Friday, March 5, 2010

BC Public Forests: The False Dilemma

A false dilemma is a device of falsehood. Two choices are presented when there are really more and often better choices. The BC Public has been served a false dilemma on their public forests for one quarter of a century. The two choices come from the war in the woods. Environmental organisations put evangelical fervor into saving forests and reserving them as protected areas. The forest sector counters with the importance of timber to the economy and wants forests turned into commercial forest reserves.

While some take the side of the environmentalists, many residents are swayed by lots of fear talk about impact of parks on the timber economy. The forest sector likes to wave the economic trump card. However,the public as shareholders of BC's public forests should be demanding some economic accountability from the forest sector. What does the forest sector say about its value stripping of the best timber on the BC coast over the past 60 years? It is barely able to operate on what it left for itself. In the interior of BC, failure to harvest sufficient lodge pole pine over the past 40 years, led to aging pine stands that became susceptible to mountain pine beetle attack. The present 13 million hectare epidemic is larger than a natural disaster. The epidemic means a loss of $100 Billion in public forest resources. BC's forest sector has not provided sterling economic management of public forest resources.

Sustainable forest management is the other choice that has not been presented to the public. Sustainable forest management is not just about sustaining timber supplies. It is defined by an international scientific agreement called the Montreal Process. Most people are surprised to learn that protecting representative forest in parks is part of sustainable forest management. It is really a spectrum of good management that applies to parks and timber producing forests.

Another important feature of sustainable forest management is diversifying the local forest economy. While timber is likely to remain the top dollar earner, non-timber forest products, and non consumptive nature based economic activities can add additional dollars to a local economy. The BC forest sector is in our public forests for timber and has no interest in managing our forests for these other benefits.

The false dilemma does not represent the geographic reality of BC's forests. Approximately 13.5 million hectares or 14% of BC is protected in parks. However, there is an even greater area of wilderness, that is likely to remain in natural condition. Where are these unofficial natural areas? They are found in forest landscapes that are also used for timber production. It includes forest that cannot be harvested, alpine areas, mountain tops, glaciers, streams, rivers and lakes.

To manage our diverse forest landscapes for many economic and social benefits,the public or shareholders of BC's public forests need independent professional forest management applied locally.

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