Things are not going well in B.C.'s Forest Service, or in B.C.'s forests. 3/4 of the logging in the coastal forest is of old growth, and over 3/4 of that is by clear cutting. Whole log exports ship trees and jobs overseas. Mismanagement by successive governments has meant that our public forest lands are in grave danger.
Grave danger of being turned into biocide-sprayed rows of non-native tree crops. Danger of being taken over by a ‘professional reliance’ management model in which there is essentially no government oversight. Danger of of being privatized, sold off, and rendered off-limits to the people that collectively own it.
The B.C. Forest Service took its modern form in April of 1945. At the time it was the steward of the timber, range and recreation resources of B.C.'s Crown forest land, which covers 2/3 of the province. The Forest Service mandate was to manage the land for multiple uses including recreation, forage, timber, heritage, and wilderness. Those days are officially over.
The Forest Service has seen such extensive budget cuts in recent years that it is no longer able to protect Crown forests for the public good. The brave new world of forestry has as its objectives the maintenance and enhancements of an economically valuable supply of commercial 'fibre' (they're not even TREES anymore), as well as to protect investor value. Therefore, the Forest Service is being systematically disbanded, paving the way for the fibre managers.
Since coming to office, the B.C. Liberals have slashed almost 1,100 forestry workers’ jobs in eight years — the very people who ensure our public forests are sustainably managed and harvested. From 2002-2004, the Campbell government eliminated 800 jobs in the Ministry of Forests and Range — 304 positions in compliance and enforcement alone. This year, 204 more forestry jobs are being axed — 62 per cent from compliance and enforcement and field operations. Then on May 27, deputy forests minister Dana Hayden confirmed that an additional 42 positions would be eliminated, as the ministry moves forward budget cuts planned for next year. May 27, 2010, BCGEUIf the people who have been looking out for our forests are no longer able to protect the public interest, who will? Throughout the massive changes to our forests and forest service, the government has ignored recommendations by government forestry specialists - the people that have been in our forests for the past 65 years, and know it best. Not only that, the Liberals have also restricted the opportunity for public input.
The Wilderness Committee has repeatedly reminded us that "75% of the original productive old-growth forests have been logged on Vancouver Island, including 90% of the valley bottoms where the largest trees grow. Only about 6% of the Island's original, productive old-growth forests are protected in parks."
A poll conducted in March, 2008 found that 88 percent of British Columbians polled agreed that protecting habitat for endangered species is important. But when the public indicates a desire for increased forest protection the government refuses to listen.
Maybe they will listen to artist/activist Briony Penn, who wrote "The Big Burn" (2010) after extensive research and investigation, and after interviewing those most knowledgeable about the state of our forests:
Since 1978, the Forest Service’s mission statement has stressed integrated management of the many values we ascribe to our forests, with a commitment “to manage, conserve and protect the province’s forest, range and outdoor recreation resources to ensure their sustainable use for the economic, cultural, physical and spiritual well-being of British Columbians, who hold those same resources in trust for future generations. In respecting and caring for public forest and range lands, the ministry is guided by the ethics of stewardship and public service".Penn's frightening article goes on to uncover a plan to privatize large sections of our public forest lands at the request of private industry. They are seeking a new forest tenure classification that would allow them long term leases to grow Frankentrees (fast growing poplar hybrids) to eventually convert into pellets as a fuel source. Because of a Kyoto Accord loophole, these companies will not have to account for the carbon production of the entire process, including the burning of the carbon-intensive pellets.
Apparently, that’s now all history.
A recent internal Ministry of Forests and Range document titled “Response to the Changing Business Environment” lays out the new mission for the ministry as “To provide a superior service to resource stakeholders by supporting competitive business conditions” and gives priority to “Enhancing industry competitiveness” and “Identifying clear outcomes for investors.” An earlier internal memo dated June 9, 2009 from Jim Gowriluk, regional executive director, to his district managers, titled “Re: Advocating for the Forest Industry in the Coast Forest Region,” clearly articulates the new single-function mandate of the Forest Service of “fulfilling our role as advocates for the forest industry.”
Protecting the public interest has disappeared.
It is easy to privatize what rightfully belongs to the people. All the politicians have to do is give away public property to their friends, then wait for the kickbacks to flow in. It is much more difficult to reverse such decisions.
Will our old growth forests and big trees end up being liquidated entirely to make way for non-native GMO tree plantations? Will our Crown forests end up benefiting only private companies for the next 999 years, similar to the BC Rail deal? Already a small army of government 'fibre officers' are combing our province looking for sites suitable for conversion to hybrid poplar plantations in long term leases with biofuel companies.
It is up to us, now. We must all be Green Rangers and fight for our trees and forests. Future generations, and hundreds of at-risk species, will be grateful.