On Friday, September 18, 2020, people will march in 11 communities throughout the province to call for improving current forest policies to ensure ecosystem health is the priority, to revive community participation in forestland management and restore government oversight of forestry. In conjunction with the province-wide protest, the Shuswap Environmental Action Society SEAS) is hosting a noon rally at the Ross Creek Plaza with COVID safety measures in place.
SEAS president Jim Cooperman explained why the protest is planned, “the problems with forest management in British Columbia have gone from bad to worse, as what little old growth forest that remains continues to be logged at unsustainable rates. Former forestry-dependent communities are reeling as mills are shuttered, jobs lost, whole logs are exported, water supplies are trashed and floods and landslides destroy homes and livelihoods. People are fed up and see this protest as one way to get the message out to the wider public.”
To participate in the event, everyone is encouraged to bring a sign and wear green. In addition to speeches and live music by local songwriter and playwright, Linz Kenyon, there will be a short play by the Salmon Actors Studio entitled, “The Lumberjack’s Dilemma.”
Using humour, well-respected local thespian James Bowlby wrote the script that explores many of the concerns with ongoing forest mismanagement and ends with a twist. Three actors, Teresa McKerral, Ryley Crouse and Dylan Taylor are in the production and are looking forward to when can appear in an upcoming dinner theatre show.
On September 11, the B.C. government announced a new plan to protect old growth forests that include logging deferrals on 353,000 hectares. However, as Jim Cooperman explains, the new approach is filled with flaws, “One might believe that the recent provincial government announcement about protecting more old growth forest will help reverse the ongoing biodiversity crisis. In reality, it is just “smoke and mirrors” by a government more concerned about the interests of corporations than improving environmental protection and following the advice of scientists.” An analysis of the areas shows that most of the land now under deferral does not consist of high quality old growth and instead includes some second growth and low productivity forests. As well, there is no timetable or commitment for implementing the 14 recommendations in the old growth forest report released on the same day.
Learn more at the Forest March website
Despite the change of government in Victoria, there have been no changes to forestry policies that have provided corporations with unfettered access to the rapidly declining timber supply. To address the negative impacts such as damaged water supplies, floods, loss of wildlife habitat, loss of recreational opportunities, loss of jobs, and loss of endangered species that are increasing exponentially, community activists are organizing a virtual five-day long summit culminating in a day of protest on Friday, September 18th.
The province-wide event’s lead organizer, Jennifer Houghton, is still reeling from the devastating floods in her home town of Grand Forks that were a direct result of the massive clearcutting in the upper watersheds of the Grandby and Kettle Rivers. Another organizer, Taryn Skalbania is from Peachland, which has been forced to build an expensive water treatment plant because its water supply is full of silt due to extensive clearcut logging.
While the problems have not been as severe here in the Shuswap, we have definitely have had our share. Landslides have crashed down into homes and communities, due to the combination of heavy rain and melting snow on steep hillsides that have been clearcut logged. The local population of endangered mountain caribou is hanging by a thread, as so much of their habitat has been logged and predator wolves move higher up the mountainside on logging roads and snowmobile trails.
After decades of overcutting and highgrading here and throughout the province combined with the impacts of pine beetles and fires, there are far fewer trees left to log and what remains is of lower quality. As well, automation has reduced the number of jobs in the forest industry. Consequently, there are only a few large wood-processing facilities still operating in the Shuswap.
Often, it is BC Timber Sales (BCTS) or smaller licensees that operate in the marginal old growth cedar/hemlock stands, which is resulting in massive amounts of waste left in enormous burn piles. Thankfully, some of the waste that is fairly close to the highway is now getting chipped, loaded into chip trucks and shipped to the pulp mill in Kamloops.
Given the history of logging-related landslides in the Shuswap, the major concerns are the proposed clearcuts above Mara Lake and Bastion Creek. Recently, a retired hydrologist reviewed the revised assessment for the Bastion Creek logging and found it was flawed. The government hydrologist also agreed it was defective, but cannot get involved due to her upcoming retirement.
Sadly, the timber that BCTS proposes to log on the Bastion hillside is of inferior quality and would not likely generate much income. If the logging goes ahead, the summer homes located alongside the creek near the lake will be at risk. Under the current model of forest management, timber extraction takes priority over private property and peoples’ safety.
There are solutions to the ongoing forest mismanagement. The team that is organizing the upcoming summit are calling for a “New Forest Charter” that would give priority to nature rather than to corporate profits in decision making, provide greater public control of public land and eliminate unfettered corporate control, reinstate local land use planning and ensure all management is based on science rather than profits.