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Posted: May 2, 2021

B.C. government pursuing a cynical forest strategy

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

John Horgan’s NDP government won’t say it officially, but a recent article circulating in the media makes it obvious he’s given the forest industry the green light to liquidate the remaining old growth timber in B.C. and cash in on current high lumber prices.

The article entitled “A Strategy for Forests that Benefits All British Columbians,” claims less than one per cent of the timber left in the province is logged annually and only one-quarter of that is considered old growth.

And who are the authors of this hard to believe claim?

Why it’s Jeff Bromley, long-time member of the IWA, once the biggest logging union in the province, and Susan Yurkovich, President and CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries. Gee, I wonder if this pair might be biased?

But instead of making such an incredible claim himself, Horgan cynically relies on industry and union representatives to make the claim for him even though they stand to profit the most from the destruction of BC’s old growth forests.

It’s a cunning strategy on Horgan’s part and it could be a winner given the record high lumber prices now and the millions in stumpage tax revenue pouring into the government’s coffers. Call it green gold with both the companies and unions cashing in along with the politicians.

So, it’s happy days in the forest sector. But not for those who care about B.C.’s rapidly disappearing old growth forests, which some experts claim to be less than five per cent of their former domain. For them, what’s happening to our ancient forests is nothing less than an ecological tragedy and a tragedy for the natural environment.

But who cares about the environment when there’s money to be made?

Obviously, the Horgan government doesn’t care though they try to make us think otherwise. You can trace this back to a year ago when with much fanfare the government issued its “strategic review” on managing old growth forests. Entitled “A New Future for our Old Forests,” the review’s authors state emphatically that society is undergoing a “paradigm shift” in its relationship with the environment and the government needs to consider this in terms of how it manages our ancient forests.

The authors, both professional foresters, said there is a “widespread lack of confidence” in the government’s system of managing the forests of B.C. and advise it to engage more with Indigenous leaders, local communities and forest stakeholders.

Well, that was a year ago and no official response from government. Forest Minister Katrine Conroy said in the legislature recently the government was dedicated to more “wholistic approaches” to old growth and eco-system protection but needs more time. Since the beginning, Premier Horgan has been missing in action on the old growth issue and ignored the call for a “paradigm shift.”

Meanwhile, have you not noticed the great increase in logging truck traffic on the roads in recent months? Those trucks are feeding an insatiable demand for lumber in the US housing market and we’re stripping B.C. bare to provide it. Within a decade or so the only old growth left in B.C. will be in Stanley Park.

And this brings us back to Premier Horgan whose old growth “strategy” is pretty damn obvious.  Get in bed with the province’s lumber barons and forestry unions and use the government’s best spin doctors to placate any public concern. It’s called “talk and log” and that’s the way it has always been in B.C.

Meanwhile clear cutting will continue from the Kootenays to Vancouver Island and the green, forested hill sides that BC was once famous for will increasingly be covered with eroding logging roads, stumps and rotting timber slash.

It’s a cynical strategy, but it seems to work. However, as the old growth disappears over the next decade or so, Premier Horgan should keep in mind that he may become known as the Premier who took the “beautiful “ out of Beautiful BC.

The appellation would serve him right.

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist who believes the current government is allowing our heritage forests to be plundered for electoral gain.

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