The announcement that the provincial government plans to relax logging restrictions on parts of the Fraser Valley that had been protected for their viewscapes just goes to show the lack of long-range planning for forestry in B.C. says Scott Fraser.
“The government had no plan for post-beetle wood,” the MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim said. “They can open these areas up to logging, but they don’t have a plan for after that though, so the mills that would have to close would do so anyway because there wouldn’t be any fibre for them after a couple of years and these protected areas — and they’re protected for a reason — won’t be there either.”
Fraser said a recent auditor general’s report on the forest industry cited cutbacks to staff at the ministry of forests has led to a situation where the government doesn’t have a clear picture of how many trees they have.
“They don’t have enough staff to do a proper audit,” Fraser said. “They are working with 20 to 25-year-old audit material and the minister doesn’t even know what they’ve got on the ground. How does anyone assess the annual allowable cut and license it if they don’t even know what they’ve got?”
Fraser called the lack of adequate provincial environmental assessments, coupled with a dismantling of the federal environmental review process akin to the environment — and the people who rely on it — being under attack.
“It’s all to facilitate some big industrial projects, with no consideration for future generations,” he said. “It’s a very scary time in this province. It seems like the thinking is, ‘how fast can we suck out our natural resources — or knock them down on the ground with the trees — and ship them away?’”
Fraser’s assessment was backed up by a report released this week by the Forest Practices Board, which said the province is facing a million-hectare deficit in its reforestation efforts.
The report indicates that almost two million hectares of Crown forested land could potentially be “not satisfactorily restocked” (NSR). Of that, nearly half a million hectares will be restocked by industry and government has current plans to restock about a quarter of a million hectares.
“Decisions about whether to replant areas where mountain pine beetle and fire have killed most of the trees will have an impact on the future timber supply in the B.C. Interior,” said Al Gorley, board chair. “At a minimum, if nature is left to take its course, the eventual crop of timber in those areas will be delayed.”
Government has a reforestation program for these areas, but to date it has only directed limited effort at re-stocking mature, beetle-affected forests because those areas might still be harvested — and eventually restocked — by the forest industry.
“There is a lot of debate about exactly how much forest has been damaged by fire and beetles,” said Gorley. “But the important question is, should we invest money now to ensure a healthy timber supply into the future, and, if so, how will we raise and invest it? But if action is to be taken, it must be taken quickly.”
The board made recommendations to government that it hopes will promote a useful dialogue on the topic of restocking British Columbia’s forests.