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  • The Ministry of Denialism


    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 For employment statistics about the forest industry, ministry reports defer to an out-of-date 2016 Council of Forest Industries analysis instead of statistics derived from income tax returns that have been adjusted for the most recent mill closures and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.

     

    23026556_PrinceGeorgeovercut2010to2019_001.thumb.jpeg.2239105c7c9e7fa7ded8e58b984ec5eb.jpeg

     

    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.

     

    606307970_Kamloopsovercut2010to2019_001.thumb.jpeg.70f93b18ff38c0ca050f995a89008bd1.jpeg

    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.

     

    2009443318_Okanaganovercut2010to2019_001.thumb.jpeg.9c6f0f91f1e0eaf9a1f5eae3c6db8afb.jpeg

     

    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.

     

    1591615123_LillooetMerrittovercut2010to2019copy_001.thumb.jpeg.33a912480ff398ff171d08cd0fad9bb9.jpeg

    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 dont know exactly what the impacts of climate change will be on how trees grow in all of BC, I cant 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.

     

    1107553461_Kootenay-Boundaryovercut2010to2019_001.thumb.jpeg.ee85329abcfaa9c244d5adb2294ce92d.jpeg

     

    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.

     

    1591697892_KettleRiverValleylogging.thumb.jpg.02d7de91daef413c63a62f905806acdb.jpg

    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.)

     

    268794185_LoggingintheGranbyRiverwatershed.thumb.jpg.5857efda8f49da2b8f94837358faba1b.jpg

    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).

    492381813_BoundaryTSAcut2009to2019_001.thumb.jpeg.cfcc9bb6112f22b47c27377be7031a47.jpeg

     

    The suit doesnt 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 Areas 2011 timber supply review couldnt 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 



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    Guest Don Heppner

    Posted

    Good work David; please keep working at this.  I voted NDP because I believed they would do something about this.  Unfortunately they have been very disappointing and have lost my support.  This is the kind of thing that regressive conservative governments would do.  

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    Guest Anthony Britneff

    Posted

    The BC NDP has known full well for two decades that unsustainable, clearcut overcutting of provincial forests in Interior BC adversely affects the economy and environment by: 

    • Accelerating the economic decline of dependent communities; 
    • Increasing the number of mills that have to close; 
    • Multiplying the rate at which jobs are lost; 
    • Diminishing the opportunities for value-added businesses; 
    • Weakening and harming ecosystems; 
    • Putting the remaining 3% of provincial productive old growth at risk of logging;
    • Destroying wildlife and salmon habitat; and,
    • Driving animals and plants to extinction. 

    Yet, the NDP has had three-and-a-half years to do something about this economic and environmental crisis and have done nothing about it except, as David Broadland so astutely observes, create "an alternative reality about the impact its policies and actions have on the climate and biodiversity crises" -- one of denialism. 

    Thank you David Broadland for another excellent story based on sound investigative research. 

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    Guest Lannie Keller

    Posted

    Thanks, David, for another excellent expose of BC government & forest industry malpractice — and more details about what’s really happening across BCs previously-forested landscapes. It’s discouraging, because the juggernaut continues, but information is the vital precursor to change. Lets hope we still have time. And let’s amplify the message! 

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    Guest D. Leversee

    Posted

    Thanks David,  another excellent piece. I think the reason PG had more "red dead" pine logged is because it is close to the epicentre of the outbreak and the logs have a shorter distance to market when compared to the TSAs further south. It would be interesting to see the numbers for  Quenel too. They might be similar

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    Thank you David for another superb piece of analysis confirming that the rate of logging in most of the Interior is  unsustainable.   

    Unsustainable overcutting is also affecting community watersheds. NDP forest policy on community watersheds continues to be aligned with Liberal forest policy — no difference.  

     Corporations and government’s BC Timber Sales are ruining community watersheds and damaging the quality of drinking water through government-subsidized, unsustainable, clearcut logging because they are protected by forest law that says if the fouled drinking water is treatable, then the logging is alright and the cost of water treatment devolves upon the residents of the community. 

     Try implementing a similar policy and law with the residents of Vancouver and Victoria, all of whom enjoy the very best drinking water and complete protection of their watersheds from logging, mining and other resource development.  The urban residents would not allow that to happen.  Unsurprisingly, rural residents feel the same way about their drinking water but the BC government doesn’t seem to care.  

     Take a look at the devastating logging that has taken place year-by-year from 1968 to 2020 in the Peachland watershed in the Okanagan; slide the grey button to the right:

     

    https://peachland-trepanier-logging.netlify.app/

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    Guest Anthony Britneff

    Posted

    David Broadland writes: "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."

    The Notice of Civil Claim filed with the BC Supreme Court by residents of Grand Forks, which you can download at the end of the article, provides good technical allegations as to why unsustainable, clearcut logging throughout the Kettle watershed, especially in the interior Douglas-fir zone (where foresters would recommend selective logging, not clearcut logging) leads to flooding.  

    If you do not have time to read the notice of claim, then take a quick look at this animation of clearcut logging in the Kettle watershed from 1965 to 2020. As you will see, one doesn't need to be a forester, hydrologist or geomorphologist to grasp that unsustainable overcutting leads to flooding -- it is intuitively obvious to the lay person:

    Kettle Watershed logging

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    Guest TalkingTrees

    Posted

    You keep missing the fact that AAC's are prinarily above the sustainable harvest level because economic discounting is embedded in our assumptions about how forests should be managed - there are other factors that could cause the AAC to drop, but this is the most important one in most management units. You can argue that modern environmental ethics imply that we shouldn't discount the future, but there isn't denialism or negligence involved. 

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    41 minutes ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    You keep missing the fact that AAC's are prinarily above the sustainable harvest level because economic discounting is embedded in our assumptions about how forests should be managed. 

    This article  is about actual logging that has taken place in 12 Interior timber supply areas (TSA) over 10 years in response to a former ministry manager of timber supply, Atmo Prasad, who asserted that “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".  

    With the exception of the Prince George TSA, Atmo Prasad is wrong.  For eleven of the TSAs, the difference between what was cut and what is sustainable comprises a large percentage of healthy live trees.   In short, this article shows that the forest industry has been overcutting by creaming healthy live trees at salvage prices and its logging in much of the Interior is not sustainable.   

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    Guest TalkingTrees

    Posted

    39 minutes ago, Guest Anon said:

    This article  is about actual logging that has taken place in 12 Interior timber supply areas (TSA) over 10 years in response to a former ministry manager of timber supply, Atmo Prasad, who asserted that “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".

    Yes, but was is meant by "sustainable cut"? That isn't a term government uses with respect to timber supply. This article references a previous article written by the same author. I believe that the author is referencing the 'long term harvest level' as compared to the current AAC. Current AACs are almost always above the LTHL due to economic discounting providing a rationale for primary fall down.  Wether or not this is "sustainable" depends on your definition of sustainability. I can see the value of different definitions.....but, again the current approach isn't "denialism". This is why basic forestry concepts should be explained by those who understand them.

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    3 hours ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    I believe that the author is referencing the 'long term harvest level' as compared to the current AAC. Current AACs are almost always above the LTHL due to economic discounting providing a rationale for primary fall down.

    Thanks for your comment TalkingTrees.

    I don't refer to the long-term harvest level in either this story or "Forestry isn't sustainable, folks." For readers who don't know how the ministry uses that term, it applies to the level of cut the ministry timber supply analysts think might be available 50 to 200 years (or more) from now. Nobody knows what's going to happen next year let alone hundreds of years from now, and I think the ministry's use of this term is pure hubris. How can it know what large disturbances outside its predictions might occur? Fires? Insects? Climate change? Building technology change?

    As you know, the ministry determines a "mid-term harvest level" when it undertakes a timber supply review (TSR). This is the cut that timber supply analysts believe is sustainable between 10 to 50 years out from the time the TSR is complete. In this story I have avoided the use of the word "harvest" and replaced it with the word "cut." Also in this story, I have shifted from using the term "mid-term harvest level" and am using the more understandable term "sustainable cut." I would say, given the ministry's failure to live within even its prescribed AAC in some TSAs, let alone within the mid-term harvest level, that this level of "sustainable cut," too, is entirely theoretical---something that timber supply analysts dream of.

    By using the word "sustainable," I mean sustainable in the sense that what's cut in a year is no more than the growth that occurs in a year. As I pointed out in the previous article, that's the one requirement for FSC certification that's actually measurable. My use of it doesn't infer that I believe that level of cut would be sustainable. As Britneff and Watts point out, that rate of growth is not well understood. Models have been created that claim it's well understood, but many of us can see those models are flawed creations of timber supply analysts at the beck and call of industry. 

    In "Forestry isn't sustainable, folks," I used the term "allowable annual cut" (AAC). This is an aspirational term, like a production goal. What I should have done in that story was use actual cut levels, and compared those with the ministry's various theoretical levels, including "AAC," "mid-term harvest level," and "long-term harvest level." After all, what matters is what's actually happening, not what the ministry would like us to believe is happening. To be able to describe what's actually happening, one has to escape from the theoretical boxes the timber supply analysts have hammered together.

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    I must applaud David for starting a very tough discussion on a topic that the public seeks involvement but for which even civil servants and licensed professionals across BC have no say in, that being - what constitutes sustainability and what defines old growth. Each year BC government conducts the workplace employee survey , WES, and each year since the Liberals created a deregulated forest industrial complex civil servants have been complaining about how executive simply don't involve staff in bigger picture discussions, namely , whats constitutes those definitions above by which all other work is determined. And yet executive seem also to be bathing in denialism as they ignore the survey results and forge on in their industry centric political agenda and year after year don't engage licensed professionals or employees tasked with the management of these critical issues. Managers forge ahead with some hidden agenda ignoring the WES results which complain each and every year that executive seem to move ahead without involving its own staff, why? There is absolutely zero opportunity for thousands of licensed professionals working within BC's own government to hold the chief forester accountable for using outdated definitions or to consider a time for change. It's denialism at its grandest level as the head of the public service or our own Chief Forester  will march out the WES survey results , and then blatantly ignore the biggest single message from thousands of its employees,, executive simply don't don't fucking care what its employees want or what its licensed professionals think, it has a political agenda. Just like that government to the south of us, ours too has become corrupt and is no longer functioning for the majority. It has maintained many dysfunctional systems largely driven by a complete and utter lack of accountability and the addiction to forestry related jobs .

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    Guest TalkingTrees

    Posted

    10 hours ago, David Broadland said:

    By using the word "sustainable," I mean sustainable in the sense that what's cut in a year is no more than the growth that occurs in a year.

    Thanks for the clarity, I think your series of articles contains some very valid points - I hope they resonate with policy makers.

    Personally, I would define sustainable as being able to continue doing what you are currently doing far into the future. This brings me back to my original point: wether you look at mid-term or long-term harvest levels in the timber supply models, the current cut will almost always be higher because we manage for Maximum Sustained Yield (i.e. getting the most biomass possible over the long term by cutting stands when they are at the peak of their growth rate). I actually think we need to move away from max. sustained yield, but when talking about why timber supply models allow us to harvest more today than in future decades, it's a primary consideration for folks to understand? Don't you think?

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    4 hours ago, Guest Guest said:

    Each year BC government conducts the workplace employee survey , WES, and each year since the Liberals created a deregulated forest industrial complex civil servants have been complaining about how executive simply don't involve staff in bigger picture discussions, namely , whats constitutes those definitions above by which all other work is determined. And yet executive seem also to be bathing in denialism as they ignore the survey results and forge on in their industry centric political agenda and year after year don't engage licensed professionals or employees tasked with the management of these critical issues. Managers forge ahead with some hidden agenda ignoring the WES results which complain each and every year that executive seem to move ahead without involving its own staff, why?

    Hi Guest, thanks for this information. I take it you have worked for MoF. Are the results of the Workplace Environment Survey shared with all employees in that ministry? The information I have is that this survey is conducted every two years. Has the 2020 survey results been released to ministry employees?

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    57 minutes ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    Personally, I would define sustainable as being able to continue doing what you are currently doing far into the future.

    Your words "doing what you are currently doing" need further explanation.

    If what you are "currently doing" has external costs—loss of biodiversity, loss of BC forests' ability to moderate climate, loss of hydrological function, for example—that aren't included in your definition of sustainability, then this definition of "sustainability" is deeply flawed.

    If all you really care about is the flow of "fibre" to mills and log export facilities, then I suppose it's fine.

    1 hour ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    This brings me back to my original point: wether you look at mid-term or long-term harvest levels in the timber supply models, the current cut will almost always be higher because we manage for Maximum Sustained Yield (i.e. getting the most biomass possible over the long term by cutting stands when they are at the peak of their growth rate).

    One common element to timber supply reviews is that they always, directly or indirectly, consider the socioeconomic implications of one level of cut over another level. This is done by the chief forester or her deputy. That, it seems to me, is why the current level of cut is always higher than the mid-term harvest level. Political pressure from forestry-dependent communities and direct pressure from the forest industry will always tilt the field in the direction of a higher than sustainable cut. The ministry puts a high value on that pressure. Above, you suggest that the difference between AAC and mid-term harvest level is due to "economic discounting," by which you may be referring to the practice of economists of putting a higher value on what you can cut today than what you can cut in the future. For forest-dependent communities, this practice would better be described as "economic suicide." 

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    Touché  Mr. Broadland…suicide as evidenced by the ghost towns dotting the island, interior and north of this province.  To strive to be a ‘forestry dependant community’ under this regime of forest management  is a fast track to economic suicide.

    This is why basic forestry concepts should be explained by those who understand them and are not in the current employ of government and licensees- one does not have to understand basic forestry concepts to KNOW, ‘one doesn't need to be a forester, hydrologist or geomorphologist to grasp that unsustainable overcutting leads to flooding- it is intuitively obvious to the lay person or any independent party.’  

    And, are many policies and procedures in BC based on, as comments above say.... "assumptions about how forests should be managed" rather than real science, data, facts and research?   or optimistic guess work like 'economic discounting'? No wonder, government and industry will not  agree on a definition of sustainable or they wll be held to account- sustainable for who , for what  and for how long?

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    Guest TalkingTrees

    Posted

    1 hour ago, David Broadland said:

    Your words "doing what you are currently doing" need further explanation.

    If what you are "currently doing" has external costs—loss of biodiversity, loss of BC forests' ability to moderate climate, loss of hydrological function, for example—that aren't included in your definition of sustainability, then this definition of "sustainability" is deeply flawed.

    If all you really care about is the flow of "fibre" to mills and log export facilities, then I suppose it's fine.

    Thanks for engaging, you are creating a necessary dialog that I hope gets broader exposure than just this website.

    I think we probably agree, mostly, in what the future of forestry should look like in BC. The one place I'd add some nuance is: I don't think it's, ultimately, denialism on behalf of government staff that has led us here. The falldown effect was the point the entire time that we've been managing for Max. Sustained Yield.

    Instead, foresters are doing what they were taught was the right thing to do: max. sustained yield/discounting of the future. This is the ideology that they were taught in school. It, as you correctly point out, doesn't assign a value to "externalities" like drinking water and biodiversity. Moreover, it says that the fall down effect is a good thing because it achieves max. sustained yield. Like fisheries, which are also often managed to max sustained yield, an imperfect understanding of ecosystems and improper application of the precautionary principle can cause you to overshoot. Yes, unsustainable harvest levels are propped up in the name of "jobs". But, just as importantly, the falldown effect is embedded in the management philosophy itself. We've know for decades that harvest volumes would decline and have termed this "sustainable yield".

     

    What if instead of asking, as max sustained yield does, "how can we get the most volume over many rotations" we instead asked, "how can we maintain the harvest levels of today in perpetuity". If we could make that the philosophical underpinning of forest management it would increase carbon sequestration, provide ample room for biodiversity, etc. In short: we need to extend rotation, slow down and harvest less. While corruption is a factor (see for example Drushka's "Three Men and  Forester") an ideology of utilitarianism and economic development, termed Max Sustained Yield, born around the turn of the last century is the reason that harvest volumes, jobs and community stability will continue to decrease. BCers, particularly white, older BCers with forest service pensions, have benefited from this ideology immensely, but they always knew the timber riches wouldn't go on forever. It's not a mystery or the sole outcome of corruption: we have converted valuable, diverse old growth into low value plantations in under a hundred years (and we knew that's what we were doing the entire time, because politicians believe that money and jobs today are better than healthy ecosystems tomorrow).

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    Posted

    2 hours ago, David Broadland said:

    Your words "doing what you are currently doing" need further explanation.

    For absolute clarity, by "doing what you are currently doing", I meant sustaining current harvest levels and ecosystem services over the long term. If you want to do that, you need to abandon maximum sustained yield.

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    Guest Kevin Hardy

    Posted

    Kudos to David for a well researched and written article!  Nice also to see the involvement in the comments.  I will try to keep mine concise considering I have a spent 32 yrs in the Inventory/Growth and Yield business, lastly as the defacto Provincial Growth and Yield Forester before I felt I had to take early retirement due to management incompetence and interference with the valuable Permanent Sample Plot (PSP) program used to develop and calibrate Growth and Yield models, used for timber supply supply analysis, amongst other things (like quantifying ever increasing climate change induced losses due to bark beetles [mountain pine, douglas fir, spruce and balsam], root rots, defoliators and drought.

    Take a breath☺

    I still cannot, and never will, forgive the previous Liberal govt for removing the legislative responsibility "to maintain a forest inventory" and also the responsibility to reforest crown lands after wildfires and insect kill by simply removing these from the Forest Act.

    We saw the effects of under resourcing the Inventory Branch both in staffing and budget during the Liberal 35% cuts to the civil service started in 2001.  We have never recovered and the staffing level in the Inventory side is waaay below critical mass to be able to adequately manage the forest inventory and the growth and yield component to that.  We lost our braintrust to layoffs and retirements and are now suffering the consequences of poor and outdated forest inventories. Worse, we are trying to use technology to do light-touch inventories because there aren't enough resources to do it properly. 

    I think that the Forest Practices Board report damning the poor reforestation results in the IDF is only hitting on part of the travesty going on.  Our very future relies on adequate and robust reforestation of massive areas killed by beetle and fire, not only for future forest-based community survival, but arguably more important, its effect on wildlife and water quality and timing.

    While still working for the MOF, I pushed with others to require a second inventory after the last Free Growing survey so that we could confirm whether the forests were actually still adequately stocked and  alive and healthy and on track to meet the yields used in the timber supply forecasts. To my dismay this fell on deaf ears, and am now realizing this was probably by master design so the government (who took over the liability of the forests once declared Free Growing by Licensees) wouldn't have to admit or deal with dead or underperforming forests. Licensees were understandably in a major rush to offload responsibility before, in some cases, known disease issues became an issue and started killing free growing stands

    If it was mandated to "maintain a forest inventory", the govt wouldn't be able to get away with the denial by head-in-the-sand approach.

    Another, unforgivable slight-of-hand change was turning the appointed position of the Provincial Chief Forester into an Assistant Deputy Minister, who then by line authority reported directly to the Deputy Minister and, of course then also under the influence of the Forest Minister, something that was not possible before and never should have been allowed for an unfetterable, independent decision maker responsible for such 

    The Chief Forester will undoubtedly claim that her decisions are independent of the demands of her handlers.  I would argue that her decisions and comments articulated in David Broadland's article suggest otherwise.

    I spent my ENTIRE career working in the growth and yield business starting off measuring many hundreds of plots as a contractor and then managing and protecting the set of approximately 5000 permanent sample plots covering the entire province, oft valued at approx $85 million. During my tenure as the Provincial Growth and Yield Forester, I was lucky enough to have visited a few thousand of these personally and saw the devastation that climate change was having on the trees within these long term research plots.

    I steadfastly upheld the public interest over the demands of employment as expected in the Code of Ethics http://www.abcfp.ca/web/ABCFP/ABCFP/Governance/OnlineBylaws/Bylaw-11.aspx and Foresters Act https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/03019_01. As one of the last remaining operational employees left in the Inventory Branch with a career's worth of dedicated Growth and Yield experience, it was unfortunately an uphill and very stressful battle to protect the PSP network against industrial and governmental pressure to harvest these valuable long term plots.

    Literally one of the very last things I did before I retired in protest was to alert the Chief Forester to the value of these PSPs in the quest to forecast mid-term timber supply vis-a-vis the impacts of the various bark beetles, root rots and defoliator/disease/drought complex.

    I was also able to hang on long enough for the Association of BC Forest Forest Professionals to take on a 3 year investigation into the Growth and Yield program.

    So to hear that there is no will to do any sensitivity analyses (or "what-if") for climate change losses, that I warned about and documented, is extremely disappointing and hope that a change in government and Forest Minister will bring some renewed professionalism, honour, transparency and science based forest management back to BC.

    Oh, a simple fix would be to add back those deleted Inventory and reforestation items to the Forest Act!

    Thanks for reading this far, this hardly qualifies as a short comment😜!

     For those who are still full of energy, or are politically connected, please push any way you can for changes we desperately need!  David, keep it up! Well done so far!

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    Posted

    The main thing I would say, @DavidBroadand is that your graphs would be true for almost every TSA and TFL. We know that we the intent is to harvest more today than 30 or 100 years from now. You can't explain your graphs without discussing primary falldown. But, we probably both agree that we are well past the point where falldown should be a explicit policy objective.

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    6 hours ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    What if instead of asking, as max sustained yield does, "how can we get the most volume over many rotations" we instead asked, "how can we maintain the harvest levels of today in perpetuity". If we could make that the philosophical underpinning of forest management it would increase carbon sequestration, provide ample room for biodiversity, etc. In short: we need to extend rotation, slow down and harvest less.

    Thanks for your comments, TalkingTrees.

    I think many people agree with you on this. I do. But the devil would be in the details. How much less of a cut? I understand that the growth and yield models may be overestimating what can be cut by 20 percent. If that's the case, addressing that inaccuracy would require lowering the cut by 20 percent or more. The current (2018) carbon sequestration capacity of BC forests is 7.0 megatonnes per year, whereas it was 87 megatonnes back in 2000. But isn't the current 7.0 megatonnes also overestimated if growth and yield modelling is off? In any case, what additional reduction in cut is necessary to rebuild that capacity?

    Just for the sake of discussion, let's imagine that, to get the cut in synch with actual growth and yield and to rebuild sequestration capacity, the cut needs to be reduced by 30 to 40 percent. The questions that arise for me are these: 1) Is that level of reduction going to fully address the biodiversity crisis, too? 2) Will that reduction address the growing problem of forest-clearcut fires? 3) Will that reduction address the apparent loss of hydrologic function that is being experienced in places like Boundary TSA? 4) How can the ministry leadership be moved to accept the problems its current management practices, along with the forest industry, has created and move to answering some of these questions and addressing the ecological catastrophe that's well underway place?

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    2 hours ago, Guest Kevin Hardy said:

    I spent my ENTIRE career working in the growth and yield business starting off measuring many hundreds of plots as a contractor and then managing and protecting the set of approximately 5000 permanent sample plots covering the entire province, oft valued at approx $85 million. During my tenure as the Provincial Growth and Yield Forester, I was lucky enough to have visited a few thousand of these personally and saw the devastation that climate change was having on the trees within these long term research plots.

    I steadfastly upheld the public interest over the demands of employment as expected in the Code of Ethics http://www.abcfp.ca/web/ABCFP/ABCFP/Governance/OnlineBylaws/Bylaw-11.aspx and Foresters Act https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/03019_01. As one of the last remaining operational employees left in the Inventory Branch with a career's worth of dedicated Growth and Yield experience, it was unfortunately an uphill and very stressful battle to protect the PSP network against industrial and governmental pressure to harvest these valuable long term plots.

    Literally one of the very last things I did before I retired in protest was to alert the Chief Forester to the value of these PSPs in the quest to forecast mid-term timber supply vis-a-vis the impacts of the various bark beetles, root rots and defoliator/disease/drought complex.

    I was also able to hang on long enough for the Association of BC Forest Forest Professionals to take on a 3 year investigation into the Growth and Yield program.

    So to hear that there is no will to do any sensitivity analyses (or "what-if") for climate change losses, that I warned about and documented, is extremely disappointing and hope that a change in government and Forest Minister will bring some renewed professionalism, honour, transparency and science based forest management back to BC.

    Oh, a simple fix would be to add back those deleted Inventory and reforestation items to the Forest Act!

     

    Wow. There's so much here, Kevin. Thank you for your years of public service and for coming forward with your concerns. I will contact you off line, but I wonder if you could tell us a little more about the 5000 permanent sample plots.

    Are they all plantations, or do they include primary forest?

    You say that there was pressure to log the PSPs. Was that because there was a shortage of trees to cut? Or was the intention to get rid of the sample plots so they couldn't be used to check the growth and yield modelling? Or?

    Thanks again for giving us the benefit of your years of service and expertise. Much appreciated.

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    Posted

    3 minutes ago, David Broadland said:

    Thanks for your comments, TalkingTrees.

    I think many people agree with you on this. I do. But the devil would be in the details. How much less of a cut? I understand that the growth and yield models may be overestimating what can be cut by 20 percent. If that's the case, addressing that inaccuracy would require lowering the cut by 20 percent or more. The current (2018) carbon sequestration capacity of BC forests is 7.0 megatonnes per year, whereas it was 87 megatonnes back in 2000. But isn't the current 7.0 megatonnes also overestimated if growth and yield modelling is off? In any case, what additional reduction in cut is necessary to rebuild that capacity?

    Just for the sake of discussion, let's imagine that, to get the cut in synch with actual growth and yield and to rebuild sequestration capacity, the cut needs to be reduced by 30 to 40 percent. The questions that arise for me are these: 1) Is that level of reduction going to fully address the biodiversity crisis, too? 2) Will that reduction address the growing problem of forest-clearcut fires? 3) Will that reduction address the apparent loss of hydrologic function that is being experienced in places like Boundary TSA? 4) How can the ministry leadership be moved to accept the problems its current management practices, along with the forest industry, has created and move to answering some of these questions and addressing the ecological catastrophe that's well underway place?

    David Broadland, there's a lot to unpack there, I want to clarify that my points about falldown and MSY are intended to be helpful. Better inventories and depoliticization would be great, but falldown is an ideological paradigm of 50 years ago that no longer makes sense. It is the fundamental problem, and that's not anyone's fault (least of all the Chief Forester's). We were primarily economically motivated over the last century, which created a rationale for max sustained yield, and we were wrong. The times they are a changing.....

    In terms of the reduction in AAC, I can only speak to the coast, but myself and most of the boots-on-the ground foresters I know feel intuitively that a 30% reduction is called for.  That's just to account for the fact it looks like we'll run out of operable timber in the next couple of decades. It could be higher or lower to account for other values - but I'd be willing to bet it's somewhere around there. That's fine because not too many young folk want to put caulk boots on and go to work at 5:00 am theese days. You'll be drenched to the bone....

    I can't really speak to your three points in a brief and cogent way, but in terms of creating change....come gather round senators, congressmen....... I'd say the only thing that worked previously was the "war in the woods", which created substantial improvements. I think the NDP is receptive to the facts, but is politically afraid of the consequences (look at the capital strike that occured in the sector when they got in). So, as stated by others above, they need to somehow have the courage to create a significant paradigm shift within resource communities and the ministry......that will take clear vision and a considerable dose of expertise. What I will say is that we would be far better off if the ideology of "professional reliance" and a "results-based code" didn't have such powerful influence. The lack of progress in land use planning and innovation lays squarely at the feet of the BC liberals -- vote and then send your MLA a letter, and keep writing theese articles (but be receptive to the technical details, which I suspect you already are). Come writers and critics.....

     

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    Posted

    11 minutes ago, Guest TalkingTrees said:

    In terms of the reduction in AAC, I can only speak to the coast, but myself and most of the boots-on-the ground foresters I know feel intuitively that a 30% reduction is called for. 

    And one more thing, before I shut up :)

     

    As I understand it, 30% was the effective reduction in cut from EBM in the Central and North Coast. EBM was absolutely science-based and took 20 years to negotiate -- and some of us remember that the NDO promised to implement it Province wide the last time we went to the polls.

     

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    Guest Kevin Hardy

    Posted

    20 hours ago, David Broadland said:

     

    Wow. There's so much here, Kevin. Thank you for your years of public service and for coming forward with your concerns. I will contact you off line, but I wonder if you could tell us a little more about the 5000 permanent sample plots.

    Are they all plantations, or do they include primary forest?

    You say that there was pressure to log the PSPs. Was that because there was a shortage of trees to cut? Or was the intention to get rid of the sample plots so they couldn't be used to check the growth and yield modelling? Or?

    Thanks again for giving us the benefit of your years of service and expertise. Much appreciated.

    Probably not the best use of people's time in the comments section as we don't want to turn people off with technical details ( can do this offline) The bulk of the PSPs were located as singles or short strings at ~200m apart trying to cover as many forest types as possible to provide empirical data to develop the first yield curves.  In fact, our original volume over age curves were derived from thousands of Temporary Sample Plots which were not designed for remeasurement.

     The PSP network was intentionally "biased" ( ie not random, or grid based like the current Change Monitoring Inventory plots CMI) to land plots in all the various timber types found in the province. These plots were never intended to be used as a statistical sample of the forests, and during my tenure, we had to work hard at filling in the PSP sample matrix where we were short samples in certain matrix cells. This is where we heavily biased the locations to ensure the plots were located within fully stocked, homogeneous and healthy stands of the age class and species mix we were missing.  The idea was to create GY models that projected the max biological yield, from which deductions would be made for things like disease, and non productive components like unmapped rock, swamps and roads.

    Because the original focus of massive data collection in the 1960s was to learn about second growth, not many Government PSPs were located in old growth.  Our industrial partners, most notably M&B and WFP had LARGE numbers of PSPs to support their own GY programmes, and did sample older age classes. I have personally twice remeasured PSPs originally established in 1927 and remeasured on a decadal basis thereafter, meaning there should have been a measure in 2017, but suspect it was not done since it was boat access, and I left late 2016. These particular PSPs, I observed in 2007 to suffer massive mortality losses due to drought stress- on the "wet" west coast!!  These are the canaries in the coal mine and should NOT be brushed off by statements like the following by the current Chief Forester:

    "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"

    While technically true, there is ample evidence to be able to run sensitivity analyses, and I KNOW PSPs were successfully used to reduce AAC in at least one coastal TSA due to root rot impacts in the order of about 18%, if my memory serves.

     

    As for pressure to harvest, as the sole go-to guy for PSP harvest decisions, I had what I believe to be a good understanding with Licensees and other non forestry operators like mines, pipelines and even wind farms, and they would regularly run into PSPs in development permits since the stands we established them in were nice healthy, fully stocked and hence attractive to harvest.... But it wasn't the area of PSPs they needed, so much as they often got in the way of road or cutblock development.  These valuable PSPs were in stands that, when the 3 ha buffer was logged at minimum stumpage rates would result in maybe $120 to the crown? So hardly a difficult decision as to which was more valuable! Remeasurement costs in 2016 were about $900 per plot. 

    Based on the depth of coverage within a particular matrix cell, I would either 1) protect the PSP with a 100m windfirm buffer, 2) let it be harvested after a last remeasure at the proponents expense when we started to have funding shortages or 3) let it be harvested without a last remeasure, ( I often took staff out to do an in-house last measure since contracting it out was too much effort)

    At most, a full 100m radius results in only a 3.14 ha reserve. At worst a buffer could result in difficulty with locating prime access roads and I would try to "horse-trade" with potentially similar value plots within the same matrix cell so as not to unduly prevent economic development.

    However, in the last stages of my career, something came off the rails which I can still only speculate was partly related to a complete misunderstanding by a manager with no expertise in this field starting to divert funding away from PSPs to the CMI program.  This same manager got other GY modelers and practitioners very upset when he published a surprise statement that the PSP network was being whittled down to, if my memory serves me, 1000 plots.  This number was a from- thin-air number and showed a complete lack of understanding of the PSP matrix.  To remeasure and protect only ONE PSP per cell would take at least 1500 PSPs, never mind keeping a second back up plot per cell for a more realistic 3000 plots.  I believe it was this particular gaff and attack on the PSP program that precipitated an industry-led initiative to get the ABCFP involved with a 3 yr investigative business plan for the Provincial PSP program. There was a resounding YES referendum vote by registered professionals on this initiative.  Something that even surprised the ABCFP executive, I was told.  I might have had something to do with the high voter turnout😜 Even the industry knew the value of PSPs to be able to "consistently and accurately predict the quality, quantity and dynamics of British Columbia's forests under any management regime"

    I got cut off at the knees and my manager completely undermined the PSP protection policy set in place by Jim Snetsinger who was the Chief Forester until 2012, and began to interfere with my job duties and began to let industry harvest ranked plots without even a last remeasure. Not so much as a briefing note to the current Chief Forester, I might add. Cynics would assume something from above was to blame.  There was the potential of not wanting to know or not wanting to put the effort into using pest damaged PSPs to help quantify losses. I could not figure it out and after much stress chose to leave instead, but not before dumping a huge set of explicitly detailed concerns with the Chief Forester and new manager who took over as I retired.

    I apologize to those who find this technical ( in fact it gets much more technical than this, but comments is not the place for it) or off topic, but hope there is enough here to answer your questions or provide the casual reader a peek "behind the curtain".

     Offline?.....

     

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    5 hours ago, Guest Kevin Hardy said:

    Probably not the best use of people's time in the comments section as we don't want to turn people off with technical details ( can do this offline)

     

    Thanks for the details, Kevin. Unless those of us who are critical of the ministries practices are willing to understand the complexities of forest management, we aren't likely to be useful critics. So I appreciate your willingness to provide some of those details. Yes, let's talk more offline.

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  • Heres whats happening to BC forests

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