When will the NDP start protecting old growth?
North American lumber prices have surged to a record high and we should all be jumping for joy. Right? Depends on your point of view.
If you cut down trees for a living, you’re laughing because more British Columbia trees are being cut down than ever before. At the end of February, SPF (spruce, pine, fir) was selling for more than US$1,000 per thousand-board-feet, a price hitherto believed to be impossible. Prices have since sagged a bit, but they are still extraordinarily high and the lumber industry is cashing in.
That’s the way it is in an industry long known for its boom-and-bust cycles. The market gives and the market takes away and right now the market is taking away the last stands of old growth forest left in “Beautiful BC” and this life-long B.C. resident believes it’s time we took notice of what’s happening around us, namely the loss of the greatest temperate rainforest left in the world and all that goes with it.
What’s that, you rightfully ask. Trees are everywhere. That’s true, but old growth forests aren’t “everywhere” and in B.C. our old growth ecosystems are rapidly disappearing.
No one knows for sure how much old growth is left. Some estimates say as little as three per cent and the NDP government appears to be fudging the truth according to the newsmagazine Focus on Victoria referring to the much-hyped government report released last September which claimed that it was adopting a “new paradigm” for old growth logging in B.C. and made 14 recommendations to do so.
To date, none of the recommendations have been acted on and instead of ending old growth logging in the province all the NDP did was announce “deferrals” of ancient forest stands being cut. In fact, the two-year deferral of 352,729 hectares of old growth logging the NDP announced contained very little old growth, according to government maps Focus on Victoria obtained.
“The details of the mapping suggest the exercise may have been more about testing the government’s ability to mislead reporters than it was about protecting old-growth forests,” the article stated.
In fact, old growth logging was only being deferred on 64,000 hectares, the article said. Yet in the campaign prior to last fall’s election, “the BC NDP promoted the idea that a re-elected John Horgan government would save BC’s remaining old-growth forests,” the article concluded. And, since when is “deferring” old growth logging “ending” old growth logging, this writer would like to know?
Yes, but I can hear some of you saying as long as we have some forest left, does it really matter? Well, consider this. Old growth forests are ecosystems that provide us with the necessities of life including the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink and the wood we build our homes with. They are also home to thousands of animal and plant species as well as medicinal herbs, places to recreate, places to find solitude and places to appreciate nature at its finest.
Old growth forests sequester vast amounts of carbon that’s triggering climate change and threatening our very survival. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the message.
If not, consider this. We’ve all heard about Easter Island and the civilization that once existed there, which built the giant, stone statues that now lie toppled with almost no Easter Islanders left. Where did they go? Some say they were abducted by aliens. Others say giant rats laid waste to them. Climate change was also blamed. But a 1995 study by famed geographer Jared Diamond, “Guns, Germs and Steel,” points to a far simpler and more deadly explanation – deforestation.
When European explorers first encountered the few Easter Islanders left in 1722 there wasn’t a tree growing more than 10 feet high, Diamond says. The hapless islanders had cut down almost all the rich tropical forest that used to cover the island. With the forest gone, the islanders lacked the basic resources to sustain themselves and soon their civilization was on the edge of extinction too.
Think about this the next time you look at a barren B.C. clear cut patch where once an old growth forest stood. It’s not there anymore and that may be the fate awaiting us too.
Log photo by Gordon Fuller/Photo submitted
– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who will fight to his dying day to stop the destruction of B.C.’s once magnificent old growth forests.