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  • Secrecy surrounds forest spraying

    James Steidle

    The Ministry of Environment, in fact, gets the maps before spraying. They just don’t have to alert the public.



    FROM ATHENIAN DEMOCRACY to the Magna Carta, it is a fundamental democratic principle that the taxpayer may scrutinize the public expenses they contribute to.

    So why don’t they let us see what we are brushing and spraying?

    It’s our money private companies are spending to grow dried out, herbicide-contaminated pine farms.

    Every cent that is spent doing this could have instead been collected through stumpage to pay for hospitals, schools, and fighting fires.

    So you’d think, as a basic requirement of democratic transparency, that we’d have a right to see how and where our money is being used. Right?

    But you don’t.

    Those spray maps and brushing maps showing the locations where this public money is being spent, which Stop the Spray BC demanded two years ago, are still not published, despite new reporting requirements in forestry.

    It’s not like they can’t do it. The Ministry of Environment in fact gets the maps before spraying. They just don’t have to alert the public. And indeed they don’t.

    Worse, there are no reporting requirements for proposed manual brushing. If a cutblock is getting simplified with brush saws, and no herbicides are being used, maps don’t have to be submitted to government until after the fact.

    So what happens when companies frivolously waste your money spraying and brushing things that don’t need to be sprayed or brushed? Who keeps tabs?

    It’s 100 percent legal, by the way, to treat an entire cutblock with not a single competing broadleaf on it. It’s also 100 percent legal to kill above and beyond what is legally necessary to achieve the “free growing” criteria (you can actually have quite a few broadleaf mixed in).

    So companies can legally waste your money. And, as the Forest Practices Board discovered in a 2017 investigation, they do.

    Back in 2018, when I got the spray maps directly from Canfor, I publicized a cutblock that shouldn’t have been marked for spraying. And what do you know? The company backed out of spraying it.

    This oversight saved taxpayers thousands of dollars and saved the moose a few aspen. But it wouldn’t have happened without the maps.

    Naturally, Canfor stopped giving me the maps after that.

    You’d think the Westminster tradition that we’ve inherited, with its comptroller generals and financial reporting requirements, would be keen to have some extra eyes on the public purse and the public forests.

    You would be wrong.

    Unelected bureaucrats, probably in tandem with corporate lobbyists, have created a despotic system that shields from public scrutiny the private expenditure of roughly $10 million of your dollars out in the bush, year after year.

    Maybe it’s better they brazenly undermine our democracy.

    After all, who wants to witness the sad and completely worthless practice of eliminating the landscape-cooling, fire-repelling broadleaf forest type in an era of megafires, dry lightning, and weeks of heat?

    James Steidle is a Prince George writer.

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