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  • Behind the Seeing Red Map


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

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    Part of the Seeing Red Map showing remaining primary forest (in green) and the part of BC that has been industrially logged (red). Click on the map to enlarge, or see a live scalar version which allows you to examine specific areas of the province in finer detail.

     

    AT CONSERVATION NORTH, we are pleased with the widespread viewing of our primary forests map called “Seeing Red” and with so many favourable comments.  

    “Seeing Red” is the first freely-available map of its kind. Its veracity is only as good and complete as the publicly available provincial government information underlying it.  

    The matter of definition of “primary forest,” which the map depicts in the colour green, is tricky and, in response to some comments from the public, needs further clarification.    

    “Primary forest” is a commonly used and scientifically accepted term for forests having composition and structure that largely reflect natural processes. Primary forests have never been industrially logged.  

    Sometimes primary forests are referred to as “original,” or “natural,” or “intact” forests. Primary forests are important because they are the best habitat for wildlife, support the largest stores of forest carbon, and contain the last old-growth forests.

    If readers were to view some selected red areas of the map on Google Earth, they may appear green and forested. It is important to understand that Google Earth imagery is blended and often years behind reality. Also, on this imagery one cannot distinguish between primary forest and replanted cutblocks—they both look green.  

    The scientific community disagrees with claims that “greenness” as inferred from Google Earth is a credible indicator of ecological integrity. Even-aged monoculture plantations in cutblocks do, in fact, contain chlorophyll and are indeed green, but they are simplified, fragmented, degraded, and ecologically impoverished.

    Some areas of the “Seeing Red” map are light grey. Light grey is clearly defined in the map legend as places where there is no forest or for which no forest information exists (See the map legend). 

    These areas with “no data” simply represent gaps in the government’s forest inventory available to the public or urban areas where the government does not conduct a forest inventory (e.g., the UVic campus). 

    One reason that gaps exist over some areas the reader may know to be forested is that some industry holders of tree farm licences either refuse to share their forest inventory with the government, or will not allow the government to share their forest inventory information on Crown land with the public.  

    The forests ministry would be doing a badly needed public service if it were to make all forest information on Crown lands freely available to the public so that we may make an even better map.

    Michelle Connolly MSc is a director of Conservation North.

    For more information about the Seeing Red Map, read Sarah Cox’s report at the narwhal.ca  


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    Guest Next Minister of Forests

    Posted

    This is important information for the public to understand.  The term primary forest isn't used very often in conversation.  It is critical that we all understand what it is and how important it is to conserve it.  Well done, Conservation North and Michelle Connolly

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    Guest Thanks so much for this!💚

    Posted

    This could be another key piece of the puzzle #ProtectOldGrowth 4ReaL - esp. if it compels more people to urge the #BCGovt to ACT on their election promise to implement their own OldGrowth Review Panel's 14 URGENT RECOMMENDATIONS for much-needed, long-overdue forestry reform?!  (Personally, I DO SEE RED when reminded of cont'd  clearcut logging of our precious #PrimaryForest = same as Old-Growth yes?)🌲

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    Guest This map is another very

    Posted

    shoddy piece of work about forestry in BC. It is alarmist and extremely misleading with little scientific merit.  It fails to acknowledge that more than 50% of BC's forests over 20 metres in height are not even in the commercial forest category or the actual Timber Harvesting Land Base.  It is of no value to understanding the real forestry issues in BC and the public should simply ignore it as another piece of enviro propaganda.

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    It is no secret that 'forestry' cuts down trees, in fact the whole basis of forestry in BC is the conversion of natural uneven-aged forests to a 'normal' forest. This is not news, and very little of BC would be settled otherwise - roads, railways, entire towns. The question is not whether this practice is 'bad', its whether society as a whole wishes to continue in this manner. The same universities that promote the study of biology, wildlife etc. also teach the practice of forestry and balanced management approaches, based on the normal forest concept. This is a good topic of debate, however significant changes to the basic fundamentals of forestry is akin to shifting from fossil fuels to electricity and won't happen overnight. Mind you, much of what is taught in university is rarely seen in the real world (e.g. uneven-age stand management) because clearcutting is cheaper/ results in more profit to shareholders. Clearcutting continues to be the standard practice even in community forests and woodlots where locals apparently have more say.

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    42 minutes ago, Guest This map is another very said:

    It fails to acknowledge that more than 50% of BC's forests over 20 metres in height are not even in the commercial forest category or the actual Timber Harvesting Land Base.  It is of no value to understanding the real forestry issues in BC and the public should simply ignore it as another piece of enviro propaganda.

    Thanks for your comment. The ministry of forests has not been forthcoming with the public about the extent to which logging over the past 50 years has degraded and fragmented natural forests. Conservation North's map is a valuable addition to public knowledge of the extent to which BC has been transformed into a giant plantation, and the serious implications that has for climate stability and biodiversity.

    There's lots of good information out there to help people understand the critical differences between plantations and primary forest. Inform yourself before accusing folks of creating propaganda.

    If this map has any problems, it's that it overestimates the amount of primary forest that remains. If you zoom into Quadra Island, for example—land that I know well—most of the green areas have red roads crisscrossing them. Those are logging roads. There are very few remaining areas of primary forest on Quadra. This overestimation of primary forest occurs throughout the map. If anything the maps creators have constrained themselves from showing how extensive the cut has been.

    I am sure this map will be the first step in a process of making clear to the people of British Columbia how over-exploited BC forests are. 

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    I am wondering what your solution is to not logging? How will we build homes? Is it better to have homes built out of mined materials? Canada has the highest forestry practices in the world.

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    1 hour ago, Guest William said:

    I am wondering what your solution is to not logging? How will we build homes? Is it better to have homes built out of mined materials? Canada has the highest forestry practices in the world.

    Good questions William. I was a house builder in BC in the days when we didn't think about where the wood we used was coming from because there seemed to be an endless supply of it. In those day, the lumber that was being exported went mainly to the USA. Things have changed. Now 80 to 85 percent of what is cut in BC goes to the USA, China and Japan. All three of those countries have higher environmental standards than BC does regarding primary forest on publicly-owned land.

    China banned logging of primary forests in 2000, first to protect soil from erosion, and then later added climate goals—carbon sequestration and storage. In the US Pacific Northwest, clearcut logging in primary forests on publicly-owned land is largely gone. If you view Japan from the vantage point of a satellite-based camera, you will have a hard time finding any logging at all.

    All countries need to get their climate and biodiversity acts together in terms of their use of forest products. Right now, the forest carbon emissions associated with building materials for construction in the US, China and Japan are being exported to Canada and other countries like Russia. If BC limited itself to supplying BC, we could drop our cut by 80 to 85 percent and conserve all remaining primary forest.

    If we put a value on avoided forest carbon emissions based on the current value of the BC carbon tax, we would be avoiding about $3 billion a year in emissions. Let our economists and politicians find a way to make the value of avoided carbon emissions support a new era of conservation forestry in BC. 

    As it is, over 50 percent of the trees cut in BC are turned into woodchips or sawdust and used for short-lived products like paper, cat litter and fuel pellets.

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    59 minutes ago, David Broadland said:

    Good questions William. I was a house builder in BC in the days when we didn't think about where the wood we used was coming from because there seemed to be an endless supply of it. In those day, the lumber that was being exported went mainly to the USA. Things have changed. Now 80 to 85 percent of what is cut in BC goes to the USA, China and Japan. All three of those countries have higher environmental standards than BC does regarding primary forest on publicly-owned land.

    China banned logging of primary forests in 2000, first to protect soil from erosion, and then later added climate goals—carbon sequestration and storage. In the US Pacific Northwest, clearcut logging in primary forests on publicly-owned land is largely gone. If you view Japan from the vantage point of a satellite-based camera, you will have a hard time finding any logging at all.

    All countries need to get their climate and biodiversity acts together in terms of their use of forest products. Right now, the forest carbon emissions associated with building materials for construction in the US, China and Japan are being exported to Canada and other countries like Russia. If BC limited itself to supplying BC, we could drop our cut by 80 to 85 percent and conserve all remaining primary forest.

    If we put a value on avoided forest carbon emissions based on the current value of the BC carbon tax, we would be avoiding about $3 billion a year in emissions. Let our economists and politicians find a way to make the value of avoided carbon emissions support a new era of conservation forestry in BC. 

    As it is, over 50 percent of the trees cut in BC are turned into woodchips or sawdust and used for short-lived products like paper, cat litter and fuel pellets.

    HI Dave.  You say over 50% of the tree cuts are turned into chips or sawdust.   Where do you get this "fact" from?    Thank you.  

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    4 hours ago, Guest This map is another very said:

     It [the map] is of no value to understanding the real forestry issues in BC . . .

    Judging by the content of your comment, you view forestry in B.C. through a commercial lens. I suspect this is the reason you apparently have difficulty in understanding what the map portrays and why it is important as a visual complement to the scientific knowledge on the impoverished ecological state of B.C.'s forests. 

    I also suspect that you see the real forestry issues in B.C as being competitiveness, timber supply and the working forest.

    Ironically, a growing number of British Columbians are beginning to understand that these commercial forestry issues are the ones negatively contributing to what they perceive as being the real issues facing B.C., Canada and the planet, which are climate change and biodiversity. 

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    We’re already so very late and we have lost so very much, but I see no point in pillaging the last pockets of ancient forest for a few dollars that will get spent on products no one really needs. Solutions are available but political will is flaccid. We and the government must put the industry in its place. We are the ones' who tell them how and what and when they can harvest. The workers are simply fibre-farmers subsidized by the taxpayers, and some fat old white men own the companies. Isn’t it time we made a stand even purely from a self-interest standpoint? Tragically, the ultimate “Special Interest Group”, the logging industry, seems quite willing to cut those last big trees down. In reality we could have a sustainable industry with more jobs, higher timber value and intact ecosystems, but it means regulating the industry. We can demand the highest forestry standards and they will be obliged to follow them. And if they don’t like it they can pack up and leave. Good riddance. We don’t want those kind of companies here. Once they leave we can put people back to work as owners of woodlots; working for themselves rather than a corporate entity owned by immoral profiteers.

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    3 hours ago, Guest Steve H. said:

    HI Dave.  You say over 50% of the tree cuts are turned into chips or sawdust.   Where do you get this "fact" from?    Thank you.  

    Hi Steve. It's from the ministry of forests 2018 Major Mill Survey. That is the latest year for which the ministry has provided data. Mind you, the document doesn't come out and say "Over 50 percent of trees cut in 2018 were turned into sawdust or woodchips." You need to sift their data.

    In 2018, the ministry noted that 64.3 million cubic metres of logs passed through processing facilities, from log sorts to lumber and other wood product mills, including raw log export facilities.

    The numbers below are the volume that was used at a given type of facility. For example, sawmills took in 45.45 million cubic metres, but only 21.9 million cubic metres came out as lumber. The rest was wood chips, sawdust and hog fuel (which went to pulp mills).

    1. Saw mills: 21.9 million cubic metres (34 percent)

    2. Pulp mills: 26 million cubic metres (40.4 percent)

    3. Hog fuel : 5.0 million cubic metres (7.8 percent)

    4. Veneer/OSB mills: 6.574 million cubic metres (10.2 percent) Of this about 4.5 million cubic metres was "mainly sawdust and shavings," (7.0 percent) according to the survey (page 10). 

    5. Shakes & Shingles: 0.548 million cubic metres (0.8 percent)

    6. Other (pellet) mills: 0.444 million cubic metres (0.7 percent)

    7. Log exports: 5.12 million cubic metres (8.0 percent)

    If you add 2. + 3. + 4. + 6. you get 54 percent. This doesn't account for waste from shake and shingle mills or what's lost along the way.

    You can find the ministry's 2018 Major Mill Survey here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/competitive-forest-industry/forest-industry-economics/fibre-mill-information/major-timber-processing-facilities-survey

    With the forest industrial complex developing more opportunities to turn trees into pellets, the "over 50 percent" will be outdated by 2021.

     

     

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    Why does the symbology appear so different at different scales? There were different choices made about colour and line weight that make many areas appear all red at a macro scale, but then these areas become a clear mixture of red and green when you zoom in.

    This subject of this map would be better left to remote sensing. This is full of cartographic error and bias. It's a clear example for students of the kinds of pitfalls to avoid in virtual maps. C minus at best.

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    Just because you happen to believe a narrative, doesn't mean it isn't propaganda. All maps are lies, some are more honest than others. Some stimulate  understanding and deliberation, some intentionally show the world in a way that doesn't reflect reality. The best help everyone to navigate our complex world.

    Painting a green landscape with a broad red brush isn't really going to get us anywhere near the truth. This map clearly, simplifies things in a way that has both poles of the issue "seeing red". I think that people should avoid picking sides, accept that socio-ecologic landscapes are complex, and try to look beyond bias and assumptions.

    This map really tells us very little about BC's diverse forested ecosystems beyond the fact that you can use a bunch of unrelaed government data to turn the entire world into a of dualistic and polarizing red vs. green pallet. The BC ENGO community, who deserve credit and respect, are starting to use social media and the internet in ways that would make Russian oligarchs proud.

     

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    Don't let them tell you that wood products are a good way to store carbon because only a small fraction of the carbon in a logged forest ens up in long-term storage, most of the carbon in a logged forest is put on an accelerated path to the atmosphere. Here is a slide show clarifying many misconceptions about forests, logging, and carbon: http://www.slideshare.net/dougoh/forest-carbon-climate-myths-presentation/

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    I live on 30 acres in Prince George, which is colored RED. I am the third owner since 1908 on an original land title. The spruce are starting to fall down, but the fir are still growing and are ancient.  The fir tree butts are about 40" so how old are these trees and when do they start to fall down?

     

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    'This map really tells us very little about BC's diverse forested ecosystems beyond the fact that you can use a bunch of unrelated government data to turn the entire world into a of dualistic and polarizing red vs. green pallet.' 

    I may speak only to the areas I have worked in throughout the Cariboo for more than the last 20 years, but as to 'diverse forested ecosystems' I am seeing anything but.  The mountain pine beetle epidemic, the unprecedented harvesting rates, and the dwindling timber supply mean that harvesting is now occurring in ecosystems in which it is unsustainable, and these ecosystems are at risk of being forever altered relative to the silvics of the species within.  Clear cutting is dominant harvest method, and species conversion from green Douglas-fir and spruce stands to lodgepole pine monocultures is not uncommon.  Where species mixes do occur at planting, there is very little consideration given to what was growing on the land prior.  As for 'unrelated government data,' I am quite familiar with 1000s of those red polygons.  Also, the map indicates primary forest in areas I well know have been altered by human activity.  There are very few places one may walk in 'the forest' and not find evidence of old stumps.  In my experience, this is not an unrealistic view of what is actually occurring on the ground, and what this map does not tell us is how healthy and resilient our 'forests' may now be.  Disease and drought incidence is increasing throughout 'managed' stands, and we have relatively very few intact representative forested ecosystems across the landscape.  Even areas set aside for old growth management are not often representative of 'old growth' and quite often have already been impacted by harvesting at one point in time.  

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    I would also like to add that these 'diverse ecosystems' have an inherent right to exist, in and of themselves, without human interference.  Human beings do not have the innate ability within required to replicate a 'forest,' whatever one may consider 'normal.'  Only nature may do that.  In this regard, our 'science' is lacking, as is our foresight, common sense, and connection to the natural world.  We do not have all the answers, yet we think we do.  The genetic variability within intact networks of undisturbed forest ecosystems may be what enables forests to evolve; not our scientific tinkering, and 'best management' practices.  And, foresters, unfortunately, are not of a longevity to truly realize the consequences of their 'management' decisions.  Which, is why, most likely, history keeps repeating itself in unsustainable practices.  If you never truly saw a forest for what it once was, who is to say what is 'normal?'

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