Jump to content

Matt Simmons

Writers
  • Posts

    4
  • Joined

  • Last visited

    Never

 Content Type 

Profiles

Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2016

Sept/Oct 2016.2

Past Editions in PDF format

Advertorials

Focus Magazine July/August 2016

Focus Magazine Jan/Feb 2017

Focus Magazine March/April 2017

Passages

Local Lens

Focus Magazine May/June 2017

Focus Magazine July/August2017

Focus Magazine Sept/Oct 2017

Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2017

Focus Magazine Jan/Feb 2018

Focus Magazine March/April 2018

Focus Magazine May/June 2018

Focus Magazine July/August 2018

Focus Magazine Sept/Oct 2018

Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2018

Focus Magazine Jan/Feb 2019

Focus Magazine March/April 2019

Focus Magazine May/June 2019

Focus Magazine July/August 2019

Focus Magazine Sept/Oct 2019

Focus Magazine Nov/Dec 2019

Focus Magazine Jan/Feb 2020

Focus Magazine March-April 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic

Navigating through pandemonium

Informed Comment

Palette

Earthrise

Investigations

Reporting

Analysis

Commentary

Letters

Development and architecture

Books

Forests

Controversial developments

Gallery

Store

Forums

Downloads

Blogs

Calendar

Everything posted by Matt Simmons

  1. Scientists urge BC to immediately defer logging in key old-growth forests amid arrests. BC’s RAREST FOREST ECOSYSTEMS are rapidly disappearing and if the Province doesn’t act immediately to defer logging in key areas, as recommended by the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review, they will be lost forever, according to a report released May 19, 2021 by a team of independent scientists. The analysis of BC’s remaining old growth forests and mapping tools aims to help the Province meet the recommendations of the old-growth panel. While the map was designed to flag forests that meet the criteria for deferral rather than note specific at-risk locations, the authors noted it includes places like the Nahmint River watershed and Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, currently a hot spot of protest and near where the RCMP began making arrests on Tuesday as part of its enforcement of an injunction. The map also identifies unharvested old-growth in the Babine watershed near Smithers and rare cedar hemlock old-growth near Nelson as top-priority areas for logging deferrals. The new analysis takes its lead from the independent strategic review commissioned by the Province, which outlined criteria to determine which forests are of the highest value and most at-risk, and clarifies which areas should be immediately protected. The review recommended the Province defer development in old forests with a high risk of irreversible biodiversity loss. “It’s been a year since that report went to the government and there have been no meaningful deferrals since that time,” Rachel Holt, forest ecologist and one of the authors of the report, said in an interview. “We waited for the government to map what the panel recommended and there’s been no action—so we decided to just do it.” While the Province implemented deferrals last year that ostensibly protected 353,000 hectares of forest, closer inspection revealed how the numbers were skewed to include already protected areas and 157,000 hectares of second-growth forests open to logging. The Province subsequently adjusted its numbers to reflect the inclusion of second-growth. The new analysis identifies about 1.3 million hectares of at-risk forests across the Province, which is about 2.6 percent of BC’s timber supply. According to the analysis, the actual area that requires logging deferrals will be much smaller and the Province has the tools to put any planned cutblocks and road building on hold while it works with First Nations and other stakeholders to develop land use plans. “Following the old-growth strategic review panel’s direction, [the Province] should take that map and overlay it with planned cutblocks and defer harvest in those areas until the planning is done,” Holt said. A low resolution version of the map of old forest created by Dave Daust, Rachel Holt and Karen Pryce. Click the map to enlarge. For a much larger version, click here Old-growth review recommended a “paradigm shift” in how BC manages its forests The strategic review highlighted the urgent need to stop looking at BC’s forests as timber supply and start prioritizing Indigenous rights and ecological and cultural values. It acknowledged this transition won’t happen overnight but noted the urgent need to put the brakes on logging the rarest trees while creating a new strategy. The first step is to figure out which forests need to be saved, which is where Holt and her colleagues come in. “Our map represents the key criteria that the old-growth panel outlined for immediate logging deferrals, including the tallest, largest forests, plus rare and ancient forest,” Dave Daust, forester, modeller and project lead, said in a press release. “With this blueprint, the Province can act immediately to ensure any existing or planned logging in these areas is put on hold while it pursues a government-to-government approach for forest management that puts Indigenous rights and interests, ecological values and community resilience ahead of timber volume.” Holt explained that the data and maps were created based on current provincial information, but said there are gaps that will need to be addressed. “There will be places on the ground that aren’t on the map. They should be added, like known cultural areas or known high-value areas that for some reason don’t show up,” she said, adding that there may also be areas that have already been logged. Scientists say there is no time to “talk and log” In his 2020 election campaign, Premier John Horgan committed to implementing the panel’s recommendations. “We will act on all 14 recommendations and work with Indigenous leaders and organizations, industry, labour and environmental organizations on the steps that will take us there,” he wrote. But Holt said the Province isn’t acting fast enough. “There isn’t time to talk and log and try to create perfect maps,” she said. “Nothing is perfect, but we need to move forward.” Very little remains of BC’s old-growth forests. Holt, Daust and ecologist Karen Price calculated that just 415,000 hectares of productive old-growth forest remains in the Province. Productive old-growth supports numerous endangered and threatened species, including caribou and northern goshawk. As to whether the Province will use the map to implement meaningful deferrals, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development wrote in an emailed statement that it is committed to protecting BC’s ancient forests for future generations. “We know there is a lot more work to do. That’s why this government commissioned an independent panel to advise us on how we could do better when it comes to protecting old forests. Now, our government is working on next steps—which includes important engagement with Indigenous peoples, environmental advocates and forest-dependent communities around identifying additional deferral areas.” Holt emphasized that the stakes couldn’t be higher. “We are losing biodiversity and we’re losing carbon storage,” she said. “Old large tree ecosystems hold a phenomenal carbon store. We don’t have time to plant trees and wait 100 years.” Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The Narwhal. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
  2. BC auditor general flags BC’s inadequate management of lands, fish and wildlife BC IS FALLING SHORT on its commitment to protect fish and wildlife habitat, according to a report released by the Province’s auditor general on May 11, 2021. The audit of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s Conservation Lands Program identified several deficiencies, including: a lack of strategic direction ensuring government collaboration with Indigenous communities; a failure to sufficiently monitor and enforce rules on conserved lands; and a need to update management plans for species and habitat. “Overall, we concluded that the ministry has not effectively managed the program,” Michael Pickup, auditor general, said in a statement. Pickup noted the program—which was developed over half a century ago to provide a framework for theProvince to work with non-profit organizations, federal agencies and First Nations—has not revisited its goals or strategic planning for over 30 years. He also found the program lacks clarity of purpose, leaving government staff working on local or regional conservation programs without clear directives. The report noted that even on conserved lands, the Province isn’t doing enough to regulate public use, stating that “hundreds of unauthorized activities had occurred on conservation lands” between 2009 and 2020. Infractions ranged from motor vehicle use in prohibited areas to illegal harvesting activities. The auditor general outlined a series of recommendations, including cementing a strategic plan for the program and addressing the need to be more transparent with the public. The Ministry of Forests acknowledged its shortcomings and said in a statement it is already working on a number of initiatives to address the audit’s findings. “Ministry staff are currently working on a strategic plan for the Conservation Lands Program that will detail our actions to fully address the auditor general’s 11 recommendations,” a ministry spokesperson wrote in an email. “The new strategic plan will include input from the existing Conservation Lands partners, the minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council and the First Nations-BC Wildlife and Habitat Conservation Forum.” As for when the public can expect to see the ministry implement the recommended changes, Pickup said at a press conference that decision is at the discretion of the Province. “Most of the responses to these recommendations indicate what they are going to do but they don’t actually indicate a specific timeline to have things done,” he said. BC conservation management “outdated” as species suffer declines The report comes as steelhead and salmon populations in watersheds across the province struggle to survive, caribou herds are extirpated and numerous species suffer from habitat fragmentation and the impacts of climate change. As Sarah Cox reported in The Narwhal, there are thousands of species at risk in BC and, despite this, the current government reneged on its promise to enact species-at-risk legislation. One of the Conservation Lands Program’s key tools to address the needs of at-risk species and important habitats is the designation of wildlife management areas, but the audit flagged a number of problems with BC’s management of those areas, noting around 70 percent of the plans have not been approved and the average age of the plans is almost 20 years. The audit noted current plans need to reflect current risks, which include the ever-evolving risks associated with climate change. The report also pointed out that the Province did not maintain an accurate inventory of its conserved lands, including non-administered conservation lands, which are areas designated for conservation purposes under the Land Act. “The ministry needs an accurate inventory of conservation lands to monitor and report on progress and to make informed program decisions,” the report said. BC working to align conservation with Indigenous values The ministry said one of the ways it is addressing the auditor general’s recommendations, while working to meet provincial conservation commitments, predates the report. The Together for Wildlife Strategy, announced last summer, is the Province’s plan for conserving BC’s biodiversity. The strategy outlines five goals and 24 actions to achieve those goals, which involve working closely with First Nations. But according to the audit, the ministry “has not supported staff to collaborate with Indigenous Peoples when securing and managing conservation lands.” It added that while the ministry is working to provide training and guidance to its staff, there is a lack of specific direction to collaborate and engage with First Nations. In an interview conducted prior to the audit’s release, George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said the Province is working to align its conservation strategy with Indigenous Rights and community interests. “We’re working hard to find a way forward that respects First Nations culture and values, that acknowledges and respects the importance of maintaining biodiversity and protecting species at risk, but doing it by developing an approach that doesn’t provide only one path.” Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with The Narwhal. The is Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
  3. BC government gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets. Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter SEAN O’ROURKE WAS HIKING in BC’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it—Pacific BioEnergy. The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products—sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings—into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 percent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood. Sean O’Rourke amongst old-growth Red Cedar in the Inland Rainforest north of Prince George (Photo by Conservation North) O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern BC, took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the Province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest. While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim. “If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview. “Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest into pellets to ship them overseas to burn, to feed into an electricity plant so that people can watch Netflix or play video games really late at night—we can’t allow that to happen,” she added. The planned cutblock is set to be logged this winter for pellets, but Conservation North is asking the BC government to provide legal protection to all primary forests—those that have never been logged—in the northern region. Rare ecosystem home to massive trees, endangered caribou, vast carbon stores After O’Rourke showed his colleagues his photos, they went to the rainforest together to explore the areas slated for logging. The group walked for almost two hours to get to the flagged boundary. The forest is surrounded by clearcuts and second-growth stands of lodgepole pine. Connolly described it as an oasis. “There are low carpets of moss and beautiful fallen old trees,” Connolly said. “The stands that we’ve seen have really large western red cedars and western hemlock, and we occasionally came across massive Douglas firs that are really large for this area…it would take at least three people to wrap your arms around them.” More than 500 kilometres from the coast, the inland rainforest is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Temperate rainforests far from the sea are only found in two other places on the planet: in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia. The rainforest supports a variety of animals including moose and endangered caribou. The stands of old-growth trees have been absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the soil also stores huge amounts of carbon. The rich biodiversity of these old-growth forest ecosystems is threatened by logging, according to a report published in June. As The Narwhal reported last year, much of what remains of the inland temperate rainforest is at risk of clearcutting. Connolly said there is “little to no social licence” to harvest these old-growth trees. “We talked to a lot of people who hunt, who trap, who fish, who guide, and among those people, we’ve sensed a lot of dismay about what’s happening,” she said. “We’re kind of at the limits of tolerance up here.” BC government ramps up support for pellet industry while plants run out of raw materials The Province’s promotion of the pellet industry focuses on using wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned in the forest to reduce the risk of wildfires, but rarely mentions the use of whole trees. “The pellet pushers [including the present NDP government] originally said they would use only logging and milling debris as the source of wood fibre for pellets,” Jim Pojar, a forest ecologist wrote in an email. However, a recent investigation by Stand.earth found that pellets made of whole trees from primary forests in BC are being sent to Europe and Asia. “No mature green trees should be cut down and whole logs ground up to produce wood pellets for export, especially if the trees are clear cut from globally rare and endangered temperate rainforest,” Pojar said. Connolly said a lack of legal protection allows the provincial government to greenlight logging whole trees for pellets—and the government’s language around the industry hides the fact that old-growth is being cut down. “My understanding is that this is allowed because these forests don’t have any other use,” she said, meaning that they aren’t suitable for making lumber. “The BC government has some really interesting language around justifying pellet harvesting,” she said. “What they say is that they’re using inferior quality wood. This isn’t the first time a pellet facility has logged trees to meet its production needs. As The Narwhal reported earlier this year, both Pacific BioEnergy and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, another large-scale pellet company, use whole trees to produce pellets. Over the past few years, BC has been ramping up its support for the wood pellet industry, but as sawmills shut down across the province, pellet facilities are running out of raw material. Recently, the Province handed out a number of grants to support projects that take trees that would otherwise be burned on the forest floor in massive slash piles and convert them to pellets. Pacific BioEnergy has received more than $3.2 million from the Province through the Forest Enhancement Society for projects related to its operations. Connolly said the Province’s push to support the pellet industry is problematic. “We’re kind of rearranging the deck chairs, you know? They’re making little modifications of things they already do, instead of actually looking at the value of keeping the carbon in forests.” The Ministry of Forests could not comment on this story because government communications are limited to health and public safety information during election periods. Pacific BioEnergy was also not available to respond by publication time. Ecologists say burning pellets is not carbon neutral Wood pellets, sometimes referred to as biomass or bioenergy, are often touted as carbon neutral and sustainable, but critics claim that’s a dangerous misconception. Burning wood to generate energy is less efficient than burning fossil fuels, which means more wood is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity, according to Pojar. More carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere from pellet-fuelled power plants than traditional coal or natural gas plants, he pointed out. The pellet industry and its supporters argue that replanting trees will eventually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which means burning pellets for heat or energy is carbon neutral. But even if that is true, it could take hundreds of years for those replanted trees to grow big enough to offset the emissions produced by harvesting, transporting, processing and burning the wood. In a 2019 report entitled Forestry and Carbon in BC, Pojar outlined myths and misconceptions about emissions and the forestry industry. “The CO2 from the combustion of biofuel is released almost instantly, whereas the growth and regrowth of wood takes several decades at least (mostly more than 75 years in BC)” Connolly, who was an editor of the report, said the green narrative around the pellet industry and industrial logging is misleading. “It’s so ridiculous to claim that somehow logging is good for the climate,” she said. “What we’ve seen happen is that the BC government and industry have co-opted climate change to argue for more industrial logging. In this case, it’s for pellets, but they’ve been doing the same thing for harvested wood products for the last few years.” As climate change, industrial logging and other resource extraction projects continue to impact forest ecosystems, maintaining intact primary and old-growth forests is essential, she said. “BC claims to be exploring all emissions reductions opportunities, but they are not,” she said. “They’re ignoring basically the biggest, best and cheapest opportunity, which is protecting nature. If we’re going to meet our climate commitments, keeping primary forests intact is an important step and what all of us should be asking is, ‘Why are they totally ignoring this?’ ” Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, BC, unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet'suwet’en Nation. He is the author of The Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert. This story was originally published in The Narwhal under the Local Journalism Initiative. Conservation North’s short video interview of trapper Don Wilkins on liquidating BC rainforests for electricity in other countries:
  4. BC government gives Pacific BioEnergy green light to log rare inland rainforest for wood pellets. Matt Simmons is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter SEAN O’ROURKE WAS HIKING in BC’s globally rare inland rainforest this spring when pink flagging tape indicating a planned cutblock caught his eye. Finding flagging tape is nothing new, but when he looked closer, he realized the tape had the name of a nearby pellet company on it—Pacific BioEnergy. The company operates a plant in Prince George where it turns waste wood products—sawdust from mills, tree bark, wood shavings and clippings—into pellets to be burned to produce heat or electricity, replacing coal and fossil fuels. More than 90 percent of Canadian wood pellets are shipped overseas to Europe and Asia, according to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. But the ancient cedars and hemlocks in the rainforest in Lheidli T’enneh First Nation territory, about 60 kilometres east of Prince George, are most certainly not waste wood. Sean O’Rourke amongst old-growth Red Cedar in the Inland Rainforest north of Prince George (Photo by Conservation North) O’Rourke, a field scout with Conservation North, a grassroots organization advocating for the protection of old-growth forests in northern BC, took photos of the flagging tape to show his colleagues. He later combed through the publicly available harvest data to confirm the Province had indeed issued permits to Pacific BioEnergy to log the old-growth forest. While wood pellets are often touted as a renewable energy source, Conservation North director and ecologist Michelle Connolly challenges that claim. “If the raw material for harvested wood products or pellets is coming from primary and old-growth forest, it is not clean or green or renewable in any way, shape or form,” she said in an interview. “Destroying wildlife habitat to grind forest into pellets to ship them overseas to burn, to feed into an electricity plant so that people can watch Netflix or play video games really late at night—we can’t allow that to happen,” she added. The planned cutblock is set to be logged this winter for pellets, but Conservation North is asking the BC government to provide legal protection to all primary forests—those that have never been logged—in the northern region. Rare ecosystem home to massive trees, endangered caribou, vast carbon stores After O’Rourke showed his colleagues his photos, they went to the rainforest together to explore the areas slated for logging. The group walked for almost two hours to get to the flagged boundary. The forest is surrounded by clearcuts and second-growth stands of lodgepole pine. Connolly described it as an oasis. “There are low carpets of moss and beautiful fallen old trees,” Connolly said. “The stands that we’ve seen have really large western red cedars and western hemlock, and we occasionally came across massive Douglas firs that are really large for this area…it would take at least three people to wrap your arms around them.” More than 500 kilometres from the coast, the inland rainforest is one of the rarest ecosystems in the world. Temperate rainforests far from the sea are only found in two other places on the planet: in Russia’s far east and southern Siberia. The rainforest supports a variety of animals including moose and endangered caribou. The stands of old-growth trees have been absorbing carbon from the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and the soil also stores huge amounts of carbon. The rich biodiversity of these old-growth forest ecosystems is threatened by logging, according to a report published in June. As The Narwhal reported last year, much of what remains of the inland temperate rainforest is at risk of clearcutting. Connolly said there is “little to no social licence” to harvest these old-growth trees. “We talked to a lot of people who hunt, who trap, who fish, who guide, and among those people, we’ve sensed a lot of dismay about what’s happening,” she said. “We’re kind of at the limits of tolerance up here.” BC government ramps up support for pellet industry while plants run out of raw materials The Province’s promotion of the pellet industry focuses on using wood that would otherwise be wasted or burned in the forest to reduce the risk of wildfires, but rarely mentions the use of whole trees. “The pellet pushers [including the present NDP government] originally said they would use only logging and milling debris as the source of wood fibre for pellets,” Jim Pojar, a forest ecologist wrote in an email. However, a recent investigation by Stand.earth found that pellets made of whole trees from primary forests in BC are being sent to Europe and Asia. “No mature green trees should be cut down and whole logs ground up to produce wood pellets for export, especially if the trees are clear cut from globally rare and endangered temperate rainforest,” Pojar said. Connolly said a lack of legal protection allows the provincial government to greenlight logging whole trees for pellets—and the government’s language around the industry hides the fact that old-growth is being cut down. “My understanding is that this is allowed because these forests don’t have any other use,” she said, meaning that they aren’t suitable for making lumber. “The BC government has some really interesting language around justifying pellet harvesting,” she said. “What they say is that they’re using inferior quality wood. This isn’t the first time a pellet facility has logged trees to meet its production needs. As The Narwhal reported earlier this year, both Pacific BioEnergy and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, another large-scale pellet company, use whole trees to produce pellets. Over the past few years, BC has been ramping up its support for the wood pellet industry, but as sawmills shut down across the province, pellet facilities are running out of raw material. Recently, the Province handed out a number of grants to support projects that take trees that would otherwise be burned on the forest floor in massive slash piles and convert them to pellets. Pacific BioEnergy has received more than $3.2 million from the Province through the Forest Enhancement Society for projects related to its operations. Connolly said the Province’s push to support the pellet industry is problematic. “We’re kind of rearranging the deck chairs, you know? They’re making little modifications of things they already do, instead of actually looking at the value of keeping the carbon in forests.” The Ministry of Forests could not comment on this story because government communications are limited to health and public safety information during election periods. Pacific BioEnergy was also not available to respond by publication time. Ecologists say burning pellets is not carbon neutral Wood pellets, sometimes referred to as biomass or bioenergy, are often touted as carbon neutral and sustainable, but critics claim that’s a dangerous misconception. Burning wood to generate energy is less efficient than burning fossil fuels, which means more wood is needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity, according to Pojar. More carbon dioxide is sent into the atmosphere from pellet-fuelled power plants than traditional coal or natural gas plants, he pointed out. The pellet industry and its supporters argue that replanting trees will eventually sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which means burning pellets for heat or energy is carbon neutral. But even if that is true, it could take hundreds of years for those replanted trees to grow big enough to offset the emissions produced by harvesting, transporting, processing and burning the wood. In a 2019 report entitled Forestry and Carbon in BC, Pojar outlined myths and misconceptions about emissions and the forestry industry. “The CO2 from the combustion of biofuel is released almost instantly, whereas the growth and regrowth of wood takes several decades at least (mostly more than 75 years in BC)” Connolly, who was an editor of the report, said the green narrative around the pellet industry and industrial logging is misleading. “It’s so ridiculous to claim that somehow logging is good for the climate,” she said. “What we’ve seen happen is that the BC government and industry have co-opted climate change to argue for more industrial logging. In this case, it’s for pellets, but they’ve been doing the same thing for harvested wood products for the last few years.” As climate change, industrial logging and other resource extraction projects continue to impact forest ecosystems, maintaining intact primary and old-growth forests is essential, she said. “BC claims to be exploring all emissions reductions opportunities, but they are not,” she said. “They’re ignoring basically the biggest, best and cheapest opportunity, which is protecting nature. If we’re going to meet our climate commitments, keeping primary forests intact is an important step and what all of us should be asking is, ‘Why are they totally ignoring this?’ ” Matt Simmons is a writer and editor based in Smithers, BC, unceded Gidimt’en Clan territory, home of the Wet'suwet’en Nation. He is the author of The Outsider’s Guide to Prince Rupert. This story was originally published in The Narwhal under the Local Journalism Initiative. Conservation North’s short video interview of trapper Don Wilkins on liquidating BC rainforests for electricity in other countries:
×
×
  • Create New...