Presentation to the Special Committee on Timber Supply

Presentation to the

Special Committee on Timber Supply

Kamloops, B.C., July 12, 2012

 Prepared and presented by

Jim Cooperman

President, Shuswap Environmental Action Society


British Columbia has wrongfully endured over a decade of serious forest mismanagement.  Early in the last decade the B.C. 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 was reduced to the point that there is nearly no one left to enforce what few rules remain. The recent report by B.C.’s Auditor General reinforced these concerns about forest mismanagement. 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.

Despite all of these problems, I have consistently voiced there has been at least one saving grace regarding forest management in this province and that was the government’s dedication to maintaining the land use plans that were developed after many years of studies and intense negotiations. Now, your committee is considering reneging on your commitment to these plans in order to allow logging of areas set aside for conservation and recreation. This would be akin to burning the furniture when the firewood runs out.

Projections Flawed

The information your committee is using is based on projections into the future that have little basis in reality. Not only is the inventory lacking that is used for the projections, as the Auditor General observed, but there is no accounting for the likely potential of other reductions to timber supply from the impacts of climate change. Fires, disease and more pests are likely, as the planet continues to heat up due to the ever-increasing amount of carbon dioxide and methane entering the atmosphere every year.  It is unlikely that future timber harvests will ever increase no matter what management changes are allowed.

What happened to other forest values?

Even though the B.C. government changed the mandate for forestry management to one that focuses on timber, the reality is that even to manage for timber, there needs to be healthy forests. The science is solid that in order to have healthy forests, it is imperative to protect and maintain biodiversity as well as properly functioning watersheds. The public, not the government and not the forest industry, owns B.C.s forests.  Consequently, the government needs to manage the forests on behalf of the public, which means it must protect all forest values, including recreation, tourism, wildlife habitat, water, and the ability of forests to absorb carbon. And yes, forestry jobs should be also a factor, but jobs and corporate profits must not take priority over the need to maintain healthy forests.


The current forest management regime is based on the principle of professional reliance. The public has been led to believe that our forests are in good hands because professionals are looking after them and that an association based on dedication to ethical practices governs these professionals. How can your committee carry on with the notion of gutting the land use plans and still expect foresters to use ethical practices? It is no wonder that their Association is opposed to the proposal to allow logging in conservation areas. And not only is the Association opposed, but so are many Cariboo-Chilcotin communities and most recently even Canfor has registered its opposition. Apparently, ethics and good judgment seem to be registering amongst most everyone except those in government who are making these proposals.


It would not be accurate to claim that the proposal to gut the land use plan is about protecting jobs. The B.C. government forest policies have resulted in significant job losses, due to the increase in amount of logs that are exported and to the elimination of the appurtenancy regulations.  The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ 2011 Economic State of the B.C Forest Sector confirms the significant job loss in this province.  In the year 2000, there were 99,000 persons employed and in 2011, the number went down to just 53,340.  And as the harvest volume has increased since its lowest level in 2009, the number of jobs has not increased significantly.

Land Use Plans

I spent years at two land use planning processes, for the Kamloops and the Okanagan/Shuswap regions. Many thousands of dollars and many thousands of hours were dedicated to develop these plans. Every sector was represented and we reached near consensus on the final plans. Over those many years, we all developed more respect for each other and we all supported the need for ecologically sustainable management. Strict limits were enforced by the government regarding how much forest land could be set aside for protection to ensure that there was no more than a 6 percent impact on timber supply, and thus the conservation community had to reluctantly agree to these limits, even though we knew that the amount of protection allowed was not really sufficient to adequately protect and maintain biodiversity. I have no doubt that participants in the Cariboo-Chilcotin went through similar experiences as we did as they developed their land use plans.

Any proposal to gut these land use plans not only threatens ecosystem sustainability, biodiversity, and many other non–timber forest values, but it would also seriously compromise any remnant of trust in the government by the conservation community that might still exist. My major concern is that if you approve any measures that gut the land use plans it would create precedence that would pose risks to all the land use plans in the province. Timber supplies will be dropping everywhere, due to decades of overcutting and highgrading. If the government allows the logging of conservation and recreation areas in the Cariboo-Chilcotin, no other region in the province will be safe.

Other mitigation options

In addition to logging forests currently protected under land use plans, your committee is contemplating a variety of silvicultural projects to increase timber supply. Not only are these projects expensive, studies show that intensive silviculture is often ineffective and in some cases can have the reverse effect. For example, juvenile spruce plantations when spaced and thinned are more susceptible to damage by weevils. Lodgepole pine plantations that were spaced were far more damaged by the pine beetles than stands that had no treatments. Fertilization treatments are very expensive and can result in faster growth of competing brush.


Sanity must prevail. If your committee were at all concerned with sustainability and the need to maintain public interest and trust, it would nix these proposals to gut the land use plans. Instead of allowing the logging of areas set aside for biodiversity and recreation, it should recommend that these areas need to be increased in size. The loss of forests due to the pine beetles and fires has not only impacted timber supply, it has also impacted forests reserved for conservation. Consequently, there needs to be a conservation uplift, as recommended by the previous chief forester.

The land use plans were never considered to be set in stone forever. Ten-year reviews were part of the plans and these reviews need to be done, to ensure the plans are working and to consider where changes or conservation additions might be needed. Most LRMPs included implementation committees that met throughout the year to allow for exchange of information and to allow for review of any changes to management regimes. These committees need to be re-instated with adequate funding.

One of the proposals under consideration is to move volume-based tenures into area-based tenures. This is totally opposite of what is needed. The entire tenure system needs to be reviewed and improved. Smaller tenures consistently provide more jobs per cubic metre than large tenures. Communities, by and large, are better stewards of the forests than large corporations and more community forests would be an improvement. And the appurtenancy requirements should be re-instated, to ensure that forestry supports local economies.

Reports now show that the amount of Not Satisfactorily Re-Stocked land is now exceeding the levels reached in the 1980’s when the federal government had to step in with funding through the FRDA program to help re-stock B.C.’s forests.  Instead of spending millions of dollars on ineffective intensive silviculture treatments, the BC government should invest money into restocking the increasing amount of denuded land in the province.

Perhaps the most often heard phrase and yet least adhered to, is that “we need to do more with less.” As timber supplies fall, it is imperative that more value is obtained from the logging that does occur. The province has often looked at ways to increase value-added manufacturing and yet, the value-added jobs have been decreasing instead of increasing. Until ways can be found to boost the number of jobs per cubic metre of timber logged, the forest industry in B.C. will continue to decline until the sun finally sets on this sector.

For a more in-depth analysis and critique, read this Timber Supply Committee Presentation by Mike Fenger, RPF and forester for The Friends of Ecological Reserves