors from the island—including some men and women from the Klahoose First Nation—to do the road-building and brush-cutting before the actual logging takes place. So this blockade is preventing some folks in the community from going to work. As a result, the Klahoose leadership has declined to participate in any civil disobedience. If the blockaders wish to build unity on Cortes, it is imperative that they work on reaching out to those members of the community who are suffering because of their protest actions.

THE BIG PICTURE

Lamme Janssen building her winter home on Cortes. Photo by Daniel J. Pierce.Lamme Land

We are on the verge of a seismic shift in the way forestry is done in BC—only time will tell whether that shift means regeneration or collapse. Although this story is focused on Cortes, the same story is unfolding at every level of magnification in every forest community in BC—in fact, just about everywhere on Earth. Everywhere you look, aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities are reuniting to defend their land, water, resources, and communities from industrial development—so the global implications of this small story are immense. But the fact that it is playing out on such a small stage enables us to connect with real people who are confronting these issues on the ground in the most direct way possible—to protect the water that they drink, the air that they breathe, and the land that grows their food.

MYSTICAL MYCELIUM

Electron microscopy photo of the mycelium of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum.mycelium

If you have ever seen a mushroom in the forest, you are really only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Just below the surface is a vast interconnected network of tiny filaments known as mycelium that can span hundreds of acres in size. Mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies that emerge from the ground to release their spores. But what's happening underground is actually far more interesting. The mycelium have forged symbiotic relationships with the trees in the forest, transporting water and nutrients to where they are needed, and in exchange receiving valuable sugars from the trees. They can sense any impression upon the ground and can even transport data throughout the forest floor. Mycologist Paul Stamets calls the mycelium "the earth's natural Internet." They are also the interface between life and death. They munch on fallen wood debris and recylce the nutrients back into the system, building up the soil over time. They are sort of like a giant brain and stomach all rolled into one. They were some of the first organisms to crawl out of the ocean and begin feeding on the solid rock, breaking the minerals down into tiny particles, thus building up the soils. Without the mycelium, there would be no life on this earth. They are truly the ultimate Forest Guardians.

MYCOFORESTRY ON CORTES

An artist's rendering of a network of mushroom mycelium.mushroom network art

Renowned mycologist Paul Stamets has his mycoforestry research project on Cortes Island. He is researching how beneficial fungi could be used to heal the soil after clear-cuts. The fact of the matter is that when you clear-cut—particularly in the Discovery Islands, where the layer of topsoil is so thin—the trees are no longer there to hold the soil together, so it all gets washed away in the rain, along with all the complex networks of mycelium that had developed over the past 10,000 years.  Stamets is experimenting with a process by which recent clear-cuts could be innoculated with mycelium and woodchips in order to accelerate the process of decomposition and soil regeneration. Rather than burning all the waste wood in slashpiles—as is the current practice—this "marginally economic" wood could be chipped on site with blades coated in mycelium, so they can get an early start on replenshing the nutrient-base in the soil, so that future generations of the forest can grow strong and healthy. Currently, corporate logging companies are practically "mining" the forest—taking nutrients from the system without replenishing the soil, and so they are seeing less and less of a return on their investments with each subsequent harvest. This practice has the potential to not only save the soil, but also begin the long process of bringing our forests back to old-growth characteristics.

TRANSMEDIA COMPONENT

This fractal pattern is a visual representation of the Internet created by the OPTE Project.Internet fractal pattern

Up and down the coast of British Columbia, rural communities are engaged in the same struggle with a few private timber companies to protect their lands and waters from industrial logging. I want to create a platform where isolated communities can come together and synchronize their efforts. The interface will take the form of an interactive map of BC's coastal and island forests. Visitors to the site will be able to toggle views on the map, depending on which data they want to isolate. They can look at how much old-growth used to exist, how much is left, how much land is owned by private timber companies, how much is Crown land, which areas are slated to be logged, which areas have recently been logged, which communities are currently engaged in campaigns, and which communities are currently building community forests. Visitors will be able to zoom in on particular areas of interest and learn more about them through videos, photos, and stories. While our production team will provide some of this content, we will also be engaging with local artists, activists, journalists, filmmakers, and photographers to post own content to the site, geo-tag their region, coordinate actions, schedule workshops, share knowledge, and cross-promote each other's campaigns and initiatives. This may help to establish a more unified voice in speaking for our ancient forests, sensitive ecosystems and vital watersheds. It will also help those communities who are finding solutions through community forestry to tell their stories, share what they have learned, ask questions, engage in dialogue, and help to raise everyone up together. This platform could become like the central nervous system for forest activism and community forestry on the coast of BC.

YOUR IMPACT

By helping to fund this project, you will not only be helping me to realize my dream of telling this epic tale, but you will be directly helping to affect the outcome of this dispute. The ultimate goal of this film is to elevate the consciousness of all who view it and to inspire people to stand in solidarity with rural communities that are on the front lines of this struggle. The more people who become aware of what is happening in far-away valleys, on the tops of mountains, and on remote islands such as Cortes, the closer we will get to stirring up a critical mass of public outcry that could shift us away from this disastrous trajectory our forests are currently on.

In exchange for your contribution, I promise to devote my whole being to delivering this story to you with soul and compassion—on the web, on television, and in cinemas. Together, we can make our voices heard and make BC's forests a key provincial election issue in 2013.

Cortes youth at the Basil Creek blockade. Photo by Daniel J. Pierce. Kids Blockade

BECOME A FOREST GUARDIAN!

With gratitude,

Daniel J. Pierce,

Director • Producer 

WHAT WE NEED

If you honour me with your money, here is what I will spend it on:

- Equipment rentals (I own the camera I am shooting on, but it will be necessary to rent some additional accessories.)

- Equipment purchases (There are some items that just make more sense to purchase outright, like a better clip-on microphone.)

- Travel (between car rentals, ferry costs, food, and accommodations, going back and forth between Vancouver and Cortes really adds up.)

- Personnel (I can’t do this by myself. I will need to hire a production assistant and an editor to make this film the best it can be.)

- Post-production (colour correction, sound design, and tape transfers are all big ticket items that are necessary to bring this film up to broadcast standards.)

- Web design & marketing (we will need an awesome website with some slick design elements to tell this story with style and substance.)

Our target is $20,000, but even if we do not reach our target there is still LOTS we can do with your contributions. That is why we are running a flexible campaign. Look at what we've been able to do with NO budget. Think of what we will be able to accomplish with your help.

DONOR INCENTIVES

For every download of the 'Wild We Stand' music compilation, $3 will go towards the Wildstands Forest Alliance to help with their efforts to protect the forests of Cortes Island. Wildstands is an informal alliance of allies on Cortes Island, including Island Stance, which is the driving force behind the blockade actions against Island Timberlands.

Sword Fern – $15 – Unlimited

• "The Hollow Tree" Digital Download – Daniel J. Pierce's first documentary about the struggle to save the vestiges of a thousand-year-old Western Red Cedar in Vancouver.
• Special Thanks in the credits

Vine Maple – $25 – Unlimited

• "The Hollow Tree" Limited Edition DVD – Daniel J. Pierce's first documentary about the struggle to save the vestiges of a thousand-year-old Western Red Cedar in Vancouver.
• "Wild We Stand" Digital Album Download – A compilation of songs by west coast artists curated by the Wildstands Alliance to help with their fundraising efforts.

Arbutus – $50 – 100 available

• "Wild We Stand" + "The Hollow Tree" Digital Downloads
• LifeBox Forest-in-a-Box – Everything you need to grow a flourishing forest ecosystem in your backyard garden or living room, all contained within a handy cardboard box.

Hemlock – $100 – 50 available

• Digital Downloads + LifeBox
• Ancient Forest Alliance poster + greeting card – The Ancient Forest Alliance is a non-profit dedicated to the protection of endangered old-growth forests and the creation of sustainable forestry jobs in BC.
Wilderness Committee one-year membership package – The Wilderness Committee is Canada's largest membership-based wilderness preservation organization. This one-year membership package includes a membership card, copies of the Wilderness Committee's educational reports and a copy of the 2013 Canada's Endangered Wilderness calendar—plus an exclusive set of five beautiful greeting cards depicting coastal BC scenery and wildlife.

White Pine – $250 – 25 available

• Digital Downloads + LifeBox
• TJ Watt signed photographic print – TJ Watt is an outstanding conservation photographer and Ancient Forest Alliance campainer. Choose from one of several gorgeous shots taken in the forests of Cortes Island.

Sitka Spruce – $500 – 10 available

• Digital Downloads + LifeBox
• Cedar Carvings by Frank Martin + Telquaa – Frank Martin (Heiltsuk, Bella Bella) and his wife Telquaa Helen Michell (Wet'suwet'en, Burns Lake) are indigenous elders, human rights defenders, and phenomenal woodcarvers currently living in Harrison Hot Springs, BC.

Red Cedar – $1000 – 3 available

• Digital Downloads + LifeBox
• 2-night getaway to Cortes Island in one of three beautiful seaside cottages generously donated by the Boathouse, the T'ai Li Lodge, and the Gorge Waterfront Cabin.
• Associate Producer credit

Douglas Fir – $2500 – 1 available

• 2-night stay at Cortes Island’s premier retreat + learning centre Hollyhock
• Choose any workshop from their full online catalogue
• Full Producer credit

BIG THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS!

Hollyhock           Lifebox           AFA            WC           Shambhala logo

OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP

Please share, share, share! Don’t spam people, but if everyone could post this on their social media networks, and send this directly to 10 friends who they think would support this project, we will be well on our way to reaching our target.

Team on This Campaign: