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  • Heres whats happening to BC forests

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    Take a quick tour of BC forests as seen from space.
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    1700 square kilometres of new clearcuts are created each year.
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    As you view these images, keep in mind what's on the ground that you can't see...
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    40 to 60 percent of the forest was left in the clearcut.
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    This is near Kelowna. Watch for the remaining patches of primary forest (circled).
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    This is near Peachland...
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    ...Haida Gwaii...
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    ...Courtenay...
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    ...Kamloops...
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    ...Prince George...
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    ...100-Mile House...
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    ...Castlegar...
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    ...Cranbrook...
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    ...Burns Lake...
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    ...Merritt...
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    ...Prince George (again)...
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    ...Shuswap Lake...
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    ...Alexis Creek...
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    ...Douglas Lake...
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    ...Cowichan Lake...
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    ...Williams Lake...
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    ...Quesnel...
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    ...Mckenzie...
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    ...Port McNeill...
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    ...Campbell River...
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    ...Francois Lake...
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    and west of Victoria. That's the tour, folks.
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    Forests


    David Broadland
    Forests minister Doug Donaldson's announced 2-year logging deferrals of old-growth forest are almost entirely in areas that have little or no productive old growth on them—or were already protected.
     
    BACK IN JUNE OF THIS YEAR, three BC forest scientists released an independent report quantifying the remaining scattered areas of forest containing “large” and “very large” old trees in this province. These are the “old-growth” forests that contain the highest levels of productivity and biodiversity—the forests that many thousands of British Columbians have fought hard to save from logging for decades. Karen Price, Rachael Holt and Dave Daust used forests ministry data to determine that only 35,000 hectares of “very large” old trees remained in BC, and only 380,000 hectares of “large” old trees. Those two areas amount to 415,000 hectares. 
    Their report, BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity, was issued in the hope that their findings would help inform, or influence, a strategic review of old-growth forests that was being conducted by Al Gorley and Gary Merkel. Gorley and Merkel were appointed by the BC government.
    On September 11, forests minister Doug Donaldson released the Gorley-Merkel report and, at the same time, announced 2-year logging deferrals on 352,739 hectares spread over 9 areas in the province. The minister’s press release referred to these areas as “old-growth.” The 9 areas were indicated as points on a map of BC, along with a brief description of the values that are at stake in each area. No other details about the areas were released. Crucially, no mapping of the areas was provided.
     

    Minister Donaldson’s map of where 2-year logging deferrals would be applied
     
    The “352,739 hectares” of old growth on which Donaldson was deferring “old forest logging” for two years would amount to 85 percent of the spatial extent of remaining old forests containing large and very large trees identified by Price, Holt and Dauss. That sounds like it could be an impressive movement in the direction of conservation of forests with large and very large old trees. Of course, as everybody knows, the devil is in the details, and Donaldson didn’t provide any details.
    Instead, his announcement was made simultaneously with the release of the Gorley-Merkel report, as if Donaldson’s announcement somehow reflected their findings. I expected to be writing about the Gorley-Merkel report, but instead, after obtaining some of the details about the 9 areas, details that Donaldson left out, it seemed pointless to review the report. In light of the details I found, the Gorley-Merkel report appears to have been used by Donaldson as little more than sugar coating around a bitter pill. The bitter pill is that, at best, Donaldson is deferring logging for 2 years on 64,191 hectares, almost all of it in Clayoquot Sound. At best, Minister Donaldson’s deferrals amount to 15 percent of the area identified by Price et al. Here are the details:
    1. Crystalline Creek, where Donaldson claims logging on 9595 hectares is being deferred. You’ve probably never heard of Crystalline Creek before. There’s been no logging road blockades, no media stories. That’s because there is little chance that it would ever be logged, let alone in the next two years. Except for one-tenth of one hectare (no, that’s not a typo), it lies entirely outside of BC’s Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) and a 2-year “deferral of logging” there is meaningless. The precisely estimated area—9595 hectares—is the total area of the small valley, which includes high, rocky ridges that are part of the Bugaboo Mountains. That precise number came from Canfor’s documentation of high value conservation areas within TFL 14, a requirement to obtain Forest Stewardship Council certification. Let’s subtract 9594.9 hectares from Donaldson’s total area where logging is to be deferred for 2 years.
    For any readers unfamiliar with the term “Timber Harvesting Land Base,” this is, according to the Province, “Crown forest land within the timber supply area where timber harvesting is considered both acceptable and economically feasible, given objectives for all relevant forest values, existing timber quality, market values, and applicable technology.” It is reasonable to assume that if an area of forest is not currently inside the THLB, applying a 2-year deferral of logging to it is meaningless.
    2. Stockdale Creek, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 11,515 hectares. Same particulars as Crystalline Creek, except in this case there is a 233.6-hectare overlap with the THLB. It is possible that logging of those 233.6 hectares could occur one day, but Canfor had no plan to do so within the next two years. But just to be safe, let’s subtract only 11,281 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    3. Incomappleux Valley, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 40,194 hectares. The Incomappleux Valley is part of Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal. Most of the magnificent Inland Rainforest along the Incomappleux River has been logged, but 1500 hectares of 1000- to 2000-year-old red cedar near the confluence of Boyd Creek and the Incomappleux River remain. Most of the remaining high-productivity old growth is within Interfor’s TFL 23. It was saved from being logged in 2005 by a 2-person blockade of a logging road. Days after the blockade was ended by a court injunction, a rockslide blocked the road and damaged a bridge, bringing a natural halt to logging. The Valhalla Wilderness Society confirmed there could be another 500 hectares of old-growth forest in the valley that is within the THLB and could be economical to log. Valhalla Wilderness Society estimates that within its 156,461-hectare park proposal (see link to PDF at end of story), which includes the Duncan River Valley to the east, there are 17,827 hectares that overlap the THLB. It is unknown what the “40,194 hectares” on which logging has been deferred for two years refers to, but that is over twice the area of the THLB within the entire park proposal, and much of that has already been logged. Subtract 38,195 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    4. Clayoquot Sound, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 260,578 hectares. The Friends of Clayoquot Sound have been fighting for years to protect all the remaining areas of old growth in the Sound and, by their reckoning, those areas—Meares Island, Flores Island, the Sydney Valley, Ursus River Valley, Clayoquot River Valley and Hesquiat Point Creek—have 54,120 hectares of old-growth forest remaining. It’s nice that Donaldson wants to protect 260,578 hectares of old growth in the Sound, but it’s too late. Over 206,000 hectares of his deferred logging is on land that has already been logged. (Edit: see my comment below this story about a more accurate number for Clayoquot Sound provided by David Leversee.)
    5. Skagit-Silverdaisy, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 5,745 hectares. Canadian Press’ Laura Kane reported in December 2019 that Donaldson had banned logging in the “doughnut hole” of the Skagit Valley in response to an appeal by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and US environmental groups. Kane quoted BC Environment Minister George Heyman: “Heyman said when the [High Ross Dam Treaty] was signed decades ago, the BC and Washington governments signalled clear intent that, once the issue of mineral tenures was resolved, the doughnut hole would be returned to park status. ‘Somewhere along the line…there was a lapse in corporate memory,’ [Heyman] said. ‘We’re restoring that today.’” Somewhere along the line, between December 2019 and September 2020, it seems, there was a second lapse in corporate memory about this forest. Subtract 5,745 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    6. The Upper Southgate River, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 17,321 hectares. The area is within what Donaldson’s ministry describes as the Southgate Landscape Unit. A 2014 plan for Old Growth Management Areas in the unit notes the total area of the unit is 122,155 hectares, of which 5,380 are within the THLB, the area available for logging. In the entire Landscape Unit the plan identified 121 Old Growth Management Areas, and these covered an area of 3212 hectares. How much of that was in the THLB? Forty-six hectares. So while Donaldson promised to defer logging for 2 years on 17,321 hectares of old growth, there’s only 46 hectares that could be logged. Subtract 17,275 hectares from Donaldson’s deferral area.
    7. McKelvie Creek, where Donaldson claims 2,231 hectares. McKelvie Creek flows into the Tahsis River in the middle of the Village of Tahsis on Vancouver Island. Tahsis has been seeking to stop logging in McKelvie Creek Valley because the village believes logging there could result in flooding in the village. A hydrological study by the engineering consultancy McElhanney has established the size of the watershed, which corresponds to the area on which Donaldson says he will defer logging for 2 years.
    8. H’Kusam, where Donaldson claims 1050 hectares. No information on this area, other than it is likely within sight of Mount H’Kusam, has been found. For now we’ll leave Donaldson’s 1050 hectares in the total.
    9. Seven Sisters, where Donaldson claims he is deferring logging on 4510 hectares. When the 39,206-hectare Seven Sisters Provincial Park and Protected Area were created, a 6,287-hectare bite out of the west side of the park was named the Coyote-Hells Bells General Resource Development Zone, where logging has been ongoing. I have no information on the extent of old growth in this area, so to be sure we will leave Minister Donaldson his full 4510 hectares.
    As mentioned above, what’s left is 64,191 hectares of old-growth forest, at best.
    There’s been lots of response to Donaldson’s announcement of logging deferrals, much of it simply reporting what he claimed in his press release. Vicky Husband, the den mother of old-growth forest activism in BC and an Order of Canada recipient in recognition of her 40-year-long effort to conserve such forests, didn’t mince her words when I pointed out some of the details Minister Donaldson left out. Husband responded, “The government’s response to the Gorley-Merkel old growth report is a shoddy piece of spin-doctoring in advance of an election. It is duplicitous in intent; short on facts; and intentionally misleading for the electorate giving the appearance of doing something when the reality is to keep the industry logging the little remaining productive old growth.”
    I’ll leave it at that.
    David Broadland lives amongst rare old-growth Douglas fir in the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic Zone on Quadra Island. He notes that Donaldson’s ministry’s maps of BC’s biogeoclimatic zones, published in the Gorley-Merkel report, don’t show any such forest type on the south end of Quadra Island, Read Island or Cortes Island.
     The Gorley-Merkel old growth report: A New Future for Old Forests A new future for old forests.pdf
    Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposalVWS Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal.Incomappleux.pdf

    David Broadland
    Buried in 71 ministry timber supply reviews is a huge gap in harvest sustainability that makes Forest Stewardship Council certification of BC wood products an international scam.
     
    The hidden, but official, harvest sustainability gap
    Is BC’s forest industry sustainable? The BC Council of Forest Industries claims that “BC leads the world in sustainable forestry.” What would be required for COFI’s claim to be true?
    There’s a lot that could be said here. COFI’s claim could be true if its current members and their predecessors, for example, hadn’t logged 97 percent of biologically-productive old forest in BC. It could be true if there weren’t 1800-plus species of plants and animals facing extinction in BC. It could be true if clearcut logging didn’t have a detrimental impact on the temperature, flow and sediment load of salmon bearing streams and rivers. It could be true if clearcut logging didn’t cause an increase in the frequency, duration and magnitude of peak flows of rivers causing major flooding. It could be true if clearcutting an average of nearly 170,000 hectares per year for the last 20 years hadn’t created the conditions that have led to annual carbon emissions from forest management in BC that are nearly three times higher than all the Canadian oil sands projects combined. And so on. But let’s put that record of undeniable environmental harm to one side. Let’s focus on the one measure of sustainability that both the industry and government point to as evidence that logging BC forests at the current rate is “sustainable”: The Forest Stewardship Council’s stamp of approval. FSC certification is dependent on the condition that, to quote its standards for BC, “the rate of harvest of forest products shall not exceed levels which can be permanently sustained.”
    An analysis of BC government data—information that COFI and its members are aware of—reveals this is not the case.
    Consider the logging conducted on 28 Timber Supply Areas (TSAs) in BC’s Interior. The combined allowable annual cut (AAC) in those TSAs is currently 44 million cubic metres. That represents nearly 70 percent of BC’s total allowable annual cut of 63.9 million cubic metres.  If the cut on the Interior TSAs cannot be “permanently sustained,” then BC forest products should not have FSC certification.
    The Forest Act requires that, every 10 years, BC’s Chief Forester conducts a “Timber Supply Review” for each TSA. That review determines what level of harvest could be sustained in the mid-term for that TSA. The “mid-term” is the period between 10 and 50 years out from the date a timber supply review is finalized.
    If the current allowable annual cut is significantly higher than the projected mid-term harvest level determined in  a timber supply review, then the current AAC in that TSA is unsustainable. This also applies to the aggregate of all 28 BC Interior TSAs. If the total AAC for the TSAs is higher than the sum of their mid-term harvest levels, then the current provincial AAC is unsustainable.
    That’s exactly what we find when we add together the individual gaps for all of the 28 timber supply reviews for BC’s Interior. The current allowable annual cut in these TSAs is 44 million cubic metres per year. The timber supply reviews say the mid-term level that’s sustainable is 32 million cubic metres per year. Therefore the current allowable cut in Interior TSAs is 12 million cubic metres on the wrong side of being sustainable.
     

    In those TSAs where the current AAC is higher than the mid-term harvest level, the timber supply review generally plots a 10-year pathway to the mid-term level. Reductions in the harvest appear to be underway in a number of Interior TSAs, although only time will tell for sure. The downturn in lumber prices in 2019 may account for the drop in actual harvest that we now see. Results for 2020 are incomplete.
    How much forest is being logged to produce that 12-million-cubic-metre overcut? Between 2014 and 2018, one hectare of forest yielded an average of 348 cubic metres of logs in BC. At that rate, the 12 million cubic metre overcut would require that 34,482 hectares—345 square kilometres—of forest be logged.
    As mentioned above, timber supply areas account for about 70 percent of BC’s AAC. The other 30 percent is cut in areas under tree farm licences (TFLs). Province wide, the current allowable annual cut on 34 TFLs is 1.75 million cubic metres higher than the mid-term supply projected by the forests ministry.
    The ministry’s own records, then, show that nearly 14 million cubic metres per year more than can be “permanently sustained” are being cut across the province. That overcut alone results in the loss of 40,000 hectares (400 square kilometres) of forest each year.
    The current total provincial AAC of 63.9 million cubic metres would need to be reduced to about 50 million cubic metres just to meet the Forest Stewardship Council’s rudimentary measure of sustainability.
    For many years BC’s rate of harvest has exceeded the level that the ministry of forests believed could be permanently sustained. The FSC certification has been, to put it as politely as possible, an international scam.
    BC’s forest managers have been quiet about the magnitude of this sustainability gap. That could be out of a concern that if it were known BC wood products don’t meet FSC’s fundamental test, some buyers of BC wood products—like Home Depot—would stop buying. About 80 percent of BC’s manufactured wood products are exported, with 50 percent of that going to the USA. Home Depot’s wood purchasing policy is to give preference to FSC-certified sources. But BC wood doesn’t actually meet FSC’s most basic requirement for certification.
     
    Origins of the harvest sustainability gap
    How did the sustainability gap develop? If we were to confine our exploration of this question to recent history, the official gap is the result of the loss of Lodgepole Pine stands during the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation. That began in 1999 and peaked in 2005—15 years ago. Since the AAC reductions will play out over the next 10 or so years, we can see that it will have taken 25 years for BC’s government to fully implement cut controls it knew in 2005 it would have to implement.
    Why wasn’t a cut in AAC imposed in 2005?
    Directions to BC’s chief forester by consecutive forests ministers, Rich Coleman and Pat Bell, guided AAC determinations throughout the pine beetle infestation and subsequent salvage logging. Coleman, a close ally of the forest industry, directed the chief forester to maintain or enhance (increase) AAC. Pat Bell, who represented the Prince George district as an MLA, an area hard hit by the beetle, directed the chief forester to show “leniency” in AAC determinations for areas affected by the beetle. These written directions have been guiding AAC determinations even into the era of the current NDP government. In other words, the decision not to lower the AAC was a strictly political decision, not based on science, in spite of warnings from forest and climate scientists at the time.
    By 2006, BC government forest scientists were predicting a loss of up to 80 percent of the “merchantable pine volume” in the province as a result of the beetle infestation. That would have amounted to 1.1 billion cubic metres, equivalent to 22 years of logging in the Interior at the region’s pre-beetle AAC of 50 million cubic metres per year. This estimate has lately been reduced to a 55 percent loss of merchantable pine; at the time, though, decision-makers were told it could be up to 80 percent. Faced with that momentous loss, did forest managers in 2006 question the assumptions under which they had been operating?
    Recall that, by 2006, forest scientists had attributed the immense impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation to higher temperatures in winter and summer, a consequence of global heating and climate change. Warmer winters meant that fewer beetles were killed by cold weather, while hotter summers allowed higher rates of beetle reproduction. Hotter, drier summers also meant greater water stress for pine trees, weakening their natural defences against insect attack.
    Also known to forest scientists at the time was that logging forests initiates an immense premature release of carbon to the atmosphere, and that carbon emissions are the main cause of global heating and climate change. Government scientists were aware, then, that logging forests played a significant role in amplifying natural disturbances like the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation.
    Faced with evidence that logging had helped to create the conditions that led to the beetle infestation, and aware of the tremendous long-term loss to the allowable annual cut, what questions did government decision-makers ask?
    Coleman and Bell, it would appear, ignored the science and made short-term political calculations completely detached from the question of whether industrial forestry was sustainable.
    Their government—and industry—responded with short-term economic thinking. They focussed on cutting as many of the dead and dying trees as quickly as possible—including non-pine trees that just happened to live in the same forests. In taking that approach, they also ensured that forestry-dependent communities would become even more dependent on forestry, even though the forests they depended on were rapidly declining in health and extent.
    The main element of this economic plan was increasing the allowable annual cut in the Interior from 50 million to 68 million cubic metres to facilitate salvage of dead and dying pine trees. Indeed, the harvest of pine—mainly dead—doubled compared to before the outbreak. But forests ministry records show that at the peak of the beetle outbreak in 2005, forest companies had only reduced their cut of non-pine species in the Interior by about 15 percent over the level they were cutting before the outbreak started. Let that sink in. Government and industry were told that BC was about to lose up to 40 percent of the total merchantable volume available in the Interior. Industry and government could have responded by backing off completely from cutting non-pine species. Instead they backed off 15 percent.
    Vancouver Sun journalist Larry Pynn wrote about what happened next in a 2012 investigative report,“In the Wake of a Plague.” He documented the environmental damage resulting from salvage logging southwest of Prince George. Clearcuts had previously been limited to 60 hectares in the Interior, but the forests ministry removed any limit on cutblock size to facilitate salvage logging. Pynn noted that a lack of planning and coordination for the “frenzy of logging” that was occurring led to large clearcuts merging into vast clearcuts. He described a 2009 report by the Forest Practices Board that found “more than half of the harvest since 1978 is now in patches larger than 250 hectares and more than one-third in patches larger than 1,000 hectares... Incredibly, at least seven harvested patches, amalgams exceeding 10,000 hectares—25 times the size of Stanley Park—have emerged...”
    Pynn noted that then BC Chief Forester Jim Snetsinger had expressed “‘significant uncertainty’ about the environmental effects of the 80-percent increase in harvesting in the Lakes, Prince George and Quesnel timber supply areas, particularly in regard to biological diversity and hydrologic function.”
    The result of that “frenzy” is now evident in age class distribution data included in timber supply reviews for the TSAs most heavily impacted by the beetle and subsequent salvage logging. For example, in the Lakes TSA, centred on the forestry-dependent community of Burns Lake, 40 percent of the net Timber Harvesting Land Base (THLB) now has trees between zero and 20 years old, with over half of that between zero and ten years. In the 100-Mile House TSA, 33 percent of the net THLB has forest cover between zero and 20 years of age. By “zero” we mean a bare, unplanted clearcut or burned over plantation. The Quesnel, Kamloops and Prince George TSAs each have 26 percent of their net working forest lying as bare clearcuts or young, fire-vulnerable plantations up to 20 years of age.
     

    Above: Age class distribution for Crown land in the Lakes TSA. “THLB” is the Timber Harvesting Land Base. Note that 40 percent of the forest cover in the THLB is 20 years of age or younger. Source: FLNRORD.
     
    A common perception that the “frenzy” of logging was largely a result of the response to the pine beetle is, according to the forests ministry’s record of harvesting in the beetle-affected areas, not accurate. Although the AAC in the affected areas was increased, the harvest records show that there were only two years—2005 and 2006—in which the actual harvest was more than 10 percent higher than the pre-beetle AAC. What the beetle did change was the mid-term supply of harvestable forest and the size of the clearcuts that were allowed, seven of which, as Larry Pynn observed, had grown into 10,000-hectare monsters.
     
    The cumulative impacts of unsustainable logging
    Starting in 2000, following close behind the increasing area of deforestation, a new phenomenon began to emerge in the Interior: forest fires began to get larger. Much larger. Carbon emissions released by forest fires are estimated by the BC government as part of its emissions reporting obligations. Those estimates show emissions from forest fires have doubled every nine years since 2000. Is the inexorable growth in the size of forest fires related to the growing extent of clearcuts in the Interior?
     

    Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire 2017.mov This 1-minute panoramic video shows a 240-square-kilometre (6 kilometres by 40 kilometres) section of the 2017 241,160-hectare Hanceville-Riske Creek Fire. Note the logging roads and burned over plantations and clearcuts. The lake at the bottom left corner is Tzazati Lake; movement is from south to north.
     
    A group of Australian forest scientists believe that country’s historically large fires in late 2019 were made worse by logging. In a comment piece in the science journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, they wrote, “…there is compelling evidence that Australia’s historical and contemporary logging regimes have made many Australian forests more fire prone and contributed to increased fire severity and flammability. This occurs because logging leaves debris at ground level that increases the fuel load in logged forests. It also changes forest composition and leaves these areas of forest both hotter and drier…”
    In BC, the vast majority of forest fires are started by lightning. In 2009, forest research scientists Meg Krawchuk and Steve Cumming published the results of an 8-year study of lightning ignition in 60,000 square kilometers of boreal forest in Alberta. They found that wildfires started by lightning ignition “increased in landscapes with more area harvested.” Because of the physical nature of the fuel in a “harvested area”—its dryness, smaller size, etc—it is more readily ignited by lightning than the fuel in an undisturbed stand of trees.
    Krawchuk and Cumming also noted: “In addition to the fine fuels and slash remaining after forest harvest, post-disturbance regeneration might also contribute to flammability.”
    Several science-based studies have shown—in other jurisdictions—that land that has been clearcut burns more severely than intact forest. The relative abundance of fine-grained fuel at ground level in clearcuts, along with higher temperatures, lower humidity and open exposure to winds, all factor into their higher flammability compared with intact forest. As well, clearcuts adjacent to intact forest stands cause those stands to be drier and more flammable, too.
    Clearcut logging changes the hydrologic and thermal functioning of adjacent forests, and on the scale at which clearcut logging has taken place in BC, the practice has changed fire behaviour. Remarkably, no BC forest scientist has undertaken to study the connection between clearcut logging and changes in fire behaviour and size. Or, if they have, their work hasn’t been made public.
    By the way, those Australian scientists came forward because, they said, “much of the conversation in the aftermath of the spring and summer bushfires had rightly focused on climate change, but the impact of land management and forestry on fire risk was often neglected in these discussions.”
    The scientists highlighted this as a concern because land management policy was “well within the control of Australians” and the fires had been used by some sectors of the forest industry in Australia “to call for increased logging in some areas.”
    The “call for increased logging” is already occurring in BC and is coming from the same  line of economically-motivated reasoning employed by industry and government that gave BC the “uplift” in AAC in response to the Mountain Pine Beetle outbreak. Like claims of “sustainable forestry,” expression of such views appears to be part of the human-powered feedback loop that has amplified the catastrophic impact of forest removal on global heating and climate change in BC and elsewhere.
     
    Coastal clearcuts are growing in size, too
    In the description of the sustainability gap above, I focussed on forests ministry data from 28 TSAs in the Interior. The Mountain Pine Beetle did not directly impact coastal BC, but 150 years of relentless logging has left just as big an impact on coastal forests. However, it’s harder to quantify the impact using ministry records. Data for the nine TSAs in coastal BC is in a state of flux as the ministry completes timber supply reviews following the physical rearrangement of TSA boundaries that arose from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement.
    The sustainability gap on the coast is most clearly indicated by ministry data on forest cover age class distribution. For example, the 2014 Timber Supply Review for the now-defunct Strathcona Timber Supply Area is revealing. This TSA included a large area of Vancouver Island in the vicinity of Courtenay, Campbell River, Gold River, Tahsis and Zeballos, as well as the adjacent mainland coast and the Discovery Islands.
    The ministry’s 2014 data shows an astounding 64 percent of the area on which logging could occur had trees younger than 60 years old. Thirty-six percent of Strathcona TSA’s area had trees 20 years of age or younger—similar to the Interior TSAs devastated by the beetle. Only 24 percent of the TSA was covered with stands between 70 and 230 years of age—old enough to be logged, and not so old as to cause great controversy. Remaining old-growth forest—240 years and older—occupied only 12 percent of the TSA’s area available for logging, according to the ministry’s data. This was in 2014, and extensive logging since then could only have pushed the average age of trees lower.
     

    Above: Age class distribution for Crown land in the Strathcona TSA (2014). “THLB” is the Timber Harvesting Land Base. Note that 64 percent of the forest cover in the THLB is 60 years of age or younger. Source: FLNRORD.
     
    In the Strathcona TSA, most of those trees younger than 60 years are plantation Douglas fir, which has a culmination age of about 80 years. Logging before that age would be an extraordinary waste of a publicly-owned asset, even by the standards of BC’s forest industry. Logging the remaining old growth is increasingly controversial in the midst of a climate emergency and a collapse in biodiversity. That leaves just 23 percent of the area that’s available for logging with trees old enough to log but not so old as to invite blockades of logging roads.
    A review of recent satellite imagery of land that was in the Strathcona TSA in 2014 shows that clearcuts are becoming larger as younger trees become a higher percentage of what’s cut. This trend is in play all across the province.
    Ministry data that covers all of BC show that in the five years between 2002 and 2006, inclusive, an average of 448.6 cubic metres per hectare were harvested. For the five years between 2014 and 2018, inclusive, the harvest per hectare had dropped to an average of 348 cubic metres. The implications of this direction are clear. As time goes on and all old-growth forests in the Timber Harvesting Land Base are liquidated—which has been the implicit policy of the ministry—the area needed to be logged each year in order to achieve the mid-term harvest level will grow even larger. The actual extent of clearcut logging in the province can best be understood by viewing the most recent satellite imagery. Please take a moment to click through the slides at the top of this page that show the vast transformation from primary forests to plantations that’s almost complete.
    The regularly expanding area that gets logged each year means the area of fuel-laden clearcuts and fire-vulnerable plantations younger than 20 years of age will cover an increasingly higher percentage of BC’s land base. As average global temperature increases and the frequency, duration and severity of drought and periods of extreme summer heat increases, it’s difficult to imagine that having a higher percentage of highly-flammable land in BC is going to work out well. Forest fire management in 2017 and 2018 cost BC taxpayers $1.28 billion.
    Other cumulative effects on non-timber values such as the integrity of watersheds and the level of biodiversity will also become increasingly serious as the average age of forests falls and the area of logging grows. The forest-industrial complex is leading BC into an inherently unsustainable future.
     
    An uncertain future
    The numbers I used above to quantify the gap between the current AAC and the mid-term harvest level all come from timber supply reviews. Those reviews are conducted by BC’s chief forester or deputy chief forester. The estimates developed by the reviews rely heavily on computer modelling of future tree growth and stand yield. Processes that depend on such modelling are only as good as the data that goes into the models—we all know the expression “garbage in, garbage out”—and in BC, that data is known to be, well, uncertain.
    In 2018, Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts, both registered professional foresters, made a 134-page joint submission to a panel of forest scientists and professionals assembled to investigate concerns Britneff had expressed in writing to forests minister Doug Donaldson (there’s a link to the report at the end of this story).
    Britneff and Watts recently summarized their concerns in a 20-page report prepared for Focus, outlining numerous problems associated with the data used to inform the timber supply reviews we analysed for this story (link to report at end of story).
    Watts and Britneff challenge a claim made by various chief foresters in many of the timber supply reviews, that the “best available information” is used in coming to a determination of allowable annual cut. Britneff and Watts provided us with evidence in the case of the Bulkley Valley TSA review, for example, that shows the “best available information” included data that an independent consultant had determined did not meet “Ministry Standards” on several counts.
    They also note that a major source of uncertainty in computer modelling is “ineffective data management,” and recount how, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the Forest Analysis and Inventory Branch (FAIB) struggled to effectively manage forest growth-and-yield data, which, as a consequence, had become “corrupted.” The result, say Watts and Britneff, is that “any studies or models using FAIB sample plot data prior to 2017 are suspect.” That would impact most existing Timber Supply Reviews and the corresponding AAC determination.
    Watts and Britneff believe the growth and yield models themselves are problematic and cite numerous ways in which the models provide inaccurate and unreliable estimates. For example, consecutive versions of the models produce different results from the same data, and the difference is significantly greater than the timber supply review process reflects in its consideration of uncertainty. As well, an FOI request showed FAIB had no record of the actual data used to calibrate one of the computer models central to estimating timber volume in natural stands. Watts and Britneff also point out that the growth and yield models lack the sophistication needed to reflect actual forest complexity.
    They point out similar modelling problems in determining managed (plantation) stand yields, managed stand site productivity and expected gains from using select seed to produce planting stock.
    All of those factors create a level of uncertainty about the growth and yield estimates used in ACC determinations that, Watts and Britneff say, create serious doubts about projected mid-term harvest levels.
    Astonishingly, the models cannot account for climate change. On this point, Britneff says, “scientists within the forests ministry have reported and published that our Interior managed forests will most likely experience increased tree mortality, reduced growth and reduced utilization as a result of an increase in forest health issues due to climate change.”
    Yet, because the models cannot accommodate climate change, none of the climate-related effects that are expected to reduce growth and yield are included in the timber supply reviews that determine AAC.
    Watts and Britneff note that while current Chief Forester Diane Nicholls has been directed by Minister Donaldson to include “the best information on climate change and cumulative effects of multiple activities on the land base” in the timber supply review process, Nicholls has effectively demurred.
    In a 2019 timber supply review for the Lakes TSA, she deferred consideration of cumulative effects to the land use planning process and stated “the potential rate and specific characteristics of climate change in different parts of the province are uncertain. This uncertainty means that it is not possible to confidently predict the specific, quantitative impacts on timber supply.”
    The chief forester went on to state that “no responsible AAC determination can be made solely on the basis of a precautionary response to uncertainty with respect to a single value,” but provided no justification for this statement.
    Britneff and Watts observe that Nicholls’ response “is in stark contrast to the federal government’s guidelines on taking a precautionary approach in the absence of full scientific certainty.”
    They point out that the chief forester “uses the concept of uncertainty to exclude factors that would lower the AAC, such as climate change, while at the same time ignoring the uncertainty associated with factors that enable an increase—or simply increase the AAC—such as natural and managed stand growth estimates, genetic gain estimates for select seed, and the increased productivity assigned to managed stands.”
    The end result, they say, is an “AAC determination process that clearly favours timber harvesting over integrated decision making, leading to an AAC that is too high and unsustainable, particularly in the mid-term.”
    Above, we noted that the mid-term harvest level determined by Chief Forester Nicholls and her predecessors is some 14 million cubic metres lower than the current AAC. Yet Britneff and Watts make a strong argument that the process and technology used to come to that determination are actually overestimating that mid-term harvest level.
    It should be clear to everyone that what’s happening to BC’s forests is not sustainable. Coupled with the widespread acceptance by governments and people around the globe that planet Earth faces a climate emergency and a collapse in biodiversity, BC’s government needs to act. The only meaningful action that can be taken is to conserve what remains of natural habitat in biologically productive forests and to reduce emissions, particularly large-scale sources of carbon like BC’s forest industry. For BC’s government to continue to hide the extent of the damage being done by what is now a minor contributor to the provincial economy is unconscionable.
    In my next story, I will examine in detail the impact BC’s forest industry has had on biodiversity and ecological integrity.
    David Broadland’s grandfather, a Russian immigrant who came to Canada in 1911, was the chief cook in a 200-man logging camp near Campbell River on Vancouver Island. The logging show was operated by Bloedel Stewart & Welch. At that time, the forest industry was a major factor in BC’s economic health. Times have changed.
     
    Submission by Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts to the Forest Inventory Review Panel (2018)Britneff and Watts 2018 submission to the Forest Inventory Review Panel.pdf
    Summary of above submission provided to Focus: Summary of Britneff and Watts 2018 submission to the Forest Inventory Review Panel.pdf
     


    Saul Arbess
    Two weeks into a campaign to halt logging of ancient rainforests in the last intact watershed of the San Juan River system, activists have set up a third blockade on unceded Pacheedaht Territory.
    by Saul Arbess and Joshua Wright
     
    IN THE MIDST OF AN ONGOING CLIMATE EMERGENCY, logging of the ancient rainforests continues at an unfettered rate. The amount of old-growth forest logged each day on Vancouver Island is equivalent to 32 soccer pitches according to the Wilderness Committee. These forests are not only vital for carbon sequestration, but also fundamental for the integrity of complex, interconnected ecosystems that support keystone and culturally significant species, such as salmon. Alarmingly, less than one percent of largest stature forest was found to be remaining on the Island according to the scientific report BC’s Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity recently authored by Dr Rachel Holt, Dr Karen Price and David Daust. And most of that is going at an accelerating rate on Vancouver Island, with an estimate of three years remaining before it is all gone, except the meagre areas that have been protected.
    Grassroots forest defenders from across Vancouver Island have prevented Teal Jones Group from blasting logging roads into the headwaters of the Fairy Creek watershed for the past two weeks. The road would have penetrated the last remaining intact, unlogged tributary in the entire San Juan River system. The tributary is near Port Renfrew on unceded Pacheedaht territory.
    Last Sunday, August 23, saw a second blockade established east of the Fairy Creek watershed. A third blockade was set up August 24 on a logging road on Edinburgh Mountain (also unceded Pacheedaht Territory).
    With the exception of Eden Grove on Edinburgh Mountain, contiguous old-growth corridors have been severed between the rich valley bottom and the protected upper reaches. The infamous Big Lonely Doug stands in stark contrast to the clear cut it stands in on Edinburgh, the sole remaining giant fir in the cut. Big Lonely Doug has become an internationally recognized symbol for BC’s devastating logging practices. Just up the mountain, logging is ongoing. This is what the newest blockade will stop.
    Zoe Cilliers, a forest defender at the blockade, says, “If we pick and choose where our actions line up with our words, our words don’t mean anything. I’m an ecologist; I work with kids, I teach them about old growth, I teach them the value of these ecosystems. Being here means keeping a promise. If I don’t stand for this, how can I stand behind what I say to these kids?”
    K.L, also at the blockade, states, “Anyone who wonders why people are blockading, they should go and spend some time in an old growth forest, and they will understand. It’s the mosses, the spongy floor, the smell, it’s the stillness, the spaciousness.”
     

    Old-growth forest in the Fairy Creek Valley
     
    In April 2020, the BC government finalized its commissioned review on the current state of Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth forests. The report has not yet been released to the public by the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development who may sit on the report until October for reasons not understood, given the crisis in our forests. Meanwhile, old-growth logging persists; roads are blasted into pristine mountains; massive, ancient trees are falling. Time is of the essence. As protester J.C. says, “Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. It’s short-sighted to be logging like this.”
    Gary Merkel, one of two Old Growth Strategic Review commissioners, said in an interview with the Narwhal, last January: “We’re managing ecosystems—that are in some cases thousands of years old—on a four-year political cycle. The management systems change from government to government.” 
    The demands for the Province from the forest defenders at the frontline of the Fairy Creek blockades are the following:
    (1) Immediately release the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, which have not been made public since the panel submitted its report in April 2020.
    (2) The immediate and permanent end of all old-growth logging in BC.
    (3) Work with sovereign First Nations to implement a comprehensive plan for a sustainable and restorative second-growth forestry model.
    Saul Arbess has been a forest activist since the late 1980s on southern Vancouver island and a retired professor of anthropology. Josh Wright is a forest activist maintaining a watching brief on old growth destruction across the Pacific Northwest.
    Learn more: https://www.youtube.com/embed/kBnhktwJIo4
     


    David Broadland
    July 3, 2020
    Over the past 10 years, it cost British Columbians $365 million per year, on average, to allow forest companies to log publicly-owned forests.
     

    Most of BC’s “working forest” is now a giant patchwork of logging roads, clearcuts and young, fire-vulnerable plantations. For that dubious environmental result, BC citizens are paying more to manage the destruction than they receive in direct payments from forest companies for the wood extracted.
     
    ONE OF THE GREAT ENDURING MYTHS told about BC’s forest industry is that “forestry pays the bills, folks.” Those are the exact words a Vancouver Sun reader used recently to dismiss a report by three BC forest scientists that urged the provincial government to put an immediate moratorium on further logging of large, old-growth trees. That reader’s view? No can do. Forestry pays the bills.
    The Sun reader didn’t say whose bills; perhaps forestry pays his bills. But this rationale—that the forest industry is of such great economic importance to BC that nothing should be done to disturb its operations—has been used for decades as proof that any change in direction on public forest policy would be foolhardy.
    That may have been true 40 years ago, but those days are long gone.
    Over the past 10 years, for example, the cost to the public purse of managing BC’s publicly-owned forests has exceeded all direct revenue collected from the forest industry by $3.65 billion. BC taxpayers are, on average, providing a subsidy of $365 million each year to forest companies that operate in BC.
    That figure of $3.65 billion is derived from publicly available accounts published by the Province of BC. Those accounts show that, on the revenue side, BC collected $6.41 billion in stumpage between 2009 and 2019. It also collected about $300 million through the BC Logging Tax. Together they produced revenue of $6.71 billion.
    On the expense side, figures published in annual Ministry of Forests Service Plan Reports over those 10 years show total expenditures of $10,363,595,000.
    That works out to an accumulated loss of $3,652,460,667.
    Forestry doesn’t pay the bills, folks.

    Perhaps one of the reasons this basic fact about the forest industry—that it doesn’t pay the bills—is widely misunderstood by the BC public is that detailed accounts of forest-related revenue and expenses for a given year never appear in the same document, at least not in public. Determining these numbers would be a daunting task for any curious citizen. For example, to obtain a detailed account of stumpage revenue collected by the Province over the past 10 years, Focus needed to download and sort through 3,617,486 lines of data from the Ministry of Forests’ Harvest Billing System.
    There are, of course, other gauges of the economic benefits generated by the forest industry that ought to be considered in an examination of the claim that “forestry pays the bills, folks.”
    The forest industry—which includes forestry, logging and support industries, pulp and paper manufacturing, and wood product manufacturing—has long trumpeted its contribution to this province’s exports. The value of those exports, of course, belongs to the forest companies that produce them, and there’s nothing to prevent those companies from investing profits from those exports outside of BC. Vancouver-based Canfor, for example, recently announced majority acquisition of Vida Group, a Swedish forest products company. Canfor has also invested in Alberta, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Arkansas. With the globalization of BC forest companies, we just don’t know whose bills are being paid by raw log and wood product exports.
    A more reliable indicator of the overall economic importance of the forest industry to BC is its contribution to the provincial GDP. For the eight years between 2012 and 2019, according to BC Stats, the economic contribution of the forest industry accounted for an average of 2.6 percent of provincial GDP. That includes all the road-building, felling of forests, transportation of logs to mills and log export facilities, and all the milling into wood products at lumber, panel, pulp, and paper mills. In each of those eight years, the annual growth in overall provincial GDP—none of which came from the forest industry—was larger than the entire output of the forest industry. Over those eight years, the forest industry’s contribution to GDP shrank 25 percent. By 2019 it accounted for only 2.1 percent of provincial GDP.
    Not only does the forest industry not pay the bills, its economic importance to the health of the provincial economy is getting smaller and smaller each year. This trend is evident in employment statistics, too.
    In 2000, according to BC Stats, there were 100,400 people employed in the forest industry. Those jobs accounted for 5.2 percent of BC’s labour force. By 2019, that had dropped to 46,100 jobs, or 1.8 percent of all jobs. If that rate of decline continues, the remaining jobs will be gone by 2031.
    To keep those 46,100 jobs going, the Province has provided the forest industry exclusive access to 25 million hectares of British Columbia. At current employment levels, that works out to 5.42 square kilometres of publicly-owned working forest for each forest-industry job.
    The records Focus obtained from the forest ministry’s Harvest Billing System allowed us to determine the actual cut and compare that with the official Allowable Annual Cut.
     

    The data shows a 22 percent drop in the actual cut in 2019 as compared with the average cut over the previous nine years. This decline occurred before the coronavirus emerged and, given the global recession that’s been triggered by the virus, the amount of forest cut in 2020, and the number of people supported by that cut, are likely to reach historic lows. A comparison of the reported volume harvested in the first six months of 2020 with the same period in 2019 showed a 21 percent drop across the province (down 27 percent in coastal BC). The troubled future many British Columbians have imagined would one day afflict BC’s forest industry has now arrived.
    The sustained losses to the public purse from the current management regime for publicly-owned forests might provide ammunition for those who would privatize the land base dedicated to logging. But there are good indicators that, after decades of over-exploitation of public forests, managing BC’s forests primarily for timber extraction is a money-losing proposition. TimberWest and Island Timberlands, through Mosaic, their joint business management unit, have recently claimed that the value of logs in the BC market doesn’t even cover the cost of logging. TimberWest and Island Timberlands want to export more raw logs offshore in order to make money. To get what they want they have curtailed their operations until the federal and provincial governments acquiesce, putting hundreds of workers in small communities out of work. If timber extraction in BC has become such a marginally-profitable business, what would happen if the working-forest land base was privatized and there were no controls on what could be done with the wood extracted? Where is the public interest benefit in that direction?
    A change that would be more beneficial to the public interest is suggested by data Focus downloaded from the Ministry of Forest’s Harvest Billing System. For 2017, 2018 and 2019, we compared the value per cubic metre obtained by BC Timber Sales with that obtained from area-based tenures such as those held by TimberWest and Island Timberlands. BC Timber Sales uses a process of competitive auctions to market wood from public forests. Area-based tenures were established in the mid-20th century as a way of encouraging large forest companies to build mills in BC. Many of those mills have since closed and there is now no requirement for area-based tenure holders to operate manufacturing facilities to process wood logged from their tenures.
    For all of BC for those three years, BC Timber Sales obtained an average value of $37.33 per cubic metre. The average value collected from area-based tenures was $13.32 per cubic metre, a third of what BCTS collected. Ending area-based tenures and expanding competitive auction of publicly-owned forests seems to be a much more certain way to protect the public interest, at least as far as the economic value of logs is concerned.  
    With an ever-increasing area of BC lying bare, stripped of forest by clearcut logging and clearcut-and-plantation fires—both contributing heavily to the climate emergency and biodiversity collapse—perhaps now would be a good time to envision a less destructive, more ecologically-enlightened relationship between humans and what remains of the forests of British Columbia.
    David Broadland is spending the pandemic learning more about the forest he lives in and discovering the plants and creatures he shares it with. He can be contacted at focuspublish@shaw.ca.


    Briony Penn
    Canada’s plan to include emissions from logging in carbon calculations points towards a new economic model whereby communities manage (and save) their forests for carbon storage.
     
    BRITISH COLUMBIA’S DIRTIEST SECRET—destruction of one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and releasing more emissions than any other province or sector through logging, slashburning and exacerbating fire through failed management—is about to enter the national public record. The logging industry and complicit governments will still continue their polite fiction that depositing pennies, i.e., planting trees, will compensate for robbing the carbon bank of billions, i.e., clearcutting our high carbon storage temperate rainforests, but they can’t sing that song forever.
    This January with the release of Canada’s 4th Biennial Report on Climate Change, Canada announced its change in approach to accounting for emissions from the forestry sector (included in the category Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) towards its 2030 emission reduction target.
    This means that when we see those bar charts with emissions from different sectors—like oil and gas, transportation, buildings, electricity, heavy industry—forestry will be there too. And you’ll notice it because it will be the red bar that rises above everything else.
    As expected, industries’ hand is still evident in the writing of the report: they don’t have to report emissions of harvested wood immediately; they don’t have to report fire in industrial clearcuts/plantations as one of their human-caused emissions; they buried the burning of wood pellets in the energy sector in the hopes that they can chip and burn the last of the old growth.
    Still, it won’t take long for the bright young minds who will inherit this planet to see that even though they are still buried and scattered, the numbers can be pulled together. And when you add up all the emissions, logging in BC is the worst polluting industry in the nation.
     
     

    Schmidt Creek June 2020.m4v Above, part of a 30-hectare clearcut in Vancouver Island’s Schmidt Creek Valley. Each year, approximately 170,000 hectares of Crown forest in BC are clearcut. That’s equivalent to 6000 clearcuts the size of that pictured above. The carbon released to the atmosphere is far greater than Alberta’s oil sands projects. (Photo by Mark Worthing)
     
    Logging hits twice in the climate equation—once with the release of huge emissions and again with the removing of the mature forests that pull the CO2 out of the atmosphere. It takes a plantation of seedlings two human generations to catch up to a mature forest in pulling the same amount of carbon out of the air; it will be over a century or two (depending on the forest) to replenish the overall storage of carbon. The forest industry likes to deceive the public by saying that forests are renewable, but they forget to add “one day.”
    One of these bright minds is Joseph Pallant, who with his organization Ecotrust Canada, is proposing a system that would fund local communities across Canada to conserve and restore their forests.
    This is not a Trudeau stop-gap plan to just plant trees, but a real plan for meaningful ongoing livelihoods to restore damaged forests, conserve existing forests and manage forests with the climate in mind. It prioritizes good ecosystem planning, assesses climate impact, and establishes tools to monitor progress. Polluters pay for rural communities to reduce emissions and increase sinks while upholding international conventions on biodiversity, indigenous rights and climate. To get these projects up and running, we need three reforms in federal government policy: First, a methodology (or defensible way) to estimate, quantify and report on the climate, community and biodiversity aspects of a proposed project. There are lots of examples elsewhere, including California. Second, a national fund to invest in improved forest carbon, community and ecosystem outcomes. And third, a way to register these emissions reductions and improvements in carbon storage as part of Canada’s progress toward the Paris Agreement.
    Having a Forest Carbon Economy Fund would draw its inspiration from innovations in the low carbon economy such as carbon offsets, community-controlled forests and Indigenous Guardian programs. Ecotrust Canada has been innovating in this space over the last 25 years and has worked on a variety of projects that are feeding into this new approach.
    The Cheakamus Community Forest Offset Project, developed by Brinkman Climate and Ecotrust Canada, is managed in partnership by Whistler, the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation. The project earns significant revenue from sales of carbon offsets, allowing the Community Forest to implement an Ecosystem-Based Management Plan, reduce harvest by 50 percent and double riparian buffers. It protects more old growth, wildlife management areas, and keeps more carbon on the ground. Their carbon revenue funds work to tackle the interrelated risks of fire, drought and flooding, stops clearcutting, and increases resilience in the forest and around the community.
    The Cheakamus project, like many of the high-quality offset projects in BC, is developed to the provincial carbon offset standard built to supply the Province’s “Carbon Neutral Government” commitment. Implemented under the Campbell government and continued today, all schools, hospitals, universities and core government operations must be carbon neutral. Some funding was given in the early days to implement energy efficiency at these facilities, and they all track and report their emissions annually. Any emissions that are not reduced (currently around 700,000tCO2e/year) must be offset by BC offsets from projects like the Cheakamus project, the Great Bear Rainforest project and others.
    This system was set to be a trial run, and test for a larger cap-and-trade program that Gordon Campbell had legislated to begin in 2012 for large polluters. Alas, Christie Clark struck that law off the books, and John Horgan’s NDP never brought it back.
    A second governmental market for offsets in BC exists at the local government level. It is a polluter-pay model and comes from Gordon Campbell’s surprising legacy of legislating local governments into carbon neutrality. While full carbon neutrality was originally the commitment, it got watered down to “make progress to carbon neutrality.” A few local governments have continued to achieve neutrality through organizational emissions reductions and offsets, such as Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. As Pallant states: “Local governments across the country are aware of the climate emergency, but many haven’t taken the opportunity to reduce their footprint in line with the science. Development of regional carbon offset projects like Cheakamus offer a compelling way for local governments to bolster their climate action, along with emissions reductions achieved in their operations.”
    After a flurry of innovation, action and successful project development a decade ago, there are still startlingly few offset projects in Canada. Ecotrust Canada has a project under way in the Northeast Superior region of Ontario supporting “improved forest management” a fancy name for ecosystem management on a newly established, 1.5 million hectare “Enhanced Sustainable Forest License” with six Indigenous communities. This project was being developed to issue offsets under the Ontario cap and trade program, but a combination of slow offset protocol development by the government, and the Conservative government’s scrapping of cap and trade was a real setback.
    There is now hope for change, with the federal government currently developing a national offset system as part of their Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change. Ecotrust Canada and many other organizations hope that this can drive resources into the important work of community-led emissions reductions projects throughout the country.
    Since Christie Clark’s slashburn of progressive carbon policy, the only other way to generate revenue to finance the higher costs of ecosystem forestry and conservation has been voluntary offset markets or donations through the traditional non-profit sector. According to Pallant, “It’s very difficult to raise the capital and take the risk to develop a truly additional, high quality offset project without an expectation of being able to sell the outcomes, only issued years down the road, into a stable market. It’s exciting that the Canadian government has indicated its strong support in its Pan Canadian climate framework.”
    Pallant acknowledges that there has been lots of international criticism—some warranted—around offsets in the first 25 years of their use as a transition tool to a new climate economy. He also recognizes the advancements that have been made to ensure that cultural and social equity issues are addressed. He states: “The federal move to create payment-for-performance carbon projects, but basing them on true carbon accounting with goals of lowering the national emissions, will have huge implications for First Nations and other land rights and title holders.”
    “How will it look?” is the big question that Pallant is hoping to help answer at the federal level. We know there are models out there that promise rural economic development based on longterm nurturing of the forests—rather than mancamps bent on destruction. This begins to look like the future we are all waiting for.
    For more on Ecotrust’s proposal, see  https://ecotrust.ca/latest/blog/forest-carbon-economy-fund-a-new-pathway-for-funding-forest-carbon-and-biodiversity-outcomes/
    Briony Penn is the award-winning author of non-fiction books including The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, A Year on the Wild Side, and, most recently, Following the Good River: the Life and Times of Wa’xaid, a biography of Cecil Paul (Rocky Mountain Books).
     


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