Letter to the editor: Health of future forests depends on diversity

Open letter to Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operation

Open letter to Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations,  Steve Thomson regarding the “Beyond the Beetle: A Mid-term Timber Supply Action Plan.

We are writing to let you know that we are opposed to the government opening up more areas to logging.

While we see that the government is “not advocating” logging in reserves and protected areas that have been set up to protect wildlife habitat, biodiversity, viewscapes and old growth forests, we have a number of concerns:

Because the report recommends leaving open the option of having communities initiate the possibility of logging in protected areas and reserves, the logging industry may be considered to be part of communities and therefore their interests could initiate the process of opening protected areas to logging.

What safeguards are in place to prevent logging industry interests from influencing those making the decision?

You say in your report that any changes must be ecologically sound and supported by science. We ask whose science will be used to influence the decisions?

Your government created the Future Forests Eco-system Scientific Council, which has already issued two reports that show that reserves should be expanded and that more, not fewer trees will help offset climate change.

The council also recommends that more forest diversity should be a goal and mentions that often areas considered low-productivity areas may have fewer saw logs but often have higher diversity.

The Quesnel Climate Action group endorses these findings and stresses the importance of making these recommendations the guiding principles by which decisions are made.  The health of our future forests should be the lens of the science used for these decisions rather than focusing solely on the market value of the wood today.

You mention making better use of harvested wood in beetle-affected areas and talk about creating a new supplemental licence to increase bioeconomy opportunities. These are good goals; we should be making the best possible use of the wood including what is considered wood waste.

We believe it is absolutely criminal, the amount of slash piles which are just being burned and wasted, while needlessly releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

These piles represent potential energy or bio-products and government policy should have zero tolerance for wasting “wood waste”.

We are living at a time when carbon in the atmosphere is contributing to climate change.  Scientists have been warning about the increasing impacts we can expect in the future. We are aware that the increasing temperatures in our area has had the direct effect of allowing the pine beetle epidemic to destroy much of our boreal forests, the very impact that we are now having to deal with.

The Climate Action group wants to stress that any decisions should reflect the impact they would have on climate change.  While making wood products from trees can be one way to store carbon, the longer trees are allowed to live, the more carbon they pull out of the atmosphere and store.  Carbon storage is a major forest value and this value should be reflected in any decisions made. The government should be doing a carbon inventory accounting for the value of carbon stored as well as carbon released.

Both the debt and credit side of the ledger should be considered. Forest companies should be required to pay for all the carbon released in burning slash, whereas a marketable carbon credit should be issued if the slash was used for bio-products or energy.

Ben Parfitt from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives has done a lot of research in this area and has written a paper entitled Managing BC Forests for a Cooler Planet: Carbon storage, sustainable jobs and conservation. It can be found at www.policyalternatives.ca.

Yours truly,

Mark Josephy

For the Quesnel Climate Action Group


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