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  • Over-exploitation of BC forests is flooding the province with physical chaos and human misery


    David Broadland
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    Climate change helped transport the water from there to here, but the extent of the damage done is mainly the responsibility of BC’s out-of-control logging industry. 

     

    1963989867_JulyMountainAugust182021.thumb.jpg.09e29e64fa48aa1690a71e4f1b181a8d.jpg

    A short-wave infrared image of this summer’s 20,000-hectare July Mountain Fire (reddish brown area). The Coldwater River snakes along the fire’s lower edge on the left and then punches through the centre of the burn as it heads toward Merritt.

     

    LET’S SURVEY SOME OF THE DAMAGE and the circumstances that led to the Lower Mainland being cut off from the rest of Canada and the flooding of Merritt and Princeton in mid November.

    The Tank Hill Underpass, just east of Lytton, was built in 1957 to allow the newly widened Trans Canada Highway to pass underneath the CPR Railway. In all the years since, there’s no record of the culvert below the highway not having enough capacity to safely transport water under the structure. In February of 1963, for example, the structure survived a 24-hour rainfall of 69.9 millimetres (2.8 inches) that washed out both the highway and railway at a point closer to Lytton. In the “Great Coastal Storm” of 2007 that hit BC, Washington and Oregon in early December, Lytton recorded a 24-hour rainfall of 106.9 millimetres and the underpass was unscathed. But on November 14, 2021, the structure washed out after the fall of 61.9 millimetres of rain in the previous 24-hour period. What had changed?

     

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    The washed-out Tank Hill Underpass (Photo: BC Ministry of Transportation)

     

    The 807-hectare watershed above the underpass was severely burned during last summer’s 84,000-hectare Lytton Creek Fire. The ministry of forests’ historical record of forest fires shows that watershed had no previous record of fire. This summer’s fire, rather than the quantity of rain that fell, may have determined the underpass’s fate.

    The hydrological impact of forest fires is well understood. A 2011 study, conducted by US Forest Service scientists, noted: “Basins with high-burn severity, especially those with steep, previously forested terrain, have flashier hydrographs and can produce peak-flows orders of magnitude greater than pre-fire conditions.” (See report attached at end of story.)

    Note the scientists’ use of the expression “orders of magnitude greater.” As you know, one order of magnitude means 10 times greater. Two orders of magnitude means 100 times greater. And so on.

    Why would a forest fire have such a large impact on the hydrological function of a forest? Here’s the short answer from those scientists: “This is due to fundamental changes in the hydrology of burnt watersheds, especially in the short term (1-3 years). Consumption of the canopy and forest-floor organic horizon that formerly intercepted precipitation, moderated infiltration, and protected mineral soil, results in decreased evapotranspiration and infiltration, and increased runoff. Further, newly exposed soil surfaces are subject to rain-drop erosion, which may be exacerbated by fire induced soil-water repellency. Though the hydrologic impacts of high-severity wildfire have been well documented in the scientific literature, the socio-political ramifications of a latent, continuous, and highly unpredictable disturbance regime (i.e. post-fire flooding and sedimentation) has not been addressed.”

    At about the same time as the Tank Hill Underpass was washing out, more serious trouble was brewing 50 kilometres to the east. The Coldwater River began to surge over its banks where it joins the Nicola River at Merritt. The west end of the town was flooded above the level that hydrologists had determined would likely be the worst case scenario—the 200-year flood plain—for future floods from melting snowpack. No one foresaw Merritt being flooded by a mid-fall rainstorm. As many as 7000 residents were forced to evacuate. Yet Merritt itself recorded only 31.4 millimetres of rain (1.2 inches) in the critical 48-hour period on November 14 and 15. By way of comparison, a total of 28 millimetres fell in a 48-hour period on November 24 and 25, 1962 and no flooding was reported. Similarly, 36 millimetres fell on Merritt in a 48-hour period during 2007’s Great Coastal Storm, yet no flooding occurred.

    The Merritt flood was obviously the result of rainfall, but where did that rain fall? The town is near the junction of the Coldwater and Nicola rivers and just downstream from where Clapperton Creek—which drains the Nicola Plateau—joins the Nicola.


    169303334_MerrittfloodNovember152021.thumb.jpg.2824ed44d7c5e4ee66e57db3c166b747.jpg

    Flooding in Merritt, looking southeast across the west end of town. The Coldwater River cuts across the centre of the photo. The smaller Nicola River is in the foreground. One of the town’s mills is visible in the background.

     

    Photographs of the Merritt flood posted online show that the Coldwater River was swollen and moving much faster than the meandering Nicola River. While not much rain fell directly on Merritt, precipitation was even lower towards Kamloops. The wave of water, then, likely originated south of Merritt near the headwaters of the Coldwater. That area, too, experienced a large forest fire last summer. The 20,000-hectare July Mountain Fire was contained almost entirely within the Coldwater River’s watershed.

    The same physical factors associated with severely burned forest that may have caused the washout of the Tank Hill Underpass were also in play in the July Mountain Fire area, but in this case the burned area was 25 times larger. As well, there was a much larger area of recent clearcuts and young plantations in the watershed that had severely diminished the watershed’s natural ability to slow the rate at which water could move over the land before it reached the creeks and rivers that led to Merritt. UBC forest scientists XuJian Joe Yu and Younes Alila have found that removing forest in BC has a much greater impact on flooding than previously believed. They found, for example, that even small rates of logging can double the frequency of flooding and large rates of forest removal can result in up to fourfold increases in the frequency of large floods.

    Extensive clearcut logging has been allowed throughout the watershed since the early 1980s, but the rate of logging accelerated dramatically after 2009 when the ministry of forests introduced a salvage logging program. The program’s objective was to remove lodgepole pine killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle, but the logging companies were permitted to remove all trees. In the Lillooet and Merritt Timber Supply Areas, only 20 percent of the logging between 2010 and 2019 was related to salvaging dead pine. To make the salvage logging more commercially attractive, companies were permitted to take stands of any species of healthy trees as well. The result was widespread devastation of healthy primary forests and loss of hydrological function in the Coldwater watershed. The time-lapse video below, which runs from 1984 to 2020, shows a portion of the Coldwater River’s watershed that was burned by the July Mountain Fire. Watch for the sudden acceleration in the cut that occurs in 2010.

     

    Time-lapse video of logging in the area of the Coldwater watershed that was subsequently burned by the July Mountain Fire (Google Earth Time-lapse generator)

     

    Seventy-five kilometres southeast of Merritt, Princeton also flooded. It lies at the confluence of the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers. The town saw 66 millimetres of rain—just over 4 inches—over the 3-day period between November 13 and November 15. The last big flood there occurred in 1972, but that event was dramatically different from the November 14 flood. 1972’s soaking was the result of warm temperatures quickly melting a huge winter snowpack in late May. No record of a November flood ever occurring in Princeton could be found by this reporter. But, like the Coldwater, the Similkameen watershed experienced a large forest fire this past summer, entirely within its watershed—the 15,000-hectare Garrison Lake Fire—and extensive clearcutting has been allowed throughout the watersheds of both the Similkameen and the Tulameen. The time-lapse video below records the logging from 1984 to 2000 in the area of the Similkameen’s watershed that was burned by the Garrison Lake Fire.

     

    Time-lapse video of logging in the area of the Similkameen River watershed, 1984-2020, that was subsequently burned by the Garrison Lake Fire in 2021 (Google Earth Time-lapse generator)

     

    If forest fires are an important factor in flooding and water damage to infrastructure—and the scientists tell us that they are—then BC is likely in for a hell of a ride in the coming years. The current forest policy of liquidating as much primary forest as is necessary to compete in the export market for wood products—80 to 90 percent of logging in BC is for exports—is creating roughly 250,000 hectares of new clearcuts each year. Clearcuts and plantations have a higher fire hazard than primary forest, and as the fraction of BC that’s covered by clearcuts and plantations grows, forest fires are becoming larger. More and more of BC will be in that state that the forest scientists described as having “flashier hydrographs” and “can produce peak-flows orders of magnitude greater than pre-fire conditions.” More and more of BC will be unable to control movement of water across the landscape, whether it has burned or not. In short, the government’s current obsession with “export competitiveness” is leading directly to hell.

    You can see where all this is heading, can’t you? The cost of the flooding in Merritt and Princeton alone will likely be in the hundreds of millions. The cost of repairing the highway infrastructure and making it more flood and landslide resistant could be of a similar magnitude or greater.

    The wise thing to do next—now that we can see how climate change and the current forest management regime in BC are going to synergistically combine to produce physical chaos and social misery—would be to reduce the amount of logging in BC. Let the Chinese and American buyers of BC forests figure out some other way to grow. Instead, the logging companies will keep denuding the land as quickly as the export market will allow. The political class will decide that highways and bridges and flood-prone communities will now need to be reengineered and rebuilt to withstand higher levels of water and sliding hillsides, at whatever great cost. The financial and emotional costs of flooded-out lives will just have to be paid. But who will pay?

    Not the logging companies who caused it. Not the American or Chinese consumers of our forest products. Not the government officials who allowed it to happen.

    The cost of mitigating against climate change will become just another part of the immense public subsidization of the logging industry in BC. The blissfully unaware public will pay whatever is needed without even knowing they are paying for it.

    This story was edited on November 25, 2021 to reflect updated data for the record of precipitation that fell on Lytton and Merritt, including the historical data. The information that the ministry of forests’ record of historical forest fires showed no previous fire had occurred in the Tank Hill watershed was also added at that time.

    Please also see the note below in the comments section about rainfall amounts in the Great Coastal Storm of 2007.

    Hydrological Impacts of forest fires.pdf

    David Broadland does not consent to the destruction of life on Earth.

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    At such a time as this, when coastal BC has been cut off from the rest of Canada, it seems important to get some clarity on what lies ahead for the people of British Columbia. This excellent article goes a long way in that direction, yet gives short shrift to three details that bring the situation into even clearer focus - or so it seems to me.

    First, as climate change continues to deepen in the decades ahead, its impacts will be much worse than anything we've experienced so far. The wildfires and floods of 2021 are just the beginning. Second, while it's certainly true that BC's summer wildfires greatly amplified the devastating impact of its autumn floods, the question needs to be asked how much industrial logging - in BC as elsewhere - has contributed to global warming and hence to the 2021 wildfires in the first place. And third, the largest and most devastating fires of this past summer were concentrated in the drier portions of inland BC and are clearly part of an ongoing climate-driven transformation of forest ecosystems into grassland ecosystems - a process that cannot be stopped and (as this article makes clear) henceforth places the people of this region at terrible risk of wildfire AND floods - a double whammy. To the extent that uncontrolled industrial logging continues to compromise the resilience of inland BC's ecosystems to climate change, to that extent our collective future looks very bleak indeed.

    May the forest be with you...

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    Trevor Goward touches upon the subject of attribution of cause to effect.  Attribution science over the past decade has made great advances in the fields of climate change and hydrology.  

    David Broadland alludes to the seminal research of UBC research scientist, Dr. Younes Alila, a provincial leader in the field of hydrology, and XuJian Joe Yu.  Dr. Alila's pioneering research is able to answer the questions to which Trevor alludes: how much of the damage to infrastructure and communities is attributable to climate change; how much to clearcut logging, and how much to wildfire?  We need answers. 

    The relationship between logging, wildfire and increased risk of more frequent peak flows of greater magnitude and of longer duration is well established in current science.  

    This leads me to the concluding comments in David's story about who foots the bill for apparent negligence in the over-exploitation of our forests and how we might immediately begin to mitigate against "a very bleak"  and frightening future. 

    Residents of Merritt and Princeton, who have incurred damage, might choose to seek restitution in the courts by holding the forest industry and provincial government accountable -- BC Timber Sales, the government's logging arm, being the biggest logger in the province with 20 per cent of the allowable annual cut (AAC).  

    As for immediate mitigative action, the obvious change in forest policy is for the provincial government to make clearcut logging illegal, to end all logging in primary forests, and to contract the forest industry to 20 percent of its present capacity to cover domestic needs for forest products by stopping the multi-million-dollar subsidies each day to the industry and by radically reducing the AAC to sustainable levels that place priority on public safety.

    An emergency of the magnitude of massive climate disruption requires strong leadership to take immediate mitigative measures. Where is the political will and leadership in British Columbia?  And for how long will you, the taxpayer. tolerate subsidizing the forest industry to contribute significantly to the social and economic disruption of the Province? 

     

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    Ah, the truth is so sweet, like a clear, clean drink of water from a mountain stream.

    Suzanne Simard demonstrated to us down at Fairy Creek last month, that 2nd growth only contains 40% the biomass of primary forest, even after it "grows back". Biomass includes topsoil, roots, mycorrizhae, humus, moss, wood, etc.

    So those clearcut patches that keep growing like cancers on the screen in the time lapse video, even when they green up, have less than 40% the capacity of primary forests, or even well managed forests, to retain moisture. Before they green up, almost no biomass. Over a 60 year re-cut period, plantations probably average 20%.

    So that means we have 25 million hectares of what industry calls we call "fibre inventory" in BC that is only operating at 20% capacity to retain moisture.

    Conversely, I live in a primary, indeed primeval forest.  In the summer heat dome, air temperature was 26C under the canopy. Lightning struck, no fire started. This fall, we had more rain than ever since Sept 1, an inch a day at times. 2-3 storms, with winds 50-70 mph.

    Not one tree fell. No erosion anywhere.

    To paraphrase the sharks in Finding Nemo, repeat after me: "Forests are Friends, not Fibre".

    How is this supposed to retain moisture? (TJ Watt photo).

     

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    Thanks David for another excellent, and timely expose of the sorry state of forest management (read mismanagement) of the forest landscapes of BC. When will we learn to give these complex, natural ecosystems the respect and reciprocity they sorely need?  They are responsible for many benefits we take for granted.  However, their forgiveness has run out.  Changing our relationship with forests to one of protection and restoration is a matter of survival.

    Following on the excellent points of Trevor Goward and Anthony Britneff, I would like to point out that salvage logging actually does more damage to ecological recovery and ecosystem processes, like water storage and filtration, and the dispersed movement of water across the forest.  Here is a quote from "Salvage Logging and Its Ecological Consequences":

    Salvage logging and other post-disturbance practices can have profound negative impacts on ecological processes and biodiversity.  Salvage logging will rarely, if ever, contribute in a direct or positive way to ecological recovery; generally it can be viewed as a tax on ecological recovery that can be large or small depending upon how it is conducted.  (page 168)

    Following an insect infestation or fire, leaving most of the dead trees standing, particularly the largest trees, and all of the singed or green trees would provide for the maintenance of ecological processes, like interception of precipitation that slows runoff and provision of a steady supply of fallen trees that disperse and deflect water runoff, Eventually these fallen trees decay to become Nature's water storage and filtration system.  The dead trees, both standing and fallen, shade the soil, decreasing water loss (read ongoing drought) and create the right environments for plant succession to restore natural forests.

    Part of a new relationship with forests is "letting Nature take her healing course" after natural disturbances and human caused disturbances, like wildfire.  Disturbances from clearcuts and associated logging roads are another matter.  These disturbances should be ceased immediately.  And, where they have occurred there is a priority need for active restoration activities, if for no other reason than to dampen the forthcoming extreme events that result from climate disruption.

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    Great  article to educate your followers, David.  I am traveling overseas at the moment and when a colleague sent a Landsat picture of the "Atmospheric River", my immediate comment to him was that although  California escaped the rains, and hence resultant mudslides after their recent wildfires, BC would be in trouble with floods and mudslides and to keep me updated. The stories and pictures exceeded my worries by way way more than I was imagining, but although shocking, this is not unpredictable....

    The effect of massive wildfires on the hydrologic cycle has been known for decades  and has been well described by David and other comenters...

    What's missing is the political will to change policies re massive clear-cuts without regard to hydrologic "green-up" or "recovery" before  new logging is allowed nearby  in the same watershed.  The water accounting in a watershed was something I was involved with way back in the 1980's. We were modeling each section of terrain and tracking water movement from each unit and summarizing it all the way downhill until it reached rivers etc which the flow of which was monitored with the intent of calibrating the entire watershed in order to predict hydrologic behavior after changes due to logging or land use..... 

    This was done on a micro level to develop a computer model suitable for macro application on much bigger landscapes.   Our work predated GIS technology, but by now, surely there is capacity and the hydrologic understanding  to predict behavior after logging, wildfire, bug and disease and drought kill,  the last four which will be exacerbated by climate change, which I dare say has entered into a feedback loop accelerating the entire process!

    We CAN control logging and just  need to educate our policy makers and decision makers like the Chief Forester.

    That's my 2 Euros worth!

    PS,  now would be the time to reintroduce the requirement to reforest after wildfire and pest kill that was removed from the Forest Act by the Liberal government circa 2001.  As per all the previous commentary  this will NOT heal the hydrologic or carbon sequestration damage to previous levels but it's better than head in the sand behavior!

    (Please excuse all typos, my phone creates most of 'em)

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    20 hours ago, Guest Trevor Goward said:

    ...the question needs to be asked how much industrial logging - in BC as elsewhere - has contributed to global warming and hence to the 2021 wildfires in the first place.

    Thanks for your comments Trevor, and I agree with you completely on all counts.

    As you may know I am working with a number of other people on a project that will examine closely how logging in BC is contributing to climate change. It's contribution is immense. When the premature release of carbon emissions associated with logging in BC are tallied, the numbers are staggering. As part of this project, which is called the Evergreen Alliance, we are calculating the contribution of every logging company in BC based on the ministry of forests' record of each company's logging activity. The list is very long and the total carbon emissions are sobering.

    Below is a list of the top 23 logging company emitters, the total that they paid the Province for stumpage, and their associated carbon emissions. The methodology we are using (which is a work in progress) can be found here.

    On the list are the companies that did the logging in the Coldwater and Similkameen watershed. What they paid in stumpage doesn't even cover the cost of the ministry of forests' operations required to manage logging in BC, let alone any of the damage done to communities like Merritt and Princeton. Nor does the list below account for the loss of forest carbon sequestration capacity—roughly 90 megatonnes each year. Compare that to the provincial GHG inventory's account of total annual emissions, mainly from fossil fuels: 68.6 megatonnes.

    These are the companies that brought BC to its knees last week, and not just by creating the conditions on the ground that led to forest fires, flooding and transportation infrastructure damage. Their operations are also responsible for moving carbon stored in forests back into the atmosphere much more quickly than would have occurred naturally. To respond to the climate crisis, slowing the release of carbon to the atmosphere is critical.

    The Evergreen Alliance website will be launched on December 1st.

    2020.thumb.jpg.25f270ef7f5750d80387760aaff206e1.jpg  

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    5 hours ago, David Broadland said:

    Below is a list of the top 23 logging company emitters, . . .

    I suspect some readers might be asking themselves, "Where does BC Timber Sales fit into this carbon accounting because BCTS is responsible for 20 per cent of the provincial allowable annual cut?". 

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    On 2021-11-20 at 1:13 PM, Anthony Britneff said:

    I suspect some readers might be asking themselves, "Where does BC Timber Sales fit into this carbon accounting because they are responsible for 20 per cent of the provincial allowable annual cut?". 

    BCTS doesn’t do the actual logging. It lays out the cutblocks, contracts out the roadbuilding and then auctions off the licence to cut. The volumes BCTS auctions, after they are cut and scaled, show up on the Harvest Billing System volumes under the name of the company which won the bid. We use a company's HBS volumes to work back to the total biomass that was killed to derive that company's emissions.

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    3 hours ago, David Broadland said:

    On the list are the companies that did the logging in the Coldwater and Similkameen watershed. What they paid in stumpage doesn't even cover the cost of the ministry of forests' operations required to manage logging in BC, let alone any of the damage done to communities like Merritt and Princeton.  

    The list provided by David should be used to bill the listees with the costs of all the damage caused and the funds needed to mitigate the damages incurred as far as reasonably possible.  The amount owning will be in the billions of dollars.  

    Those perpetrating, supporting and/or conducting the huge harvests of timber across BC (i.e. Diane Nicholls and her all too willing staff who ensure the AAC stays as high as possible as long as possible and ditto her Chief Forester's Leadership Team who also direct the harvesting) all deny and refuse to accept any responsibility for the consequences of their policies and actions. Instead, they blame it all on natural causes, therefore they cannot possibly be culpable. This phenomenon is well known as the practice of "Willful Blindness".

    What can we do to make sure they don't get away with it? Everyone must be held accountable for the consequences of their policies and actions.

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    On 2021-11-20 at 2:48 PM, Fred Marshall said:

    What can we do to make sure they don't get away with it? 

    Fred:  Just one person can start a class action lawsuit.  That said, as I understand the law (and I am not a lawyer and this is not advice), the courts draw a line between policy and operations.  Those on the side of "policy" (e.g., the chief forester and her staff) can't be touched but those on the side of "operations" (e.g. companies and the operational arms of the forest ministry like district offices and BCTS) can be named as defendants. 

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    In 2007, in a special investigative report, the Forest Practices Board warned the BC government about the effect of excessive rates of clearcut logging on flooding in large watersheds. The investigator was UBC research scientist and hydrologist Dr. Younes Alila.

    https://www.bcfpb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SIR16.pdf   

    The Board made headline news with the outcomes of this report.  Local, regional and national media reported on this modelling study for several days. It even made a splash in the Alberta legislature.

    FPB-Final-Report-online.pdf

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    Wow so much negative wrath pinning the aftermath of a unique storm event on forest management.  I’m new to this forum, recognize a lot of well informed names and am a bit surprised frankly.  From the little video footage I’ve seen I’m willing to bet a lot of damage resulted from under design or not recognizing hazards for one reason or another.  And our collective inability to update our infrastructure built many years ago under previous knowledge, to accommodate climate change.  If you saturate steep slopes and gulleys that are predominantly glacial sediments guess what the likely outcome is?  We live in a young geological environment and if we build there then we can expect problems at some point.

    But on forest management, we have been collectively working under the premise of sustainable practices which most people agree is working.  Maybe not this lot, but a lot of other people do.  If we collectively feel we’re overlooking something or under representing, then we can probably adjust without throwing the baby out with the bath water.  Like we have many times in the past.

    I’m sure the knowledge base in this forum is able to clearly articulate what we might want to revise and how we might do that.  Part of that discussion should include a review of what products we want from our forests, how much is enough so we can share the forests.  But please stop with the anti forestry rhetoric because that just pisses people off.

    Let’s work together to figure out what the problems are and how to make it work, it’s good for everyone.

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    On 2021-11-20 at 11:25 AM, David Broadland said:

    These are the companies that brought BC to its knees last week, and not just by creating the conditions on the ground that led to forest fires, flooding and transportation infrastructure damage.

    On the matter of naming and attributing carbon emissions to individual companies, I think we also need to recognize that forestry governance has been operating under a decades-long abnegation of corporate and government responsibility to professional reliance. 

    Each and every one of those clearcuts in over-logged watersheds has had a cutting permit approved and signed-off by a forest professional. 

    In keeping with professional reliance under the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA), and in fairness to the corporations that have relied on those professional foresters, a publicly available list of, say, 20 to 30 forest professionals, who have contributed most to those massive carbon emissions, would be helpful to have.  

    Inclusion on this list could be decided by the number of cutting permits approved and signed or by the total area logged. 

    Such a list would make it clear that the floodwaters that have devastated Merritt and other Interior communities didn't come out of thin air; rather they are the cumulative outcome of day-to-day decisions by professional foresters, who in effect betrayed the public trust. 

    David: Is the naming of professionals something that you might consider for inclusion on the yet-to-be-launched Evergreen Alliance web site?  And do you agree that in doing so the outcome might produce positive change in the public interest?

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    40 minutes ago, Anthony Britneff said:

    David: Is the naming of professionals something that you might consider for inclusion on the yet-to-be-launched Evergreen Alliance web site?  And do you agree that in doing so the outcome might produce positive change in the public interest?

    Yes. I think a concerted effort needs to be made to obtain records from the ministry through FOI requests and thereby determine who approved what, and what was said by the companies and their foresters and the ministry officials who approved the cutting permits. The FOI process is not working well right now, so this will take some time and patience. I have FOIed communications for specific cutblocks (not related to the floods) in the past and have been shocked at the casual exchange of information between a forester and the District office involved. No serious questions were asked.

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    55 minutes ago, Guest MikefromNorthVan said:

    Let’s work together to figure out what the problems are and how to make it work, it’s good for everyone.

    Mike, thanks for your comments.

    I agree with you that we need to work together to figure out what the problems are.

    After having spent so much time looking at satellite images of the state of BC's forests in the southern half of the province, and seeing so many photographs taken on the ground of the devastation that has occurred since 2010, I can't agree with you that what has happened is anything remotely like "sustainable."

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    Excellent expose of the hidden cumulative impact of provincial forestry mismanagement.  The implications for salmon recovery and endangered species management which is unfortunately too closely linked to the forestry mindset are monumental.   For example, I have yet to hear people discuss what the Sumas Lake impacts are going to mean for Nooksack dace, Pacific water shrew or the Tiger Salamander, all of which have threatened critical habitat in that area. These species should not be subtexts to forestry and development interests.  Although I hear people suggest that this is a wake-up call, I am not certain that people can really change a mindset that sees the landscape as a static given which is only home to "natural resources".

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    On 2021-11-20 at 7:37 PM, Guest MikefromNorthVan said:

    Let’s work together to figure out what the problems are and how to make it work, it’s good for everyone.

    Mike: 

    You have found in Focus (and in the soon-to-be-launched Evergreen Alliance web site) one of the few Internet forums in which open, uncensored discussion of BC forestry problems and the presentation of ideas are possible.  

    By contrast you will notice that the forest industry, its lobbyists and forest professionals do not offer any Internet venue for the discussion of problems and ideas.   Here I am referring to forest company web sites and to those of the Association of BC Forest Professionals, lumber associations, Council of Forest Industries, Truck Loggers Association, BC Forestry Alliance, and of Resource Works, most of which are full of defensive, self-serving facts and greenwashing. 

    In short, the forest industry is not engaged in the dialogue you advocate.  It would be "good for everyone" if the forest industry decided to participate.  

    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    Gents, thanks for your responses, I suspect I may be the only pro-forestry advocate in this chat.  It is a welcome forum that perhaps the forest sector could learn from because the key to solving problems is, as you've pointed out, communication.  Which the forest sector and government sometimes struggles with, while the NGOs are very adapt.  A bunch of facts and figures and cute videos pail by comparison to some earthy looking person standing on a huge stump or being dragged away by a policeman, images that play on human emotion. 

    And any time the industry or government do try to communicate this, as Anthony suggests, it comes across to some as "greenwashing".  The sector just needs to tweak its communication so people can see for themselves and make their own decisions.  My experience is that when people go to the field along with people that are informed about what is going on, they come away agreeing that things are fine.  But we have such a huge province and people have so limited time its hard to be articulate in a meaningful way, without coming across defensive.  This is where the NGOs are most effective, a picture is worth a thousand words, so nothing looks worse to the uniformed eye than a recent clearcut.  But what if we viewed that as farming?  or growing something of value?

    I suspect that people reading this forum are informed about how trees grow and cumulative affects.  And about risk management, critical thinking and how decisions are made.  There are a lot of informed professionals making sure that forestry decisions are good.  For those trying to bring about change by showing satellite images of harvesting with ignorant opinions again only infuriates those in the sector.  If you look closely at the images you will see lots of green young forests, likely plantations.  Most people agree that trees will regrow in the brown areas and that any public harvested area must be brought to a free growing reforested state by law.  At one time we managed for the broader landscape and this is perhaps where we need to revisit, check goals and reassure.

    Just how does one get involved in the decision making is an important question.  Informed opinions are important.  Staying informed like this forum is a good start.  Forest level planning processes needs to be improved, I think the Forest Practices Board has commented on this.

    I remain optimistic about our forests and for future generations.

     

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    On 2021-11-22 at 11:14 AM, Guest MikefromNorthVan said:

    If you look closely at the images you will see lots of green young forests, likely plantations.  Most people agree that trees will regrow in the brown areas and that any public harvested area must be brought to a free growing reforested state by law. 

    Mike:  I find your comments to be both useful and revealing:  useful because they provide insight on a forest industry perspective on forestry and revealing because they hit on a few of the key differences that divide the industry from its many critics, who, I might clarify, are not just NGOs but also informed professionals and many of the general public. 
     
    Perception is reality.  So if I substitute “timber" where you write “forestry” and “forest” in your comments, you might realize how even your thoughtful comments are perceived by many readers to be timber-centric.  By way of illustration: "I may be the only pro-timber advocate in this chat" among many pro-forestry advocates.  
     
    As an example, plantations are not forests. Primary forests are not replaceable or renewable. The industry might be replacing the trees through planting but it is not replacing forests: by that I mean the ecology of primary forests, the full extent of ecosystem services a forest provides, and the full amount of the carbon emitted to the atmosphere though the act of logging. 
     
    As another example, implicit in your comments (and optimism) are two false assumptions: 
     
    One, you apparently believe that the plantations are performing as assumed by the forest ministry in its timber supply modelling when forest health surveys and science tell us otherwise.
     
    Mortality and under-performance of young plantations for whatever reason after declaration of "free-growing" at 8 to 12 years of age are a big concern because the unverified performance of "managed stands" (ministry jargon for unmanaged plantations) as assumed in timber growth models determines the present supply of timber as reflected in allowable annual cuts -- ergo unsustainable timber supply. 
     
    Two, you are of the opinion that forestry is adequately operating under sustainable practices. To most informed forest ecologists and the general public nothing is sustainable about clearcut logging of primary forests with the resulting loss of biodiversity, damage to water, erosion of soil, and emissions of carbon.   
     
    The whole notion of “sustainable forest management” as a standard for forest certification has been a point of major contention ever since it was initiated and is viewed by many to be false and misrepresentative of the true state of forest practices in B.C. -- the epitome of greenwashing. Every time an industry spokesperson alludes to forest certification and sustainable forestry, it infuriates so many people both inside and outside the forest sector -- seeing is believing.  
     
    Misrepresentation is the reason why Ecojustice recently filed a complaint on behalf of a diverse group of Canadians to the federal Competition Bureau asserting that the forest industry and government claims of sustainable forestry are false and misleading.  I suspect you are aware of this complaint; but, if not, here are links to relevant documents:
    We agree in principle on the importance of communication and dialogue.  However, the forest industry (and the forests ministry) have a lot to learn about what to communicate, how to do it, and who does it. By relying on amateurs among its lobbyists as spokespersons for the industry, who, when challenged, become defensive of their own organizations, the forest industry will continue to lose credibility and social licence.  Communication has to be two-way, believable and truthful. 
     
    Meaningful dialogue needs to begin with mutual recognition by the forest industry, by the forests ministry and by their critics that the defining crises of our times are climate change and biodiversity loss, and that clearcut logging of primary forests in B.C. is a major contributor to both crises. 
     
    Within the context of forestry in B.C., what has to be conceded and what has to change to mitigate against these crises? How can industry expertise contribute meaningfully to dialogue and solutions? And how does the forest sector see itself surviving needed changes and concessions?
     
    Over to you, Mike. 
    Edited by Anthony Britneff
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    Thank you David for writing this piece. What is playing out in BC right now is truly awful and was predictable. The minister of forests sits in the BC Leg denying things like the nose on ones face. She refuses to answer common sense questions with her and the entire forest industrial complex in denial. Unfortunately and because of liability this truth will be ignored by politicians and businesses. Because the Gordon Campbell government allowed unencumbered access to log without any rules what so ever,, actually. This has led to where BC is today,, people dying from fires caused by fuel everywhere and then floods as the landscape can't even come close to handle increased rain from a warmer atmosphere. This is a perfect feedback mechanism as fuel begets fire which causes floods and with no change in sight,, we are in deep trouble.

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    Thanks for writing and sharing this deeply important article. When you live surrounded by mature forest and healthy trees it seems so far removed that one would only consider a trees' value based on it's timber value. Education is the first thing more people need to see in order for any change to happen. When you truly understand the deep of how much S*&^ we are in it's hard to sleep at night. Also super unimpressed with the current govements lies and broken promises. What is the point of a deferral if you are not stopping the logging and they never intend to because money speaks louder? *sigh* 

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    I wholly agree with the thrust of David’s story: clearcut logging and wildfire are sizeable contributors to the floods and mudslides in B.C. 

    Although retired and traveling overseas, I have followed the comment thread to this story.  I feel compelled to support Anthony's remarks about plantations NOT being "forests".  Anthony correctly states that young plantations are not performing as assumed by the forests ministry. 

    More serious, from the standpoint of the public interest, is the ministry's steadfast REFUSAL to survey plantations mid-rotation after they have been declared "free growing” (usually between ages 8 and 11 years) because the outcome of such surveys would be evidence in support of adjusting timber supply forecasts and reducing allowable annual cuts.  

    During my career with the the forests ministry, I PLEADED with the deputy-chief forester and other senior managers to instill a post free-growing survey before mid-rotation to ensure we were not incorrectly projecting in computer models the growth and health of plantations to maturity without any reassurance that they were actually healthy and alive at the level of stocking assumed in timber supply forecasts. 

    The ministry does have a grid-based forest monitoring program but this is inadequate for assessment of the true state of plantations after they have been declared free-gowing between 8 and 11 years of age.  

    As a consequence of extensive field work, I have seen with my own eyes many plantations that are dead or mostly dead from disease or insects that are still "on the books" as contributing to timber supply and  supporting the high levels of harvest.  And do not think for a moment that the most senior levels of the forests ministry are not aware of this problem — they have been aware of it for decades. 

    If memory serves, the Deputy Chief forester, who had been a director of the Silviculture Branch was out in the field with us  as group from a Forest Health conference touring a 30 yr old pine stand that had been wiped out by Dothistrom needle disease.  We were on our hands and knees looking for small tree seedlings underneath to see if the stand would still qualify as "stocked". Very disheartening to see 30 yrs of plantation growth lost, but even worse is that the Forest Inventory was not keeping track of these forest health disasters and was technically counting on dead stands like these to contribute full volume  at final harvest age! That's how overcutting happens...

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    I am astounded by the breadth of knowledge and compassion of my fellow British Columbians represented in these comments but surprised that they are so bothered with sharing, discussing and researching all this when the fine weather and government pension here in Palm Springs is so suited to golf, casual dress and fine dining. Lets do all that we can right? Up the stumpage I say!

     

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  • 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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