BRITISH COLUMBIA – Now that the Province has finally released its anxiously awaited report on old-growth harvesting and subsequent responses to its recommendations, we can finally get to work on the important matter of protecting our working forests.
A healthy BC forest sector equals stable communities, strong families, strong economies, carbon positive buildings, sustainably managed resources, huge tax revenues and green forests in perpetuity.
From the TLA’s perspective—who have been advocating for the forestry sector and timber harvesting contractors in BC for almost eight decades—we support that government has firmly committed to further and much-needed socio-economic and science-based analysis on the old-growth logging issue. We also welcome that government recognized and took a more rational approach to any further proposed immediate moratoriums on logging, which ignores the needs of tens of thousands of workers in BC. We look forward to actively engaging in the consultation process with government and First Nations to find solutions to improving the diversity and prosperity of our sector to the benefit of everyone in BC.
But this is only the beginning of the conversation; there are bigger and broader issues to deal with other than simply the old-growth logging debate, which is obviously one of strong opinions and emotions. As the business of eco-advocacy ramps up, subjective decision-making versus one based on science, economics, social considerations and people becomes a serious concern.
Our province is blessed with an abundance of old-growth forests in perpetuity. A flight up the Coast provides endless views of areas that are protected forever; layer on the de facto-protected areas that will never be harvested plus localized protected zones and one can put into perspective the fact that only one-third of one per cent of BC’s land base is harvested annually.
Look around. More and more areas are protected—especially those in critical habitats and under-represented ecosystems—and are never going to be harvested again; and second-growth stands are quickly emerging with old-growth characteristics. For BC’s economy, that small amount of working forest and every hectare represents significant revenue to the Province, which pays for our schools, hospitals, and social programs.
Today’s forest management regime is incomparable to that of decades and centuries ago. The magnitude of requirements and considerations to eventually allow harvesting anywhere is daunting and is mostly the residual after all other resource values are considered. Each year, independent third-party audits overwhelming indicate that BC and Canada are exceptional at sustainably managing our forests.
Of course, there is room for further improvement. The forest sector, and especially logging contractors will and has proven to be very responsive to change. Foresters and loggers have always been innovative and will continue to find new technologies and solutions in a climate of constant turmoil and ever-evolving public and political expectations.
Some eco-advocacy groups wish for you to believe in the story that all of BC’s old growth looks like Cathedral Grove (which is decidedly far from any truth or reality) and rehash outdated policies with the intent of stirring up whatever emotions will result in your donation to their business, which is based on portraying all who work in the forest sector as the enemy/foe/destroyer. They really aren’t too concerned about casualties and the needs of local communities to find the means to support themselves.
There needs to be a very clear distinction between the desires of British Columbians versus many of the multi-national environmental lobby groups. In many areas of BC, communities and citizens have valid, passionate and real desires for protection of special areas and we must all work collaboratively to find solutions to those issues. We have greater faith in British Columbians finding solutions than those outside our borders.
Impending government decisions should be about balance, not politics, and not factor in voting preferences of interest groups. It should be about governing for what is best for our province and its communities.
If BC wants a prosperous and vigorous forestry sector contributing to positive and pragmatic climate change solutions and one that is abundant with new investments, more value-added manufacturing and jobs, then government needs to make the right and balanced decisions on the working forest land base. It needs to provide certainty for individuals, businesses, and communities to foster a healthier environment for moving the sector forward.
Proud BC loggers care about their communities and our forests in ways far more direct than many of us. Continuing and future erosion of the working forest is simply not acceptable.
Bob Brash is Executive Director of the Truck Loggers Association