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Michelle Connolly

Forest Stewards
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  1. Image: Conservation North's Seeing Red Map, which shows that almost all primary forest in BC is gone. 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. Go to story...
  2. 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. 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
  3. Conservationists call for a moratorium on primary forest logging in the Prince George TSA following a scathing report by the Forest Practices Board. A large clearcut in the Prince George Timber Supply area. Photo by Sean O’Rourke/Conservation North CONSERVATION NORTH is calling for a moratorium on industrial logging in the Prince George Timber Supply Area following the release of an investigative report by the Forest Practices Board (“the Board”). The Board concluded that biodiversity is at high risk in the vast majority of landscape units within the Prince George and Stewart-Nechako Natural Resource Districts and has recommended that old growth be promptly mapped and protected where it is most threatened by industrial logging.The Board’s investigation was elicited by complaints from the public.“We view this as an indictment of industrial forestry practices in our region. The only way the government of BC actually manages biodiversity is by keeping the activities of licensees in check. They have failed to do this,” asserts Jenn Matthews, outreach coordinator with volunteer-based Conservation North.While the Board’s report concludes that licensees are complying with the current legal requirements of the Biodiversity Order (“the Order”) for the region, more importantly it states that the Order is out of date such that even full compliance results in the unsustainable loss of critical wildlife habitat.This is the second time in 2020 that an independent analysis has pointed out that effects of industrial forestry in the Prince George region have been irredeemably harmful to nature. The first instance was the Last Stand report, which was prepared by scientists and identified areas across the province that are hotspots of biodiversity loss due to logging of primary forest.Despite their strong recommendations aimed at the BC government, the Board report seems to gloss over the negative effects of a peculiar legal loophole that is built into the Order.According to Sean O’Rourke, who runs Conservation North’s field program: “the Order allows licensees to submit something called an old growth ‘recruitment strategy’ which is basically an ‘IOU’ to the government for old growth that doesn’t exist yet. A licensee will draw a line around a patch of 60-year old trees and promise that patch will get old one day.”Put another way, licensees are using recruitment strategies as giant loopholes through which to log remaining old growth by setting aside younger forests as potential future old growth. Recruitment strategies are fraudulent because they allow licensees to circumvent the intent of the Biodiversity Order. Unfortunately, Prince George has a district manager who has been signing off on them left and right.“This report makes it clear that there are terminal problems with how licensees are operating in the PG TSA. Industrial-scale logging must be put on hold until the recommendations of the Board report are fully implemented,” asserts Ms. Matthews.In the PG TSA, the work of keeping track of what has been logged and how much old growth remains is left to a group made up of licensees, as opposed to an independent body or the BC government. Conservation North views this arrangement as a serious conflict of interest that needs to be rectified if there is to be any hope of protecting wildlife in the long term.In addition to mapping and protecting old growth immediately, Conservation North also supports the Forest Practices Board’s second recommendation for an update of the targets in the Order, with the strong caveat that it must be done by independent scientists, and without the influence of licensees. Michelle Connolly, MSc, is a director of Conservation North. The Forest Practices Board’s investigative report: Forest Practices Board report on risk to biodiversity in Prince George TSA.pdf
  4. May 20, 2020 Photo: Michelle Connolly surveys logging in the Inland Rainforest BC's minister of forests refers to forests as "feedstock." Why does he use an agricultural term to describe a forest? Go to story

    © Mary Booth, Conservation North

  5. BC's minister of forests refers to forests as "feedstock." Why does he use an agricultural term to describe a forest? A new logging road under construction in the Inland Rainforest (Photo by Taylor Roades) IN Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell describes a dystopian society in which language is used to control people. In Orwell’s fictional world, vocabulary is constrained and new words are created in order to simplify and manipulate people’s understanding of the world around them. Orwell suggested that the well-known connection between language and worldview could also be used to manage human behaviour. Not having worked in industrial forestry, it was only three years ago that I started hearing the word “fibre” used instead of “forest” with confusing frequency. This word appears on industry and government websites and it is used regularly by timber company representatives. Last week, BC Minister of Forests Doug Donaldson described the lands he is in charge of as “feedstock” in my community newspaper. One could be forgiven for thinking that the timber industry, with the Province’s help, is attempting to replace the notion of a forest—and everything that word means —with vague abstractions. The term fibre conjures up Metamucil, while feedstock summons the mental image of food for livestock. Why are government and industry employing these euphemisms, rather than just saying forest? The purpose is two-fold: to change how we view these complex living systems and to prevent us from acting to defend them. If forests can be rebranded as stands of consumable objects (which the terms fibre and feedstock achieve), then the work of obtaining social license to destroy them has already been done. If an ecosystem is merely feedstock for a pellet plant, what on Earth else would you do with it? If a tree falls in a fibre, no one will hear it because it doesn’t exist. Natural forests, including those that have burned or are full of decay fungi, provide food and medicines and mitigate floods. Forests also store and sequester carbon in soil and plant tissues, and old forests are particularly good at this. Beetle-killed forests provide critical structures for wildlife. The founding belief of modern forest management—that natural forests are a commodity—is among the root causes of declining ecosystem health in B.C. Under this belief system, old growth is in the way of plantations that can provide a predictable flow of wood and revenue. Burned or beetle-killed forests are waste. Paired with corporate control over public lands, the conceit that people can and should manage complex ecosystems has led us to where we are today. Emerging research confirms that BC’s productive old-growth forest is all but gone. Companies are being awarded licenses to cut down remaining primary forests to feed pellet plants. The Council of Forest Industries, whose member companies have levelled most of the economically valuable old growth on the coast and in the interior, are demanding that the province set aside the remainder in a “working forest landbase” (read: make available for logging), according to their Smart Future report. As a part of their ongoing efforts to ensure continued access to BC’s last primary forests, those in power are trying to reduce these ecosystems to objects so that the public won’t fight for them. We will not abide lies of omission that obscure the truth of what natural forests are and we won’t stop defending them. Natural forests will always be more than fibre or feedstock; and in nature, there is no such thing as waste. Michelle Connolly, MSc, Conservation North, Prince George Michelle Connolly surveys a clearcut in the Inland Rainforest. Old growth cedars in the interior are often considered “waste” by the forestry sector. (Photo by Mary Booth)
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