Created on Sunday, 09 December 2007 21:21
Written by Western Canada Wilderness Committee
The BC Liberal Government's "Log it All"
and "Export the Logs" Plan
by Western Canada Wilderness Committee
n October 29, 2007, the BC Liberal government announced a new
plan for BC's coastal forests, the "Coastal Forest Action Plan
The crux of the plan is to speed-up the logging of second-growth forests on public (Crown) lands, dropping the harvest rotation age from 75 years down to an average of 50-55 years.
Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests and Range, is spinning the plan as a "shift" away from the logging of old-growth forests to second-growth forests, which the Wilderness Committee has been advocating for years, albeit at a sustainable rate.
Victoria Implications of the "Coastal Forest Action Plan" for
Vancouver Island's and the Lower Mainland's Old-Growth Forests
and BC's Forestry Jobs
No New Restrictions on Old-Growth Logging
However, in reality the plan places no new restrictions on the logging of old-growth forests. Without actual restrictions and concrete timelines to reduce and phase-out old-growth logging on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland where old-growth forests are scarce, the plan is little more than PR. Without new restrictions, timber companies will not only log the second-growth forests, but also continue to log the old-growth forests, in particular the largest, high-value species - red and yellow cedars, and any pockets of the rare, ancient Douglas firs and Sitka spruce they can find.
These species are the largest, most magnificent of the old-growth tree species in BC. The War in the Woods since the 1980's has precisely been fought over focal stands of these giant species: the ancient redcedars of Meares Island, Clayoquot Valley and Walbran Valley; the ancient Douglas firs of the Elaho Valley, Elk Creek, Chilliwack Lake, Cathedral Grove, and Koksilah Valley; and the ancient Sitka spruce trees of the Carmanah Valley, Walbran Valley, Windy Bay, Tsitika Valley, and Clayoquot Sound.
It is true that increasing the harvest of second-growth Douglas fir and redcedars could shift logging away from the smaller, lower value old-growth species, that is, western and mountain hemlock and amabalis fir (ie. "balsam"). However, the government's plan also entails searching out new markets for and increasing the economic viability of logging these species by developing new products.
In short, as it stands the BC government's new Coastal Forest Action Plan is simply a "log it all" policy for the old-growth and second-growth forests of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
First Nations and Small Business Logging of Old-Growth Forests?
In addition, the plan indicates that the government intends to establish new logging tenures for First Nations and smaller logging operators on Crown lands. Judging by the government's history of funneling First Nations' logging interests into the most contentions areas - in critical old-growth spotted owl habitat in the Lillooet Valley, on top of the popular Elk Creek Hiking Trail near Chilliwack, on the Echo Island viewshed of Harrison Hotsprings - it's looking likely that the BC government's intent will be to direct new First Nations and small business logging tenures into some of the most contentious remaining old-growth forests. The blame for any such new controversies will be placed squarely on the shoulders of the BC Liberal government.
Misleading Old-Growth Forest Statistics
The BC government's plan also rationalizes the continued liquidation of the scarce old-growth forests of the southern coast (Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland) with misleading statistics. The report states that "old-growth forests are in no danger of disapperaing" and that only 769,000 hectares of over 4 million hectares of old-growth forests on BC's coast are available for logging. They fail to mention that the vast majority of the 4 million hectares are low-productivity forests with smaller trees (ie. bog forests, stunted trees on rocky sites, subalpine snow forests) that generally cannot be logged economically, or are in protected areas in the northern rainforests (Central and North Coasts and Queen Charlotte Islands where land-use negotiations between environmentalists, First Nations, and companies have resulted in much more extensive protected areas) but that have nothing to do with the scarce and endangered southern old-growth forests of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland where only 6-8% of the productive forests (old-growth and second-growth) are protected.
Satellite photos from 2004 showed that on Vancouver Island, 73% of the original, productive old-growth forests had been logged, including 90% of the valley-bottoms, 87% of the South Island (south of Port Alberni), and 99% of the eastern Coastal Douglas Fir Zone old-growth. In contrast, only 6% of Vancouver Island's productive forests (old-growth and second-growth) are protected in its parks, with another couple percent under tenuous protection in old-growth management areas and Wildlife Habitat Areas. See maps and stats at: www.viforest.org
The situation is similarly dire in the Lower Mainland, where over
three-fourths of the old-growth forests have been logged, which
has caused the spotted owl population to plummet from over 1000
individuals at one time, to 18 individuals today.
Increasing the Logging of Rare, Deciduous Rainforests
The plan also proposes to increase the harvest of deciduous rainforests (ie. hardwoods), which would be ecologically destructive to the rare black cottonwood and bigleaf maple ecosystems which tend to be geographically constricted to larger rivers and streams and have very little protection in the parks system. BC's giant coastal black cottonwoods are Canada's largest deciduous trees - not only can they grow to towering heights, but their trunks can grow 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter, as wide as the largest Douglas fir in Cathedral Grove.
Old-growth bigleaf maples are Canada's mossiest trees, festooned in curtains of hanging mosses and ferns. Very little is known about the ecology of temperate deciduous rainforests, and currently there is very little public awareness about these very rare ecosystems. Every effort should be made to ban logging of old decidous cottonwood and bigleaf maple rainforests.
A New Coastal Old-Growth Plan Yet to Come?
Earlier this summer, in an interview with the "Times Colonist" (June 21, 2007), Minister of Forests Rich Coleman mentioned that another plan that would place restrictions on old-growth logging that would be released "well after" the Coastal Forest Action Plan.
Here's the quote:
"The [Wilderness] Committee is calling on government to completely phase out all old-growth logging on the Island by 2015. Coleman said yesterday the protection of the massive trees measured by the Committee 'would be something we would look at.'
But any details on specifically what old growth on the Island will be protected or harvested won't be available until well after his Coastal Recovery Plan is released."
However, since the release of the Coastal Forest Action Plan
(previously termed the "Coastal Recovery Plan"), the government
has made no mention of any subsequent plan. The Wilderness
Committee is awaiting a response from the Minister Coleman on
whether or not there will be a subsequent plan.
Coleman did state to the "Times Colonist" on Oct.30 that at present, old-growth logging accounts for about 70 per cent of the total coastal harvest, with second-growth at 30 per cent, and that, "We'd like to see the percentages probably reversed within five years." That is, Coleman has stated that he favours a 40% reduction of old-growth logging in 5 years on BC's coast - not fast enough, but if entrenched in law would be an important step forward, particularly if targetting the scarce old-growth forests of the southern coastal region.
A new Coastal Old-Growth Strategy is needed
The Wilderness Committee is adament that there must be a subsequent Coastal Old-Growth Strategy for Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. The Wilderness Committee is calling on the BC government to enact a timeline of mandatory restrictions that will reduce and phase-out old-growth logging by 2015 from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland where old-growth forests are scarce. Satellite photos show that three-fourths of the productive old-growth forests in these regions have already been logged - most of the forests are now second-growth.
In addition, in these regions the Wilderness Committee is seeking immediate old-growth logging closures in all low elevation valley bottoms (90% already logged), on the South Island south of Barkley Sound/ Port Alberni (87% already gone), on the east side of the Island (96-99% already gone), and in all 300,000 hectares of habitat needed for the survival and recovery of the spotted owl as identified by the BC government's own science team in 2004.
Raw Log Exports and BC Forestry Jobs
In BC, dozens of sawmills and pulpmills have shut down since 2001, throwing thousands of BC forestry workers into unemployment. Meanwhile the export of raw logs to foreign mills in the US, Japan, and South Korea have gone through the ceiling.
Two-thirds of raw log exports from BC come from private lands that are outside of Tree Farm Licenses (TFL's). The government's Coastal Forest Action Plan ignores these lands, and instead raises the taxes by varying amounts (to a maximum 20% tax) on raw log exports coming from public (Crown) lands and private lands inside of TFL's, which contribute one-third of the raw log exports leaving BC. Minister of Forests Rich Coleman estimates that the tax will reduce raw log exports from these lands by one-half - that is, by only one-sixth of the total logs exported from the coast.
However, at the same time, increasing the rate of cut of young, small-diameter second-growth forests will result in a massive number of logs which BC sawmills have not been retooled to handle, thus making them available for export to foreign mills.
In addition, the government's plan will allow for a massive increase of raw log exports from Crown lands in the Queen Charlotte Islands. To top it all off, since 2004 the BC government has removed 120,000 hectares - an enormous area of productive forest lands - from their Tree Farm Licenses on Vancouver Island and the coast, most recently 28,500 hectares of Western Forest Products' lands, thus opening the floodgates for raw log exports from those lands. Therefore, as a whole, the BC government's policies will lead to an overall increase in raw log exports, to the detriment of the current and future employment of BC forestry workers.
What Kind of Future do We Want?
It's still possible to create a future where:
- Our last, beautiful ancient forests on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland still tower, to provide homes for all their wildlife, to provide clean water for salmon, to continue to sequester carbon from the atmosphere to counteract climate change, to provide exceptional recreational and tourism opportunities for local people and visitors from around the world, and to remain as an important part of the foundation for many First Nations cultures.
- Our second-growth forests are logged and managed sustainably so that they can age and produce higher quality wood and larger timber volumes, provide clean water for local communities and spawning salmon, and some stands can eventually become home for old-growth dependent species currently trapped in old-growth "islands".
BC's forestry jobs are secured through a guaranteed log supply for local mills and value-added wood manufacturers by banning raw log exports. The BC government could assist in the development of second-growth processing facilities through tax-shifting in order to stimulate investment in a second-growth industry and retool mills away from using old-growth logs. An extensive wood manufacturing industry and sustainable second-growth logging could ensure that a large, unionized workforce with high safety standards thrives on BC's coast once again.
Let's MAKE it HAPPEN! WRITE a NEW LETTER and TAKE ACTION!
The BC Liberal government has been taken so far - through the letters, protests, petitions, and actions of thousands of people, including many of YOU - that they've stated that they intend to shift logging away from old-growth forests. While at this point this is largely a public relations manoeuvre, it sets the goal post closer so that we can hold them to their stated goal by pushing for concrete, legally-binding timelines to ensure a full transition is completed soon on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. So it's VITAL that we keep PUSHING!
WRITE a letter and get involved in the events and activities of the campaign (visit www.wcwcvictoria.org and www.viforest.org )! NOW, more than ever...
If you've previously written, please WRITE AGAIN, in light of the government's new plan!
Let the BC government know whether or not you believe that:
- The new Coastal Forest Action Plan is highly flawed as itentails no new restrictions on old-growth logging, and as such will ensure the continued liquidation of the largest, rarest, high-value ancient trees - red and yellow cedar, Douglas fir, andSitka spruce. However, Forests Minister Rich Coleman has statedthat he would like to see old-growth logging decrease by 40% across the entire coast in 5 years - any reductions, however,must be made legally-binding.
- It's vital that the BC government devise a new Coastal Old-Growth Strategy that implements mandatory restrictions with concrete timelines to end old-growth logging on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, where three-fourths of the productive old-growth forests are now gone, and only 6-8% of the productive forests (old-growth and second-growth) are protected in parks.
- Second-growth forests should be logged sustainably.
- Raw log exports should be banned on both private and public lands.
Write and Phone:
Premier Gordon Campbell
Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests and Range
Just as importantly, your own provincial Liberal or NDP MLA if
you live in BC, who you can find by going to:
Be SURE to include your home mailing address!
ALSO, sign and circulate our petition at www.viforest.org
Visit www.wcwcvictoria.org for a list of upcoming events and
THANK YOU for taking decisive actions for the world's most
For the Wild,
Ken Wu, Joan Varley, Jessi Junkin, Mike Feld
Wilderness Committee - Victoria office
Join 70 000 Canadians and become a member or donate to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Canada's largest grassroots, membership-based wilderness protection organization. Donate online on the left side of our website www.wcwcvictoria.org
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