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General News · 9th February 2022
Barry Saxifrage
As a long-time Cortes resident, I'm concerned about the potential climate impacts from Mosaic's planned timber harvest here. I haven't been able to find the information I need to evaluate these climate impacts from either their Zoom presentation or flyer. So, I wrote Mosaic a letter with my questions plus a short discussion of the forest carbon issues as I understand them.

If this is an issue you are interested in as well, I've attached my full letter to them at the bottom of this article (PDF). And I've included a summary of my three questions here:

Q1: How much CO2 will be emitted by the Mosaic harvest?

With climate impacts worsening here in B.C. and worldwide, the public needs clarity and transparency on the emissions that could result from significant projects like this. I haven't seen any CO2 numbers from Mosaic, so I'm starting the discussion with my own ballpark estimate of 6,000 to 8,000 tonnes of CO2 per year (tCO2/year). This would be the single largest source of climate emissions that I'm aware of on our island, at roughly 6 to 8 tCO2 per year per resident. I'm hoping Mosaic will be transparent with the public and share their CO2 assumptions and numbers.

Q2: How is Mosaic planning to mitigate these thousands of tonnes of CO2?

According to government data, B.C.'s managed forest lands are no longer net absorbers of CO2. Over the last decade the forest emitted nearly 400 MtCO2 more than was absorbed. The wood harvested from it emitted another 450 MtCO2 on top of that. Our managed forest isn't replacing the wood/carbon being harvested from it. Instead, the harvested wood is adding additional CO2 to the air, just like fossil fuel burning is. What is Mosaic's plan for all the CO2 their harvesting will emit?

Q3: What is Mosaic's plan to cover the rising risk of carbon-replacement failure?

To be climate-safe & sustainable, the seedlings planted after harvesting must replace the carbonwood that the logged mature forest would have contained. The risk of replacement failures is increasing as climate change intensifies. Natural Resources Canada's State of Canada's Forests 2020 report says, "projected climate change is expected to be 10 to 100 times faster than the ability of forests adapt." It goes on to say that "while well-established adult trees can often withstand increased stress, seedlings are highly vulnerable."

Nobody is certain anymore what kinds of seedlings (sources, genetics, mixtures) will survive and thrive well enough in our rapidly changing climate to provide carbon replacement of the mature forest. And it can take decades to find out if the seedling choices Mosaic is going to make now will fail or not. One way to reduce this risk is for Mosaic to post a carbon-bond to cover remediation costs if their seedling guesses fail to thrive and restore enough carbon. Bonding is a common practice in many industries to ensure future remediation costs don't fall on the public. Will Mosaic post remediation bonds?

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B.C.'s and Canada's managed forests are not the same as they were decades ago. The government data shows that the forests are struggling. They aren't replacing the wood being harvested from them. Their total wood volume and carbon stocks are declining. And they've started pouring CO2 into the air in a threatening climate feedback loop.

Harvesting fish faster than a fishery can recover isn't sustainable. Neither is harvesting wood faster than our forest can replace it. Worse, over-harvesting wood adds the threat of rising greenhouse gas levels, destabilizing our climate and acidifying our oceans and lakes. For wood harvesting to be climate-safe and sustainable, harvest plans must address the new carbon reality that our managed forest lands aren't replacing harvested wood and have started emitting CO2 instead.

Barry Saxifrage
Cortes Island

Collapse of the carbon sink in BC forests
Collapse of the carbon sink in BC forests
CO2 emitted by BC forest and harvested wood since 2005
CO2 emitted by BC forest and harvested wood since 2005