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General News · 19th December 2012
David Shipway
Gosh there's been a lot of dialogue with someone we've never had the pleasure of meeting, but it was interesting how the PFLA explains the way Trickledown Theory and corporate largess works in the privatized forests on the coast. It's part of the overall pattern, a bit like suggesting Wall Street's excessive games in the global market have helped small business grow. While the 99% didn't fall for that one, in this case the big timber cartels are now the 95% and the little guys being squeezed out by a radically manipulated and distorted timber market are now only 5%.

Other forms of trickledown are more deadly. The PFLA shouldn't become the apologist for the rampant overcutting of most upper watersheds on eastern Vancouver Island, and these lands are almost entirely owned by Island Timberlands and Timberwest. The montane elevations are incredibly slow to regenerate after logging because of the poor soils, longer winters and high snowpack. Yet they are still being methodically denuded for the last of the lucrative ancient yellow cedar, guaranteeing that any large rain-on-snow event will deliver devastating floods to residents and fish populations downstream.

It's an issue close to the hearts of folks living near Basil Creek I'm sure. Can private rights win out over public responsibility? You can read about that unfortunate reality here:

So yes Mr. Bealey and Mr. Sihota, lets see those independent forestry audits, all the honest numbers! Truth mustn't be a casualty, and it shouldn't be hidden away. So far, it's very evident there is no realistic watershed cut control enforced by the PMFLC. Its also quite obvious that progressively cutting younger and younger stands at lower more fertile elevations guarantees "crop failure" and a collapse of local value-added wood industries in the future. Should anyone celebrate that I. T. has found a lucrative market for fir saplings offshore? Had those trees been left to grow for another few decades, there's a chance local millers and manufacturers later in this century would have a timber supply and meaningful work. Not only that, but the wood products would be of higher quality heartwood stored in longer lasting artifacts, as opposed to temporary concrete forms, dunnage and hog fuel in China.

It's nearly too late but we should also be talking far more seriously about these world-class forest carbon sinks and an accelerating climate crisis, which will eventually drown this coast like any other unless we change our ways at all scales everywhere. Where are the role models in coastal forestry? As it should be on any Crown tenure, a larger PFLA member's overall age class inventory (currently a big trade secret) should by simple logic average out around the culmination age of the timber species. Here on the lush coast, that peak growth can be anywhere from 80-120 years old. If the average inventory is much lower, then there's been too much fire or they have been steadily mining out their forest carbon sinks, and thus contributing in a big way to the human forcings towards a rapid ice melt and a "trickle-up" in sea levels.

We're still being told all those wee baby trees will soak up more carbon than mature ones. That the ecosystem science doesn't support such a convenient myth seems to have little influence on the bean counters and PR flacks, who are riding the devils of doubt and ignorance all the way to the bank....or should I say an offshore tax haven?

As for saving old growth attributes, nobody should remain under the illusion that just saving a few of the remaining old vets, while chopping down all the second growth and exposing narrow riparian "reserves" to blowdown, is some sort of viable conservation strategy. If we hope to maintain the full spectrum of regional biodiversity and avoid destroying dwindling habitat for a growing number of endangered species, we must think in full cycles and also ensure a steady supply of "middle-aged" recruits as well. Otherwise, in another generation there will be almost no more significant old growth characteristics at all, and extinction will be our local trademark.

Having said all this, how we treat each other and accomodate differences is just as important, and will also be revealed in the landscape. We can empathize with the professional foresters who find themselves struggling with such complex ethical and ecological issues. They may often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place - between the corporate mission to generate unsustainable profits and the communities that are awakening to the dire consequences for us all.

I just hope our local conflict doesn't propel I.T. to suddenly sell all these forested lands to some numbered company of predators that don't even know what consultation or carbon sequestration even means.