Monday, October 28, 2013

Coast Forest Products Association supports Professional Reliance

The newsletter of the Coast Forest products Association has an article that promotes professional reliance:

The article opens with this quotation: “Forestry isn’t rocket science. It is much more complicated” – Dr. Fred Bunnell UBC, Professor Emeritus. 

A good public relations piece on the merits of  trained,experienced professional foresters managing the public forests of British Columbia follows. It is rounded off with the engagement of the public through various public comment and involvement processes to present an idyllic picture of professional reliance. We do seem to be on a trajectory toward a glorious future of sustainable forest management according to the Coast Forest Products Association.

Maybe forestry is more complicated than rocket science. Some sawmills are closing down in the interior of BC at a time when dead timber from the mountain pine beetle epidemic is becoming less use-able. If we are to believe the established story that the epidemic was solely caused by climate change, a rocket scientist would not have been able to predict the major epidemic. The epidemic was predicted by a few humble foresters with lesser intellectual abilities than a rocket scientist. Lodge pole pine trees become susceptible to mountain pine beetle attack when they get about 80 years old. Huge areas of Lodge pole pine much greater than 80 years old were building up in the interior of British Columbia. This happened because the Forest Service suppressed fires in lodge pole pine and forest corporations were not harvesting enough of the species. The average rocket scientist would be able to figure this one out. 

We need to take a few lessons from rocket science. Smart rocket scientists are really into trajectory. Where things are headed, hitting the target and all that sort of thing. Professional reliance in forestry has popped up in BC over the last few years as somewhat of the latest innovation, and is being advanced by the  Association of BC Forest Professionals. However, the concept was in vogue over 100 years ago. The concept was an essential element in British Columbia's decision to retain most of its forests in public ownership. The forest were retained in public ownership so that they could be managed by independent trained forest professionals organized as the BC Forest Service. These trained foresters would be able to work for the public interest and ensure the sustainability of the public forests and their dependent communities. The initial trajectory of professional reliance got caught up in the orbit of the Forest Service handing over increasing forest management responsibilities to forest corporations. That orbit meant a complicated and inefficient regulatory framework that wasted the professional forester resources of both government and forest corporations. There is now a need to get out of this inefficient orbit and go on a new trajectory. 

The BC Government and forest corporations have been orbiting, or going round in circles, for years and are planning to get off and go on a trajectory again. Area based tenures, professional reliance and other associated topics are all part to the public relations launch pad. Where are we headed?  Let us review the last 100 years and think about what the rocket scientist might deduce as the target. 100 years ago we did not want forest corporations to manage our forests so we kept them in public ownership so they could be managed by independent professional foresters. Then we gave forest corporations some forest management responsibilities and they had their own foresters. More forest management control has be handed to forest corporations and now we are thinking about giving forest corporations long term leases in public forests and the public interest will be satisfied because they can rely on corporate employed foresters who will "involve" the public. We have been on a public relations trip for over 60 years to gradually enclose the public forests into the private interest or private timber interests. Professional reliance and other recent topics in BC forestry are just the last public relations booster rockets to propel the public forests inevitably into the private interest.

Don't be fooled, click on Democratic area based forest trusts in the sidebar for another trajectory featuring forest professionals that are accountable to the public through democratic local forest trusts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Truck Loggers support the "Working Forest"

On the hills and mountains of British Columbia lies a special kind of forest imbued with a kind of moral authority. It is called the "Working Forest" and it is supported by the Truck Loggers Association and also by many forest dependent communities.

The "Working Forest" is the forested parts of timber producing forest landscapes that can be harvested. In mountainous areas it may not be possible to build roads into all parts of the forest. Different types of harvesting equipment are used to move harvested logs to the roads. At the edges of the harvest-able forest, there are some areas that are marginal to harvest for economic reasons. In British Columbia, the average forest landscape has its "working forest" and about an equal area of forest that will not be harvested and stay in somewhat natural condition. This "non working forest" does its goofing-off near mountain tops, waterfalls and canyons and other interesting natural features. It is actually a massive un-designated wilderness area likely to remain in natural condition for the long term.

The "Working Forest" is not just the timber harvesting land in BC's public forests. It is a political and public relations term to frame forest issues and drive a wedge between people in hope of getting enough to line up for the cause. An environmental awakening starting about 1970, raised questions about the hegemony of corporate timber interests in BC public forests. Environmental organisations protested and managed to "save" more forests as protected areas. A large increase in protected areas or BC Parks occurred in the 1990s. Parks were expanded to 13 million hectares. Denmark, Holland and Switzerland together make up a little less than that area. The polarized debate known for a time as the "War in the woods" has never been fully resolved. The environmentalists moral high ground of "saving" forests was countered by the "working" forest. The Truck Loggers and some folk in forest dependent communities supported the "working" forest because they feared reduction in timber dollars. The "working forest" is little more than a political or public relations trick to get the Truck Loggers and forest dependent communities to support or increase the hegemony of corporate timber interests in BC's public forests.

Truck Loggers and folk in forest dependent communities think that they are supporting a strong forest economy by supporting the "working forest" or a forest with a sole economy from timber. The Montreal Process, an international standard for sustainable forest management encourages multiple social and economic benefits from forests. Within the timber part of a forests economy, there should be diversified wood products manufacture to ensure that the forest gives a maximum of value added dollars and employment. This has not been achieved because the forest corporations that control most of the harvest from BC's public forests are mainly into commodity wood products. Export tariffs that are a result of the favored position of these corporations also subtract from our forest economy. While non-timber forest products and nature based forest enterprises may not exceed the economic value of timber, these enterprises can add significant activity to the economy of forest dependent communities. Forested Parks can also add economic activity to forest dependent communities. The forest and other land within timber producing landscapes in BC that can not be harvested is a wilderness area that exceeds the area protected in Parks. Active management of these areas by planning and constructing hiking trails can add to the local tourist economy.

The "working forest" notion is about a limited forest economy that supports working only part of BC's public forests for economic benefit. Truck Loggers and forest dependent communities should set their economic sights a little higher and support a "complete forest" economy. The 'Complete Forest" economy will involve local independent management of forests by a professional management authority that will plan and manage timber, non- timber and nature based forest economic activity in the local landscape. Timber will sold on an open market to encourage diversified wood products manufacture with greater total employment and income. It is time for the Truck Loggers to upgrade from the "working forest" notion that supports corporate timber interests to the "complete forest" economy under a Democratic Local Forest Trust. (Read more about Local Forest Trusts and a British Columbia Forest Trust Assembly by clicking on the sidebar.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

British Columbia Truck Loggers having second thoughts?

Early in 2013,the British Columbia Liberal Government administration tried to sneak through legislation to bring more long term area based forest tenures in public forests. Against expectations, the Liberal Government was re-elected and the legislation lies dormant, but will probably resurface after a waiting period. (USA readers should note that Liberal in BC means right of center in the political spectrum). The BC Truck Loggers Association has been holding the torch on this issue and the Fall edition of their magazine has another article on these long term leases in public forests.

The Truck Loggers Association wants a healthy forest economy and has a genuine interest in the stewardship of BC's public forests. Area based forest management of public forests, with a long term steward taking responsibility for a defined area of forest is a much better alternative. There are long term stewardship advantages, but the argument should not be used with the assumption that the steward should be a forest corporation

 The article on area based tenures advances their merits, but there seem to be some doubts or at least second thoughts. TLA Executive Director, Dwight Yochim is suggesting a limit to the amount of area that a forest company may hold to prevent monopolies.
Bill Markvoort, the TLA President also notes "our system of quasi ownership creates significant distortions in the marketplace". 
The cover of the magazine features an excavator laying a pipeline and asks the question "Is this where forest contractors are heading". Forest contractors are still getting squeezed  by forest corporations, even though there has been improvement in the economy of the forest products sector.

Is the present system  working well for Truck Loggers or their communities? Maybe it is time for a major change in the system and institutions for managing public forests in BC. Incremental changes to an old system may not be the most effective. Our system for managing public forests needs to take a major leap or change.

Area based forest management is a better arrangement and more likely to result in a sustainable future for forests, contractors and communities. The next question is what sort of steward do we want to manage the defined area of forest.  Truck Loggers could think outside the box and consider the merits of a democratic local forest trust as the steward in area based management of public forests. If the forest contractor gets poor treatment from the professional managers of the local forest trust, he can appeal to the democratically board. Local forest trusts will manage all forest resources and include non timber forest products and nature based enterprises as part of the business. Timber will be sold on an open market and this will help to diversify forest products manufacture and free British Columbia from discriminatory export taxes. A local forest trust will conduct its own forest operations and will be interested in maintaining local forest contractors with up to date equipment and a high level of forest worker training. A local forest trust will take the concept of the "working forest" beyond the limited timber perspective of the forest corporation and generate greater social license. The  local forest trust will be a long term entity and a more stable steward than forest corporations that can be bought sold or amalgamated. Where is the great blue chip forest corporation Macmillan Bloedel today.  This giant of BC's forest industry disappeared in less time than it takes a tree to grow.  (Click on the sidebar label: Democratic area based forest trusts for more information on  Local Forest Trusts and a BC Forest Trust Assembly)

Truck  Loggers should not be bamboozled by the political rhetoric that will attempt to disguise that granting long term marketable area based forest tenures to forest corporations is an irretrievable step towards enclosing public forests into the private interest.  Historically, enclosure of common or public land has been accomplished gradually by incremental steps so the people get ripped off without noticing. The most recent article in the Truck Logger magazine supplies the following from Jim Hackett of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association: " It's still crown land. It is just another form of tenure that replaces the one that is there now. Currently you don't see fences and 'Keep Out' signs on area based tenures on the coast."  Keeping public forests in nominal Crown Land status will be central ruse in the upcoming grand land enclosure heist involving the theft of most of British Columbia.

We are inclined to think that public land enclosure will never happen in BC. It already has happened. The Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway Land Grant comprising probably the best piece of forest land in BC extends down the east side of Vancouver Island was given by BC to a coal baron, against strong public objection, as a bonus after building a railway at the expense of the Government of Canada. Mr. Hackett of the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association  should note that there are gates, fences and keep out signs in this area of enclosed forest land.

So Truck Loggers, this is your public forest and please show enough of that good old time logger independence and fortitude. Think of ABT as area based tenure and you have lost it, but if you think ABT as Area Based Trust you keep it. How about a few more articles on the merits of ABT (Area Based Trusts) in your magazine. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall in a coastal rain forest

Coastal forests of British Columbia experienced Fall rains earlier than usual this year. A summer drought normally extends through September with fall and winter rains usually commencing in October. The temperate rain forest environment has adapted to climate.

There is a hypothesis that the conifers of the Pacific Northwest are bigger than conifers elsewhere in the world because size gives a water holding advantage to overcome summer droughts. Some fern species get dehydrated and die back in the summer drought. They can spring new fresh growth in the Fall to take advantage of the wet moist fall, winter and spring. (See photo).

There is some maple alder and other deciduous species that give some Fall color but otherwise the forest stays green. Most conifers are evergreen with the exception of Larch that turns golden and looses its needles in the Fall. Some ancient living fossil tree species such as Ginkgo and Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides also change color and loose their leaves like deciduous hardwoods. Although conifers don't shed their leaves or needles like deciduous trees, they do loose old leaves or needles. The summer droughts in the coastal forests cause old needles to die and the first winds of fall will bring a carpet of golden needles to the forest floor.