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Posted: June 6, 2021

It’s the same forestry horror show all over again

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

Call it “The War in the Woods Redux.”

Only this time it’s Fairy Creek. But the problem remains the same. B.C. doesn’t know how to sustainably log its own world-class forests and sooner or later it’s going to have to learn. Until it does, it’s going to be chaos in the woods and that doesn’t help anybody.

In 1993, some 859 people were arrested for protesting clear cut logging in Clayoquot Sound in what the Canadian Encyclopedia calls “the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.” Clayoquot Sound metaphorically speaking is only a few tall Douglas Firs away from Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island where sadly this same angry scenario is being played out again with new participants but the same old game.

Are we ever going to learn?

Doesn’t look like it. As of late this week some 158 people had been arrested as the RCMP enforced a B.C. court injunction preventing protesters from blockading the Teal Jones Group from logging ancient cedar trees hundreds of years old on the site near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island. Some of the protesters had chained themselves to trees and even encased themselves in concrete to prevent being moved reminiscent of the giant Clayoquot protest nearly 30 years earlier.

Activists warn hundreds of others are prepared to be arrested at the site known as Tree Forest Licence 46 on First Nations territory. But First Nations members themselves are divided on the issue and pleading to be left alone to decide the fate of the giant trees.

In short, it’s a mess and will probably take years to work out in the courts. Meanwhile the ancient firs, cedar and spruce in the largest temperate rain forest on earth will continue to fall and that’s the real tragedy of the situation.

But that’s the dysfunctional culture of the B.C. logging industry and it has always been thus. In fact, as far back as 1956 H.R. MacMillan, B.C.’s first great lumber magnate, told the Sloan Royal Commission investigation that unless provincial forest policy was changed drastically in B.C. “we will have our birthright stolen, our standard of living reduced, our taxes increased and our forests – the foundation of our wealth –[destroyed.”

It’s the old cliché: the more things change the more they remain the same.

So, did things change after MacMillan’s dire warning? Not much according to professional forester Ian Mahood in his 1990 book, “Three Men and a Forester.” In it, he says: “It is my professional opinion that if forest policy is not soon reshaped, British Columbia will become the Amazon of the northern Hemisphere.”

Ken Drushka in his book “Stumped,” says: “A cardinal rule of the forest industry is that one does not rock the boat.”

So when Premier John Horgan announced his plan Tuesday to “modernize” forest policy in the province it was all about providing more “fibre” to smaller operators and a fast skip and a jump past the old growth issue.

“There will be new deferrals on old-growth, subject to consultation with the titleholders – Indigenous Peoples who have been on the territories of British Columbia for millennia,” he told the press conference.

Deferrals? My Webster’s Dictionary defines “defer” thus: “to put off, to a future time, postpone, delay.” Does that sound like our premier cares about old growth? He can’t bring himself to say trees – little alone old growth – preferring to speak about providing “fibre” to industry.

The ancient trees being talked about are up to a thousand years old and more. Do you think this precious biological treasure that belongs to all of us, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike, is going to be protected by more “deferrals?”

In the best tradition of former US President Donald Trump, Horgan is just cynically “doubling down” to please his corporate union base and hoping the whole issue will just blow away if he waits long enough.

In other words, we’re back to “talk and log,” the traditional, exploitive and industrial logging culture of B.C. that helps some but hurts many, including all living species that depend on our magnificent, temperate old growth  forests that are disappearing in front of our very eyes.

And that’s no less than a tragedy.

Lead image: Old growth demonstrators protesting in Castlegar last week. Photos by Gerry Warner

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who is trying as hard as he can to avoid despair over the disappearance of our irreplaceable ancient forests.

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