The massive project to replace BC's primary forests with plantations and managed forests has great costs associated with it. Who should pay for the damage being done?
Merritt flooded in November after heavy—but not record-breaking—rains. Widespread clearcutting in the Coldwater watershed was likely a major contributor to the flooding.
THE FOREST LICENSEES—including BC Timber Sales—who created the extensive network of clearcuts across BC should be held liable for the major portion of the ensuing flood damage experienced. The same ought to apply to late-summer droughts with their associated damage and related costs. And an assessment of liability for the growing number of large forest fires in BC’s southern Interior needs to be made as well.
It is a basic moral and ethical tenet that one who creates chaos with subsequent damage occurring, is responsible, and can and should be held accountable for it.
Unfortunately the current governments, at all levels, don’t subscribe to this tenet. So far, the forest licensees refuse to acknowledge that there is any, let alone a definitive, link between the extensive clearcuts dominating BC’s forested landscape and the subsequent floods and summer droughts. And the provincial government blithely accepts this and does the same. Many credible studies show otherwise.
As most people are likely aware, a small group of Grand Forks residents have filed a class-action lawsuit against the major forest licensees in the Boundary area, claiming restitution for flood damages incurred in 2018. (See document at end of story). Hopefully, the outcome of this lawsuit will correct the forest licensee oversight and claims of innocence. Perhaps the residents and communities of Princeton and Merritt and the agriculture producers located nearby should file a similar lawsuit. There is strength in numbers.
And, because of this very irresponsible and untenable stance by the forest licensees, the process of creating such clearcuts continues unabated across BC today, and will continue tomorrow and into the future at virtually the same rate, or very closes thereto, as it has in the past. At least until all the old growth is gone. And this process is strongly supported by the government.
All credible predictions indicate that there will be more episodic weather events accompanied by, or followed closely by, extreme winds, flood and drought events in the near future. Very likely these events will be even more intense than those recently experienced.
We all need to convince the BC Government to reduce the allowable annual cut with the attendant extensive clearcuts created also being reduced. In spite of the fact that—as we all know—we subsidize the forest industry (e.g. via the Forest Enhancement funds etc. etc.) as the provincial government continues to pay out millions to billions of dollars to repair all the damage caused by the floods and subsequent droughts. One might call these “hidden” or “indirect” subsidies but, nonetheless, they are still subsidies. A recent estimate put the costs of the damage caused by the recent floods and those to replace and/or repair the losses and damages to be ~ $30 billion dollars! That basically bankrupts BC. If there’s no money in the bank, how will any future such events be “handled”?
A information bulletin (see attached document at end of story) on how to make damage claims for flood damage was recently sent out to all ranchers and agriculture producers experiencing flood damage. This form directs them on how to get government to pay them for the damages experienced. This represents an obvious form of subsidies to the forestry and agriculture industries, of whom the cattle ranchers have always been favoured recipients.
Ditto for the dikes, roads and bridges being fixed, for which the taxpayers of BC will pay. However, a good part of the costs incurred should be paid for by the forest licensees. Yet they claim innocence and the provincial government blithely agrees with them. More willful blindness!
I and several other people have long been asking the government to conduct a formal review of the TSR process as it is seriously flawed and needs mega changes.
There are four major issues that the results of this process inherently legitimize and hence enable. These are:
The creation of the extensive clearcuts that dominate BC’s landscape today—and which are increasing every day.
The construction of an extensive and ever expanding road system to enable the harvesting/clearcutting. There are already close to 700,000 km of resource roads in BC today with more being added daily.
The focusing of harvesting on old-growth stands, which results in their rapid extirpation. However, doing so keeps BC’s allowable annual cut at an unsustainable level, albeit for a relatively short time. Certainly a zero-sum game.
All of the above are enabled by the timber supply review process. This enabling, as long as it is in play, will determine the future status of BC’s forests and all related resources. Based on past and current experiences, with no meaningful changes in the timber supply review process, the future of BC’s forests is extremely bleak. BC’s forests will, in the future, undoubtedly not be near as healthy, as resilient or as productive as they were or are, even at present. Their present status is obviously not good.
As per Einstein’s famous saying: “We cannot keep doing what we have been doing and expect to get different results.”
Clearcuts and plantations upstream from Grand Forks in the Kettle River Valley
This obviously applies to the timber supply review process (1). Nonetheless, the several requests made to the premier, the relevant deputy and assistant deputy ministers related to forests to conduct a formal review of this process and subsequently change it, have all been denied.
If we continue harvesting our forests and building ever more roads to enable this harvesting there is no question that we will experience the following:
Increased frequency of abnormal climatic events: Wind storms, rain storms with attendant flood damage, fall droughts with extensive damage to aquatic ecosystems and loss of agriculture crops due to flooding and irrigation restrictions and increasing tree mortality due to insects, diseases and drought stress etc.
Loss of transportation infrastructure causing undue harm to everyone in BC due to inability to reach medical facilities, attend to emergencies, to feed and care for livestock, to reduce shortages of food and other essential items.
Enormous costs, in the billions of dollars—and rising, required to repair the flood damage and to cover the costs of goods (homes, buildings, fences etc.) damaged or destroyed. We don’t have the financial capability to properly attend to the above.
Continued conflict with the Indigenous groups across BC
A general breakdown in society due to all of the above.
Even if we significantly reduce our allowable annual cut immediately, because of the already degraded state of our forests and impending climatic events, we will continue to experience many of the above effects well into the future. Nonetheless, undertaking a formal review of the timber supply review process and subsequently making significant changes to it is far better done sooner than later. Such undertaking is already, and very obviously, far overdue.
Professional forester Fred Marshall was one of the founders of both the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations and the Wood Product Development Council (WPDC). He has also served as federation president and was president of the Boundary Woodlot Association. Fred holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale, has taught at both Malaspina and Selkirk Colleges and has developed four university-level courses accredited by the ABCFP. He and wife Jane operate a ranch and woodlot near Midway.
1. For example. The just released (Dec. 14, 2021) TSR AAC Determination for TFL 33 indicated an increase in the AAC from 21,000M3 to 23,160M3, a 10% increase. An increase that is largely attributable to the inherent focus of the TSR process to maintain or increase the AAC and, the Chief Forester’s refusal to appropriately use the Precautionary Principle which ignores expected and imminent climatic events.