Along with farming and settlements, forestry has had and continues to have a serious negative impact on the Shuswap environment and the entire province. Logging roads have been built into nearly every valley and clearcuts and young plantations permeate the landscape. SEAS has had an active role in monitoring and critiquing forest management planning and forestry activities since 1990. As well, SEAS president, Jim Cooperman, has been active in the provincial environmental movement to reform forest management.
Consequently, this section of the SEAS website contains information on both provincial issues and local issues
Neglect – The latest crisis in BC forests
From the March-April 2012 Watershed Sentinel
by Jim Cooperman
In 1985, the rapidly growing amount of not-satisfactorily-restocked (NSR) land in BC forests became a crisis. This resulted in a joint provincial and federal $300-million funding plan, the Forest Resource Development Agreement (FRDA) that restocked many thousands of hectares.
A similar crisis is again occurring in BC’s forests, but this time the cause is not logging by irresponsible forest companies. Instead, the massive amount of NSR land is a result of climate-change fuelled fires, diseases and beetle kill. Government policies that have stripped the ministry of employees, ended adequate inventory efforts, and handed forest management over to the corporations have exacerbated the problems.
Red flags about the status of BC’s non-stocked forestlands were first raised in 2010 only to be countered by assurances by the government that everything was under control. In an editorial, a retired forester and former senior professional with the forest ministry, Anthony Britneff, declared that, due to the lack of treatments of beetle and fire ravaged forests, the not stocked land (gross NSR) could well total some nine million hectares of which two million would be economic and feasible to plant. Since then, the government and its critics have countered and re-countered with different numbers representing different types of NSR, anywhere from the government’s initial claim of 240,000 hectares to the nine million.
The issue is complicated by the fact that there are two types of NSR land: a total not stocked area (gross NSR) and a netted-down NSR (net NSR). Net NSR includes all areas harvested by the forest industry with the exception of some small-scale salvage operations plus the area of forestland disturbed by fire and pests that the ministry deems feasible and economic to plant. In June 2010, the Forest Practices Board (FPB) entered the fray and published a backgrounder that provided some insight into the controversy. Such as how the provincial government in 2002 removed the legal obligation for the crown to replant areas denuded by natural disturbances. Government also removed the statutory requirement for the ministry to conduct and maintain a forest inventory.
Fast-forward to early February 2012 and the debate over the NSR numbers continued at the Western Silviculture Conference. Marvin Eng, a former Ministry research ecologist who is now with the FPB, provided a report about his project on the issue. Although he conceded that the amount of net NSR might be approximately 2-million hectares, he insisted the real issue is not the actual number, but what the public expects from its forests.
BC Auditor General
On February 16, the BC Auditor General released a bombshell report that sharply criticized the government’s forest policies, lack of direction, and inability to adequately manage the forests. The report concluded that the ministry has not clearly defined its timber objectives, management practices are insufficient to offset a reduction in timber supply and species diversity, and the ministry is not appropriately monitoring and reporting results in relation to its objectives.
Within the report are some key observations, along with more critical analysis and six pervasive recommendations. The primary focus is on the part of the land base that the government is responsible for, which totals 89 percent of the 22-million hectare timber land base. While industry remains responsible to return logged areas to “free growing” status, the government is under no obligation to ensure that areas denuded by fires and pests are reforested, including the growing number of plantations also denuded by disturbances.
The report notes that the ministry’s own evaluations indicate a decline in forest diversity resulting from industry’s reforestation efforts and a growing not stocked area being left to regenerate naturally. Thus, the report recommends the ministry develop an effective forest stewardship plan to guide decision-making with time frames and proper assessments.
Out of the 17.5 million hectares impacted by the beetles, some 10 million hectares are within the 22-million hectare timber land base along with a sizable percentage of the 760,000 hectares of forests burned by wildfire during the last five years. The report identifies as much as 1.1 million hectares of forest that has the potential for planting and yet the government silviculture efforts have averaged only 8,730 hectares per year, despite a plan to plant 22,000 hectares. Consequently, the report recommends the ministry ensure its investments are sufficient to achieve long-term objectives.
While the report credits industry for meeting its silvicultural obligations, unlike the government, it finds fault in its practice of planting lower-value species (predominately lodgepole pine) that results in monocultures and the loss of forest diversity. Perhaps the greatest problem identified by the Auditor General is that the ministry lacks the information it needs to properly manage the forests. The inventory is woefully inadequate and what research does exist shows a high rate of damage in the plantations. There is a growing disparity between forest cover information and actual forest conditions, growth rate, and density.
Forest Practices Board
Among the many problems identified in the report is information from the Forest Practices Board that shows weaknesses in the industry’s forest stewardship plans including vague and non-measurable commitments. As well, the ministry’s compliance and enforcement efforts show a large decline in inspections, with the number dropping by half within the last decade. And these inspections are deemed by the report to be insufficient to ensure that industry is actually complying with the few rules that still exist.
As the problems multiply, the public is increasing left in the dark as to what is happening in its forests. The report notes how the latest “State of B.C.’s Forests” report and the annual service plan reports lack sufficient assessment or interpretation to effectively assess the results or make them meaningful. As a result the public has no way of even knowing if the forests are increasing or decreasing in terms of volume, value, or species diversity. Obviously, the report recommends that the ministry develop and implement appropriate performance measures and report these publicly.
Included within the Auditor General’s report is the response from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource to each of the six recommendations. Typically, the ministry responded with assurances that its policies and activities sufficiently address the long list of concerns and the recommendations, and it promised to continue with efforts it sees as adequate. For some of the glaring deficiencies, such as the inadequate stocking standards and public reporting, the ministry promised to review these issues.
In response to the concern about the inadequate amount of re-planting, needed for growing number of beetle and fire denuded hectares, the ministry responded with a promise to plant a large number of seedlings, as if readers might be persuaded that it was looking after the land base. In reality the proposed 20-million seedlings per year only amounts to nearly 12,000 hectares and at that rate it would take close to 100 years to reforest just the lower estimate of net NSR arising from fire and pests.
Association of BC Forestry Professionals
On February 20, the Association of BC Forestry Professionals added more fuel to the growing crisis fire by releasing a report about grossly out-of-date forest inventories. The foresters, normally a very cautious group as most of them either work for industry or government, point out that the budget staffing for inventory has been nearly cut in half, while the need has increased on an “unprecedented scale” due to the impacts from wildfire, disease and insect pests.
The report was reluctant to determine whether or not the inventory is sufficient “for the Chief Forester’s mandate of sustainable forest management (SFM) at the provincial level.” Curiously both the Association and the Auditor General provide no definition of what SFM means. Instead, the foresters believe a more comprehensive review is needed.
While the focus of this current crisis is on timber values with the rapidly growing amount of NSR land and inadequate inventory, it is important to understand that the solution should not always be to mow down what is left in the beetle-killed forests with huge machines and replant with single species. Many areas now denuded are indeed recovering naturally and sometimes replanting can cause more problems than if the land was just left to recover on its own. And if maximizing timber requires the spraying of herbicides, the solution is definitely worse than what nature can do. The key is to maintain a continuous inventory that keeps track of the ratio between growth and depletion, which should be greater than one, and to make decisions about restoration that best protect all forest values.
Secondary Stand Structure
In a 2009 study, four government ecologists point out that in 31 to 68 per cent of damaged pine forests, the secondary stand structure is equivalent or better than a 20-year old pine plantation. Yet, some of these areas are being logged for minimal volumes of lumber and to produce wood pellets. Leaving these areas to recover naturally not only makes sense from a timber perspective, but would also help with the hydrological recovery.
All this troubling news certainly comes as no surprise for the environmental community. When the last decade began, many of us believed that the previous forest practices code was inadequate, that biodiversity was increasingly at risk, that old growth forests and watersheds were not adequately protected and that overcutting was threatening all key non-timber values. So when the Liberal government took over and handed management over to industry, while continuing to reduce staffing levels and public input; most of us basically gave up trying to improve forestry or protect forest values. And despite the government’s half-baked promises, the gutting continues as the latest budget includes a $20-million cut for forest health.
Now the truth is coming out about how ten years of mismanagement and sympathetic administration when combined with the impacts of climate change are taking their toll. While we could smugly say, “we told you so,” a more appropriate response would be to help, get involved in finding solutions, and work to ensure that forestry becomes an election issue. We need to elect a government that is once again willing to work with the environmental community.
[Many thanks to Anthony Britneff and Ray Travers for their assistance with this article.]
Here in the Shuswap, the situation is not as grim, since there are fewer pine stands. However, where lodgepole pine does grow, the beetles have wiped out vast numbers of hectares, such as in the Salmon River watershed and on the hills above Adams Lake. Plus, pine has long been the preferred species in the plantations and the beetles have hit some of these.
A local forester reports that the major issue here is not the dismal state of the future timber supply, but is that the companies are having problems locating enough timber to feed their mills. He explained how there is a “ribbon war” in the woods as First Nations are competing with mills to ribbon off planned cutblocks. This comes as no surprise, as our organization, SEAS, did a comprehensive spatial timber modeling analysis in 1995 that showed how overcutting then would lead to the situation we are seeing now. And that was before the beetles hit! British Columbians need to face the facts: forestry is a sunset industry due to decades of high-grading and overcutting, the massive climate change caused beetle kill, and now over a decade of sympathetic mismanagement by the provincial government.
Jim Cooperman was Editor of the B.C. Environmental Report from 1990 to 2000 and coordinated the BCEN Forest Caucus. He now serves as president of the Shuswap Environmental Action Society and writes a bi-monthly column on geography. Learn more from his blog site, www.shuswappassion.ca.
FPB NSR Backgrounder. (Access this by google: “A backgrounder on NSR”)
Clarifying the Status and Implications of Not Satisfactorily Re-stocked Forest in BC, September 2011. www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/SPECIAL_REPORT_Not_Statisfactorily_Restocked_Forest_in_BC.htm?terms=A%20backgrounder%20on%20NSR
Auditor General’s Report 11: An Audit of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources’ Management of Timber, February 2012, www.bcauditor.com/
Association of BC Forest Professionals Inventory Report: Assessment of the Status of Forest Inventories in British Columbia: An Update to the 2006 ABCFP Review, December 2011. www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/publications/documents/Forest_Inventory_2012_FINAL2.pdf
Abundance of secondary structure in lodgepole pine stands affected by the mountain pine beetle in the Cariboo–Chilcotin, Coates et al, Natural Resources Canada, 2009. www.bvcentre.ca/files/SORTIE-ND_reports/Coates_et_al_2009_Abundance_of_secondary_structure_in_lodgepole_pine_stands_affected_by_the_mountain_pine_beetle_in_the_Cariboo-Chilcotin.pdf (2009). www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfp/mountain_pine_beetle/stewardship/report.pdf, 2006)
Defining the NSR in BC, Anthony Britneff, ebookbrowse.com/feb-3-defining-the-nsr-in-bc-anthony-britneff-pdf-d90898448
FORESTRY NEEDS PUBLIC INPUT
A Shuswap Passion column for the Shuswap Market News
September 9, 2011
by Jim Cooperman
Just what has happened to take forestry off the radar for both the media and the public? About all that makes the news these days regarding B.C.’s forests are mill closures, fires and beetles. It was not that long ago that there were battles raging over clearcutting, park creation and the job threats. Here in the Shuswap, poor logging and road-building practices led to massive erosion events and local forest companies fought hard to resist land use planning.
Thanks to progressive government policies in the 1990s, a forest practices code improved logging and land use planning settled conflicts as new parks were created, old growth forests were conserved and protection of riparian areas was improved. Concerns remained over the rate of logging, as overcutting threatens not only ecosystems but also future jobs.
When the forest industry backed government was elected over ten years ago, they quickly transformed forest policies to give companies unfettered access to timber through what they called results-based. Government oversight was nearly eliminated as the forest service was reduced to a shell of its former self and companies were no longer required to prepare detailed plans for review.
In the nineties, the ongoing debate was jobs versus the environment, as the forestry sector claimed that environmental protection and park creation would result in massive job loss for forestry dependent communities like the Shuswap. But the ironic reality is that many of the jobs are now gone due to mechanization and the drop in demand and prices due to the economic downturn. Thankfully, the Shuswap’s increasingly diverse economy has meant that despite the likely permanent loss of the Canoe sawmill and other smaller mills, one can hardly notice any impacts.
But with the local forest service office long gone, forestry plans no longer available, and far fewer watchful eyes in the forests; conflicts are brewing again over where and how logging takes place. As well, the lack of reforestation is once again reaching crisis proportions. The growing litany of problems has now even prompted forestry professionals to take action.
A volunteer run, provincial initiative, “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities – A Conversation on B.C.’s Forests” has been holding public consultations in communities across the province to gather input for a series of recommendations for our political leaders. On September 14th, from 6 to 9:30 pm, this initiative will hold a public meeting in Salmon Arm at the Prestige Inn. Everyone is welcome to attend and provide their concerns about current forest management and suggest their solutions to the problems.
The organizers want to hear from anyone who has a stake in our forests, including local politicians, community leaders, first nations, forest workers, recreation groups, tourism operators and conservationists.
Based on the input received so far from the public and from the experts who have prepared a series of reports, a number of solutions have already become apparent that focus on sustainably managing forest resources. Communities want to be better informed and want to have more influence on forestland decisions. As well, there are once again calls for tenure reform that supports small-scale tenures, value-added manufacturing and that revives the appurtenancy policy that requires mills to create employment in the region where logging takes place.
Here in the Shuswap, many of the past issues were resolved with the completion of land use planning over ten years ago. However, concerns are mounting again due in part to the government having axed the land use plan monitoring committee a few years ago. Consequently, there is no longer any mechanism for stakeholders to monitor the implementation of the plan, share information and resolve concerns.
A number of new local conflicts are emerging, including plans to log the watershed above Cherryville and near Echo Lake. Another issue is the management of the protected old growth, because when it burns as happened in the Momich Lake area, there is no mechanism to identify replacement areas. Also, some studies have shown that lodgepole pine is not surviving well in cedar/hemlock ecosystems, yet there is little information available. Although the Healthy Forests initiative will not address specific problems, it is a much needed step towards both raising public awareness and hopefully, seeking solutions to a growing list of problems. Visit bcforestconversation.com to learn more.
The State of B.C.’s Forests
To get a copy of this Ministry of Forests report,
The following brief analysis is from: www.greenbccommunities.com
January 12, 2011
The State of BC’s Forest, the 2010 edition has been released by the Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands.
The reports authors and contributors are to be commended on compiling the considerable information and statistics on BC’s public forests contained in the report.
British Columbia owns most of its forests and has jurisdiction over them. The Montreal Process is an international forest sustainability assessment process intended to be applied to countries. It provides an independent scientific format that could be applied to BC. The State of the Forests report uses a different format but does reference the Montreal Process indicators. The State of the Forests Report is similar to other forest assessment and certification schemes in trying to draw credence from the international scientific standard. However, the comprehensive assessment of the Montreal Process is avoided in favour of producing a public relations facade.
The Montreal Process has a section devoted to the examination of the legal and institutional framework to determine if it supports sustainable forest management. Most of the problems with forest stewardship in BC originate in the forest management framework. Our State of the Forests report’s examination under the heading of “Law” makes the bold assertion that “BC’s forest law enables and supports sustainable forest management”. This is little more than a public relations effort to make the public feel assured and secure. If we scratch below the surface of BC’s legal and institutional framework using the Montreal Process a different conclusion emerges.
British Columbia does have a very strong foundation for good forest stewardship. We decided, one hundred years ago, to retain our forests in public ownership to ensure good stewardship that would result in sustainable forest communities and industry. We own the forest to ensure stewardship. Clarity of tenure is important. Our present legal and institutional framework undermines this foundation. We have a Forest Act that grants harvesting rights to forest companies. Harvesting rights are not a good arrangement to ensure good stewardship. The Ministry of Forests was intended to be the independent professional manager of our public forests. Instead, increasing forest management responsibilities have been handed over to forest corporations. There is little clarity of tenure. We are in a process of gradual enclosure of our public forests into the private interest. Management of forests by forest companies or timber interests is not conducive to the management of non timber forest products and nature based enterprises. Allocation of public timber on a non market basis to commodity producing forest corporations has restricted the diversity of wood manufacture in BC and made our forest products vulnerable to discriminatory trade tariffs and export taxes. We have a good foundation for sustainable forest management in our public forests but our laws have been undermining that foundation.
Page 54 of the report notes, “The current mountain pine beetle epidemic, enabled in part by climate change, increased rapidly after 1997 to peak at over 10 million hectares in 2007”. The public is always served the climate change story and the account omits the other parts or factors involved in the story. The other major part of the story, always omitted, is that huge areas or lodgepole pine was allowed to grow old and susceptible to mountain pine beetle attack. The Ministry of Forests fought fires and saved lots of lodge pole pine. Meanwhile their forest industry partners in forest management were avoiding the harvest of pine. The partners in management of our public forests, central government and forest corporations prepared a huge area of mountain pine beetle habitat. No wonder the other part of the story is avoided. It cost us about $100 Billion in economic losses.
The Ministry of Forests, Mines and Lands State of the Forests report is a typical in house public relations production designed to create the impression that “all is well” with forest sustainability. The state of the forest industry, forest dependent communities indicates that all may not be well and some major improvement is needed.
State of B.C.’s Forests – analysis
By Jim Cooperman
Overall, the report tends to gloss over anything negative to provide as much as possible a Pollyanna overview. However, many disturbing facts cannot be held back, such as the change from a carbon sink to a carbon source and the disastrous state of the forest economy due to the recession.
What is missing:
- little mention of beetles munching plantations – and the resulting impact on future harvest levels.
- the huge increase in NSR, as reported recently by Britneff
- info about the increase in ecosystem destruction caused by off road vehicles
- info about the number of mills that have shut down
- info about the huge decrease in government forestry and environment staff
- the reduction in forestry research (their graph only goes to 2006) and the change from research devoted to ecological knowledge to research devoted to increasing volume
- little about the trend in technical advances in mills and in the bush which has drastically reduced the number of jobs – in fact there is no data on the jobs per cubic metre which has very likely decreased substantially in the last ten years
- while there is a mention about special management – there is little data about how or where this land use system occurs
- nothing about the demise of land use plan monitoring tables
- not much about the handover of management to the industry
- nothing that shows how provincial revenue from the forests has declined sharply in recent years
- data on the loss of protected forests (in parks and OGMAs) from fires and insects
- there is nothing about watershed restoration. Studies in the 90s showed the need to spend a few billion dollars to help restore watershed. FRBC pumped millions into restoration, but with the change in government, little additional investment has occurred. The lack of a status report is a glaring omission.
- while it mentions there are now 467 community watersheds designated, there is nothing about the trend and my guess is there have likely no new designations in the last ten years
- no mention of the likely decline in the quality of the remaining timber and increase in remoteness of remaining volumes as the industry has been highgrading the forests for decades
- the negative impact that grazing can have on plantation growth
- not much about OGMAs or biodiversity (eg. What happens when OGMAs burn or are eaten by bugs?)
- nature based tourism jobs are increasing significantly
- our assumption that concentration of the industry is increasing appears to be wrong, as the top ten companies still control about the same number of hectares
- public dissatisfaction with forestry is increasing (and we thought the public seemed to be losing interest in forests)
- forest fires burned more hectares in the 1960s than during the last decade
Some helpful statistics:
- forest inventories are not adequate – only 26% of the province has been re-inventoried to the new standard
- sharp reduction in number of undeveloped watersheds and increase in road densities
- large reduction in tree species diversity in managed forests
- the health of one third of the provinces rangeland is highly at risk
- forest recreation pumps significantly more money into the economy than range use (yet the government subsidizes the cattle industry hugely and can barely find any loose change for recreation)
- slash burning is the largest contributor to poor air quality
- only 60-65 percent of the fully protected old growth are trees over 20 m tall (which indicates that much of the protected old growth is scrubby and was protected because it was not suitable for logging)
Some serious flaws:
- indirect employment – I have long scoffed at the claims for the number of indirect jobs created by the forest industry and this doc only provides some gross overviews. Although it appears that the wild claims from the 1990s of two indirect jobs for every one direct job has been finally dismissed. On page 187 – direct jobs account for 4.6 percent, while the total of direct and indirect is 6.8 percent. Yet the reality is that when a mill shuts down in a diverse economy (eg Salmon Arm), despite the direct loss of over 200 jobs in the mill there was negligible difference in employment in other sectors.
- predicted increase in future volumes from intensive silviculture, especially since many stand treatments like spacing and thinning increases the likelihood of insect attack
B.C.’s FOREST UNDER CORPORATE CONTROL
The Gordon Campbell Liberal government enshrined in law forestry policies that have virtually handed over the management of our public forests to the timber corporations. As well, government staffing has been reduced to the point that there is nearly no one left to enforce what few rules remain. The situation is further compromised by the corporate-friendly media, which rarely covers environmental criticism and protests. Below is a summary of the current situation, followed by some suggestions for dealing with the issues.
No end in sight for the forestry downturn
Despite corporation friendly government forestry policies, the industry is in a tailspin due to the lack of demand for lumber in the U.S. and lumber prices that are below the cost of production. Many sawmills and pulp mills are shut down throughout the province, as well as here in the Shuswap. The current economic crisis is exacerbating an already grim situation and there is no end in sight.
Biodiversity protection in your dreams
The biodiversity guidebook, a maze of compromises, half-truths and contradictions, was introduced in 1995, but implementation was stalled as old growth forests continued to be logged at unsustainable rates. In 2004, the Forest Practices Board released a critical report that reveals only a few forest districts have the minimal biodiversity protection measures in place and that the new forestry legislation omits any requirements to protect biodiversity. As well, the province lacks any monitoring of biodiversity implementation.. In some areas industry has convinced government to utilize by the non-spatial old growth designation order recently passed in Victoria. For more information, read the full report at www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/publications.aspx?id=2590&terms=Biodiversity.
Softwood War now history
After four years of court cases, failed negotiations and significant duties; the forest industry and both levels of Canadian government reached an agreement with the Americans. Many forest companies continued to make profits despite the duties, which indicated that perhaps the U.S. was correct to claim that Canada subsidies its forest industry, despite the decisions made by many NAFTA tribunals.
These companies received back four of the five billion dollars, including the interest, which became windfall profits for them. Thankfully, some of these profits will feed back to the public owners of the forest resources as taxes. Some companies, like Canfor, have already used their profits to invest in new sawmills in the U.S. and they plan to invest more south of the border.
The new seven-year agreement sets restrictions of Canadian lumber imports based on the price of lumber. If the price falls below $355 (U.S.), a combination of export duties and/or quotas will control B.C. lumber exports. The advantage to this system for the public owners of the forests is that this time the duties will end up in provincial coffers.
The provincial government is hoping its Forestry Revitalization Plan will result in revisions to the softwood agreement to reduce or eliminate the export restrictions. However, this plan only reallocates 20 percent of timber tenure from large companies over to B.C. Timber Sales and first nations and a pittance to communities. The tenure take-back was intended to make stumpage determination more accurate, yet the opposite has occurred.
The take-back on the coast resulted in lower instead of higher stumpage rates. It is likely that the increased concentration of companies has allowed them to work together to ensure their auction bids are minimized. Even more absurd is that this ‘taken back: timber is still available to the companies at an even lower cost than prior to the take-back. As well, under the $200-million allocated for compensation, these companies were paid 25 cents a cubic metre when the timber they never owned but merely had to right to log was ‘taken back.’
As if unsustainable rates of clearcutting and the fires of 2003 are not enough of a problem, B.C.’s forests are rapidly succumbing to voracious, climate-change induced beetle populations that show no signs of slowing down now that they have made it past the Rocky Mountains. The projection for the beetle epidemic shows 80 percent of the province’s lodgepole pine forests will be dead or dying by 2016.
In December 2005, B.C.’s chief forester organized a one-day symposium and a follow-up workshop in Prince George called ‘The Future Forest Ecosystems of BC, Exploring the Opportunities: which promoted the government to revise forestry policies. See: ‘Climate Change is Turning Forestry on its Head.: Subsequently, the chief forester released a report, “Preparing for Climate Change: Adapting to Impacts on British Columbia’s Forest and Range Resources,” for public review and comment. See Climate Change.
Results biased under FRPA
Corporate forestry’s dream legislation that virtually ends government oversight is now the law. The (de)-regulations, which guides the province’s Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), became effective on January 31, 2004. Under this new ‘Results-Biased: Code, companies are now drafting new plans every five years instead of every year that are devoid of any specific information. They even have the option of devising their own environmental objectives if they think the existing ones are too restrictive. The government now has extraordinary restrictions on when and how they could reject these plans and even then any action must not ‘unduly reduce the supply of timber.
Endangered forest-dependent species
The future looks bleak for B.C.’s forest-dependent species and the ecosystems they inhabit. On the coast, the establishment of wildlife habitat areas (WHAs) for marbled murrelets is already constrained by the rule that WHAs can only impact the timber supply by one percent. In the lower mainland, logging of remaining spotted owl habitat continues with the blessing of the provincial government, while the federal government sees no need to utilize its Species at Risk Act. Fewer than 1,600 mountain caribou now remain in B.C., while logging continues to eat up critical habitat and ever-expanding motorized recreation impacts many of the herds. See www.mountaincaribou.org for more information.
Profits before jobs and communities
There is no room anymore for the small outfit in B.C.’s forests. Under the Campbell Liberals, big is beautiful and value-added opportunities are no longer achievable. B.C. Timber Sales has replaced the small business program and only large sales are available, which has put horseloggers out to pasture and other small operators out of business. Meanwhile, now that forest licences are no longer linked to mills; the five-percent take-back when tenures are sold is gone; and tenure sell-off is allowed without government oversight; corporate mergers and take-overs are increasing and fewer companies control greater amounts of forestlands. Canfor’s absorption of Slocan gives it control of 19 percent of the provincial cut. Smaller mills are being shut down as mega-mills where fewer workers are needed take over most of the production.
All is not lost, yet
These are tough times to be a sustainable forestry advocate in this province. While many environmental activists soundly criticized the union friendly NDP government, they were ill prepared to deal with the Campbell government’s complete assault on environmental values and its virtual handover of our forests to the corporations. At this point in time the only opportunity left to maintain some semblance of environmental protection of non-timber forest values is to maintain vigilance of the existing, however insufficient, land use plans and work to ensure that implementation continues including full establishment of all old growth management areas. Since forest companies now have the keys to the forests, it will be necessary to hold back nausea and maintain communication with them to monitor their plans and push for changes if and when wildlife, watersheds and recreational opportunities are threatened.
As traditional forms of protest becomes increasingly ineffective, the best way to deal with the growing number of problems is to support those groups (such as Forest Ethics, www.forestethics.org) that work on market campaigns and provide them with information about specific concerns.
To keep up-to-date on current issues see www.sierraclub.bc.ca/forests-and-wilderness and to learn about sustainable alternatives and sustainable tenure reform see www.forestsolutions.ca. The only real clout remaining for B.C. activists is to raise awareness provincially and internationally of how B.C.’s forestry policies further subsidize corporations at the expense of workers, communities and the environment.
LOCAL FORESTRY ISSUES:
For over a decade, SEAS has monitored forest practices and reviewed forest development and timber supply plans for much of the northern half of the Shuswap watershed, which includes the Adams Lake watershed and the watersheds that flow into Shuswap Lake. The southern portion of the Shuswap watershed is east of Vernon and includes Mabel and Sugar Lakes. Now that forest companies are no longer required to produce detailed plans every year (see above), SEAS has gained assurance from local company foresters to provide detailed plans when they are prepared.
In 2001, when the Campbell Liberal eliminated 29 forest service offices and laid off 35 percent of its forest service staff, forest districts were combined to reduce costs. At that time the Salmon Arm district was amalgamated with the Vernon and Penticton districts into the Okanagan Shuswap Forest District. See www.for.gov.bc.ca/dos/dist_qik_facts.htm
Beetles wiping out Shuswap forests too
Wherever lodgepole pine forests grow, especially both the Chase Creek and Salmon River watersheds, most of the trees have been killed by the mountain pine beetles. Ponderosa pine trees, although not a commercial species, have also been killed primarily in the drier, western parts of the Shuswap. Many plantations have also been impacted, because lodgepole pine has long been one of the key species planted in clearcuts for decades. The decision whether or not to log the dead pine has been contentious, as the dead trees can still provide some ecosystem functions. See ‘The pine beetle conundrum.’
In 2008, Bill Grainger, a Salmon Arm based geoscientist, released a study of the Chase Creek watershed that shows how extensive logging of dead pine in watershed can lead to major problems, including erosion, landslides, floods and late summer water shortages and that logging these stands will not substantially decrease the risk of fires. See ‘Chase Creek Hydrological Assessment.’
Logging and road building has caused and continues to cause (albeit at a reduced levels) environmental damage, including loss of biodiversity; loss of wildlife habitat; loss of recreation and tourism values; and damage to watersheds. In 1990, SEAS alerted the public to a massive slide that occurred below a logging road built on unstable ground above a creek that flows into the Anstey River. The slide dumped tons of silt into the river, which then impacted salmon spawning in the lower reach of the river, and problems persist to this day.
Heavy snow and rains contributed in 1997 to massive slides in Anglemont and in Hummingbird Creek above Mara Lake below poorly designed cutblocks and roads. These slides cost one life, caused millions of dollars of damage to private land and buildings and continue to cause problems for landowners today.
EAS notified the media about the Hummingbird Creek slide that led to a National CBC News broadcast that revealed how government staff tried to cover-up the cause of the disaster. When ministry staff continued to deny that the logging caused the slide, SEAS contracted a well-known U.S. hydrologist, Al Isaacson to study the area and prepare a report. On September 15, 1997, the SEAS press release explained how its independent hydrological investigation of Hummingbird Creek Slide revealed serious mistakes in logging and road design.
Based on this research, SEAS made these recommendations:
- Review the existing cutblocks and roads in the District to determine where similar events could occur because of inadequate design of drainage systems;
- Remove and/or re-route roads that could result in problems;
- Re-examine plans for future logging and road building to determine if similar problems could occur to inadequate design;
- Disallow clearcutting on steep slopes in community and domestic-use watersheds or where soil instability will result in slides;
- Ensure that culverts do not pour vast amounts of water on to steep, unstable slopes.
Since 1997, the provinces Forest Practices Code was changed to include the need to assess the impact of cutblock designed above unstable land and the Salmon Arm forest district office and local forestry companies have improved forestry planning to avoid causing landslides. Despite these improvements, the future remains uncertain, as the much of the forest that is left to log is on or near steep, unstable hillsides.
On May 23, 2002 during a heavy rainstorm, a giant landslide swept down Long Ridge blocking a small fish-bearing stream and wiping out 7 hectares of young plantation forest and 8 hectares of older forest. Concerns in the Seymour Arm community about more proposed logging on the steep Long Ridge hillside led to an investigation by SEAS and a press release.
Every five years, the government’s chief forester reviews timber supply analysis for each TSA and input from the companies and the public to designate a new Allowable Annual Cut (AAC). SEAS has always maintained that logging rates are too high. In 1994, SEAS undertook its own spatial timber supply analysis that projected future logging onto a series of maps that clearly showed logging rates needed to be lowered. Also, SEAS provided the chief forester with a critique of the TSA economic analysis that showed how it over-estimated the socio-economic impacts of AAC reductions and under-estimated the environmental impacts of continued overcutting and offered minimal information on socio-economic trends. In November 1995, the chief forester announced his decision to maintain the existing rate of overcutting, despite our efforts.
Subsequently timber supply reviews have continued to maintain and in some cases increase the unsustainable rate of logging. In 2005, the timber supply was increased a whopping 38 percent to address the many stands of lodgepole pine dying from mountain pine beetles. SEAS prepared detailed comments to the TSR review that called for maintaining or reducing the existing cut level by focusing most logging on the dead and dying pine, see Okg. TSR comments. When the new overcutting level was announced, SEAS responded with a press release. See TSR review PR.