Below, I share the conversation I am having with Colin of Mosaic. His reply to my original letter is first, my counter-reply follows. Just for anyone who is interested in the ongoing dialogue.
Thank you for your letter and your questions and comments. I wanted to provide you with the following information to help answer your questions. As follows:
How will you guarantee your lands are kept in forestry for the long term? In the recent past, your corporate predecessors have sold much of your land to buyers that then quickly cut and sell.
The goals for our private managed forest lands on Cortes are to manage them for long term forest management. Forest management includes selecting seed from our seed orchard, to choosing appropriate seedlings for reforestation, to stand tending and harvesting (and repeating this cycle again). MacMillian Bloedel and Weyerhaeuser are predecessor companies to Mosaic Forest Management well before my time so I can’t speak to details of any past transactions with those organizations. With that said I do believe the last property sale was for Whaletown Commons lead to the Strathcona Regional District designating it as a park space. During the community Zoom session, we shared that we’re in discussions with groups from Cortes that are interested in land acquisition, however we cannot discuss details of those discussions to respect those involved.
How will your management strategy make your lands less vulnerable to wild fire? Are you willing to thin the forests you own to make them less vulnerable?
Mosaic considers the risk of wildfire to be one of the greatest threats to our private managed forest lands and to adjacent communities. During the last five years approximately 70% of the fires on our lands were caused by humans. In terms of our forest management, wildfire risk is mitigated by managing the amount of combustible materials in the forest (known as fuel load). Fuel load is reduced through harvest of primary products and through managing post harvest materials. The Wildfire Act legislates us to abate the risk of wildfire, and we do this through very high fiber utilization standards and by removing much of the post harvest fibre for firewood and other minor wood products.
Mosaic has considerable focused resources for the wildfire season including the following: an agreement with the BC Wildfire Service for initial attack and cooperation with them on many levels, resourcing security patrols, overview flights and having heavy lift helicopters on standby throughout the driest months and working with various community groups during fire season to manage public access and liabilities.
In addition our three year plan includes just 11ha/year (1% of our Private Managed Forest Lands on Cortes) so commercial thinning at this point in time is not being considered.
I’ve included a link with additional information should you be interested.https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5e7a7ad9d2a2ed0752ff8f54/t/5f6f85762f2c3c201b0877b6/1601144187559/Mosaic%2BWildfire%2BFactSheet%2B2020.pdf
How will your management lead to older forests?
Mosaic’s operating areas on Cortes are made up of predominantly second and third generation forests. For old forests on Cortes, Mosaic is committed to not harvesting any stands greater than 200 years old, avoiding continuous old areas greater than 1ha in size and working to leave individual old trees standing as operationally feasible. Additionally, important habitats such as riparian areas are reserved from harvest, and will grow older over time, creating older forests.
In addition to those commitments, close to 25% of the Cortes Island land base is allocated to Parks, Protected areas and areas set aside for conservation (2,835ha).
How will your operations lead to more local employment over time? What about secondary manufacture?
Mosaic will be considering hiring of contractors from Cortes Island or this region that meet requirements associated with Safe certification, qualifications and experience in the forest industry. In terms of secondary manufacture, we have recently offered local log sales to Cortes saw millers and will continue to do so when volume becomes available with continuing operations.
What is the effect of your cutting plans on carbon release?
From a science-based perspective, trees, wood and logs are all part of the climate solution. There are many benefits to the climate with sustainably managed forests. Below is a link to a fact sheet from NCASI (National Council on Air and Stream Improvement) which outlines scientific information relating to managed forests in relation to climate change.https://www.ncasi.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/NCASI22_Forest_Carbon_YoungVsOld_print.pdf
In carbon accounting you must consider that non-wood construction materials rely on a greater use of fossil fuels and are not locally sourced. Also products made with fossil fuel-based materials store less carbon than when made with wood. Fossil fuels are required to produce lumber products but our mix of tree ages mitigate our overall impact and younger forests sequester carbon at a faster rate than older forests. Mosaic has 3rd party assurance of our supply chain footprint and considers the full scope and lifecycle of carbon in our strategic planning. We have many ongoing initiatives that focus on reducing our emissions and maximizing sequestration of the forests. If you’d like to learn about Mosaic and carbon management please see the following link: https://www.mosaicforests.com/carbon-climate-change
Landscape level planning and community consultation are needed before you proceed with your plans.
Our proposed Three year plan applies to Private Managed Forest Lands and includes 11ha/year of proposed harvest (which is less than 0.1 % of the Cortes Island area). We are coordinating with forest tenure holders in the area and have considered information in the Cortes Landscape Unit Sustainable Resource Management Plan. We have provided another update in the Tideline this week that includes maps, FAQ’s, and an invite to upcoming community engagements.
Thank you again for taking the time to share your letter, questions and comments.
Thanks for your response. Here are some follow-up questions.
1. Your answer suggests you have a “goal” of keeping your lands in forest management. But nothing that will enforce it. Companies and managers come and go. So your company, at any time can sell its lands, as did your predecessors. You may not have the personal experience with your predecessors selling lands, by many of us here do. Both MB and Weyerhauser talked about their commitment to “sustainability” but properties got sold to buyers that clearcut and sold their lands, without consideration of future forestry. The parcels were fully cut in one go, and not replanted. Most of the previous efforts, feeble as they might have been, to have a “sustainable harvest” were not respected by new owners. The only way I imagine your commitment to forestry is sincere is to create covenants that keep you from cutting and selling. These should be in place before further planning.
I understand you are in negotiations with the Children’s forest for the purchase of that property. If nothing else, that sale should be completed before you do any more harvest planning. Otherwise it is just “talking” to obtain community support.
2. I am no expert on wildfire, but is seems obvious that even age stands are much more likely to allow fire to spread through the forest. You say you will manage slash better, but that only reduces risk for a few years after clearcutting. Even age stands of young trees seem particularly vulnerable to fire. So by taking an older stand and clearcutting you are increasing the fire risk considerably.
3. 200 year old stands protected from cutting? How is that helpful when almost all of the older forests of Cortes have been cut. Where will the older stands come from? If you cut everything that is younger, what does the future look like? Small strips of older trees lining the creeks (better than nothing!) while the rest of the landscape is repeatedly cut over time. I don’t think you should claim that other protected areas are a replacement from Mosaic allowing older forests to grow on the properties you manage. Please, don’t just pass the buck.
4. Hiring local workers/ contractors is a good idea. You may have noticed the community forest has been engaged in training forest workers. If the local worker are not available, you should train them first. This requires a long term commitment to the community.
As I stated before, the community forest can supply the local millers with all the logs they can handle. Local manufacturing for off-island markets is needed. This should be set up before the trees are cut. Otherwise, almost all your logs will be shipped off the island with little benefit to the community.
5. From the info you sent, it looks like young forest sequester carbon more quickly than older forests. But old forest store a lot more. You see this as a justification for creating young forests! When you clearcut much of that stored carbon is released. This negates any benefit from younger forests for generations to come. If you haven’t heard, we are in the midst of a catastrophic warming of the climate caused be the release of carbon dioxide. In the face of this I can’t seen any justification to create large carbon releases based on possible future sequestration.
6. Needless to say, I don’t see anything like landscape level planning being proposed here.
We really need a paradigm shift in how forestry is done in BC. Now is a lot better than later to ask ourselves why we do what we do, and to what end.
I am sure you have created a career seeing the forests as commodities. But they are so much more. We all live in bubbles. Foresters seem particularly prone to not being able to think outside of theirs. I imagine it must be really hard to see it any other way. But now is a great time to start!
I look forward to a continued conversation with the community about these and other issues concerning Mosic’s plans.