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    The future in forestry we all need


    Briony Penn

    Canada’s plan to include emissions from logging in carbon calculations points towards a new economic model whereby communities manage (and save) their forests for carbon storage.

     

    BRITISH COLUMBIA’S DIRTIEST SECRET—destruction of one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and releasing more emissions than any other province or sector through logging, slashburning and exacerbating fire through failed management—is about to enter the national public record. The logging industry and complicit governments will still continue their polite fiction that depositing pennies, i.e., planting trees, will compensate for robbing the carbon bank of billions, i.e., clearcutting our high carbon storage temperate rainforests, but they can’t sing that song forever.

    This January with the release of Canada’s 4th Biennial Report on Climate Change, Canada announced its change in approach to accounting for emissions from the forestry sector (included in the category Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) towards its 2030 emission reduction target.

    This means that when we see those bar charts with emissions from different sectors—like oil and gas, transportation, buildings, electricity, heavy industry—forestry will be there too. And you’ll notice it because it will be the red bar that rises above everything else.

    As expected, industries’ hand is still evident in the writing of the report: they don’t have to report emissions of harvested wood immediately; they don’t have to report fire in industrial clearcuts/plantations as one of their human-caused emissions; they buried the burning of wood pellets in the energy sector in the hopes that they can chip and burn the last of the old growth.

    Still, it won’t take long for the bright young minds who will inherit this planet to see that even though they are still buried and scattered, the numbers can be pulled together. And when you add up all the emissions, logging in BC is the worst polluting industry in the nation.

     

    Above, part of a 30-hectare clearcut in Vancouver Islands Schmidt Creek Valley. Each year, approximately 180,000 hectares of Crown forest in BC are clearcut. Thats equivalent to 6000 clearcuts the size of that pictured above. The carbon released to the atmosphere is far greater than Albertas oilsands projects. (Photo by Mark Worthing)

     

    Logging hits twice in the climate equation—once with the release of huge emissions and again with the removing of the mature forests that pull the CO2 out of the atmosphere. It takes a plantation of seedlings two human generations to catch up to a mature forest in pulling the same amount of carbon out of the air; it will be over a century or two (depending on the forest) to replenish the overall storage of carbon. The forest industry likes to deceive the public by saying that forests are renewable, but they forget to add “one day.”

    One of these bright minds is Joseph Pallant, who with his organization Ecotrust Canada, is proposing a system that would fund local communities across Canada to conserve and restore their forests.

    This is not a Trudeau stop-gap plan to just plant trees, but a real plan for meaningful ongoing livelihoods to restore damaged forests, conserve existing forests and manage forests with the climate in mind. It prioritizes good ecosystem planning, assesses climate impact, and establishes tools to monitor progress. Polluters pay for rural communities to reduce emissions and increase sinks while upholding international conventions on biodiversity, indigenous rights and climate. To get these projects up and running, we need three reforms in federal government policy: First, a methodology (or defensible way) to estimate, quantify and report on the climate, community and biodiversity aspects of a proposed project. There are lots of examples elsewhere, including California. Second, a national fund to invest in improved forest carbon, community and ecosystem outcomes. And third, a way to register these emissions reductions and improvements in carbon storage as part of Canada’s progress toward the Paris Agreement.

    Having a Forest Carbon Economy Fund would draw its inspiration from innovations in the low carbon economy such as carbon offsets, community-controlled forests and Indigenous Guardian programs. Ecotrust Canada has been innovating in this space over the last 25 years and has worked on a variety of projects that are feeding into this new approach.

    The Cheakamus Community Forest Offset Project, developed by Brinkman Climate and Ecotrust Canada, is managed in partnership by Whistler, the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation. The project earns significant revenue from sales of carbon offsets, allowing the Community Forest to implement an Ecosystem-Based Management Plan, reduce harvest by 50 percent and double riparian buffers. It protects more old growth, wildlife management areas, and keeps more carbon on the ground. Their carbon revenue funds work to tackle the interrelated risks of fire, drought and flooding, stops clearcutting, and increases resilience in the forest and around the community.

    The Cheakamus project, like many of the high-quality offset projects in BC, is developed to the provincial carbon offset standard built to supply the Province’s “Carbon Neutral Government” commitment. Implemented under the Campbell government and continued today, all schools, hospitals, universities and core government operations must be carbon neutral. Some funding was given in the early days to implement energy efficiency at these facilities, and they all track and report their emissions annually. Any emissions that are not reduced (currently around 700,000tCO2e/year) must be offset by BC offsets from projects like the Cheakamus project, the Great Bear Rainforest project and others.

    This system was set to be a trial run, and test for a larger cap-and-trade program that Gordon Campbell had legislated to begin in 2012 for large polluters. Alas, Christie Clark struck that law off the books, and John Horgan’s NDP never brought it back.

    A second governmental market for offsets in BC exists at the local government level. It is a polluter-pay model and comes from Gordon Campbell’s surprising legacy of legislating local governments into carbon neutrality. While full carbon neutrality was originally the commitment, it got watered down to “make progress to carbon neutrality.” A few local governments have continued to achieve neutrality through organizational emissions reductions and offsets, such as Whistler and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. As Pallant states: “Local governments across the country are aware of the climate emergency, but many haven’t taken the opportunity to reduce their footprint in line with the science. Development of regional carbon offset projects like Cheakamus offer a compelling way for local governments to bolster their climate action, along with emissions reductions achieved in their operations.”

    After a flurry of innovation, action and successful project development a decade ago, there are still startlingly few offset projects in Canada. Ecotrust Canada has a project under way in the Northeast Superior region of Ontario supporting “improved forest management” a fancy name for ecosystem management on a newly established, 1.5 million hectare “Enhanced Sustainable Forest License” with six Indigenous communities. This project was being developed to issue offsets under the Ontario cap and trade program, but a combination of slow offset protocol development by the government, and the Conservative government’s scrapping of cap and trade was a real setback.

    There is now hope for change, with the federal government currently developing a national offset system as part of their Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change. Ecotrust Canada and many other organizations hope that this can drive resources into the important work of community-led emissions reductions projects throughout the country.

    Since Christie Clark’s slashburn of progressive carbon policy, the only other way to generate revenue to finance the higher costs of ecosystem forestry and conservation has been voluntary offset markets or donations through the traditional non-profit sector. According to Pallant, “It’s very difficult to raise the capital and take the risk to develop a truly additional, high quality offset project without an expectation of being able to sell the outcomes, only issued years down the road, into a stable market. It’s exciting that the Canadian government has indicated its strong support in its Pan Canadian climate framework.”

    Pallant acknowledges that there has been lots of international criticism—some warranted—around offsets in the first 25 years of their use as a transition tool to a new climate economy. He also recognizes the advancements that have been made to ensure that cultural and social equity issues are addressed. He states: “The federal move to create payment-for-performance carbon projects, but basing them on true carbon accounting with goals of lowering the national emissions, will have huge implications for First Nations and other land rights and title holders.”

    “How will it look?” is the big question that Pallant is hoping to help answer at the federal level. We know there are models out there that promise rural economic development based on longterm nurturing of the forests—rather than mancamps bent on destruction. This begins to look like the future we are all waiting for.

    For more on Ecotrust’s proposal, see  https://ecotrust.ca/latest/blog/forest-carbon-economy-fund-a-new-pathway-for-funding-forest-carbon-and-biodiversity-outcomes/

     

    Briony Penn is the award-winning author of non-fiction books including The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan, A Year on the Wild Side, and, most recently, Following the Good River: the Life and Times of Wa’xaid, a biography of Cecil Paul (Rocky Mountain Books).

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    Guest Kathy Code

    Posted

    Readers might be interested to know that we have a great model of ecoforestry right here in our own backyard.  The Ecoforestry Institute Society are the owners and trustees of Wildwood Ecoforest, holding it on behalf of the people of BC.  Located near Ladysmith, it's a small working forest where we are building on the legacy of Merv Wilkinson, who bought the property in 1938.  We practice selective logging and mill our own wood on site.  Yes, we had difficulty raising capital, but thanks to strong community support, a local benefactor and a mortgage (thanks, Vancity!), we acquired Wildwood in November 2016.  Since then, we've been able to develop diverse revenue streams to pay our bills and deliver educational programs to everyone from schoolkids to academics.  More importantly, we've built an amazing and inclusive Wildwood community of people from all walks of life.  We welcome questions and comments.   

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    We also have lots of uneven aged stand variable retention in bc that does no harm to the habitat characteristics. We do not need to go anywhere to see state of the art non damage logging been done in bc for 20 years. With no clearcutting.  

    We have the world's leading experts in delivering a undamaged ecosystem  when logging why would we go somewhere else?

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    2 hours ago, Guest Mike said:

    We also have lots of uneven aged stand variable retention in bc that does no harm to the habitat characteristics. We do not need to go anywhere to see state of the art non damage logging been done in bc for 20 years. With no clearcutting.  

    We have the world's leading experts in delivering a undamaged ecosystem  when logging why would we go somewhere else?

    Ministry of Forests statistics on the extent of use of different silvicultural system can be found here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/forestry/managing-our-forest-resources/silviculture/silviculture-statistics

    According to the ministry's stats, in the last two years (2016-17, 2017-18) the combined extent of retention logging and selection logging accounted for about 4 percent of total area cut in BC in those years. "Lots" might apply if that were, say, 80 to 90 percent of the area cut.

    Below is a satellite image of a slice of BC northwest of Prince George. This could be anywhere in BC that isn't at the top of mountains or in the far north. Is this what you mean by "state of the art non damage logging"?

    Since 2000, according to BC's Ministry of Environment, BC forests have lost the ability to sequester carbon by just over 100 megatonnes per year. Year after year into the future, that loss will result in untold damage to Earth ecosystems.

     

    134894401_BCfromspace.2.thumb.jpg.4e4f9d2b04ecb81bbe7bcdee78e98c1f.jpg

     

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    Guest thomascheney

    Posted

    I am a bit puzzled by the analysis as it only looks at the logging of 1 forest but not the landscape. It is true that converting old growth to plantations or managed stands causes a loss in carbon storage and that in a Douglas Fir forests 160 years is needed.. However, the use of wood prevents the use of more carbon intensive materials (plus a small amount of carbon storage). Chen 2018 notes that over 8.5 tonnes of carbon are prevented per tonne of carbon stored in the wood. Other analysis have found that managed forests overall lead to lower long-term emissions than conservation (based on Swedish conditions).  I think extended rotations and encouraging production of mass timber products would be a good option to store carbon.

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    Guest thomascheney

    Posted

    "Below is a satellite image of a slice of BC northwest of Prince George. This could be anywhere in BC that isn't at the top of mountains or in the far north. Is this what you mean by "state of the art non damage logging"?

    Since 2000, according to BC's Ministry of Environment, BC forests have lost the ability to sequester carbon by just over 100 megatonnes per year. Year after year into the future, that loss will result in untold damage to Earth ecosystems."

    The image from the Prince George area is mainly indicative of the Mountain Pine Beetle, which also caused a huge carbon release as well. This report from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions gives a good overview of the options. https://pics.uvic.ca/sites/default/files/Primer_Workshop%20on%20forest%20carbon%20management%20in%20BC.pdf

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    10 hours ago, Guest thomascheney said:

    I am a bit puzzled by the analysis as it only looks at the logging of 1 forest but not the landscape. It is true that converting old growth to plantations or managed stands causes a loss in carbon storage and that in a Douglas Fir forests 160 years is needed.. However, the use of wood prevents the use of more carbon intensive materials (plus a small amount of carbon storage). Chen 2018 notes that over 8.5 tonnes of carbon are prevented per tonne of carbon stored in the wood. Other analysis have found that managed forests overall lead to lower long-term emissions than conservation (based on Swedish conditions).  I think extended rotations and encouraging production of mass timber products would be a good option to store carbon.

    The Ministry of Forests' own research shows the limitations of carbon storage in finished wood products (see its graph below).

    Very little of the wood from any BC clearcut is going to end up in mass-timber construction, which has little record of use. The promise of mass-timber is now being used in BC, primarily, to greenwash the forest industry. 

    Most of the finished wood products manufactured in BC are exported out of the province. There's no evidence that if BC significantly reduced its export of wood product that this would result in an increase in the use of building products with greater carbon intensity in the countries currently receiving those exports. It's more likely that the required wood products would be sourced from some other country. There are many places on the planet that can grow a cubic metre of wood faster than BC's forests can.

    Nearly 10 percent of the volume of logs cut from BC forests each year are exported as raw logs. The Ministry of Forests is aware that raw logs exported to China are expected to have very short lifespans.

    1837885463_CarbonStoredinUseOver100-yearperiod.thumb.jpg.97a381d9d1410e722538fc2dd1c9db05.jpg

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    17 hours ago, Guest thomascheney said:

    "Below is a satellite image of a slice of BC northwest of Prince George. This could be anywhere in BC that isn't at the top of mountains or in the far north. Is this what you mean by "state of the art non damage logging"?

    Since 2000, according to BC's Ministry of Environment, BC forests have lost the ability to sequester carbon by just over 100 megatonnes per year. Year after year into the future, that loss will result in untold damage to Earth ecosystems."

    The image from the Prince George area is mainly indicative of the Mountain Pine Beetle, which also caused a huge carbon release as well. This report from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions gives a good overview of the options. https://pics.uvic.ca/sites/default/files/Primer_Workshop%20on%20forest%20carbon%20management%20in%20BC.pdf

    The area shown in that satellite image is west of Summit Lake and East of  Great Beaver Lake. The Ministry of Forests' map of Mountain Pine Beetle infestation (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/forestry/forest-health/mountain-pine-beetle/bcmpbv132015kill.pdf) shows this area to be relatively free of beetle-killed forest.

    It doesn't matter where you look in BC. From space the truth is hard to hide. Below is a typical image of Vancouver Island north of Campbell River. There is no Mountain Pine Beetle infestation here. Just clearcut logging. Any part of BC that is in the Timber Harvesting Area has a more-or-less over-exploited appearance like the image between Summit Lake and Great Beaver Lake. 

    1879434605_NorthIslandfromspacesmaller.thumb.jpg.e6f6f0402801db789a7aedecb3eaa244.jpg

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    Guest Forestry guy

    Posted

    The forest industry has been trying to do this for years.  The Interior Logging Association was given the entire portfolio for the government run  Forest Carbon Partnership which sold offsets for treeplanting into the private sector.  It got very little uptake because treeplanting offsets don't work very well - not enough additionality for one, and very little bang for your buck. So the gov gave up on that then tried to  re-do the Forest Carbon Offset Protocol with a new protocol aimed at 'making the Protocol better for forest carbon. They apparently have given up on that as well.  Now they just apparently run forest carbon projects through the Forest Enhancement Society without a protocol - much easier that way, accounting wise.....  Brinkman is a forest industry company tightly tied to EcoTrust. They have a specific interest in treeplanting - that's what they do for income.   If you think that forest carbon offsets are not going to be exploited for Forest Industry advantage think again - this is what the Forest industry has been pushing for for years and years because they see how it can function as an industry subsidy. Look at the players involved.  Look at the government trajectory over the last decade on this file. Show us specifically how this is not going to be lipstick on a pig.

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    Treeplanting offsets  (Afforestation, and reforestation) are not what this article is about. It is about Improved Forest Management  a technical term which includes protecting the forests or shifting away from clearcutting to a much much smaller AAC ecoforestry type operation:  Improved Forest Management – Reduced Impact Logging (IFM – RIL)  Improved Forest Management – [shifting from] Logged to Protected Forests (IFM – LtPF)  Improved Forest Management – Extended Rotation Age (IFM – ERA)  Improved Forest Management – Low to High Productivity (IFM – LtHP)  Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – Avoided Planned Deforestation (REDD – APD).

    In IFM, climate benefits in stopping emissions are immediate and ongoing. One stopped clearcut can keep thousands of tonnes out of the atmosphere. It also could generate revenue—on top of all the climate, water, biodiversity and community benefits—but companies never try it because a) accounting of forest carbon has never been factored in nationally or provincially; b) the price of carbon isn't currently enough to challenge the money that flows with subsidized raw logs, c) the values back to communities and avoided costs of subsidizing the industry are never factored in either. (see Broadland's latest Forestry Doesn't Pay?)

    Treeplanting is at the end of the forest carbon priorities. Tree planting is only going to have some kind of real climate benefit 200 years after the trees have caught up with all the emissions that were released with the clearcut. That is why they have not caught on and likely won't until we have addressed the real elephant in the room. If we charged every logging company what a tonne of carbon emissions are really worth, they would stop clear cutting tomorrow; waste in both the logging industry and construction industries would be a thing of the past;  slashburns would be banned; so called wildfires would seen as extensions of poor forest management;  and we would look at wood and forests with a whole new appreciation. 

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