New satellite technology sheds light on old-growth logging in BC

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      Dax Dasilva was just 17 when he and his stepbrother drove from Richmond to Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Sound to join thousands of protesters rallying against clearcut logging in the area. The now-famous protests, nicknamed the War in the Woods, were part of a seminal experience for Dasilva.

      “We won that protest,” he remembers, “but it was really that trip across the island, where we drove through hours and hours of clearcut moonscape, that probably turned me into an environmentalist—seeing how much we were able to destroy.”

      The tech entrepreneur began working with computers at age 13, and always knew he’d go into software-building (he founded Lightspeed, a successful commerce tech company, in 2005). But the goal was always to eventually take that experience and use it for eco-conservation.

      In 2021, he founded the nonprofit environmental alliance Age of Union, putting $40 million across 10 projects that fight to protect threatened species and ecosystems across Canada and around the world—including initatives in Peru, Haiti, Trinidad, and the Congo.

      Once the trees are cut down, they can’t be brought back.

      His newest project, in partnership with environmental nonprofit, went online a few weeks ago. Called Forest Eye, the satellite tracking system aggregates information from provincial satellites and logging permits to create a clear picture of what’s going on in BC’s old-growth forests. Forest Eye then sends out alerts—about, for example, the construction of new logging roads or changes in forest cover—to local communities, leaders, and policymakers.

      “Despite the win we had 30 years ago, the fight for old growth in BC is still ongoing,” Dasilva says via Zoom. “Some of these extraction industries just do what they want and ask for forgiveness later, but once the trees are cut down, they can’t be brought back.”

      Dasilva has invested $100,000 into the development of Forest Eye. He sees it as an opportunity to raise public awareness about old-growth logging.

      In 2020, the BC NDP promised to implement all 14 of its own old-growth recommendations, including stopping or deferring logging of the most at-risk forests. But since then, almost 5,000 hectares of old growth have logged, and not a single recommendation has been met.

      “At the end of the day, the promise to protect old-growth forests is not being upheld, and I think that the best way to tackle this is to make visible to the policymakers, local communities, and local Indigenous leaders what’s happening on the ground,” Dasilva says. “Many lawmakers have great intentions and want to do the right thing, and maybe they don’t have the visibility. So now we’re providing it.”