The BC government’s postponement of harvesting of old wood is a positive step in the right direction, according to a conservationist from Peachland.
But Taryn Skalbania says the pro-logging influence of the province’s forest industry remains influential in government policy, running counter to the need to protect and preserve our natural environment from the impact of climate change. .
Skalbania, who sits on the board of directors of the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance and the BC Coalition for Forestry Reform, recognizes that deferrals, a temporary measure to prevent irreversible loss of biodiversity to allow industry stakeholders to developing a new approach to sustainable forest management could have a negative economic impact. in the event of final adoption.
But it calls into question the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) initial forecast of postponements resulting in the closure of up to 20 sawmills in the province, as well as two pulp mills and an unknown number of value-added manufacturing facilities.
According to Susan Yurkovich, President of COFI, this translates into the loss of approximately 18,000 jobs and more than $ 400 million in lost revenue for the government each year.
But Skalbania said that as a matter of principle and long-term survival, it’s time for the environment to stop being sacrificed to support a heavily subsidized industry that has been bleeding jobs for two decades while continuing to export goods. logs for value-added manufacturing in other countries.
âAt this point, the clearcuts are happening at such a rapid rate that reforestation will never catch up. Deferrals provide a break from this approach. Chainsaw medicine is not sustainable, âsaid Skalbania
âIt doesn’t work to control beetle destruction and it doesn’t protect logging jobs. You cannot outsmart Mother Nature.
Skalbania said factory closures and job losses have been a reality in the forestry industry for the past 20 years, as there are opportunities to retrain and retool forestry workers in other jobs. related to environmental improvement, such as modernization of disused forest roads, reseeding, upgrading of damaged fish habitat. and the elimination of old road culverts, jobs that are expected to grow mainly with government funding.
She says that since 2005, 35 sawmills in the interior of British Columbia and nine on the coast have closed permanently, along with about half of the shingle and shingle factories on the coast, thousands of jobs lost in the process without a ripple or a knock on the total BC provincial workforce. .
She argues that raw log exports, factory automation and excessive clearcutting have been more damaging to the forest industry than is the potential for preserving old growth forests and giving higher priority to environmental sustainability.
She cites the example of Newfoundland which lost its cod fishing industry causing initial economic hardship, but over time the province has managed to pursue new economic directions.
She cites statistics that show that 1.9 percent of the jobs available in British Columbia’s labor force are related to forestry. âImportant jobs, yes for some communities, but hardly the backbone of our economy. But keeping forestry workers employed at the cost of degrading our environmentâ¦ you have to shake your head. “
Skalbania said she remains concerned that under British Columbia’s Forestry and Grazing Practices Act, logging takes precedence over all other land uses identified under that act. , now associated with the addition of forest fire mitigation efforts now also subject to this legislation.
âPutting forest fire safety in the hands of the forest industryâ¦ there has not been a good track record of community safety in the past. Loggers do one thing and they do it well, cut down trees.
To support the postponement process, the government has stopped advertising and selling timber sales from the C. to their respective territories.
At the end of the deferral period, the BC government says the newly identified at-risk forests will either be added to the 3.5 million hectares of old-growth forests already closed to harvest or included in the new plans. forest management.
Jim Cooperman, a Shuswap ecologist and old-growth forest protection advocate, says the postponements highlight the role forests play in mitigating climate change.
“Forests are important carbon sinks, and BC’s forests already emit far more carbon than they sequester, due to clearcuts, fires, pests and diseases,” Cooperman said.
âIf Canada and the province are to really get serious about their global goals, they need to dramatically reduce logging and plant many more trees.
Skalbania reiterated the importance of tree planting, which she said has largely failed to keep pace with timber harvesting, as a landscape management tool that needs to be reaffirmed.
âWe are seeing watershed reclamation practices in the Cowichan Valley (on Vancouver Island) and the Nicola Valley. These are prototypes of pilot projects and we need more of them, âshe said.
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