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David Broadland

Is there a forest-industrial complex in BC?

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IN JANUARY 2020, Focus Magazine published my article “The forest-industrial complex’s Molotov clearcuts.” The story considered the evidence that the significant increase in the size of wildfires in BC—and the exponential increase in carbon emissions from them—might be partly a result of the growing area in BCs interior that is either a recent clearcut or an area of young regrowth. I noted that the narrative created by scientists and forestry managers blamed this phenomenon on decades of fire suppression.” In my story, I attributed that narrative to the “forest-industrial complex” which I described as “the forest-interested government agencies, industry, universities and media—that has led BC into the black-box carbon trap of exponentially-increasing emissions...”

The written response to the story included some letters to the editor from writers who assumed the term “forest-industrial complex” was a smear of anyone involved in forestry in BC. Not at all. It was a recognition of a simple fact about forestry in BC: it’s an industry which sees the forest primarily, if not exclusively, as a source of economic benefit, and its current practices are based on the collective efforts of everyone involved in turning forests into wood products and energy, from the BC minister responsible for forests, the scientists who provide the research that informs policies made by government, through to the foresters and logging community that figure out how to cut down forests. Media that are unwilling to examine critically these relationships—which is part of their job description—automatically include themselves in the complex. The term “forest-industrial complex” comes from my understanding of the term “military-industrial complex,” which was coined by outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 1961 in a speech he made a week before leaving office. The ideas in that speech have become Eisenhower’s most remembered contribution to American political conversation, and they are worth revisiting.

In that speech, Eisenhower observed that, in order to keep peace in the world, America had been “compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” He warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” 

Eisenhower continued, “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Eisenhower didn’t imply this growing relationship was nefarious in nature; he was saying it was inevitable, could be disastrous and that “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry” was needed to watch over the relationship. Eisenhower specifically included universities receiving funding from governments to do industry-related research as being a part of the military-industrial complex.

Sixty years later, that “meshing” of industry and government (the military is a government agency, after all) has spread—some might say metastasized—to all areas of government, including here in BC. The relationship between governments and pharmaceutical companies, oil and gas companies, hard-rock mining companies and forest industry companies have all become dangerously codependent, often putting non-economic values at risk. In this province, forest industry companies have invested heavily in their relationships with government, including donating to political parties and lobbying those parties once they are in government. In turn, rules that govern the forest companies tenure and operations on public lands have, over the years, shifted away from a higher level of public interest to a lower level, and closer and closer to defacto privatization of Crown forests. 

As with the military industrial complex in the US, BCs forest-industrial complex is supported by a largely uncritical media and educational institutions that do forestry research and train people to operate the forest industry. Just one example: UBCs Faculty of Forestry has produced many of the top managers of BC forest companies. Forest companies hire graduates of UBCs Faculty of Forestry, not its Department of Philosophy.

We at FOCUS think the relationships between government, universities, the media and the forest industry in BC needs to be more fully explored and understood. To that end, we open this first forum in the Forests section of our forums: Does a Forest-Industrial Complex exist in BC? If so, how can “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” to paraphrase Eisenhower, compel the “proper meshing” of the huge industrial and government machinery of forestry so that it doesn’t destabilize the physical environment. We welcome your comments, and start with two forest stewards that don’t think there’s a problem... 

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Thank you for your thoughtful article on wildfires, forest management and carbon dynamics. I note that you quoted me—rather, one reporter's quotes from a 45 minute conversation with me—and then proceed to describe me as part of the forest-industrial complex that is attempting to divert attention away from real issues. I believe you have unfairly misrepresented me, my research, and that of the many students who work with me at the University of British Columbia. You implied that I am biased, while you showed contempt towards me and my research, having never contacted me.  

In future, I invite you to read the my publicly-stated wildfire and forest management policy recommendations, as well as the scientific journal and popular science articles I have written. Please take the time to view videos of my public presentations or listen to the many podcasts and interviews featuring my research on wildfires, forest dynamics, and their management implications. Or better yet, contact me directly and talk to me about the very very complex challenges our society faces as we transform forest management, learn to coexist with wildfire, and adapt to climate change.

I welcome constructive criticism of my research, its implications and the science-based changes to policy and practice that I advocate. However, I request that journalists be respectful and do their due diligence by speaking to me directly.

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Thanks for getting in touch, Dr Daniels.

It’s not our practice to confirm that a source said what they were quoted as saying to another reporter. It is our practice to attribute the source of the quote.

If you are saying that Randy Shore misquoted you or materially misrepresented what you said, please let me know and I will adjust that reference in our online story.

Or, if you are saying that I have misrepresented what you said to Shore, please detail that misrepresentation.

If you disagree with my contention that the very large extent of clearcuts and young plantation regrowth in the Interior has altered fire behaviour, I would encourage you to address that disagreement specifically. There is much scientific study and science-based writing that has connected clearcut harvesting to fire.

This story is not about your research. You are in the story because you appear to have told Shore that large aggressive fires are the result of fire suppression. Your position that large fires are the result of fire suppression was echoed in our story by Pat Byrne’s comments to a 100-Mile Free Press reporter. That position has been well-represented by government, industry and academia in the media.

But large areas of overly-dense forest being burned in big fires is not what one sees if one does a thorough examination of the before-and-after satellite imagery that’s available. If you feel the evidence that I have presented, that the largest fires are burning through vast expanses of clearcuts and plantation regrowth, is a distortion of what’s actually happening on the ground, then I encourage you to provide our readers with evidence that the satellite imagery is somehow not reflective of what’s happening on the ground.

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David Broadland’s “The forest-industrial complex’s Molotov clearcuts” (Focus March-April 2020) seems to argue that extensive clearcuts are largely to blame for recent huge forest fires in BC, and that the clearcuts themselves are the result of misguided, industry friendly policy. The “forest-industrial complex”, he argues, has been trying to avert blame for this “ecological apocalypse” by pointing to a history of fire suppression.

It hardly helps the argument that Broadland begins with incendiary shouting, so to speak (“forest-industrial complex”, “Molotov [cocktail] clearcuts”, “apocalypse”).

Lori Daniels, the UBC forestry scientist whom Broadland sees as a prime lackey within the “forest-industrial complex”, addresses a situation that is most common in the dry forests of the western USA and southern BC, predominantly Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir. These forests were subject to frequent fires, typically at about 20 year intervals. The fires were patchy and killed young trees but not older ones, whose thick bark prevented fire from cooking the cambium layer. By comparison, dry lodgepole pine forests, as in the Chilcotin, had a normal fire frequency of about 40 years, the fire killing all trees, reseeding cones opened by fire.

In the 1950’s, Smoky the Bear became an important figure. The result in the Southern Interior, as Lori Daniels notes, was the development of much denser stands in which large amounts of fuel accumulated. After many years of fire control, fuel loads in these dry forests are now so high that forest fires burn uncontrollably hot and kill all trees. The Elephant Hill fire, one of three very large fires mentioned by Broadland, happened largely in this kind of forest.  Logging in this zone normally happens in small patches or even individual tree selection.  Large clearcuts are rare.

The story in the dry lodgepole pine forest of the Chilcotin is different.  Logging in the area started in the 60’s after new saw milling techniques allowed utilization of these small, slow growing trees.  Logging was by small, well-spaced clearcuts.  Serious fire control started about the same time.   Then came the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB).  Starting in Tweedsmuir park in the late 90’s it quickly grew to a massive outbreak.   

Commonly, climatic warming and the resulting lack of sufficiently cold winters are blamed for the epidemic.  It’s not so simple.  Larvae, for instance, become frost hardy and can easily take -40 C if there has been a long slow cooling period, though a sudden temperature drop to -20 C early in the fall is enough kill them. On the other hand, fire control in the Chilcotin meant a slow increase in average stand age, and hence larger trees, which MPB favour.

At low population levels, the adults search for stressed trees and when they find one they emit pheromones that attract others leading to a mass attack that overwhelms the tree. MPB behaviour changes when huge populations build up. Now large, vigorous trees are favoured and succumb to simultaneous attack by large numbers of beetles overwhelming the tree’s resistance. One night a cloud descended on Kamloops and killed all the large old ponderosa pine in the city in one go. Such outbreaks only stop when the beetle runs out of food, as is now the case in BC.

Attention turned to salvage of the dead standing trees. Trees could be milled for about five years after death and be useable for pulp chips or wood pellets for burning even longer. Canfor built a large mill near Houston knowing full well that there would only be wood to feed it for seven years. The size of clearcuts was only dictated by the extent of MPB mortality. What would Broadland have changed?

Broadland asserts that “lightning is more likely to start a fire if it hits harvested areas than if it hits forested areas.”  He quotes Krawchuk and Cumming (2009) of the University of Alberta, who “found that wildfires started by lightning ignition ‘increased in landscapes with more area harvested’.” Actually, they were working in boreal mixed wood forest (aspen and spruce), a very different environment than lodgepole pine, and much wetter (Ecology and Management vol 257 1613-1622). They end their abstract with “…but the areas affected by these events (increased ignition from lightning in clearcuts) amount to local peculiarities rather than broad-scale regularities”.

Along with that selective and misplaced quote, David Broadland makes another, greater error. A forest is not a carbon sink over time (unless you can keep it forever from burning and disease) but in equilibrium between absorbing and releasing CO2. Young forests, on the other hand, do absorb CO2, massively, as will those now growing in the burns. But his greatest error is to simplistically denigrate so many loggers, scientists, researchers, civil servants, industry and forestry managers as cogs in an evil cabal whose schemes have resulted in an apocalypse in BC forests. Professional foresters in particular have always counselled restraint. Broadland ends up quoting Aldo Leopold that “when we see the land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Many of those cogs in the cabal, if at times shortsighted like the rest of us, have traipsed through BC forests with precisely that love and respect.

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Thanks for your comments Conrad. I would encourage you to look at the satellite photography that is available to you to test your contention that the big fires of 2017 and 2018 occurred in “dense” forest stands. As was made clear in the story, the areas affected by the largest fires included a high percentage of recently disturbed areas—large clearcuts—not “dense” forest. That includes the Elephant Hill Fire. There’s nothing like unambiguous satellite photos of a vast, ruined land to overthrow long-held superstitions. If you haven’t examined the extensive satellite photography, why not?

You need to read Krawchuk’s and Cumming’s published research between 2006 and 2009 to understand what they were looking for and what they found. You are misunderstanding what they said in the short abstract of “Disturbance history affects lightning fire initiation in the mixedwood boreal forest: Observations and simulations.” Krawchuk and Cumming are very clear that lightning ignition increases with area harvested, and they explain why. Read the full study, and their earlier studies, too.

Your conclusion that since their studies were in a wetter forest type they couldn’t apply to drier forests doesn’t make sense to me. Krawchuk and Cumming are saying that the abundance of fine fuels left in a harvested area (and they make clear this includes young regrowth) makes those areas more susceptible to ignition by lightning than standing forest. Surely you will agree that if that is true, the drier the conditions in a harvested area, the more pronounced the effect they found would be. I note that no BC forest scientists have published research on this question. Why not?

I don’t know what your background is, but your explanation of why climate change is not necessarily responsible for the MP beetle infestation is at odds with what credible scientists have been saying since the infestation started. But in any case, you have missed my point. The largest fires burned through vast areas of clearcuts with only minor amounts of “dense” forest involved (see satellite imagery). Those clearcuts resulted from a combination of logging live trees and salvaging beetle-killed trees. My point is that the combination of beetle infestation and over-exploitation of BC’s forests has eliminated the provincial forests’ ability to sequester carbon. That has a definite impact on atmospheric carbon, and hence climate change. That is what the forest scientists have determined, not me.

You ask what would I have changed? While the MPB kill was being salvaged, the logging of live trees could have been eliminated or at least reduced. Neither occurred. At the same time, the Province allowed a huge backlog in the area to be replanted to occur. That backlog still exists.   

I didn’t use the word “lackey” in the story and there’s no intention of casting Daniels in that light. Daniels was interviewed by the Vancouver Sun, which I quoted. If she comes across to you as a “lackey,” perhaps you should raise that with the Vancouver Sun.

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I think we are in agreement about historical over-exploitation of BC’s forest resources.

No, the Elephant Hill Fire did not happen in dense forest. That forest type is rather open. It was the accumulation of detritus, normally eradicated by frequent small fires, that proved fatal.

My main point about Krawchuk’s and Cumming’s research was that it was valid for a very different forest type. Extrapolation from there is speculative.

The MPB infestation has a number of contributory causes, including the average forest age because of fire suppression. You are right that the general opinion makes climate change the significant condition, but I would argue that it is not the sole one, or even by itself a sufficient one. The earlier outbreak in the late ’70s would suggest that also. There is general and incontrovertible agreement, though, that the devastating result of the MPB infestation caused the huge fires in a combination of dead standing forest and clearcut slash, etc. Also that there is a huge backlog of restocking. As far as I can see that is to a large extent a matter of insufficient personnel, though in some areas adequate natural regrowth will occur regardless. In any case,  growth for the next hundred years or so will more than compensate for present release of CO2.

As for Prof. Daniels being a “lackey”, I’m actually accusing you of treating her as a lackey spouting propaganda for your “Forest-Industrial Complex.” I trust her research.

We can differ on matters that can be researched and I gladly defer to much more knowledgeable sources. My main point was that it is not helpful to create a mythical entity with the connotation of the infamous USA military-industrial complex and the implication of obfuscating propaganda.

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Let me address your main point, then. The idea of the “Military-Industrial Complex” came, as you may know, from a speech made by outgoing President Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. There was nothing in that speech that suggests he was worried about “obfuscating propaganda.” While it has been well-argued elsewhere that members of BCs forest-industrial complex sometimes hide the truth about forests by their choice of words, I did not make that argument. Rather, I highlighted the role of universities, media and government. One of the relationships Eisenhower flagged in his Military-Industrial Complex speech was that between government and universities. His stated concern was that government funding was determining the research done at universities:

“Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. 

“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

In BC in 2020, almost all universities in BC are government-funded, and we no doubt agree that is a good thing. But, as Eisenhower realized, that funding relationship comes with strings attached. I am concerned that in BC, UBC forestry scientists are not looking to see if there’s a relationship between the extent of clearcuts and more aggressive wildfire behaviour in BC’s Interior because the Ministry of Forests and the Department of National Resources don’t want to know if there’s a relationship or not. They are committed to clearcut logging and the economic values a forest can provide if cut down.

My evidence that government doesn’t really want to know is circumstantial: no such research has been done by BC scientists on the relationship between lightning ignition and clearcuts. Instead, the research done by the government-funded university has concluded big fires result from years of fire suppression. The solution, as Professor Daniels related to the Vancouver Sun, is to more intensively industrialize our forests by creating a bioenergy industry.

Like you, I would defer to more knowledgeable sources. Historians tell us that Eisenhower nailed it when he invoked the spectre of a Military-Industrial Complex,” and warned citizens to get control of it.

Given that the safety and stability of our environment are at least as pressing issues as the value of raw log and wood product exports from BC, I believe its necessary to wrap our minds around why, in spite of all the scientific resources that exist that could tell us why our forests are going up in smoke, what were being told doesnt appear to agree with what we can see with our own eyes: vast areas of burned clearcuts.

 

 

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Hi David, 

One aspect of the complex you have overlooked is the whole deciduous-elimination side of the equation. Have you seen Steve Cummings 2001 study showing conifer burn 800-900% more than aspen forests? When you get to quesnel and points north, aspen elimination is a huge part of the forest practice. Places where aspen was removed that have burnt compared to places where the aspen wasn’t brushed and survived, are apparent in places like the Bobtail Burn. 30% of every hectare planted in Omineca district is brushed, manually or chemically, to eliminate fire resistant broadleaf. And this is an accepted practice taught in schools and universities and is never criticized by these institutions. Lori Daniels on the other hand has spoken out about this.  Some journalists have zeroed in on this, Bethany Lindsay for example. You need to include this practice in your analysis. 

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As a professional BC treeplanter and silviculture worker for 21 years, I've planted more than a million trees myself, and supervised the planting of ten million more. I've also spaced, pruned, brushed, weeded and vexared in the post-clearcut plantations. Anyone who has looked out the window of an airplane while flying across British Columbia sees a wilderness that looks like it's been hit by a shotgun blast, -a vast patchwork of industrial corporate clearcutting that extends to every horizon.

Treeplanters crawl through every inch of those clearcuts and see directly for themselves the incredible devastations of industrial "forestry." And each year, following the snow as it recedes across the province, they start out on the coast in January, and end up in Fort Nelson by June, planting trees in clearcuts all the way. Nobody gets to see the actual state of BC's forests quite like treeplanters do.

British Columbia's UBC-educated foresters to a man, -and an occasional woman- get out of school where they are taught how to scientifically prove that black is white, and then go straight to work for logging corporations. Their job, as far as I can tell, is to figure out which remaining stands of timber on the landscape are the most valuable, and then how to rip them out as fast and cheap as possible. And having ripped it out, to oversee the spread of industrially cloned seedlings across the clearcut before the brush closes over the ground. The faster the plantation grows, the sooner it's "taken off the books," and is then of no further responsibility to them. Plantation growth speeds are enhanced by broadcasting chemical fertilizers over the ground, or by spewing "growth retardants" like glyphosate and 2-4D to kill off the deciduous brush cover.

British Columbia's UBC-educated "Registered Forest Professionals," (in my time they were known as "Registered Professional Foresters," -which apparently wasn't sophisticated-sounding enough) have overseen the systematic extermination of virtually every single stand of primaeval forest on Vancouver Island, -and without a peep of complaint. I will never forget the comment of an Interfor RPF who was responding to an incredulous treeplanter on the side of Kyuquot's Mount Paxton, (which had been cleared of every single tree right from the beach, to the summit and all the way down the other side) who had asked "Doesn't this seem rather excessive??!" The reply: "Not at all, -it looks more alpine that way."

It took about 125 years to rip out the first half of Vancouver Island's once-magnificent primaeval forest. And it's taken about 25 years to rip out the rest, all with the scientifically precision "management" of these Forest Professionals. And furthermore, with the industry slashing its way through the post-primaeval subsequent-growth stands at a staggering rate, - the 150 year-old forest is all gone, and so on down the age profile, 100 yr-old stands, 80 yr-old, 60, 40, all gone, to where it is common to see logging trucks on Vancouver Island highways loaded with 30 year old "pecker poles." Even more tragically, I would hazard that most of the islands subsequent-growth logs are being exported in the round.

For BC RFP's, "fibre-per-year-per-hectare" appears to be what their job is all about, and with this in mind, we are headed for the day when the "fibre" gets stripped off the land annually by lawn-mower. It is obvious to my scientifically-illiterate mind, that with the hot climate-change-addled sun beating down onto the dessicated clearcuts, that the volatility of these areas was significantly worse than in the cool stands of surrounding forest. And the un-impeded winds blowing over these clearcut areas, the surrounding "edge forest" also gets dried out. And when fire does start in the clearcuts, it quickly blows into the edge forest, ladders up through the branches and immediately becomes a raging crown fire, racing across the oil-rich foliage of the coniferous canopy.

In this screed, I have referred to BC logging areas as "cleacuts." No doubt, some RFP factotums will take umbrage with this referrence. They will say that "we don't clearcut anymore." Instead, just as Big-Oil now prefers "Oil Sands" to historic terminology "Tar Sands," they will say they practice "Variable Retention" -whereby a single stem is left per hectare, or perhaps a clump of marginal timber in a road bight, -which can always be "salvage logged" later after it all blows down in the next windstorm. Recently, we've seen the BC Minister of Logging, Doug Donaldson, in the context of grinding up BC's forest "fibre" into bio-fuels, refer to BC's forests as "feedstock." I expect this is the ultimate goal of the BC "Forest Industrial Complex," -fibre-per-year-per-hectare for the production of biofuel. Certainly that venture will be Greenwashed to argue that it's non-fossil fuel-based "alternative energy" by the industrial corporate cabal and all its many lackeys..

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Welcome James and Ingmar. Thank you for your posts.

James, you raise an excellent example of a forest practice that is doubtless changing fire behaviour for the worse. I would direct other readers to the piece you wrote in the Province in January 2019. Have you received any direct response from the Province or industry about the removal of deciduous trees increasing overall flammability of forest stands? If you have, what were you told?

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Guest Dr. Brian L. Horejsi

Very well done piece by D Broadland regarding the mismanagement of BC forests by what is a corrupted regualtory alliance. He did not, however, have to ask if there is a forest-industrial complex. Of course there is, and the evidence is overwhelming to those with a clear head and some knowledge of the science and history of forests and their exploitation in B.C.  And once again, of course those in the line of privilege, like university forestry staff and corporate pseudo regulators (ugly, that professional reliance is) , are compromised and deeply embedded in the FI complex.  After over half a century no independent thinking person can be found in that "grinder" and none can   get in today because of the institutionalized fear and disdain within that FI complex for "outsiders" with expertise and for the public, the people that "own" but have largely lost control of, the Public Trust.

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When trees are referred to as "fiber", it is indicative of a major, if not insurmountable, problem in the industry.  I would suggest that, if fiber is the main goal of logging, then plant hemp instead of seedlings. After all, they are not "forests" anymore - just monoculture plantations that, like any monoculture crop are weak. The devastation of the mountain pine beetle wasn't only because of warmer winters. It was also the result of a single tree species that allowed for this pandemic.

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On 2020-05-23 at 11:04 PM, Rick Weatherill said:

When trees are referred to as "fiber", it is indicative of a major, if not insurmountable, problem in the industry.

Yes, the language that is used—the exact choice of words—speaks volumes about a lack of understanding on the part of those making political decisions about forests. There's little acknowledgement of the necessary role forests play in supporting life on Earth.

But playing an active role in the forest-industrial complex goes deeper than the use of words to condition the public's thinking about what forests are good for. There is a conscious choice being made by people at the Ministry of Forests to deceive the public about basic facts, such as how much original productive old growth forest remains. The ministry's role is to manufacture public consent for the rapid liquidation of this part of the biosphere. That liquidation of old growth—which is the most economically valuable type of forest—allows members of the forest industrial complex to receive the maximum benefit for their investment in careers and companies.

In the last couple of days a damning report by three former BC government forest ecologists was released. The report demonstrates the degree to which BC's Ministry of Forests provides disinformation to the public in its role as the public relations arm of the forest-industrial complex. For years the ministry has claimed 13 million hectares of old-growth forest remain in the province. The three scientists, using the ministry's own data, show that only 415,000 hectares remain. I've written about the report here and have attached it below.

bcs-old-growth-forest-report-web.pdf

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The Old Growth Forest Report you link to confirms to me the entirely frivolous use we put our "fibre reserves" to. When it becomes necessary for such a detailed report in order to attempt to cross the proverbial "T"s and dot the "I"s in anticipation of having to defend why forests shouldn't be "harvested", the battle is lost. Were I "dictator for a day", I would certainly put the shoe on the other foot, and require the "forest-industrial-complex" to present an in-depth report on why any tree should be harvested. Stephen Hume wrote in Focus last year about logging up island, where ultimately, forests that were supposed to remain standing for 100 years, were ultimately "harvested for fibre" after only 40. This is what I mean by frivolity - the entire industry has no more purpose than to cut trees for the sake of cutting - and the excuses come along after the deed is done. 

The BCNDP is as culpable, stating as it did during the last election that old growth will be off limits - then, having achieved victory, saying "well some old growth is off limits" under the rubric of jobs and families, if not actually throwing in the word "prosperity". It's been well-demonstrated, in your articles as well as the other contributors to Focus, that BC's forests are more valuable left standing than being mowed down - and I am not even thinking about trees as carbon sinks. Cutting forests for products such as toilet paper, building materials, bio-mass feedstock is just plain silly - if only because any the current uses for "fibre" can easily be obtained from other sources.  But we DO live in a world where consumption rules - and it doesn't matter what is consumed. The term "conspicuous consumption" has been around for some time now, but we don't like to describe our consumer habits with this unsavory description.

Will we change, in light of the current pandemic? Interesting question, and one I strongly doubt will be effective in our haste to "get back to normal". Bandaids, but nothing fundamental. It is (almost) to wish that the severity of the pandemic rival the bubonic plague that in turn allowed the regrowth of forests in Europe. I like to think though, that we are not that obtuse - in the sense that Andy Dufresne used the word  in The Shawshank Redemption.  And I retain (I think) enough naivety to hope this government can get it's act together - and that, come the next election (or the one after that) that any change can summarily be "switched off" should another party take the reins of governance.

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