LETTERS: Logging in forest reserves contrary to public consultation results
Open letter to Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations:
I would like to bring to your attention the discrepancies between government statements, data and views of communities as they relate to the option of logging in forest reserves within the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic area.
Two of the common Community Dialogue Session themes from the 20 Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities: A conversation on BC forests sessions across the Province were:
- Communities want more influence on decisions regarding management of local forests, and
- Communities want more diverse economic development opportunities from forest lands.
The option of harvesting in forest reserves to provide additional timber for mills is misplaced and does not contribute to these two community needs or the protection of biodiversity, cultural heritage, fish/riparian habitat, forage and associated plant communities, recreation, resource features, soils, visual quality, water and wildlife.
The forest reserves also contribute to community values such as clean safe water, beautiful views from provincial campsites, scenic highways, fish habitat, wildlife shelter and forage, productive soils, etc. It also brings into question whether the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) objectives are being given adequate consideration and delivering on the intent of the law.
British Columbians, especially those living in forest dependent communities, are sensitive to the struggles imposed upon the communities in the MPB epidemic area, especially those with the added stress of the loss of the Burns Lake mill due to fire.
However, this is not the time to make short-term decisions at the expense of long-term viability and sustainability of communities as they adapt to the aftermath of these catastrophes. This is further emphasized by the fact the data does not support the decision in any of the three components of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) or forest stewardship, both of which your Government and industry advertise are being practiced in BC.
The estimated amount of timber (100,000 m3 AAC related immediately to the Burns Lake mill and 1-3 million m3 AAC along the Highway 16 corridor) identified by Mr. John Rustad, will not support one or more viable mills for more than a few months.
A medium-sized mill will consume 1 million m3/year of timber. This means the 100,000 m3 noted by Mr. Rustad will support such a mill for 30 days. This alone will not prevent mills from closing or justify building a new mill. I appreciate it will contribute to short-term jobs for those unemployed but it will do nothing regarding decisions by companies to shut mills.
It will just provide more economical wood for the mills in the early stage due to short transportation costs and possibly harvesting of “green wood.” The 1-3 million m3/year timber availability estimate is a “red herring.” Not all of this wood would go to one or two mills. It will be distributed throughout the mills along the corridor due to timber harvesting economics.
The forest reserves were created for protection of values other than timber. The logging of these areas will result in loss of these values and the potential economic spin-offs through other industries such as tourism, recreation and wildcraft. The communities are looking for diversification of their economies after MPB salvage.
This involves creation or enhancement of viable and sustainable local businesses. Why jeopardize these opportunities for such short-term timber interests that are not contributing to sustainability but only to forest companies immediate bottom lines?
There is a recognition that a few of the forest reserves may not be delivering on the intended purpose. However, before any decision to log portions or all of these reserves, a comprehensive analysis by Ministry staffs with public consultation with affected stakeholders must be done to ensure the non-timber resource values are given priority.
The forest reserves were created through a public process. Significant change to the determinations and intent must include going back to the public for comment. This would be consistent with the need for communities to have input into forest management decisions in their local-regional forest lands and the Premier’s commitment to open government.
To date, there has been no expression by Government of going back to the public. All that has been identified is meetings with select stakeholders and no public discourse of the discussion.
I know the “behind closed doors” decision-making can expedite decisions but at what cost to the communities?
If you wish to continue with the unwise consideration of the logging in forest reserves option, the least you could do is hear from those who have to live with the results. Remember the Crown forests are owned by the people of BC, not companies and not politicians.
Communities and affected BC residents should have a say in their management. I encourage you to practice good governance and involve the public early in the process, not after you have made a decision. There needs to be an open discussion of interests, including those of industry but not exclusively.
Forest Stewardship and SFM
As you are aware, SFM requires companies and Government to include plans that address aspects of economic, environmental and social/cultural values. A decision to log in forest reserves is inconsistent with meeting this need in all 3 areas. It could be argued that the Government and industry commitments and pronouncements are inconsistent with this decision. Why jeopardize this branding of
our forest management for such an unsupported decision? Overall the option of logging in forest reserves only helps the industry bottom line over the short-term.
- The strong recommendation is to remove the option of considering logging in forest reserves from the discussion on timber availability and inform the public of this decision.
- If you decide to continue with this unjustified approach to logging in forest reserves, it MUST include a public consultation process involving those who are potentially impacted and other concerned citizens, not just “behind closed doors” consultation with local government representatives and industry.
If you have any questions regarding these points, please feel free to contact me.
W.W. (Bill) Bourgeois PhD, RPF
North Vancouver, B.C.