Media Release: BC Liberals open the back door to log protected forests under the guise of "science" and "local communities"
October 10, 2012 - VICTORIA, BC – BC Liberal Government opens back door to potentially log protected old-growth forests in BC’s Central Interior under the guise of “science” and “local communities”.
The BC Liberal Government announced yesterday a new forestry action plan for BC’s Central Interior that would open the “back door” for logging in currently protected forests. By the spring of 2013 the BC government plans to create frameworks for a “science-based review” and “community-engagement” process to potentially open up forest reserves that currently protect old-growth forests, scenery for tourism, species at risk, and wildlife in the Central Interior. Conservationists are calling the government’s invoking of “science” and “local community input” as Trojan horses for logging companies to access protected forests. The government’s action plan is detailed in a new report, “Beyond the Beetle: A Mid-Term Timber Supply Action Plan” at: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/
“The BC Liberals are using weasel-words and sneaky manoeuvres to open the back door for the logging industry to get into these currently protected forests under the guise of ‘science’ and the politically correct phrase of ‘local community input’ - despite the fact that a majority of people have already clearly said ‘no’ to logging in protected forest reserves during the public input process and that a true science-based review would show the need to protect more forests to slow the decline of endangered species and wildlife, not to log their few protected reserves,” stated Ken Wu, executive director of the Ancient Forest Alliance. “What I predict is that the BC government will set-up a ‘rigged-game’ for the science review with an overarching constraint that the existing unsustainable levels of timber harvest must be maintained – meaning that science will be used as a tool to determine which protected areas should be logged, not whether or not they should remain protected or be expanded as needed by endangered species, wildlife, tourism, and wild salmon. In addition, having local logging industry reps sit at local committees to decide whether to log these areas certainly won't hinder the BC Liberals’ logging goals.”
The rationale for opening up protected forest reserves is that an impending shortfall in available timber supplies to support Central Interior sawmills will soon take effect, known as the “falldown effect”. This shortfall in timber supplies in relation to an overcapacity in the forest industry is the result of the loss of mature forests from the pine beetle infestation (caused by climate change and forest fire suppression) and a massive forest industry expansion in the Interior in recent years to take advantage of the infestation, as well as a decades-long history of overcutting the best stands at lower elevations resulting in diminishing returns as the standing timber declines in volume and value and becomes more expensive to access.
“Rewarding unsustainable behaviour with more unsustainable behaviour is wrong and foolish. The Interior timber industry’s unsustainable expansion and overcutting of beetle-affected wood and vast areas of living trees should not be rewarded with more of the same inside of our protected forest reserves now - that’s the worst, most myopic course of action possible and it’s precisely the type of mindset that has brought this planet to the ecological brink,” stated Wu. “Instead the BC Liberal government should diversify rural economies, reduce overcutting while supporting the creation of more higher-end value-added wood manufacturing jobs, ensure sustainable second-growth forestry, end wood waste in clearcuts, end raw log exports to foreign mills, retrain forestry workers, and expand forest protections for wildlife, tourism, recreation, and wild fisheries.
The move to log protected forest reserves and Old-Growth Management Areas is based on the false notion that because there are many beetle-killed trees, that the entire ecosystem is not ‘living’ and therefore clearcutting and punching roads into vast swaths of protected forests – which are a mix of living and dead trees that are part of very vibrant, alive, and continually growing ecosystems – does little environmental damage.
Pine beetle-affected forests include living, unaffected trees of various species, younger regenerating trees, and intact understory vegetation and soil structures, while the dead trees and woody debris provide homes for much wildlife. The extent of the pine beetle infestation is unnatural, caused by anthropogenic climate change and decades of wildfire suppression by the forest industry – however, further clearcutting of these living, dynamic forest ecosystems by removing all the living and dead trees and punching road networks throughout them, leading to soil erosion, vastly increases the environmental damage and removes vital wildlife habitat.
Forest reserve designations in the BC Interior include:
- Old-Growth Management Areas (that protect representative tracts of scarce old-growth forests)
- Riparian Management Areas (that protect fish habitat and water quality)
- Ungulate Winter Ranges (wintering habitat for mountain caribou, mountain goats, etc.)
- Wildlife Habitat Areas (that protect species at risk such as grizzlies and other wildlife)
- Visual Quality Objectives (that protect scenery for tourism)
- Recreation Areas (campsites, hiking areas, etc.)
The proposed environmental deregulation would take place in four Timber Supply Areas (TSA’s): the Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake, and Lakes (Burns Lake area) TSA’s.
A true science-based framework without the constraint of needing to maintain unsustainable harvest levels, and that focuses on what it will take to sustain species at risk, biodiversity, water quality and scenery (ie. that focuses on the original land-use plan goals without new, added logging goals) would almost certainly recommend the expansion of Old-Growth Management Areas and other forest reserves, given the advancement of landscape ecology and conservation biology over the past two decades in recognizing the destructiveness of habitat loss and fragmentation on species at risk and fish-bearing streams. A true science-based review without unsustainable timber constraints would almost certainly reveal the inadequacy of the existing land-use plans and their system of protected forest reserves to stem the decline of species at risk, to sustain old-growth ecosystems, to support scenery for tourism, and to protect fish habitat - it would lead to an expansion of forest protections.
“More overcutting and opening up protected forest reserves to try to prop-up an unsustainable industry a bit longer is like burning up parts of your house for firewood after depleting all your other wood sources. In the end, you’re a lot worse off,” stated Wu. “Logging protected forests in this province is a no-go in terms of public opinion. For the BC Liberals to hang this albatross around their neck in the months leading up to BC election is both wrong and unwise – they need to start correcting their course, fast.”