Dear President Mierau and Council Members, Association of BC Forest Professionals (ABCFP):
By way of this letter, I resign my membership in the ABCFP.
I no longer wish to be part of an organization that alleges to “care for BC’s forest and forest lands,” while remaining silent about the degradation and frequent destruction of natural forest integrity and resilience perpetrated by the vast majority of forestry activities. I will provide examples of these endemic problems below.
The ABCFP spends more time worrying about what title people involved in forest management do or do not use than providing standards and oversight of activities to protect forest integrity and resilience. The constant reminder, under threat of fines and potential incarceration, to retired forest professionals that they are not permitted to practice forestry, even to provide advice, is a specific example of this problem. In many aspects of societies retired people are viewed as sources of wisdom to be consulted and listened to as a way of reaching sound conclusions that protect the public interest and the ecosystems that sustain them.
In the absence of definition and oversight of forest management in BC by the ABCFP, the organization has contributed significantly to the many endemic problems that plague the profession. Here are a few examples:
(1) A plethora of scientific articles urge the protection of primary forests and remaining intact forests to mitigate climate change and reduce loss of biodiversity. Incorporation of this knowledge into new ways of forest protection and use that maintain forests as carbon sinks, and sources of high levels of biodiversity are professional obligations to protect the public interest. Instead, the ABCFP promotes, often by their silence, “business as usual” forest management that exacerbates climate change and biodiversity loss, and shifts forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
(2) The determination of the allowable annual cut (AAC), along with where and how the AAC is extracted have major impacts on the integrity of forests and the well-being of forest-based human communities. However, the AAC is based on questionable (or no) science. Together with a strong lobby from the timber industry to keep the cut as high as possible for as long as possible, the structure used to calculate timber available results in non-sustainable AACs. This problem has become increasingly obvious as industrial forest tenure holders are unable to find trees to cut to meet their AACs and/or resort to logging of younger and younger trees to reach their AAC.
The ABCFP has an obligation to provide scientifically sound and precautionary models, inventory standards, and forestry methods that protect the broad public interest. This obligation has been shirked to the point that the ABCFP may be viewed as more of an industry lobby group than a professional association that stands up for the well being of the public. The actions and inaction of the ABCFP may be interpreted as being in support of keeping the level of cut as high as possible for as long as possible.
(3) Pure water is a vital ecological benefit produced by forests at no cost, as long as the natural integrity of forests are maintained. However, with the exception of some small non-industrial forestry operations, industrial forestry degrades water quality, quantity, and timing of flow. The degradation of water starts as soon as roads and the first logging occur in a watershed. As more roads and logging occur in a watershed the degradation of water grows.
The type of logging and its location within a watershed influence how large and long lasting the negative impacts of forestry on water are. The work of Younes Alila, UBC forest hydrologist, and his graduate students has been seminal in urging big changes to forest management to protect water. The public has also been very vocal (and right) about the many negative impacts of forestry to water. Science supports that old growth forests provide the best water with the most reliable flows. Climate scientists reminds us that with the loss of intact, natural forest cover, water problems will increase as climate change progresses, leading to more floods, droughts, and water shortages. However, the ABCFP has been silent about the wide ranging impacts of forestry on water, including floods and drought. This silence certainly looks like the ABCFP is captured by the timber industry and not acting in the public interest.
(4) Professional reliance, which was put in place by a provincial government that desired to privatize public forests has been entrenched in forestry practices as the modus operandi. This approach permits no disclosure of information to the public by timber companies about the standards and specific forest data on which timber management operations are based. Thus, we have private entities preparing plans and carrying out timber extraction on public lands with no effective accountability to the public. The ABCFP support for professional reliance is a direct conflict with their stated intention to protect the public interest. If that intention was real, the ABCFP would support the abolition of professional reliance and support the development and enforcement of clear, precautionary standards for forest management. The public interest is not protected by turning forests over to the discretion of the timber industry. The public interest is protected by ensuring that all forest activities maintain the natural ecological integrity and biodiversity that provide the ecological benefits that the public depends upon.
(5) Clearcutting has been thoroughly discredited for its wide ranging negative impacts on carbon sequestration and storage; biodiversity; water quality, quantity, and timing of flow; and non-timber forest uses. Climate scientists have been vocal in their opposition to clearcutting, because it exacerbates climate change and fuels biodiversity loss. Yet, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, clearcutting remains the system of choice for most timber management in BC. This is another place where the ABCFP silence is in direct opposition to the public interest. Even if short-term employment is the only aspect of the public interest considered, clearcuts still fail to deliver as much employment as ecologically responsible partial cuts.
(6) In the world’s rush to commit to less carbon intensive forms of energy, BC forests have now become a target for the wood pellet industry that supplies wood pellets to burn for the production of electricity in the United Kingdom, Japan, and elsewhere. Burning wood pellets to produce electricity emits significantly more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of electricity produced than burning coal. At best, burning wood pellets is a misguided attempt to lower greenhouse gas emissions. At worst, it is blatant greenwashing.
As another place to market timber, the timber industry in BC has eagerly joined the chorus promoting the development of the wood pellet industry in BC. Allegedly, the wood for these pellets comes from waste from logging and sawmilling operations. This situation has been rationalized by the declaration by forest professionals that portions of trees that are not merchantable logs are “waste” that is burned after logging is finished. In reality, no tree parts are waste. The “waste” that is now burned needs to be left on the ground, because it is an important part of forest composition that functions to replenish soil nutrients, conserve water, and provide habitat for a variety of organisms essential to forest functioning.
To add to the problems created by wood pellets, there is abundant, credible evidence that intact BC forests, including old-growth forests, are being logged to produce and export wood pellets. Protection of these intact forests, particularly old-growth and other primary forests, is extremely important to mitigate climate change and slow biodiversity loss
The ABCFP is silent about the problems created by the wood pellet industry, despite the fact that creation of wood pellets is not in the best interest of the public, particularly since it increases greenhouse gas production. Apparently, the ABCFP maintains that what is good for the timber industry is good for the public interest.
Another aspect of this issue is that the former chief forester of BC, Diane Nicholls, is now the Drax vice president of sustainability. Drax, located in the UK, is the world’s largest user of wood pellets to generate electricity. The switch from senior government official to senior industry manager was made after Nicholls facilitated the development of the wood pellet industry in BC.
Nicholls is a prominent member of the ABCFP. Despite her unethical actions around facilitation of the expansion of the wood pellet industry and then leaving government to join Drax, the ABCFP has not initiated a review of Nicholls behaviour vis a vis the Code of Ethics. The likely reason to be cited by the ABCFP is that disciplinary proceedings need to be initiated by an individual, either a member of the ABCFP or the general public. This raises another example of the ABCFP practicing a culture of silence on prominent issues they need to speak out about in order to protect the public interest and the overall credibility of forest professionals.
(7) In her role as Chief Forester, Diane Nicholls established the “Chief Foresters Leadership Team,” to provide her with advice about how to manage the forests of BC. The Leadership Team consists of the chief foresters of all the major timber companies throughout BC. Such a “team” skews the advice to recommendations that support timber extraction and away from advice that supports protection of forest integrity and the broad public interest. This is yet another example of the silence of the ABCFP in issues critical to the conservation and sustainable management of the public forests of BC. The ABCFP has the opportunity to support development of a Chief Forester’s Leadership Team that is inclusive of experts on the diverse issues affected by forest management, from climate change and biodiversity loss to non-timber enterprises and Indigenous reconciliation. Such a leadership team would also include representatives of the general public, who are familiar with the current practices of forest management. The failure of the ABCFP to suggest a more appropriate leadership team than that appointed by the chief forester appears to be another example of the systemic timber bias of the organization.
FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE FOREST and all life that depends on healthy, intact forests, the success (or failure) of a forest professional is measured by their footprints in the forest. Good forest management leaves few footprints and fully functioning forests. Unfortunately, most of the forestry done in BC leaves many large footprints and degraded forests. The ABCFP’s role in the large footprints of forestry is a measure of their hypocrisy when one compares their code of ethics and other public documents with what actually happens in the forest.
All one needs to do is fly across the province to see the dire state of forest management. From there it requires little analysis to understand the large negative impacts that forestry has on all aspects of ecological integrity and biological diversity. The ecological benefits from pure water to carbon storage have been seriously degraded by industrial forestry. This has resulted in forestry being the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in BC. Industrial forestry exacerbates climate change and biodiversity loss, thereby contributing globally to the climate and biodiversity crises. Industrial forestry is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The forests are in trouble. Earth’s climate is collapsing. The ABCFP and many of its members are complicit in this trouble.
Transformational change in how we define and practice forestry is needed. However, the ABCFP seems to have chosen to ignore increasingly loud and dire warnings from climate and ecological scientists that intact natural forests need protection to mitigate climate disruption and reduce biodiversity loss. Instead of supporting needed change to forestry/forest management, the ABCFP and most of its members have chosen to support continued logging of intact natural forests across BC. That approach leads to a dead end that will not only harm forests, but also human society.
I no longer wish to be part of an organization that is unable to see the forest for the timber.