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Mining B.C.’s forests for ruin and profitPosted: August 21, 2012
So the solution to the B.C. forest industry crisis is to cut more timber, according to the report of the Special Committee on Timber Supply released in Victoria this week. Who can deny now that the fox is in charge of the hen house when it comes to forest management in our once verdant province?
Oh, I know “SuperNatural B.C,” the “best place on earth” according to the current government, is still largely green. But take a flight to Vancouver sometime and a different picture emerges. When you look out the window you don’t exactly see a sea of green like the glossy tourist brochures say. What you see is a sea of clear-cuts from one end of the province to the other. North/south, east/west, it doesn’t matter. The pock-marked landscape runs virtually from the city limits of Cranbrook to Vancouver and when you fly over Vancouver Island, it’s the same sickening scene only worse.
Not a pretty sight and it’s there for a reason.
For over 100 years, we’ve been mining – not logging – the once magnificent woods of B.C. And when you mine a material it’s gone. You don’t get it back. It’s been the same with logging in this besotted province. What were the first trees logged shortly after Captain Vancouver sailed down the West Coast? Old growth Douglas firs that used to soar straight as an arrow more than 200 feet high at the corner of Hastings and Granville and up and down the coast.
The British Navy, then the greatest navy on earth, found those Douglas fir logs to be perfect for spars on their sailing ships and handy for building forts and stockades to keep the indigenous people at bay. And by the time steam came and sail boats were a thing of the past, those same Douglas firs were used to build homes for the settlers that flooded into Vancouver, Victoria and the rest of the province. And it also made fortunes for lumber barons like H. R. MacMillan and hundreds of others who became rich as our patrimony was ripped from the ground and used all over the province and exported around the world, especially to the U.S., which had already ravaged its timber resources and now Asia where the forests were cut eons ago.
Are you getting the picture?
We haven’t been “logging” the forest in the conventional sense of the term which implies forest stewardship to ensure there will always be trees to log. We’ve been clear-cutting almost every last tree for quick profit and letting nature take care of the future. Don’t believe me? Well consider a key report recommendation that suggests more use of “marginally economic forest types.” Why do we have to turn to the margins of B.C.’s once great forest lands when we once possessed the greatest temperate rain forest on earth?
It can be difficult for the average layman to appreciate this because when you look out your window almost anywhere in B.C. you see trees. But most of those trees are already committed to the major timber companies in the province or not considered commercial to log.
And why have we fallen into this quicksand of forestry woe? We waste almost as much timber as we log (see picture) and this has left us in a silvicultural hole bigger than some of the open pit mines in the province.
If you want more proof look at the report’s admission that we’ve fallen so far back in recent years, in keeping forest inventory, that we can’t even make a reasonable estimate of how many trees we’ve got left. And if you’re looking to apportion blame, it’s not just the current government. It’s all provincial governments for the past hundred years that have taken a three blind mice approach to forestry.
And don’t fall for the line that we can blame it all on the pine beetle epidemic. Yes, there’s a pine beetle crisis out there, but that was a crisis largely of our own making because for years we’ve planted primarily pine in areas that were better suited for other species.
In response to the all-party report, Forests Minister Steve Thomson says he’s going to come up with an “action plan” within a week. I say to Mr. Thomson with respect that he’s dreaming in Technicolor if he thinks a solution to 100 years of abusing the forest can be found in a week.
Gerry Warner is a retired journalist who is now a City of Cranbrook councillor. His views expressed are his own and do not reflect city council in any way.Tags: B.C. forest industryPerceptions by Gerry WarnerSpecial Committee on Timber Supply
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