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  • Michelle Connolly
    Widely circulated new map depicting BC's disappearing primary forests raises thorny questions about the state of BC's forests. The creators clarify what it shows.

    Part of the Seeing Red Map showing remaining primary forest (in green) and the part of BC that has been industrially logged (red). Click on the map to enlarge, or see a live scalar version which allows you to examine specific areas of the province in finer detail.
     
    AT CONSERVATION NORTH, we are pleased with the widespread viewing of our primary forests map called “Seeing Red” and with so many favourable comments.  
    “Seeing Red” is the first freely-available map of its kind. Its veracity is only as good and complete as the publicly available provincial government information underlying it.  
    The matter of definition of “primary forest,” which the map depicts in the colour green, is tricky and, in response to some comments from the public, needs further clarification.    
    “Primary forest” is a commonly used and scientifically accepted term for forests having composition and structure that largely reflect natural processes. Primary forests have never been industrially logged.  
    Sometimes primary forests are referred to as “original,” or “natural,” or “intact” forests. Primary forests are important because they are the best habitat for wildlife, support the largest stores of forest carbon, and contain the last old-growth forests.
    If readers were to view some selected red areas of the map on Google Earth, they may appear green and forested. It is important to understand that Google Earth imagery is blended and often years behind reality. Also, on this imagery one cannot distinguish between primary forest and replanted cutblocks—they both look green.  
    The scientific community disagrees with claims that “greenness” as inferred from Google Earth is a credible indicator of ecological integrity. Even-aged monoculture plantations in cutblocks do, in fact, contain chlorophyll and are indeed green, but they are simplified, fragmented, degraded, and ecologically impoverished.
    Some areas of the “Seeing Red” map are light grey. Light grey is clearly defined in the map legend as places where there is no forest or for which no forest information exists (See the map legend). 
    These areas with “no data” simply represent gaps in the government’s forest inventory available to the public or urban areas where the government does not conduct a forest inventory (e.g., the UVic campus). 
    One reason that gaps exist over some areas the reader may know to be forested is that some industry holders of tree farm licences either refuse to share their forest inventory with the government, or will not allow the government to share their forest inventory information on Crown land with the public.  
    The forests ministry would be doing a badly needed public service if it were to make all forest information on Crown lands freely available to the public so that we may make an even better map.
    Michelle Connolly MSc is a director of Conservation North.
    For more information about the Seeing Red Map, read Sarah Cox’s report at the narwhal.ca  

    Jens Wieting
    Critical report shows current BC logging practices increase climate disaster risks for BC communities.
     
    A NEW INDEPENDENT REPORT commissioned by Sierra Club BC looks at the relationship between forest management and severe climate impacts expected across BC It shows that governments can mitigate climate related disasters like flooding, droughts, fires and heatwaves by swiftly reforming BC’s forestry practices, applying Indigenous knowledge to forest-related decisions, and protecting and restoring intact forests, before the climate crisis worsens. 
    Written by Dr. Peter Wood, the Intact forests, safe communities report found that industrial logging has a significant impact on the severity and frequency of climate risks for BC communities. Of the 15 climate risks identified in BC’s 2019 Strategic Climate Risk Assessment, the majority are influenced by logging. The BC Climate Risk Assessment outlined how several of these risks have the potential to create catastrophic impacts.  
    BC’s assessment did not consider the ways that logging worsens climate risks, presenting a major blind spot that could undermine the effectiveness of the Province’s response to global heating. In order to support the health and safety of BC communities, it is critical that the BC Climate Preparedness and Adaptation Strategy, now under development, include measures to protect intact forests and reform forestry practices. The best way to accomplish this is by implementing all of the recommendations from the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review. 
    “The science is clear that clearcutting increases the frequency and intensity of forest fires. We also know it increases both the risk of flooding and periods of drought, as well as erosion and slope instability, which increase the likelihood of landslides,” explained Dr. Peter Wood, the author of the report. “In contrast, old intact forests act as a moderating influence on the landscape, supporting ecosystem function and resilience, and lowering risk to surrounding communities.”  
    “The climate crisis impacts us all, but it particularly has devastating repercussions for vulnerable and marginalized people, including First Nations across the province, many who have limited capacity and resources to respond to climate disasters and whose territories are high-risk areas that corporations and governments seek to develop,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. 
     “UBCIC endorsed Resolution 2020-23 to call on the government to involve Indigenous people in decisions related to forestry management, including the protection of old-growth forests, as they not only have a vested interest in protecting and stewarding the land that they have maintained spiritual and cultural ties to since time immemorial, but many Nations depend on forestry for their livelihoods and must be able to help guide BC’s transition to more sustainable and conservation-based practices,” added Phillip. 
    The climate crisis puts the health and safety of communities in danger, and clearcut logging is making things worse. 
    It doesn’t need to be this way. Immediately deferring logging in at-risk old-growth forests and implementing the promised paradigm shift to forest management can reduce climate risks, if we move quickly. Remaining old-growth must be protected, and forest that has already been degraded by logging can be restored to increase resiliency. 
    Premier John Horgan has committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review; however, the BC government has yet to implement interim protection for all at-risk forests, provide the necessary funding, and disclose a timetable for how they will live up to this commitment.   
    The ‘Intact forests, safe communities’ report emphasized that the provincial government must work with Indigenous decision-makers to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, cultural values, and knowledge into forest management decisions to mitigate risks.  
    “First Nations have long been lobbying the BC government to recognize their right to manage the forest in their territories and to protect their sacred sites, old-growth ecosystems that support medicinal plants, and habitat for wildlife and birds. Through management of their forests, they would keep healthy forests with high environmental standards. This report reflects what First Nations have always known, that the provincial governments must change the way they manage forests immediately,” stated Kekinusuqs, Dr. Judith Sayers, President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.
    We are entering a new era of climate emergency and forest management must be adapted to mitigate many of the risks. This is an opportunity to transition to a more sustainable model of forestry that is jointly designed with First Nations and build more resilient communities. However, time is running out, as these threats will only increase in magnitude with further warming and logging of intact forest.
    Jens Wieting is Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner.
     
    Intact Forests, Safe Communities: Intact Forests, Safe Communities, Peter Wood (2021).pdf

    Kathy Code
    Open Letter: Ecoforestry Institute urges moratorium on old-growth logging
     
    Dear Premier Horgan and Minister Conroy: 
    We write to you today out of grave concern for our last and vanishing old-growth forests in British Columbia. In view of the social, cultural and ecological values of these vastly diminished, yet iconic ecosystems, we respectfully request that you place an immediate moratorium on all harvesting of our remaining old-growth forests as a means to save these precious areas of biodiversity and climate change resilience. Old-growth forests have high cultural significance for First Nations and we would ask that their views be considered with equal priority in the decision-making process. 
    First, an introduction. We are the Ecoforestry Institute Society, the owners and trustees of Wildwood, the longest continuously managed ecoforest on the west coast of North America. Situated in Yellow Point on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Wildwood was previously owned by Merv Wilkinson, who received the Order of BC and the Order of Canada for his pioneering work in ecoforestry. EIS has managed the property since 2001 and gained ownership in 2016. We are proud to hold it in stewardship on behalf of the people of BC. 
    Wildwood has been harvested since 1945 on a single tree selection basis and according to the practices and principles of ecoforestry. Harvests are conducted while ensuring all ecosystems and wildlife habitats remain intact and functioning. It is a model that has served us well, with Wildwood retaining its old growth legacies over time while providing income from its forest harvesting. It now models a diverse income stream from multiple revenue sources. 
    We understand all too well how old-growth forests contribute not only to a multitude of cultural and economic returns over generations but also provide those essential life functions—wildlife habitat, oxygen production, carbon storage, water and nutrient recycling—that allow us and our fellow living beings to exist on this planet. We are sure you understand this dynamic as well and how intact forests are inherent to the character and spirit of our great province. 
    We commend you for committing to adopting all the recommendations in the Gorley/Merkel Old-Growth Report, but your statement that your consultation process regarding their recommendations will take place over the next three years is very alarming. 
    There is no doubt that consultations with First Nations and stakeholders are critical and must occur, yet if the clearcutting of our old-growth forests continues during this time, perhaps at even faster rates than ever as industrial forest companies sense oncoming changes, the areas remaining will be significantly diminished. Forestry workers, too, are understandably concerned about their employment futures. Indeed, the United Steel Workers Union and forest communities across BC must be assured of a transition to a new and sustainable future that is independent of the availability of old-growth forest. 
    We believe that we have come now to a place where we can no longer risk what little remains of old-growth ecosystems. Government has long known the risk to cutting this non-renewable resource, and over time, both the Auditor General and the Forest Practices Board have spoken of the need for innovative approaches and practices on the part of government to preserve these forests. 
    We understand that, historically, government has relied heavily on forestry as an economic revenue stream and job creator, yet the current need for increased taxpayer subsidies and the ongoing industry mechanization guarantees this industry is no longer the economic driver it once was. 
    We argue that the benefits of old-growth forests to our province in terms of their biodiversity, carbon sequestration, tourism and cultural values far outweigh the short-term economic gains to be had by destroying them. We ask that government recognize the irreplaceable resource that it is and protect what little is left for future generations. 
    So, the crux of the matter is that while your government works on the consultation process to come up with solutions, we must ensure our old-growth forests and the biodiversity that defines them are protected until this process is complete. 
    We respectfully ask that the Government of British Columbia place an immediate moratorium on all industrial harvesting and development in old growth forests (as defined in the “Priority Actions” section of the Price, Holt, Daust report BC's Old Growth Forest: A Last Stand for Biodiversity). 
    EIS has reaped the benefits from a forest that has been managed to protect its Old Growth attributes over time and now provides educational resources to both students and professionals in the discipline of ecoforestry. As well as hosting international visitors, we have been privileged to host several of your staff and meet with your predecessor, Minister Donaldson, all of whom seemed impressed with our philosophy, forest management system and with our magnificent Old Growth trees. 
    We would be happy to share with you our model for ecological forest management and our new initiative with Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw and other First Nations to create the “Syeyutsus” or “Walking Together” program which combines western science with First Nations Indigenous Knowledge to create an holistic approach to forest management. 
    We would be pleased to meet with you and ministry staff at your earliest convenience for further discussions. We can be reached at admin@ecoforestry.ca or in response to this email. 
    Thank you for your consideration. 
    Kindest regards, 
    Peter Jungwirth, EIS Co-chair, RPF and Wildwood Ecoforester 
    Barry Gates, EIS Co-chair, Wildwood Forest Manager and Ecoforester 
    Kathy Code, EIS Vice-chair and Communications Director, Economic Development Strategist 
    Sharon Chow, EIS Treasurer and Secretary, Education Committee 
    Dr. Nancy Turner, EIS Education Co-chair, Professor Emeritus, Indigenous Liaison and Ethnobotanist 
    Erik Piikkila, EIS Education Co-chair and Ecoforester
    Cheryl Bancroft, EIS Architectural Designer and Homestead Manager Stephanie Johnson, EIS Director and Indigenous Liaison
    Chris Walther, EIS Director, RPF and Ecoforester 

    Anthony Britneff
    The hidden agenda of industrial forestry companies in BC is privatization of publicly-owned land. Rural communities dependant on forestry need to resist that and support changes that would increase local, public control of the working forest.
     
    THE FOREST SECTOR has deep roots in rural British Columbia with multi-generational families working in the industry either directly in logging or in related businesses like selling logging trucks. Continued forest industry decline threatens a long-established way of life for those relatively few people remaining in the sector.  
    The forest industry’s decline began in 1988.  Since then, that decline has been exacerbated by the impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and by a shortage in timber supply owing to unsustainable logging, wildfires and forest health issues related to clearcutting and climate change. 
    Since 1988, the forest industry has contracted radically. The pulp mills that once stood in Prince Rupert, Kitimat, Ocean Falls, Port Alice, Campbell River, Gold River, Tahsis and Woodfibre are long since gone.  Since 2000, over 80 sawmills province-wide have been shuttered. Mining, not forest products, is now B.C.’s largest export sector.
     

    The Elk Falls pulp, paper and lumber mill at Campbell River on Vancouver Island is one of many major forest product manufacturers around BC that have closed permanently since 2000, cutting forest-related employment in half.
     
    Rural British Columbians have dealt with, and adapted to, massive job losses in the forest sector over the last three decades. In 2000, jobs in forestry, logging, support services and wood products manufacturing numbered 101,000. Since then, over 55,000 jobs have been lost.
    The industry’s once-proud claim that forestry paid for healthcare and education is now illusory. Government revenue reporting shows that forestry does not pay its own bills never mind underpinning social service expenditures. The forest industry now accounts for a mere 2 percent of provincial gross domestic product.
     

    The once vibrant Ocean Falls (inset), now all but abandoned.
       
    The choice for industry was clear and it decided on its strategy years ago: maximize short-term profit; invest profits in mills overseas as the best of the old-growth forests are logged; shutter mills; and sell associated assets and working forest (tenure).  
    Forest-dependent British Columbians have a choice between two options for their future: to maintain the industrial status quo and suffer further decline, or to collaborate with government in changing how forestry works in B.C. and reap the rewards of forward thinking.  
    Ninety-four percent of B.C. remains public land. By retaining public ownership of the land, British Columbians keep open their options for land use compatible with timber production. This allows for diversified local economies. 
    The forest industry has had a “working forest” since the beginning of the 20th century. It is called the “tenure system.” Unlike the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), from which land can be removed for other uses, timber volume or land cannot be removed from a forest tenure holder for other uses without compensation.  
    So, with security of timber supply in place, why do some rural British Columbians sign petitions for a “working forest” at the behest of the Council of Forest Industries and the BC Forestry Alliance? They do so not recognizing that the forest industry already has a working forest and blind to the industry’s hidden agenda, which is to privatize forest land. 
    That said, the present working forest or tenure system does badly need revamping to take away control of public forests from an oligopoly of multinational corporations and to place it in the hands of local forest trusts. This would require removing large corporate industry from the woods and having it do what it does best, which is manufacturing, not forestry. 
    Regional log markets would allow mid-sized and small manufacturers to access the available supply of timber. Local residents would find employment both in the woods under the administration of local forest trusts and in private sector manufacturing plants—niche, value-added and primary. 
    A forester general would report to the legislature and have powers to set standards for regional forest practices, to audit the activities of local forest trusts and regional log markets, to oversee regional research, and to provide the legislature with detailed, annual forestry reports. 
    Change in the governance of forests along these suggested lines would preserve a rural way of life now badly threatened by maintaining the industrial status quo. Such change would be focused on local economic and environmental well-being. 
    This vision would be achieved by re-writing forestry laws based on the principles of sustainability and conservation, of local forest administration, of open access to timber, and, last but not least, of reliance upon the will of rural British Columbians to change, survive and succeed.  
    Anthony Britneff worked for the B.C. Forest Service for 40 years holding senior professional positions in inventory, silviculture and forest health.

    Michelle Connolly
    Conservationists call for a moratorium on primary forest logging in the Prince George TSA following a scathing report by the Forest Practices Board.

     

    A large clearcut in the Prince George Timber Supply area. Photo by Sean O’Rourke/Conservation North
     
    CONSERVATION NORTH is calling for a moratorium on industrial logging in the Prince George Timber Supply Area following the release of an investigative report by the Forest Practices Board (“the Board”). The Board concluded that biodiversity is at high risk in the vast majority of landscape units within the Prince George and Stewart-Nechako Natural Resource Districts and has recommended that old growth be promptly mapped and protected where it is most threatened by industrial logging.

    The Board’s investigation was elicited by complaints from the public.

    “We view this as an indictment of industrial forestry practices in our region. The only way the government of BC actually manages biodiversity is by keeping the activities of licensees in check. They have failed to do this,” asserts Jenn Matthews, outreach coordinator with volunteer-based Conservation North.

    While the Board’s report concludes that licensees are complying with the current legal requirements of the Biodiversity Order (“the Order”) for the region, more importantly it states that the Order is out of date such that even full compliance results in the unsustainable loss of critical wildlife habitat.

    This is the second time in 2020 that an independent analysis has pointed out that effects of industrial forestry in the Prince George region have been irredeemably harmful to nature. The first instance was the Last Stand report, which was prepared by scientists and identified areas across the province that are hotspots of biodiversity loss due to logging of primary forest.

    Despite their strong recommendations aimed at the BC government, the Board report seems to gloss over the negative effects of a peculiar legal loophole that is built into the Order.

    According to Sean O’Rourke, who runs Conservation North’s field program: “the Order allows licensees to submit something called an old growth ‘recruitment strategy’ which is basically an ‘IOU’ to the government for old growth that doesn’t exist yet. A licensee will draw a line around a patch of 60-year old trees and promise that patch will get old one day.”

    Put another way, licensees are using recruitment strategies as giant loopholes through which to log remaining old growth by setting aside younger forests as potential future old growth. Recruitment strategies are fraudulent because they allow licensees to circumvent the intent of the Biodiversity Order. Unfortunately, Prince George has a district manager who has been signing off on them left and right.

    “This report makes it clear that there are terminal problems with how licensees are operating in the PG TSA. Industrial-scale logging must be put on hold until the recommendations of the Board report are fully implemented,” asserts Ms. Matthews.

    In the PG TSA, the work of keeping track of what has been logged and how much old growth remains is left to a group made up of licensees, as opposed to an independent body or the BC government. Conservation North views this arrangement as a serious conflict of interest that needs to be rectified if there is to be any hope of protecting wildlife in the long term.

    In addition to mapping and protecting old growth immediately, Conservation North also supports the Forest Practices Board’s second recommendation for an update of the targets in the Order, with the strong caveat that it must be done by independent scientists, and without the influence of licensees.
    Michelle Connolly, MSc, is a director of Conservation North.
    The Forest Practices Board’s investigative report: Forest Practices Board report on risk to biodiversity in Prince George TSA.pdf

    Saul Arbess
    Forest activists establish two new blockades near Port Renfrew urging the government to implement promised protection of endangered old growth
     
    ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, a group of activists with Rain4est Flying Squad established a new blockade adjacent to the world famous Avatar Grove, to prevent road building into the south side of the Bugaboo Ancient Forest in Camper Creek on Pacheedaht Territory.
    In the meantime another group of blockaders have now mobilized to protect valley bottom old growth forest south of Eden Grove in the Edinburgh Mountain Ancient Forest. They have set up a blockade on the bridge leading to Big Lonely Doug, the iconic Douglas Fir, the last tree standing in a clearcut on Edinburgh Mountain. This is in response to an application submitted by Teal Jones that would allow for the construction of a logging road into valley bottom old growth forest south of Eden Grove. All three current blockades will remain in place until the government moves to implement the 14 recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review, beginning with the protection of the most endangered old growth forests. 
    As the blockaders say, “these magnificent forests are worth more standing and we are determined to see that they do!”
     

    Ancient Western Red Cedars in Eden Grove on Edinburgh Mountain
     
    They are demanding: 
     1. That logging contractor Stone Pacific give up road building into old growth forests in TFL 46 and move their machinery to work on road networks targeting second growth.
    2. That the Ministry of Forests decline the Teal Jones Group’s application for new road building on Edinburgh Mountain.
    3. That the provincial government immediately implement the recommendations of the OGSR and end all old growth logging across British Columbia
    4. The government immediately shift all forestry operations to sustainable management of the silvicultural land-base as a source of long-term employment in local and First Nations communities. 
    Until these demands are met, the Rain4est Flying Squad will continue to disrupt the timber industry in its attempts to log the last of our old growth forests, while pressuring government to implement it promises.
    Carole Tootil, Saul Arbess, Joshua Wright

    David Broadland
    The ministry of forests provided few details about the areas of old-growth forest on which it claimed it was deferring logging just before the provincial election. FOCUS has obtained mapping that confirms the ministry greatly overstated its claim of "352,739 hectares."
     

    A load of old-growth forest heads northward on the Trans Canada near Nanaimo in December 2020 (Photo by Gordon Fuller)
     
    FOCUS has obtained mapping of the “Old Growth Deferral Areas” that were given names—but not much else—by then forests minister Doug Donaldson just before the provincial election. The details of the mapping suggest the exercise may have been more about testing the government’s ability to mislead reporters than it was about protecting old-growth forests. Judging by all the glowing media reviews of the exercise, the upper echelons of the forests ministry earned an A+ in Advanced Dissemination of Misinformation.
    On September 11, 2020, Donaldson announced a 2-year deferral of logging on “352,739 hectares” of what the minister described as “old-growth.” No maps showing the location of the nine areas that were being deferred was provided. The deferrals were apparently made as a response to the independent strategic review of the remaining old-growth forest in BC conducted at Donaldson’s request by foresters Garry Merkel and Al Gorley. Their study had been released to Donaldson in April 2020.
    Our original take on the issue was this: Of the 352,739 hectares of  “old-growth,” there were, at best, 64,000 hectares that might be old-growth. Without mapping, no one could be sure of what was actually included in the proposals. In spite of that, Donaldson’s announcement was reported by media outlets far and wide as being—at last!—a resolution of the long-standing issue. In the campaign before the October 24 election, the BC NDP promoted the idea that a re-elected John Horgan government would save BC’s remaining old-growth forests.
    The mapping we have obtained (see interactive map below comments section) shows that there may have actually been 10 areas that received 2-year logging deferrals by Order In Council 500-2020. Donaldson’s announcement only included nine of those areas. Missing was a 1,489-hectare deferral in the central Walbran Valley. Ironically, the one deferral the ministry didn’t announce appears to be the most legitimate, least over-stated example of doing what Donaldson claimed the ministry was doing.
    The deferral area in the Walbran spans TFL 46 and TFL 44. According to ministry of forest’s records, there has been no logging in the area since 2015 and there is no indication in the ministry’s records that logging had been planned in the next two years. The area is in the Pacheedaht Band’s traditional territory.
    The Walbran deferral includes recent (2015) and older clearcuts as well as plantation regrowth, but most of it is old-growth forest. The Ancient Forest Alliance’s description of what needs permanent protection is no overstatement: “The Central Walbran Valley on southern Vancouver Island is the grandest old-growth rainforest in Canada. The area is jam-packed with hundreds of monumental red cedars, especially in the spectacular ‘Castle Grove,’ which is perhaps the most extensive stand of near record-sized cedars on Earth. Marbled murrelets, screech owls, Queen Charlotte goshawks, red-legged frogs, cougars, black bears, and elk all live here, while steelhead and coho spawn in the rivers.”
     

    The “Castle Giant” Western red cedar at Castle Grove in the Central Walbran Valley (Photo by TJ Watt)
     
    Communications between members of local ENGOs who were aware of the Walbran deferral last September express a degree of satisfaction with the area being deferred. The absence of a public acknowledgment of the deferral by Donaldson’s ministry was attributed to unfinished discussions with First Nations.
    Saul Arbess, a spokesperson for the Friends of Carmanah Walbran, told FOCUS, “A deferral is not protection, but an attempt to distract us and we will not rest until the entire biologically-rich central Walbran is given permanent protection.”
    A comparison of the way in which the deferrals have been presented to the public with the actual on-the-ground substance of the deferrals—which is now made clearer by the mapping— makes it evident that the ministry of forests is not willing to protect much of the remaining old-growth forest that’s in the commercially operable zone of the timber harvesting land base. Their strategy for maintaining control of those areas appears to include utilizing deception. By “deception” I mean the transfer of misinformation from the ministry to mainstream media and then from the media to the general public. The ministry appears willing to fool the public into thinking they are doing something that they apparently have no intention of doing.
    Consider the Clayoquot Sound deferral, for example. Of the publicly announced deferrals, the Clayoquot case accounts for 70 percent of all the area being deferred in the province. Donaldson’s September announcement put that at “248,667 hectares.” He may have believed that was actually the case. But the mapping done for Order In Council 500-2020 for Clayoquot Sound shows the deferral area includes 43,237 hectares of parks, protected areas and ecological reserves in the Sound area that are already protected from logging, plus another 62,200 hectares in the south end of Strathcona Park that are also permanently protected. The ministry sought to take credit for a 2-year deferral of logging on 105,437 hectares that already had full protection. Of the remaining 143,230 hectares, the majority has been clearcut over the last 40 years. Given the high level of technology used by the ministry for mapping and controlling the timber harvesting land base, there’s zero possibility that someone made an unintentional error by including 18 provincial parks, ecological reserves and protected areas in its deferral commitment.
     
     

    The ministry’s mapping of the 248,667-hectare deferral area for Clayoquot Sound (left) overlaps with 105,437 hectares of long-established parks, ecological reserves and protected areas (right). The red crosshair is in the same location on each map. (Click to enlarge)
     
    Allow me a small digression from adding up the ministry’s deceptions to point out why these numbers matter. Consider what’s at stake. A paper written by forest scientists Karen Price and Rachel Holt, along with forester Dave Daust, released in June 2020, used the forest ministry’s own data to estimate that there are about 415,000 hectares of forest containing “large” or “very large” old trees remaining in the province. That’s only 2.7 percent of the high-productivity old forest that was originally here. The scientists estimate that 33 of BC’s 36 forested biogeoclimatic zone variants have 10 percent or less of such forest remaining. Because of the physical and biological characteristics of old-growth forests, they support high levels of biodiversity. But Price, Holt and Daust have pointed out that when the extent of such old forest in a biogeoclimatic zone variant falls below 10 percent, that zone falls into a high risk category for loss of biodiversity. The result? Most of BC is now teetering on the brink, beyond which extinction of plant and animal species will surely accelerate. Who wants that?
    The scientists’ study had a huge impact on the community of people who, like Arbess, “will not rest” until they see the ministry protect all 415,000 hectares of old forest containing large and very large trees. When the ministry says it’s deferring logging on 248,667 hectares in Clayoquot Sound, that sounds like the ministry is protecting over half of those remaining 415,000 hectares. That sounds like a breakthrough.
    What the Clayoquot deferral actually shows, however, is that the ministry is going to go along publicly with the concept of protecting hundreds of thousands of hectares of old-growth forest while actually doing little or nothing of the sort. Note that it hasn’t even announced the Walbran deferral. So let’s finish with what the mapping shows for the other deferral areas.
    The “17,321-hectare” deferral for Southgate River is an interesting case of overstatement. That deferral area is part of the 122,155-hectare Southgate Landscape Unit near Bute Inlet, which the ministry’s own records identify as having a total of 5,380 hectares in the timber harvesting land base—the area that can be logged economically—most of which has already been logged. It took a certain kind of misinformation chutzpah for the ministry to claim that it was deferring logging of an area over three times as great as there was merchantable forest (at one time) in the entire Landscape Unit. It’s as though the ministry chose the numbers for this deferral by throwing darts at a board with crazy big numbers on it and just happened to hit “17,321.”
    As previously reported, the deferral areas for Crystal Creek and Stockdale Creek both include much ice and rock and little to no old-growth forest in danger of being logged. 
    The mapping for the Incomappleux Valley deferral area (40,194 hectares) south of Revelstoke shows it’s mainly ice and rock. The Valhalla Wilderness Society has estimated 1,500 hectares of 1,000- to 2,000-year-old red cedar near the confluence of Boyd Creek and the Incomappleux River. Again, a huge overstatement of the amount of old-growth forest being given a 2-year reprieve from logging.
    The location of the Skagit-Silverdaisy deferral area in Manning Park was already well known since the Province, at the urging of Washington State politicians, had already committed to protecting the area. There was no possibility of logging in the area at the time of Donaldson’s announcement of a 2-year logging deferral there.
    The 2,231-hectare McKelvie Creek watershed near Tahsis on Vancouver Island is primary forest and warrants full protection, not just a 2-year logging deferral.
    The 1,052-hectare “H’Kusam” deferral area is on a 1,200-metre mountain rising up on the north side of the Sayward Valley above the village of Sayward. This part of Western Forest Products’ TFL 39 is certainly primary forest, and some areas of it have relatively high site indexes—which means there could be some big old trees there. Proof of that has not yet emerged. The mountain has been clearcut around its base on the east, north and west sides, but the remaining forest is on flanks so steep that it’s likely beyond the range of commercial operability, at least for now. In any case, there’s no indication that any logging was going to occur by 2022.
    The mapping confirms our guess about what was being deferred at Seven Sisters Provincial Park and Protected Area beside the Skeena River. A bite out of the protected area, part of which has been clearcut, has been put back as “old-growth forest.” Another fragment of this deferral, south of the Skeena River and northeast of Seven Sisters Park, is included. That area, too, contains previously clearcut forest. It doesn’t seem to have registered at the ministry of forests that putting 2-year logging deferrals on land that has recently been clearcut isn’t going to impress anyone except new reporters working for certain community newspapers.
    In making his announcement of the deferrals on September 11, Donaldson said, “Addressing the issue of managing old-growth forests while supporting workers and communities has been a challenge in the making for more than 30 years and it won’t be solved immediately, but we know that the status quo is not sustainable.” He added, “I do believe that there is enough goodwill on everyone’s part for this to happen, and that’s to use this report as a springboard, as an opportunity to reduce the polarization on this topic.” Soon thereafter, Donaldson announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election.
    Donaldson may have genuinely believed that he was putting deferrals on 352,739 hectares of old-growth forest that were in danger of being logged. If so, that means other people high up in the ministry’s information ecosystem misled Minister Donaldson and appear to believe that the public, too, can be easily duped. Presumably, those people are still in the ministry, creating similar misinformation. The only beneficiaries of their work are forest companies focussed on profiting on the liquidation of what remains of BC’s old-growth forests.
    Perhaps the real challenge for citizens concerned for the future health of BC’s forests—and all the life that depends on those forests—will be providing oversight for a ministry that acts like it has been captured by the industry it’s meant to regulate. Unless the public is eternally vigilant and arm themselves with ground-truthed facts, the remaining old-growth forests will quickly disappear into the mists of ministerial misinformation.
    David Broadland is the publisher of FOCUS. He’s working with a group of  foresters, journalists and forest activist-citizens to establish citizen-led oversight of BC’s ministry of forests.
     

    Rhia Ironside
    Climate and forest activists pull a red light on endangered ancient forest log trafficking on Trans Canada Highway.
     

    Forest and climate activists stopped logging trucks carrying old-growth forest on the Trans Canada north of Duncan
     
    ON DECEMBER 2, grassroots climate and forest activists with the Rainforest Flying Squad (RFS) occupied a single lane at a red light crosswalk on the Trans Canada Highway at Mays Road north of Duncan.  A truck carrying old-growth trees was held up in the highway blockade for an hour in an effort to disrupt the movement of ancient forest cargo from recent clearcut logging along the borders of Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park. In a simultaneous action, four large trucks that roared past the blockade in the passing lane were blocked near the entrance to the Western Forest Products’ log sort in Ladysmith and held for several hours. No arrests were made, though police did detain activists at the May Road site for identification purposes.
    “Dozens of log trucks per day many carrying 500-800 year old Western red cedars, have been seen travelling up the island highway recently and people are aghast that this antiquated practise of destroying ancient forests is still legal in 2020,” said RFS organizer Bobby Arbess.
    “We are in the full throes of a climate and ecological crisis. Logging old-growth forests has lost the social license it once had, and the government must catch up with the times and ban it. Full stop! We’re pulling a red light on old-growth logging today and asking Premier Horgan to do the same,” he added.
     

    A clear message for BC Premier John Horgan
     
    The activists, assembled in small pairs compliant with the current COVID public health orders, used the highway crosswalk to force a red light to bring logging trucks carrying rare  Western Red cedar and other old-growth trees, many to be exported offshore, to a full stop.  Banners were stretched across the road bed and stapled to logs, with the message that the government must stall no longer to stop the rapid rate of ancient forest destruction happening daily on Vancouver Island. The equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forest are logged every day on Vancouver island alone.
    At the Western Forest Products (WFP) log sort, trucks were diverted into a nearby parking lot and stopped on the road for several hours before police threatened arrests. 
    WFP is the largest single forest tenure-holder on Vancouver island, with cutting rights to over 1 million hectares of forest land, with one billion dollars in forest product sales each year. In 2019 they locked union workers out for 9 months of stalled contract negotiations.  
    This action fully supported the recent demands of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) for the provincial government to “put down the power saws” while they engage in “intense consultations” with First Nations on the fate of the last remaining one percent of low-elevation old-growth forests on their unceded territories—recognizing that otherwise little will be left by the end of the consultation process. The government made a pre-election announcement of two-year logging deferrals in 353,000 hectares of old-growth forest pending the outcome of their old forest policy, but analysis has shown that only 1100 hectares—or one percent of that—was slated for logging in that time.
    A recent independent study revealed that a total area of approximately 380,000 hectares of the most biologically productive, low-elevation large tree old-growth forests remain standing in so-called British Columbia today. These forests are being logged at a rate of 140,000 hectares per year—three years to liquidation. 
    These rare and irreplaceable forests, the very last of their kind anywhere on Earth,  play a critical role in mitigating against runaway climate change, the cause of catastrophic wildfires, floods, drought and disease outbreaks. They are a critical repository for biodiversity, such as the red-listed Marbled Murrelet found nowhere else than in coastal old-growth forests. They are an important source of ethnobotanical wealth and building materials, especially Western Red Cedar, integral to coastal Indigenous culture. They are worth more left standing than as short-term corporate profit.
    The demands of activists are: 
    1. The provincial government move immediately on their 2020 election promises to implement the 14 recommendations of the Old-Growth Strategic Review
    2. The government declare an immediate moratorium on all further logging of the last one percent of the ancient forest pending the delivery of its old-growth forest policy. 
    3. The government immediately shift all forestry operations to sustainable management of the silvicultural land-base as a source of long-term employment in local and First Nations communities.
    Rhia Ironside and Carole Tootill are climate and forest activists.

    Katherine Palmer Gordon
    Wildlife advocates say that unless urgent action is taken to protect their winter dens from the impacts of industrial logging, black bears may disappear from Vancouver Island within a generation.
     

    A black bear pulls organic material into its den tree to create a soft floor (video still by Artemis Wildlife Consultants)
     
    DALLAS SMITH is President of Nanwakolas Council, a coalition of five First Nations on Northern Vancouver Island. Smith can’t understand why black bear dens are protected in the Great Bear Rainforest and on Haida Gwaii, but not on Vancouver Island. “It’s a huge question for the Nanwakolas Chiefs,” says Smith. “Just over the water—literally only a couple of kilometres away—black bear dens enjoy world class protection. Why not here?”
    Biologist Helen Davis, who has spent much of her career researching black bears, is equally bewildered. Despite the fact that privately-owned forest land and forestry tenures on Crown lands cover well over two-thirds of Vancouver Island, and the significant risks logging activity poses to bear habitat, the provincial government is doing nothing to protect dens on the Island. “There is no good explanation for it, says Davis. “None.”
     
    What’s the problem?
    A winter den may be used by multiple generations of black bears before the tree or stump disintegrates, but at that point, the bears must find other large trees or stumps to create new dens. The inventory of old-growth forest is rapidly shrinking, however, and second-growth trees are now typically harvested before they get large enough to accommodate new dens. 
    Logging technology has become more sophisticated as well. Many tree stumps used to be big enough for dens, but now even the largest trees can be cut to ground level. Helicopter logging and aerial survey technology have also replaced “boots on the ground” in many areas, says Davis, diminishing the ability to spot den trees before they are logged.
    No dens mean no bear cubs. It also means that homeless black bears are straying into the Island’s urban areas, where they are at high risk of being shot. Last January, it was revealed that BC conservation officers had killed 4,341 “nuisance” bears province-wide in just the previous 8 years. Add the impacts of climate change on forest health and declining salmon runs into the equation, and while black bears may not currently be considered a species at risk, it seems likely that will soon change. 
    Jake Smith fears that it will change much faster than we think. Smith is a Mamalilikulla First Nation hereditary chief and manager of the Nation’s environmental Guardian program. He and his fellow Guardians from other First Nations are constantly out on the ground in their territories, monitoring wildlife. Smith says they have been encountering fewer and fewer bears in the last decade. “At this rate,” says Smith sombrely, “we may see the last black bear on Vancouver Island within a generation.”
     

    Chief Jake Smith (right) with a tranquillized grizzly bear
     
    Taking it to the Forest Practices Board
     Davis has worked extensively with forestry companies on voluntary den protection guidelines, restored damaged dens, and created artificial ones where there aren’t enough large trees for bears to make new dens naturally. But she says these measures, while helpful, fall well short of what is required to ensure the continued survival of black bears on Vancouver Island. Nothing short of full legal protection of both dens and large trees is required, and urgently.
    In April 2019, Davis complained about the issue to the Forest Practices Board, which monitors and reports on compliance with the Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA) on Crown lands. The Board responded in January 2020, acknowledging the lack of any governmental effort to afford black bear dens protection on Vancouver Island. While options exist in the FRPA to designate forested areas as having “regionally important wildlife status,” these have never been used for bears.
     

    Biologist Helen Davis beside a black bear den that was created from a stump and a piece of plywood.
     
    The Board also noted that the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) couldn’t say whether current forestry management is effective or not to adequately protect bear dens, or even accurately estimate the current bear population on the Island. The Board has no enforcement powers, however, and refrained from calling for formal den protection. Instead it simply urged the provincial government to “work with First Nations and stakeholders” on den “management.” 
    It was unequivocal in its final conclusion, however: “If second-growth forests are harvested before they develop old-growth features, and old-growth harvest continues, the supply of suitable denning habitat on Vancouver Island will decline.”
     
    The provincial government’s stance
    A few days before BC Premier John Horgan called a snap election on September 21, the provincial government released an independent report on BC’s old-growth forest management. The report, A New Future For Old Forests, noted that the retention of “forests of old trees” is key for maintaining biological diversity, and concluded bluntly: “The overall system of forest management has not supported the effective achievement of legislated objectives for old-growth forests.” 
    The report recommended prioritizing conservation of BC’s forest biodiversity and, at least until a new strategy is implemented, deferring development in old forests where ecosystems are at “very high and near-term risk” of irreversible biodiversity loss. In its wake, FLNRORD Minister Doug Donaldson agreed to defer any logging on up to 353,000 hectares until August 2022, but the areas being deferred contain little old-growth forest. 
    Shortly before the election on October 24, the provincial NDP party began proclaiming it would protect all old-growth forest, but didn’t provide any details. Pleading election restrictions on provincial government media communications, no one would be interviewed or disclose any more information (as of late November). 
    Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, an advocate for bear den protection, is sceptical that much will change: “My experience of working with the BC NDP on forestry is they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything. Their approach is basically 1950s redux. It’s all about the economic opportunities in logging, and decisions about wildlife are made by the forestry ministry. Everything has been set up to fail these animals.”
     
    The forestry sector’s stance
    Government agency BC Timber Sales (BCTS) manages 20 percent of the provincial allowable annual cut. BCTS encourages protecting dens on Crown lands, but also emphasizes that BCTS must “be mindful of the licensee’s harvesting rights and their autonomy to direct their own operations.” In other words, logging rights trump den protection.
    The two biggest forestry companies operating on Vancouver Island (in terms of geographic spread) are Mosaic Forest Management Ltd, which handles approximately 6,000 square kilometres of private forest lands and forestry tenures on behalf of Island Timberlands and TimberWest, and Western Forest Products Ltd (WFP).
    Mosaic declined the opportunity to be interviewed, instead emailing a statement from its director of sustainability, biologist Molly Hudson, saying that Mosaic’s forestry decisions are guided by its “Bear Den Policy.” The policy, which Mosaic refused to disclose, requires protection of dens “wherever possible.” When asked for examples of when it has not been possible, Mosaic did not respond. 
    WFP was also not available for an interview. Communications director Babita Khunkhun emailed to say that WFP “actively conserves habitat, including black bear dens, as part of our ongoing commitment to our role as stewards of forestlands.” In addition, wrote Khunkhun, WFP has “rigorous measures in place to identify and retain bear dens on the lands under our care, full-time biologists on staff, and uses independent consultants to design operating plans with the aim of conserving wildlife. Our measures include training field staff and contractors to identify and conserve bear dens and minimize disturbances to hibernating bears. We leave a reserve around dens and between October 21 and April 30, we adapt our road building and harvesting operations in proximity of dens.” 
    Of course, WFP isn’t simply being a good environmental citizen; it’s required to meet provincial objectives for wildlife and biodiversity under BC’s Forest Planning Practices Regulation, including the objective to retain wildlife trees. Those objectives are however subject to the qualification that meeting them will not “unduly reduce the supply of timber from British Columbia’s forests.” WFP’s Vancouver Island forest stewardship plans, a requirement of the FRPA, specify only the minimum areas required to be set aside as wildlife tree retention areas in its cut blocks. The plans contain no specific reference to black bears.
    The Teal-Jones Group, which operates on southern Vancouver Island, is currently the subject of a blockade of intended old-growth logging at Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. Teal-Jones also declined to be interviewed or provide any information about its guidelines—if it has any—for den protection.
     
    What happens on private forest lands?
    The FRPA does not apply to private forest land, even if classified as “managed” forest land under the managed forest program, where owners voluntarily commit to managing their properties to meet legislated environmental objectives. 
    According to the Managed Forest Council (MFC), Southern Vancouver Island is home to the largest area of private forest land in the province. The MFC regulates the roughly 18 percent of private forest land that is in the managed forest program (about 800,000 hectares), but was unable to say how much of that is on Vancouver Island. The MFC’s Field Practices Guidelines contain an objective for critical wildlife habitat protection on “agreed terms” with the government, but do not mention bears. 
    On its website, the Private Forest Landowners Association states that its members: “Recognize, and through agreement with the provincial government, protect critical wildlife habitat where it cannot be protected on Crown lands alone.” The PFLA was contacted for more information, but did not respond.
     
    An unacceptable state of affairs
    Helen Davis says: “Some of the forestry companies are doing better in the last three years, but it’s hard for me to celebrate when we’ve known about the problem for more than 25 years and it’s taken them this long to act.” 
    Davis also points out that even when a den is protected by a logging outfit, it isn’t necessarily done the right way. She has seen lone trees standing on ridge lines, prone to being blown over in a strong wind, and at the sides of busy roads with nothing screening them from traffic. “Bears will probably abandon those dens, because they no longer afford adequate protection.”
     

    A black bear den tree in the middle of a cut block
     
    Jake Smith is scathing about the lack of meaningful engagement by both forestry companies and government. “I bring deep knowledge into my role as a Guardian,” Smith says. “I have been on these lands all my life. First Nations understand we need to protect bear habitat now, but everything we say to provincial officials falls on deaf ears.” 
    As to promises to protect old-growth trees, Smith isn’t holding his breath. “Everything is dollar-driven. If the government and forestry companies were really interested in protecting bear habitat or big trees, they would already be working with First Nations to do it.” 
    Indeed, A New Future For Old Forests recommends full engagement of Indigenous leaders and organizations on the development and implementation of policy and strategy to conserve large trees and biodiversity. Dallas Smith, President of Nanwakolas Council, agrees with that: “What’s urgently needed is a collaborative approach between First Nations, forestry companies and government that puts large trees and wildlife first, before dollar signs. It’s frustrating,” he continues. “There’s no leadership by government to take this on, and to bring the forestry industry along with them. Forestry companies tell us they want to partner with us, but they don’t want to do things differently. They want everyone to guarantee their economic future but won’t accept they have to do their part to protect the bears’ future.”
    First Nations are no longer going to accept the status quo, adds Smith. “Those days are over.” Guardians like Jake Smith are out on the land, identifying den trees, both existing and potential, and ensuring the logging companies know about them. Dallas Smith points out that all tenure applications also have to go past the First Nations for review: “They are taking a long, hard look at each one. If it doesn’t meet their standards for protection, they aren’t going to give it a green light.”
     

    Dallas Smith, President of Nanwakolas Council
     
    What good looks like
    Jeff Mosher manages Taan Forestry, owned by Xaaydaa GwaayGalang (the Haida Nation). Mosher says black bears play a critical role in Haida Gwaii’s ecosystem: “They’re a top predator in the food chain, for example. Sitka black-tailed deer have been a huge problem here, but the bears are helping keep the population down.” Bears are ecologically important in other ways: “They leave salmon carcasses and salmon-rich bear scat in the forest, containing important nutrients for the trees’ growth.”
    Black bears are culturally significant to the Haida (Taan is a Xaayda word meaning “black bear”) and the company therefore goes “well beyond” minimum protection requirements, says Mosher. “We’re lucky on Haida Gwaii because, thanks to the efforts of the Haida Nation, we have plenty of old-growth trees left that we can set aside. We’re planning for where new dens could go, planting cedar and allowing other trees to reach a sufficient size to be suitable for new dens.” Taan also proactively rehabilitates old dens, and field staff undertake physical ground searches for large trees and bear dens when flagging their cut blocks. Any den found is given a 60-metre reserve (the minimum requirement is 20 metres) in which no logging-related activity is allowed to take place. In prime denning season—November 15 to May 15—the restricted area is increased to 200 metres. 
    These measures aren’t necessarily typical, says Mosher. “Other forestry companies have left Haida Gwaii because it wasn’t worth it to stay. But Taan’s shareholder is the Haida Nation. Protecting bears is a priority, even if it means a lower dividend.”
    Taan is a good model, says Davis, who is in the process of drafting “ideal guidelines” that forestry companies should be required to follow, including requirements to physically survey cut blocks for bear dens. FLNRORD should be mandating not only protection of the inventory of existing bear dens, she says, but planning to provide sufficient habitat in the form of large trees to meet future needs. The recommendations in A New Future For Old Forests should be implemented in full, as soon as possible. The Wildlife Act could be used to protect dens on all forested lands, public or private. 
    A review of the effectiveness of the objectives of private managed forest lands, including protection of key public environmental values, has been underway by FLNRORD for nearly two years. Public feedback summarized on FLNRORD’s website strongly calls for more robust environmental regulation. Given the extent of private forest lands on Vancouver Island, exempting them from regulation would hugely devalue any measures applied on Crown lands only.
     
    Why it matters
    Black bear wildlife viewing brings substantial tourism revenue into provincial coffers, says Davis, as do hunting licences. Their role in maintaining biodiversity is critical. Not least of all, as Jake Smith points out, the cultural and spiritual interconnection between black bears, the forest ecosystem and First Nations is not only special, it’s fundamental: “That’s why it’s my job to help protect these animals. It’s so important.” 
    If British Columbians and tourists want to continue to enjoy the visceral thrill of seeing the wild black bears of Vancouver Island, and if we want the bears to continue playing their part in the Island’s ecosystem, then something needs to be done, and fast. Otherwise Jake Smith’s grave prediction that we may see the last black bear on Vancouver Island within a generation is all too likely to come true. “We can’t let that happen,” says Smith. “We won’t.”
     
    Katherine Palmer Gordon is an award-winning non-fiction author and a contributor to numerous anthologies and magazines. She is currently working on her eighth book, showcasing Indigenous leadership in environmental stewardship and community wellbeing in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.
    Learn more:
     

    Bobby Arbess

    Fairy Creek Blockade

    By Bobby Arbess, in Forests,

    A brief history of the Fairy Creek Blockade
     
     JOSHUA WRIGHT is a 17-year-old filmmaker from Olympia, Washington with an irrepressible passion for protecting the little that is left of the old-growth temperate rainforests. He has handy access to a state-of-the-art digital mapping program that allows him to track and monitor industrial logging activities in near-real time. In late July this year, he gave a heads-up to Vancouver Island veteran grassroots forest activist grandmother Eartha Muirhead of a road-building crew subcontracted to Surrey-based logging company and TFL 46 tenure-holder, Teal Jones, cresting the ridge into the old-growth Yellow Cedar headwaters of Ada’itsx/ Fairy Creek watershed. This is the last unlogged tributary of the San Juan River system; it is unceded Pacheedaht territory and near Port Renfrew.
    Forest firefighter Will O’Connell surveyed the road-building operation with spell-binding drone footage that captured earth-moving machinery operating on dangerously steep terrain pushing into a watershed never before logged. Though no cutblocks are yet approved, the investment in road infrastructure foreshadows approval and logging of this rare wilderness valley.
     

    A Teal Jones excavator about to crest the ridge above pristine Fairy Creek Valley (Drone photo by Will O’Connell)
     
    O’Connell’s stark visual reveal of a logging road incursion into one of the last roadless places on southern Vancouver Island rapidly spread on social media and, in the midst of a pandemic, galvanized forest defenders into non-violent direct action. 
    On Sunday, August 9, thirty ancient-forest activists from all over the south island, including the nearby communities of Port Renfrew and the Cowichan Valley, gathered at Lizard Lake and decided to set up a road blockade above the clouds—1000 metres up a treacherous logging road on a steep ridge overlooking the Gordon River Valley, on the western flank of Fairy Creek, where road-building into the Fairy was slated the next work day. Tents were set up under the giant steel claw of a gargantuan excavator. A 10-foot-diameter cedar log round, from an ancient tree felled in the Klanawa Valley, propped vertically on a plywood frame, was installed as a barricade centrepiece across the road. 
    When the Stone Pacific road crew arrived in darkness at 5AM the next morning, they were politely confronted by a dozen people putting on the morning coffee around a small fire on the road end. They intended to hold the line at the very height of land and protect Fairy Creek from any further road incursion.
     

    The blockade on Teal Jones’ new road 
     
    One week later, another blockade was set up to protect the watershed on its eastern flank and to stop clearcut logging in an area of contiguous ancient forest that is part of the 5100-acre Fairy Creek Rainforest, much of which is already under Old-Growth Management and Wildlife Habitat Area designation. People of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and island communities have been converging at the main basecamp ever since.
    Pop-up blockades disrupting business as usual in surrounding remnant old-growth forest locales on Pacheedaht territory have also sent a message to government and industry that in a down-spiralling climate and biodiversity crisis, disruption to the status quo is to be expected until the government takes decisive action to protect what is left of these globally significant and irreplaceable forests. The objectives of all these blockade actions is to protect the last 1-3 percent of low-elevation old-growth rainforests left standing on so-called Vancouver Island.
     

    Old-growth Red Cedar in Fairy Creek Valley
     
    The Ada’itsx/Fairy Creek blockades are now entering their fourth month with no road-building or logging behind the two long-term barricades—and no injunctions or arrests. This blockade, now the longest land-based direct action campaign on this island in over two decades, has evolved quickly into a decentralized grassroots direct action movement under the banner of #oldgrowthblockade, aimed to stem the tide of the colossal destruction of the shocking equivalent of 32 soccer fields of old-growth forests per day on Vancouver Island alone.
    Winterized infrastructure has been built at the main Fairy Creek Base Camp, 7 kilometres off the the Pacific Marine Road, including wood-heated Elder and Indigenous Warriors’ tents, bear-proof kitchen arbour, tool shed and hot water shower and change room.
     

    Those blockading the road have prepared for a long battle to protect the Fairy Creek Rainforest from logging
     
    Dozens of volunteers communicating via several online platforms have provided coordination and mobilized funds and material support to the frontlines, which have been steadily maintained by a gritty, dedicated crew of core forest defenders of all ages, predominantly women from many communities, who provide daily logistical coordination, elder care, camp leadership, hosting and reconnaissance on the ground. Over 500 people have visited the blockades and donated to the movement.
    This settler-Indigenous blockade has been blessed with the solid support and wise leadership of Pacheedaht elder Bill Jones who has asked that the entire valley, five kilometres from the Pacheedaht village and part of his childhood stomping ground and spiritual sanctuary of his people, be dedicated as an Indigenous Protected Area in honour of the victims of the smallpox epidemic. Indigenous youth from many territories have participated in camp life and prominent elders and artists like Joe Martin, Herb Rice, and Rose Henry have visited the camp to show support and provide counsel. Pacheedaht Chief and council have not responded for or against the blockade.
     

    Pacheedat Elder Bill Jones on the road overlooking the San Juan River Valley 
     
    The area is in the electoral riding of Premier John Horgan who has yet to respond to the demands of the blockade to protect Fairy Creek rainforest and all remaining old-growth temperate rainforests on the island. 
    On September 29, the blockade received a strong statement of support from the Union of British Columbia Chiefs (UBCIC), who issued a breakthrough declaration calling on the Province to implement all 14 recommendations of their Old-Growth Strategy Review report and for the immediate protection of key old-growth forest hotpspots including Fairy Creek. Most significantly, their declaration called for government to assume responsibility in re-investment in supporting First Nations to break free from the economic dependency on the old-growth forest destruction of their land-base, a major policy piece in the transition away from the destructive legacy of old-growth logging, once and for all.
     Bobby Arbess is a long-time forest defender.
    Support the Fairy Creek Blockade at: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade 
    Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) resolution, Annual General Assembly, September 29, 2020, calling for provincial and federal financing for Indigenous Protected Areas, land use plans and old-growth forest protection: Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Resolution on Old-Growth Forests in BC — Endangered Ecosystems Alliance

    Kathy Code
    We, meaning government, First Nations, communities, scientists, academics, non-government organizations, industry and citizens, must find a way to pool our collective efforts to responsibly steward the precious natural resources given to us.
     

    Logging on McLaughlin Ridge near Port Alberni (Photo by TJ Watts)
     
    BLESSED UNREST—that’s the name Paul Hawken gave more than a decade ago to the grassroots movement that was sweeping the world working in the name of environmental protection and social justice. Generally comprised of a loose collection of individuals or groups without a particular leader, it’s a movement that’s alive and well in BC. Citizens and communities are standing up to protect the last vestiges of intact ecosystems, the rights and culture of Indigenous peoples, wildlife habitat, salmon runs, old growth forest, clean water systems, and the transition demanded by climate change. It began 30 years ago with Clayquot Sound, yet here we are still trying to protect those places and rights that represent our very essence.
    Site C, Trans Mountain, LNG pipelines, abandoned oil and gas wells, the Wet’suwet’en land rights, Six Mountains, Fairy Creek, the Nuchatlaht land defense, Caycuse, Argonaut Creek, the Walbran, Avatar Grove, the Great Bear Rainforest (yes, they are logging that!), it is an ongoing and exhausting list. Activists are mounting legal actions, writing letters, signing petitions, raising donations, publishing articles, hosting webinars, lobbying elected officials—all pleading for a more respectful and responsible worldview. For the most part, it’s a call that has fallen on deaf ears at government levels. Government can wait out the expensive lawsuits and the cries of public outrage, then drag its heels on meaningful and substantive reform while continuing to meet with industry lobbyists. Environmental and social protectors don’t have a voice, no matter the stripe of the government.
    Often it comes down to talk of buying the specific tract of land to save it, but honestly, it is not a problem we can buy our way out of. This is especially true with Crown Lands, where public forests have been handed over to tenured industrial forest companies. Their primary goals are to maximize corporate profits and introduce technology to reduce the need for salaries, benefits, pensions and other pesky incursions into the profit margin, not community benefit and public good.
    We have created a competitive arena, but there is no denying those enormous amounts of money, time and labour spent could be put to better use to improve who and what we are as a responsible and inclusive society.  What it all comes down to is the public good. What is the government responsibility when it comes to stewarding our precious natural resources? Whose interest is best served? Why does profit take precedence over science? How can we develop frameworks that meet a variety of needs in a more balanced manner?
    The NDP has just won a majority government here in BC. During the campaign, they pledged themselves to the 14 recommendations contained in the Gorley and Merkel Old Growth Strategic Review Report. The report itself is generally well-received, but was accompanied by government’s deferral list of old growth sites that, upon closer scrutiny, proved less than substantive.
    Two possibilities come to mind to explain the lack of substantive response: either government thought BC forest experts would not catch on to the smoke and mirrors nature of the list, or there is a distinct lack of subject matter experts within government itself.
    Government has shown itself capable of relying on science as the overriding COVID-19 strategy—why not look to the science of forests, environment, social justice, climate change?
    Government must hold itself to the high standard of serving the public good. It’s time we all work together to treasure the precious resources we have for now and for generations to come. In the meantime, the Blessed Unrest will continue efforts to protect what matters to us as a caring society.
    Retired as an economic development policy analyst with the BC government, Kathy dedicates her education and experience to search for new ways to live within the parameters of nature. She serves as Vice Chair of the Ecoforestry Institute Society (Wildwood Ecoforest), Director with the Cowichan Family Life Association, Legal Strategist for the Fairy Creek peaceful protest, and CEO of Juniper Community Solutions.  

    Matt Simmons
    BC government gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets.
     
    Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
     
    SEAN O’ROURKE WAS HIKING in BC’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it—Pacific BioEnergy. 
    The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products—sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings—into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 percent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. 
    But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood.
     

     Sean O’Rourke amongst old-growth Red Cedar in the Inland Rainforest north of Prince George (Photo by Conservation North)
     
    O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern BC, took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the Province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest. 
    While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim. 
    “If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview. 
    “Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest into pellets to ship them overseas to burn, to feed into an electricity plant so that people can watch Netflix or play video games really late at night—we can’t allow that to happen,” she added. 
    The planned cutblock is set to be logged this winter for pellets, but Conservation North is asking the BC government to provide legal protection to all primary forests—those that have never been logged—in the northern region. 
     
    Rare ecosystem home to massive trees, endangered caribou, vast carbon stores
    After O’Rourke showed his colleagues his photos, they went to the rainforest together to explore the areas slated for logging. The group walked for almost two hours to get to the flagged boundary. The forest is surrounded by clearcuts and second-growth stands of lodgepole pine. Connolly described it as an oasis.
    “There are low carpets of moss and beautiful fallen old trees,” Connolly said. “The stands that we’ve seen have really large western red cedars and western hemlock, and we occasionally came across massive Douglas firs that are really large for this area…it would take at least three people to wrap your arms around them.” 
    More than 500 kilometres from the coast, the inland rainforest is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Temperate rainforests far from the sea are only found in two other places on the planet: in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia.
    The rainforest supports a variety of animals including moose and endangered caribou. The stands of old-growth trees have been absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the soil also stores huge amounts of carbon.
    The rich biodiversity of these old-growth forest ecosystems is threatened by logging, according to a report published in June. 
    As The Narwhal reported last year, much of what remains of the inland temperate rainforest is at risk of clearcutting. Connolly said there is “little to no social licence” to harvest these old-growth trees. 
    “We talked to a lot of people who hunt, who trap, who fish, who guide, and among those people, we’ve sensed a lot of dismay about what’s happening,” she said. “We’re kind of at the limits of tolerance up here.”
     
    BC government ramps up support for pellet industry while plants run out of raw materials
    The Province’s promotion of the pellet industry focuses on using wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned in the forest to reduce the risk of wildfires, but rarely mentions the use of whole trees. 
    “The pellet pushers [including the present NDP government] originally said they would use only logging and milling debris as the source of wood fibre for pellets,” Jim Pojar, a forest ecologist wrote in an email. 
    However, a recent investigation by Stand.earth found that pellets made of whole trees from primary forests in BC are being sent to Europe and Asia. 
    “No mature green trees should be cut down and whole logs ground up to produce wood pellets for export, especially if the trees are clear cut from globally rare and endangered temperate rainforest,” Pojar said.
    Connolly said a lack of legal protection allows the provincial government to greenlight logging whole trees for pellets—and the government’s language around the industry hides the fact that old-growth is being cut down.
    “My understanding is that this is allowed because these forests don’t have any other use,” she said, meaning that they aren’t suitable for making lumber. 
    “The BC government has some really interesting language around justifying pellet harvesting,” she said. “What they say is that they’re using inferior quality wood.
    This isn’t the first time a pellet facility has logged trees to meet its production needs. As The Narwhal reported earlier this year, both Pacific BioEnergy and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, another large-scale pellet company, use whole trees to produce pellets.
    Over the past few years, BC has been ramping up its support for the wood pellet industry, but as sawmills shut down across the province, pellet facilities are running out of raw material. 
    Recently, the Province handed out a number of grants to support projects that take trees that would otherwise be burned on the forest floor in massive slash piles and convert them to pellets. Pacific BioEnergy has received more than $3.2 million from the Province through the Forest Enhancement Society for projects related to its operations.
    Connolly said the Province’s push to support the pellet industry is problematic. “We’re kind of rearranging the deck chairs, you know? They’re making little modifications of things they already do, instead of actually looking at the value of keeping the carbon in forests.”
    The Ministry of Forests could not comment on this story because government communications are limited to health and public safety information during election periods.
    Pacific BioEnergy was also not available to respond by publication time.
     
    Ecologists say burning pellets is not carbon neutral
    Wood pellets, sometimes referred to as biomass or bioenergy, are often touted as carbon neutral and sustainable, but critics claim that’s a dangerous misconception.
    Burning wood to generate energy is less efficient than burning fossil fuels, which means more wood is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity, according to Pojar. More carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere from pellet-fuelled power plants than traditional coal or natural gas plants, he pointed out. 
    The pellet industry and its supporters argue that replanting trees will eventually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which means burning pellets for heat or energy is carbon neutral. But even if that is true, it could take hundreds of years for those replanted trees to grow big enough to offset the emissions produced by harvesting, transporting, processing and burning the wood. 
    In a 2019 report entitled Forestry and Carbon in BC, Pojar outlined myths and misconceptions about emissions and the forestry industry. “The CO2 from the combustion of biofuel is released almost instantly, whereas the growth and regrowth of wood takes several decades at least (mostly more than 75 years in BC)” 
    Connolly, who was an editor of the report, said the green narrative around the pellet industry and industrial logging is misleading.
    “It’s so ridiculous to claim that somehow logging is good for the climate,” she said. “What we’ve seen happen is that the BC government and industry have co-opted climate change to argue for more industrial logging. In this case, it’s for pellets, but they’ve been doing the same thing for harvested wood products for the last few years.”
    As climate change, industrial logging and other resource extraction projects continue to impact forest ecosystems, maintaining intact primary and old-growth forests is essential, she said. 
    “BC claims to be exploring all emissions reductions opportunities, but they are not,” she said. “They’re ignoring basically the biggest, best and cheapest opportunity, which is protecting nature. If we’re going to meet our climate commitments, keeping primary forests intact is an important step and what all of us should be asking is, ‘Why are they totally ignoring this?’ ”
    Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, BC, unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet'suwet’en Nation. He is the author of The Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert. This story was originally published in The Narwhal under the Local Journalism Initiative.
     
    Conservation North’s short video interview of trapper Don Wilkins on liquidating BC rainforests for electricity in other countries:
     

    David Broadland
    BC's ministry of forests is actively creating an alternative reality about the impact its policies and actions have on the climate and biodiversity crises.
     
    IN RESPONSE TO THE CLIMATE AND BIODIVERSITY CRISES, BC’s ministry of forests has fallen into a pattern of denialism. We all know what climate denial is: refusing to accept scientifically verifiable evidence. Denialism goes beyond denial. Denialism is the purposeful construction of an alternative version of reality. The ministry of forests, in cooperation with other members of the forest-industrial complex, is creating an alternative reality about the role forest loss plays in these two crises, and an alternative reality about how they should respond. Why? Likely because acknowledging the evidence about how industrial forestry contributes to both crises—and the ministry’s lack of an effective response—would result in the loss of social licence to continue doing what they are doing. That would mean reducing the size of the industry and a subsequent loss of revenue that keeps both the ministry and the industry operating. For them, it’s a matter of their own survival.
    Let me offer a few examples of this pattern of denialism, large and small:
    First. BC taxpayers have subsidized the largely unregulated forest industry to the tune of $1 million a day for the past ten years. Yet the ministry has purposefully hidden this subsidy by never making public a balance sheet that shows its revenues and expenses.
    Second. After years of pressure to conserve the remaining 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forests to protect biodiversity, the ministry announced in September short-term logging deferrals on 352,739 hectares. When examined closely, though, the deferrals only delayed logging on about 32,500 hectares of productive old growth. The ministry knew it was including mostly ice, rock and low productivity old growth and second growth in its deferrals.
    Third. For employment statistics about the forest industry, ministry reports defer to an out-of-date 2016 Council of Forest Industries analysis instead of statistics derived from income tax returns that have been adjusted for the most recent mill closures and curtailments. In effect, the ministry has credited the industry with jobs that don’t exist.
    Fourth. Chief Forester Diane Nicholls’ advisory “Leadership Council” is composed entirely of forest industry insiders.
    Fifth. The forests ministry has made no public assessment of the impact of forest management on climate change or biodiversity loss, or how these are playing out in each of its management units, or how it intends to address these issues in a way that would make a substantial difference. The provincial GHG inventory for 2018 shows that forest management contributed 237 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions (emissions from all other sources in BC were 68 megatonnes). BC has 1807 species of plants and animals at risk of extinction. 
    The ministry’s responses to both the climate and biodiversity crises have been shaped by the primary need of an economically marginal industry: to cut down publicly-owned forest at a rate as high as the market can bear, at the lowest cost. That includes using mechanized clearcut logging throughout the province, almost exclusively, and exporting raw logs. Any evidence that’s presented that the ministry’s policies and practices are making the climate and biodiversity crises worse is met with stony silence, straight-up denial, or fictions about the rosy-green future of mass timber construction and bioenergy.
    Below, I explore in detail a single streak of this pattern of denialism.
    In a recent story, “Forestry isn’t sustainable, folks,” I noted that between 2010 and 2019, the forest industry has been logging BC’s publicly owned forests at an unsustainable rate. The ministry of forests’ own timber supply reviews for 28 Interior timber supply areas determined that the sustainable cut level is about 12 million cubic metres per year lower than the current allowable annual cut (AAC). I acknowledged that one of the main factors in this imbalance was the loss of stands of Lodgepole Pine to the Mountain Pine Beetle.
    The story included the concerns of foresters Anthony Britneff and Martin Watts, who have provided detailed analyses which argue that the determinations of allowable annual cut and mid-term cut by BC’s chief forester are deeply flawed and skewed towards overestimating the future availability of wood from forests.
    One critical response to this story stood out. Atmo Prasad, who identified himself in a comment on this website as the “former manager for the analysis section of the Forest Analysis & Inventory Branch of the Ministry of Forests,” dismissed the highly detailed concerns of Britneff and Watts. He provided no argument or evidence to support his position. He simply asserted, “I am confident that the AAC set for each is sustainable.”
    In response to my observation of the substantial difference between the current aggregate AAC for timber supply areas and the aggregate of their mid-term cut levels—which Prasad appears to be in part responsible for estimating—he said, “The higher short-term harvest level found in most Interior TSAs is usually composed of wood killed by the mountain pine beetle or by the recent fires. The timber supply in these TSAs is expected to decline to the sustainable level after the salvage of dead timber is over. Construing the current AAC which includes dead wood as unsustainable is just pain [sic] wrong.”
    I have fact-checked Prasad’s contention that the “higher short-term harvest level” in Interior TSAs is “usually” the result of salvage of beetle- or fire-killed wood. Let me give you one example where, on the surface, what Prasad claims is correct. Then I’ll show you four examples where Prasad’s claim is disproven by the ministry of forests’ own data. I will provide some real-life consequences of timber supply analysts overestimating how much logging can occur. These examples also illustrate the pattern of denialism that appears to be the ministry of forests’ default operational setting.
    Focus used the ministry of forests’ Harvest Billing System to determine the total cut over a 10-year period in 12 of the Interior’s 28 timber supply areas. Using that publicly accessible system, we also determined how much dead lodgepole pine was salvaged and how much live lodgepole pine was removed in “sanitation” logging. What’s sanitation logging? It’s a euphemism for a program to preemptively log healthy lodgepole pine that could be attacked by the Mountain Pine Beetle. The data we downloaded also included fire-killed lodgepole pine. The data allowed us to determine the total volume logged over 10 years, and it provides a good estimate of how much of that was beetle- or fire-killed, and how much was sanitation logging.
    Let’s start with the example that supports Prasad’s take on what happened. The diagram below summarizes the case for the Prince George TSA. It covers 10 years of harvesting between 2010 and 2019 inclusive.
     

     
    What does the data for Prince George demonstrate? It shows that the volume of live trees logged (indicated by light orange above) was less than Prasad’s office estimated could be cut. This undercut amounted to 8.4 million cubic metres over the 10 years between 2010 and 2019, inclusive. The evidence supports Prasad’s contention.
    Keep in mind, however, the concerns Britneff and Watts have expressed about the mid-term cut level, the volume of logs that can be extracted from the forest on a sustained basis. They have noted that the models used by Prasad’s office to predict future growth and yield in BC forests provide inaccurate, overly-optimistic and unreliable estimates. Moreover, the models do not account for climate change. Britneff told Focus, “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.”
    So while it can be shown, on paper, that in certain timber supply areas the rate of cut of live, healthy trees over the past ten years has not been above the theoretical rate of mid-term sustainability, there’s good reason to doubt the validity of that theoretical level.
    The reader may also want to keep in mind that when we use the term “sustainable cut,” we are not talking about ecological sustainability. We are using the only metric considered by the ministry of forests—volume of logs cut per year—to determine whether logging can theoretically continue at a certain rate into the future.   
    Let’s move south to the Kamloops TSA. The diagram below summarizes 10 years of harvesting there.
     

    In this TSA, Prasad’s assertion is challenged. When the salvage and sanitation logging are removed from the ledger, the ministry’s records show logging exceeded the theoretical mid-term sustainable cut level by 3.4 million cubic metres. That overcut resulted in about 9800 hectares of publicly-owned land being clearcut beyond what BC timber analysts believe to be sustainable.
    Immediately to the east of the Kamloops TSA is the Okanagan TSA. The diagram below summarizes 10 years of harvesting.
     

     
    The Okanagan TSA’s record swerves even further away from Prasad’s account, and the volume of the overcut is 5.4 million cubic metres. That’s roughly equivalent to cutting 15,500 hectares beyond what BC timber supply analysts have assessed is theoretically sustainable. Our analysis showed that salvaging of beetle- and fire-killed lodgepole pine, along with pre-emptive logging of live lodgepole pine, amounted to 6 percent of the total cut. The volume of live, healthy lodgepole pine that was pre-emptively logged so that it couldn’t be killed by beetles was twice the volume of beetle-killed lodgepole pine.
    South of the Kamloops and Okanagan TSAs are the Merritt and Lillooet TSAs, the data for which we grouped together in the diagram below. Again, this summarizes 10 years of harvesting.
     

    In the Lillooet and Merritt timber supply areas, Prasad’s assertion again fails. The combined cut of live trees in those two TSAs—and this excludes sanitation logging of live lodgepole pine—reached 150 percent of the mid-term sustainable cut level, resulting in over 20,000 hectares of additional clearcuts beyond what BC’s timber supply analysts deemed was sustainable.
    The excessive, unsustainable logging that took place in the Kamloops, Okanagan, Merritt and Lillooet timber supply areas has consequences. If a specific logging practice is problematic, the more logging that employs that practice, the greater the problem that’s created. And in mid-September the Forest Practices Board released a special investigation report about one of those specific problems: reforestation. The investigation focussed on plantations in the Kamloops, Okanagan, Merritt and Lillooet TSAs, as well as the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Resource District.
    The report was politely—but firmly—damning. The board’s investigation into the health of plantation regrowth on cutblocks in the Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone found that “[64] percent of the cutblocks examined were in poor and marginal condition and licensees may not be creating/regenerating resilient stands, which may have negative implications for future timber and non-timber values.”
    That finding supports a concern expressed by Britneff and Watts, that computer-model-based predictions of future growth and yield don’t necessarily reflect what’s actually happening on the ground. Yes, clearcuts are being replanted, but they are then failing to grow at the rate used by BC’s timber supply analysts in their determinations of how much cut is—theoretically—sustainable.
    Amongst other findings, the investigation found “an over-reliance on clearcutting” in the Interior Douglas-fir zone, and noted that clearcutting “is not appropriate for dry-belt-fir stands, as young trees do not regenerate well without the shade and shelter of overstory trees.”
    The Forest Practices Board also recommended to the ministry that it “re-assess the long-term reforestation objectives for the dry IDF [zone], and update them based on the likely consequences of climate change.” As noted in my earlier story, Britneff and Watts, in their detailed critiques of the timber supply review and allowable annual cut determination processes, have observed that BC’s current Chief Forester Diane Nicholls has rejected including the likely consequences of climate change as part of her determinations.
    Nicholls wrote, in a 2019 timber supply review for the Lakes TSA, “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.”
    That position, Watts and Britneff say, throws more doubt on the validity of the timber supply analysts’ estimates of future growth and yield. Now the Forest Practices Board has echoed their doubts.
    Nicholls’ statement is another way of saying, “Since I don’t know exactly what the impacts of climate change will be on how trees grow in all of BC, I can’t make any changes to our practices anywhere.” If the chief forester was intent on responding to the challenges that climate change poses for forests, as is needed, she would never have made such a statement. She has constructed an alternative reality in which “uncertainty” is used as an excuse for not acting. But the uncertainty of the situation requires the exercise of the precautionary principle: Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
     Cast your gaze now on a constellation of seven timber supply areas in the southeast corner of the province, known to the ministry of forests as the Kootenay-Boundary Natural Resource District. The graph below summarizes 10 years of harvesting there.
     

     
    Note the small fraction (0.9 million cubic metres) of logging attributable to Mountain Pine Beetle salvage logging, beetle sanitation logging and fire-killed lodgepole pine salvage. Similar to the case in the Okanagan TSA, the volume of live, healthy lodgepole pine that was logged so that beetles couldn’t kill it is greater than the volume of beetle- and fire-killed pine. In this region, though, the difference is more extreme. Five times as much live, healthy lodgepole pine was pre-emptively logged as there was salvage logging of dead lodgepole pine.
    The 6.0-million-cubic-metre overcut required clearcutting of over 17,000 hectares of forest. One of the possible consequences of that overcut is highlighted in a class-action legal suit against the BC government and several forest industry corporations filed in mid-July 2020 by residents of Grand Forks.
    In May 2018, Grand Forks experienced devastating flooding of the Granby and Kettle Rivers. About 3000 homes and businesses had to be evacuated and over 400 homes and dozens of businesses were flooded.
    In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs allege that the flooding resulted from excessive runoff caused by logging in the Kettle River watershed, which includes the Granby River. The headwaters of the West Kettle River and the Kettle River are in the Okanagan TSA, mentioned above, where the rate of logging also exceeds the sustainable mid-term rate of cut. The West Kettle, Kettle and Granby flow south through the Boundary TSA.
     

    Logging in the upper Kettle River Valley. The Kettle river can be seen on the left side of the image, the Granby to the right of centre. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
     

    The Granby River runs across the the bottom of the aerial photograph above. Note the extensive logging above the river. The Granby flows into the Kettle River at Grand Forks. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
     
    Specifically, the suit states that the Forest Analyses and Inventory Branch of the ministry of forests overestimated by 20 percent the timber volume in forest stands in the watershed, and this led to an allowable annual cut that was 20 percent too high to be sustainable. The plaintiffs allege that, “This has led to increasing the frequency, duration and magnitude of peak flows. Without sufficient timber regrowth and watershed recovery the result is increased surface runoff, increased sediment transport, increased water quantity and stream channel discharge associated with flooding that caused the major flooding events in the Kettle and Granby river systems resulting in the damages to the Plaintiffs’ and Class Members’ property.”
    Focus examined the ministry of forests’ record of harvesting over the last 11 years in Boundary TSA.  That record (see below) does show a quick increase in the rate of harvesting in the 10 years leading to the flooding in 2018 (this graph does not include logging in that part of the Okanagan TSA within the Kettle River watershed).

    The suit doesn’t allege that the ministry of forests failed to consider the likely consequences of climate change, but it could have. Scientists have been reporting for years that a warming planet means rainstorms will drop more water in a given period of time. A search through the Boundary Timber Supply Area’s 2011 timber supply review couldn’t find a single reference that would suggest the hydrological function of forests—including their ability to keep the forest floor from becoming saturated and their ability to slow down the melting of snow—was given any consideration in determining what level of cut was “sustainable.” (Read a comprehensive account of the Grand Forks civil suit by Ben Parfitt here.)
    The only certain way to reduce the forest industry’s alarming impact on the climate and biodiversity crises is to significantly lower the rate at which the industry is razing publicly owned forests. Yet the working relationship between the ministry of forests and the forest industry is based on maintaining the highest rate of cut, even if that cut exceeds what the ministry has determined can be sustained over time. Unless that is replaced with a relationship in which a robust response to the climate and biodiversity crises is the primary objective, the established pattern of denialism in the ministry will continue, ensuring that both crises will worsen.
    David Broadland started writing about forests, the logging industry and the ministry of forests in 1989.
    Relevant documents:
    Forest Practices Board Investigation Report: Reforestation in Interior Douglas Fir Subzone FPB September 17 2020.pdf
    Statement of Claim of Grand Forks residents class action lawsuit: Grand Forks civil action.pdf 

    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.
    Support the blockade: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/bc-old-growth-blockade
    Learn more:
     
     

    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).
     
     

  • The NDP's old-growth logging deferrals

    The map below shows FLNRORD's mapping of the 9 areas where logging deferrals were announced in September 2020. It also shows the intended deferral in the Central Walbran Valley, which has not been publicly announced. The mapping below shows that very little actual old-growth forest was included in the 9 deferrals that were announced. The Clayoquot deferrals includes a large part of Strathcona Park, as well as several parks in the Sound area, none of which were in any danger of being logged. Read more about this issue here.

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