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  • Portal: The over-exploitation of BC forests

    David Broadland
    BC logging companies export 80 percent of the products made from our forests. As a result, BC’s record of forest loss, per capita, is worse than Bolivia’s and far worse than Brazil’s. This rate of forest loss, made worse by losses to insects, forest fires and disease, is neither sustainable nor ethical.
    WHILE MANY British Columbians loathe clearcut logging—especially clearcut logging of old-growth forests, these are mere symptoms of a much bigger problem: the over-exploitation of BC forests. Over the last 20 years, industrial logging of live, healthy trees has destroyed more forest than the Mountain Pine Beetle, disease and forest fires combined. This has created a remarkable outcome. Among the ten most-forested states on Earth, BC has the highest per capita rate of forest cover loss. This is a measure of how completely BC’s logging industry has seized control of publicly-owned forests.

    BC experienced an immense amount of forest loss as a result of the beetle infestation over those 20 years. It also experienced significant growth in the size and intensity of forest fires. Yes, nature has taken its toll on our forests, especially under the influence of human-created climate change. But those natural forces are at work in those other countries, too, so BC’s record can’t be excused by blaming it on nature. In fact, if we take the forest loss due to natural causes out of the numbers for BC and leave them in for all the other countries, BC still has the worst record of forest loss on planet Earth:

    So why is this vast forest removal project occurring? Let’s consider the rationale offered by the proponents of primary forest liquidation and then come back to why it’s really happening.
    Industry and government in BC often cite a purely economic rationale for why we should use our forests to the extent we do: We need employment, building materials, foreign currency and government revenue. But if forest removal in BC was occurring at a rate necessary to meet those needs, the rate of removal per capita would align with other countries with similar economic needs, like the USA. Instead, BC’s per capita rate of forest loss is much, much higher than the USA’s. In fact, comparison of BC’s per capita forest removal with heavily forested but economically poorer states around the planet leads to the inevitable conclusion that something in BC has gone very haywire over the past 20-30 years.
    Consider Bolivia. It’s the 8th most heavily forested country in the world. It has an area of 1.099 million square kilometres, just slightly larger than BC’s 944,735. Between 2001 and 2019, Bolivia lost 5.68 million hectares of forest as a result of logging, fire, disease and insect infestation. In that same period, BC lost 7.88 million hectares to all causes. During those 20 years, Bolivia’s average population was 10.4 million, BC’s was 4.74 million.
    When you do the arithmetic, Bolivia’s forest loss from all causes over those 20 years amounted to .545 hectares per capita. BC lost 1.66 hectares per capita, more than three times Bolivia’s loss. Yet Bolivia is considered an international pariah when it comes to forest loss.
    While government and industry claim that the rate of forest removal in BC is as high as it is because it’s necessary to feed forestry families, there’s little evidence that this is actually the case.

    Protest against forest conservation by the BC Truck Loggers Association in Victoria (Photo: Global TV)
    Between BC and Bolivia, there’s no question about which country has the greatest economic need to exploit its forests. In 2010, the mid-point of the 20-year period we’re considering, Bolivia’s per capita GDP was around $1900 per person. BC’s was $41,327. In other words, Bolivia had a much greater economic need, per capita, to exploit its forest resource than BC did. Yet BC’s per capita rate of forest loss was over three times as high as Bolivia’s. Keep in mind that BC’s high per capita GDP had little to do with the forest industry, which in 2010 accounted for only about 2.5 percent of BC’s GDP, according to the BC government. By 2019, that had fallen to 1.8 percent.

    So the “we need to feed our families” rationale for why BC needs to devastate its primary forests is completely bogus, a fiction used by the industry to divert the attention of BC’s TV and newsprint journalists away from the world-class clearcuts.
    The employment rationale is undermined by the facts, too. Direct jobs in the forest industry were cut in half during the 20-year period we’re considering, yet the area of forest removed in a year may have fluctuated in response to market conditions but is slightly higher now than 20 years ago when there were twice as many people working in the industry. Moreover, the fraction of total employment contributed by the forest industry to BC’s economy got smaller and smaller. In other words, contrary to what they say, there is no commitment by government or industry to link the extent of forest removal with employment.

    Logging industry supporters point to BC’s need for foreign currency as justification for the high level of forest removal. This is almost laughable, especially when we consider how BC is marketed to the international tourism market: Super, Natural BC. Tourism is a bigger industry in BC than the forest products industry, and international tourism brings foreign currency directly to BC. Those tourists don’t come to see clearcuts, they come for BC’s purported scenic beauty and wildlife, both of which are being threatened by the extent of logging. If BC needed more foreign currency, it would be more effective to attract more tourists, not create the conditions that will drive them away.
    Government revenue? There is no net revenue for government from the forest industry. Once you include the huge hidden cost of direct public subsidies involved, there is a huge net loss to the public purse, a cost that is greater then the industry’s contribution to provincial GDP.
    Finally, what about BC’s need for wood products, like dimensional lumber and toilet paper? Since 80 percent of the wood products made from forest removal in BC over the last 20 years were exported to other countries, there is no justification for the claim that forest removal is as high as it is because BC needs the wood products for its own use. And it is that very high level of exports that is the underlying cause of the over-exploitation of BC forests. Only 20 percent of the forest logged in BC is used to meet BC’s needs. The rest is exported, mainly to the USA, China and Japan.
    It is noteworthy that those three countries now have much higher levels of protection for their own primary forests than BC does. China banned all logging of its primary forests in 2020. In the US Pacific Northwest, where forests are comparable to BC’s, clearcut logging in old-growth forests on public land was ended in the 1990s. The Biden administration recently ended clearcutting of old-growth forest in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. A survey of satellite images of Japanese forests shows little to no clearcutting is taking place in that country.
    It’s also noteworthy that China and the USA are two of the world’s largest exporters of wood products. They import wood from BC, remanufacture it to a higher value and then sell it to other countries. Teal Cedar Products, for example, has a mill in Surrey that produces rough lumber. It then ships that lumber across the border to its remanufacturing facility in Sumas, Washington and adds value to it there.
    While export markets are the main driver of primary forest removal in BC, it is the policies of the forests ministry—which, to put it bluntly, have been written by the logging industry—that allows such a vast over-engagement with that market. Large companies, through the Council of Forest Industries, have effectively executed a regulatory capture of the provincial forests ministry and de facto privatization of BC’s purportedly “publicly owned” forests. That story is covered elsewhere on this site.
    The resulting over-exploitation of BC’s forests is now highly evident in satellite images of almost every landscape across the province. To experience this destruction on the ground can be both shocking and motivating.

    Satellite image of BC above Paradise Lake near Peachland

    Clearcut near Peachland. On the ground, the physical size of the clearcuts permitted by the ministry of forests is shocking. (Photo by Will Koop)
    Our purpose in this section of the site is to develop an understanding of how much of BC’s allowable annual cut could be eliminated in order to conserve forests as a response to the climate and biodiversity crises, and how much of the cut would need to be given up just to bring BC in line with less extreme members of the global community, like Bolivia and Brazil.
    BC has, basically, three options. The first is to ignore the fact that it is, by global standards, over-exploiting its forests and will soon be seen, in this era of climate emergency and biodiversity collapse, as an international pariah, like Brazil and Bolivia, only worse. Making sure international customers are aware of what’s happening in BC will be essential if the ministry continues to be unresponsive to the unfolding climate and biodiversity crises in BC.
    The second option is to reduce the cut so that it just meets our own needs and no more. Let the USA, China and Japan figure out how to meet their own needs without using BC as a sacrifice zone.
    The third option would be to make a paradigm shift to ecosystem-based forest management, where “extraction of timber” would only occur at a level that didn’t degrade ecosystems. In that case, we would need to adjust our “need” to what’s actually available without harming our life support system.
    Those of us who have a conviction that all this forest destruction is unsustainable and harming humanity’s future on Earth need to act. The forest destruction that’s occurring just to feed the export market is a huge target begging for action. The current government, advised by industry and ministry of forests personnel who relate to forests in terms of “fibre” and “feedstock,” seems unaware that BC has fallen so far into industrial extremism. Our challenge will be to wake them up and get them moving in the right direction.

    David Broadland
    Note to the ministry of forests: Please correct me if I’m wrong, but the current sustained yield timber supply is below 50 million cubic metres per year, right?

    Logging in the Prince George Timber Supply Area (Photo by Sean O’Rourke/Conservation North)
    THERE WERE A NUMBER OF DRAMATIC LOGGING-RELATED EVENTS in 2021 that riveted public attention on the state of BC forests. Canada’s largest act of mass civil disobedience at Fairy Creek. Devastating forest fires and pervasive smoke in June, July and August. Flooding of communities and washouts of transportation infrastructure in November. But there was one critical, year-long event that didn’t get any attention at all, and this one event lies at the core of all the catastrophes that did capture our attention.
    According to the ministry of forests’ harvest record for 2021, logging companies hauled 50.2 million cubic metres of logs out of publicly-owned forests. Given the record high prices for logs and lumber in 2021, we can reasonably infer that number—50.2 million cubic metres—now approximates the upper limit of annual timber supply in BC. If so, that’s a much lower level of supply than indicated by any previous projection by the ministry of forests. For example, it is 38 percent below the ministry’s prediction of timber supply for 2021 that was made in 2004. That’s an astonishing decline in expectation.
    The difference between the ministry’s 2004 prediction of timber supply and 2021’s actual supply was equivalent to approximately 20,000 direct jobs—or 40,000 “direct, indirect and induced jobs” as the industry might put it.
    We can expect that over the next few years a raging debate will develop over why this decline has occurred. At the moment, the ministry appears unwilling to publicly acknowledge how far timber supply has fallen; mainstream media seem stuck in the past and misreport the actual case; and industry-friendly reporters seem intent on blaming conservationists for the decline, whatever it is.
    We will come back to these barriers to public understanding later in the story, but first let’s consider some basic facts about timber supply and how, in practice, it differs from what the ministry of forests refers to as “AAC,” or allowable annual cut.
    Although the ministry of forests establishes a provincial AAC each year (see graph below), over the last 20 years that level has almost always been well above the actual cut each year. That’s because the official AAC doesn’t reflect just the physical limits of sustained yield. The Forest Act requires that AAC for publicly owned forest be based on sustained yield—the physical limitations to forest growth—but it allows the AAC to be fudged upward for “the economic and social objectives of the government.” That should be read as “for political reasons.”
    By fudging the official AAC well above the actual cut, the ministry has been able to claim that the actual cut is lower than the allowable annual cut, creating the appearance that the ministry is carefully stewarding BC’s forests.

    Doesn’t that graph reassure you that the ministry of forests has a conservative approach to managing publicly owned forests? Every year, the industry cuts less than it could.
    Sadly, that is not the case. The official AAC bears little resemblance to what the ministry has determined could be cut on a sustained yield basis. That disconnect becomes evident when we consider the ministry’s record of timber supply forecasts since 1994, and compare those with its record of allowable annual cuts and its record of actual cuts.
    The ministry defines “timber supply” as: “The amount of timber that is forecast to be available for harvesting over a specified time period, under a particular management regime.” That definition covers a lot of possible ground, but the Forest Act does stipulate that “sustained yield” needs to be the basis for a determination of timber supply. The ministry defines “sustained yield” as: “A policy, method, or plan of forest management that aims to achieve an approximate balance between net growth and amount harvested.”
    In other words, a determination of the timber supply available from those BC forests that can be logged involves a determination of the area available for logging and analysis of the factors affecting the growth of trees in that area.
    From time to time, usually about every 10 years, the ministry publishes a new province-wide forecast of timber supply that generally looks forward at least 50 years. The last published forecast was in 2010.
    Over the past 35 years, four major factors affecting future timber supply have been acknowledged by the ministry of forests. They are the falldown effect, conservation for non-timber values, the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic and increased plantation growth above what had been predicted. The first three factors lowered ministry projections of future timber supply. The last factor increased it. The ministry has not yet attributed any substantial influence on timber supply to either forest fires or climate change.
    To understand why timber supply has fallen as far as it has in the last 35 years, we need to examine each of the four factors that the ministry has said have changed it.
    In 1994, the ministry’s decadal Forest, Range and Recreation Resource Analysis recorded that “the current harvest level” was 71.6 million cubic metres per year “but would then decline gradually over the next 50 years” to 50-60 million cubic metres. The ministry credited the expected decline to “shifting from old-growth forests to second-growth forests precipitating a falldown to long-term sustainable harvest levels.”
    “Falldown,” as you may recall, refers to the inevitable decrease in timber supply that would occur as a result of converting BC’s older, higher-volume primary forests to younger, lower-volume plantations through logging. In its current (2021) promotional material, the BC Truck Loggers Association notes that “typical old growth” contains 1500-1800 cubic metres per hectare, while “typical second growth” contains 400-600 cubic metres per hectare.
    The ministry’s 1994 report also noted that “interest in non-timber resources and values has increased and managing for those values is now emphasized.” In 1994, the expected decline in timber supply out to 2044 as a result of those factors  is shown in the graph below:

    The most conservative estimate of timber supply, from the ministry of forests’ 1994 projection.
    Note that the most conservative 1994 projection of timber supply estimated there would be 60 million cubic metres available for cutting in 2021. Yet only 50.2 million cubic metres were cut that year, and that followed cuts of 49.6 and 47.9 million cubic metres in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
    Ten years after that 1994 report, in 2004, with a very different government now steering the ministry of forests, ideas about future timber supply also changed. In The State of British Columbia’s Forests 2004, a report signed by then-Chief Forester Jim Snetsinger, the ministry’s new view of timber supply was made clear: “Recent research shows that many second-growth forests grow faster than previously estimated.”
    The newly discovered higher growth rate of plantations was so phenomenal, the report implied, that, in effect, it cancelled out the falldown effect. Instead of falling, the ministry’s new forecast showed timber supply would be relatively stable. The graph below appeared in the ministry of forests’ 2004 report, which was approved by Snetsinger.

    BC Ministry of Forests’ 2004 prediction of future timber supply. The “• Actual cut in 2021” has been added.
    There are three pertinent observations to make about the claims in that 2004 report.
    First, the ministry never published any physical research showing that growth in plantations was higher than expected.
    Second, instead of “recent research,” the ministry appears to have relied on corrupted data and faulty computer modelling in calculating greater plantation growth. Those computer models—and the data they relied on—have been critiqued extensively by foresters Martin Watts and Anthony Britneff. (See attachments at end of story.)
    Britneff, a 40-year veteran of the BC Forest Service, says “The report referred to ‘research’ but I suspect it was actually referring to unvalidated assumptions about the growth of managed stands, unsubstantiated by monitoring or actual research.”
    Britneff and Watts have questioned the unvalidated assumptions used in the timber supply determination process—such as genetic gain from select seed—and the unvalidated growth-and-yield computer models, as well as the absence of monitoring of managed stands that would be necessary to ground-truth actual growth. The two foresters have shown that the ministry has actively ignored the monitoring of tree growth that has been done.
    The third reason to doubt the 2004 forecast is that it didn’t even mention the impact of the Mountain Pine Beetle. At the time, the province was in the sixth year of the epidemic, only a year from its peak. The ministry of forests was well aware of the huge impact that disaster would have on future timber supply. Not including the beetle’s impact suggests the ministry was given instructions to maximize timber supply—at least on paper—rather than accurately reflect all the influences that were, in reality, pushing it downward.
    Thus the ministry, then operating under the influence of Premier Gordon Campbell, predicted that timber supply in 2044 could be as much as 42 percent higher than the Forest Service had expected in 1994.
    This sudden and fantastical increase occurred at precisely the same political moment that, at the behest of the logging industry, Campbell was gutting the Forest Service and allowing the logging industry to draft new legislation that would effectively privatize BC’s public forests.
    In our tally of the factors actually affecting future timber supply, this one stands out like a flashing yellow light.
    This was confirmed, indirectly, in a follow-up assessment of future timber supply conducted by the ministry in 2010. That report stated: “Recent analysis projects a decrease in timber supply to 50–60 million cubic metres per year by 2025, due to mortality caused by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.”
    That finding was illustrated in the graph below, which is from that 2010 report.

    That analysis, then, suggested the impact of the pine beetle on timber supply was to lower it by 10-20 million cubic metres per year by 2025.
    If we combine the expected impacts of the falldown effect and the losses for conservation and recreation—all assessed in the 1994 report—with the expected impact of the pine beetle from the 2010 report, those factors amount to a loss by 2044 of between 22 and 42 million cubic metres from 1994’s timber supply of around 72 million cubic metres. Taking a conservative view of timber supply—and why wouldn’t government take a conservative view, given the profound physical, economic and social impacts caused by an unsustainable rate of logging—the net loss of supply from these impacts between 1994 and 2021 would be about 30 million cubic metres per year. That would put BC’s current timber supply at about 42 million cubic metres per year.
    The graph below shows where a conservative consideration of the impacts listed above would put timber supply for the years 2000 through to 2021 (orange line). Note how the actual cut—the light grey line—was much higher than the conservative projection of timber supply, for most of that time. The area above the orange line and below the grey line gives a measure of the extent to which BC forests may have been overcut since 2004. Only the world financial crisis in 2008-09 provided a respite.

    As mentioned above, the ministry has not yet provided an assessment of how timber supply will be affected in the mid-term by either forest fires or climate change. The numerous large forest fires in each of 2017, 2018 and 2021 impacted a far larger area of BC than any other year in the province’s recorded fire history and the upward trend is clear. The increase in fire hazard created by logging, coupled with the hotter, drier, windier and more lightning-prone weather expected with climate change, will certainly impact timber supply. A 2020 Forest Practices Board investigation into the health of plantations in the southern Interior called on the ministry to start including the “likely consequences of climate change” in its assessments of growth in those plantations. The investigation found that 64 percent of the plantations it examined were in poor or marginal condition. When the impact of fires and climate change are included, how much lower will timber supply fall?
    The rate of cut since 2004, then, was based on a belief that timber supply was much higher than it actually was, and that belief has resulted in a significant overcut above the sustained yield level.
    All of 2021’s other major forest-related events in BC—the civil strife at Fairy Creek, the large forest fires in the Interior, the flooding and washouts last November—have been made worse by the over-exploitation that flowed from the Campbell’s government’s decision back in 2004 to ignore the falldown effect and accept unproven computer modelling of growth and yield to determine how much could be cut.
    Unfortunately, part of the reason such an unsustainable rate of logging has occurred in BC since 2004 has been the absence of accurate, in-depth coverage of the logging industry and its impacts by an informed mainstream media. At least part of the blame for that lies with the ministry of forests.
    Mainstream media are being misled by ministry officials
    This epic failure in resource management is hard to sweep under the rug, but the current ministry of forests is trying to do just that. Its reluctance to address questions directed to it at a press briefing last June made that clear.
    The briefing was held just before the Horgan government released its forest policy intentions paper, intentions that have since led to the recent adoption of Bill 23.
    In the time allotted for questions at the briefing, Globe and Mail reporter Justine Hunter asked this question: “In terms of the annual allowable cut [sic]—initially there was a 70 million cubic metres estimate, I think that’s down now—where do you get to in the year 2025? How big is the annual allowable cut[sic]?”
    Notably, none of the ministry officials attending the briefing, which included BC’s Chief Forester Diane Nicholls, answered Hunter’s question. Nicholls hummed and hawed and said how difficult it was to make such a prediction. There was, in fact, an estimate for the AAC for the year 2026 in the intentions paper that was released half an hour later, but either Nicholls wasn’t aware of that number or she didn’t want to use it in front of reporters.
    Following Hunter’s unanswered question, the Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer took a crack at the same issue: “Correct me on the numbers if I’m wrong,” Palmer requested. “You’re talking about going from 10 percent of the AAC, which is in the ballpark of 70 million cubic metres per year. You’re talking about going from 10 percent of that to 20 percent. So, in all, you would be transferring 7 million cubic metres to First Nations—that’s the target. Have you a ballpark estimate of what it will cost in terms of compensation to take that much tenure away from tenure holders and give it to First Nations?”
    Palmer had asked the assembled experts to correct him if he was wrong on the numbers, but they didn’t. Presumably, he left the press briefing thinking exactly what he thought before the briefing, which was that the provincial AAC was “in the ballpark of 70 million cubic metres per year.” And since his question was related to the issue of how much compensation would be given to companies from which “tenure” was going to be taken, he didn’t have the most basic information required to report the issue accurately to his readers. The ministry officials present did nothing to relieve Palmer of his misunderstanding about the AAC, or what level of compensation was in play.
    By not understanding how far the available supply of logs has fallen—and why—Palmer is unintentionally misinforming the public. Remarkably, the forests ministry appears to be okay with reporters not having a clear idea of what’s going on with timber supply.
    Notably, Palmer and Hunter have never reported on the concerns expressed by Watts and Britneff.
    We begin to see why, then, the ministry has—officially—kept the AAC much higher than what could actually be cut and, when given the opportunity to clarify this in public, doesn’t bother to correct reporters when they incorrectly refer to the AAC as being “in the ball park of 70 million cubic metres.” The official AAC has become meaningless, and the timber supply reviews conducted by various chief foresters now appear to be besides the point. The ministry has become a facilitator of logging, not a regulator of the industry.
    To publicly acknowledge how far timber supply has fallen would bring into question how much of the damage done by fires and floods has stemmed from the vast overcut that has occurred since 2004. That overcut has created a far greater area of clearcuts and plantations, both of which create conditions that increase the risk of floods and forest fires. For ministry officials to admit that the ministry badly over-estimated timber supply—and thus amplified the risk of fires and flooding—would leave the officials who made this blunder liable for responsibility for damage caused by both.
    So—of course—a request to “correct me if I’m wrong” would be ignored by the officials who are currently responsible for over-estimating timber supply.
    Meanwhile, other media are actively providing disinformation about timber supply
    The over-estimation of timber supply by a forests ministry acting in lock-step with the short-term interests of the logging industry is not how the industry would like the public to understand the decline that has occurred in BC’s forests and forestry-dependent communities. The industry would rather have the reduced timber supply be blamed on some other group, like conservationists.
    That framing of the issue by BC media outlets who partner in the forest-industrial complex was evident in 2019 as the uplift in available timber supply—made possible by beetle salvage logging—ran out.
    In “Why the province’s working forests aren’t working,” a story written by Nelson Bennett for Business in Vancouver in December 2019, an explanation for the numerous mill closures in 2019 focussed mainly on the impact of conservation.
    Bennett wrote, “One of the biggest problems has become a lack of economically harvestable timber. In a province with 55 million hectares of forest—an area roughly three times the size of the UK—how is that possible? The most visible answer is the toll taken by the mountain pine beetle, and by forest fires. But it’s not just pests and natural disasters that have eaten up BC’s timber supply. Pressure to preserve forests for conservation or yield them to recreation and increased urbanization have resulted in a significant shrinkage of the working-forest land base.”
    That has been the basic message of industry operatives for many, many years. Note that there is no mention by Bennett that logging itself has been the biggest cause of disappearing timber supply in BC. Over the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, inclusive, logging caused 59 percent of the loss of merchantable volume. The pine beetle accounted for 32 percent and forest fires 9 percent. That inescapable fact can be seen in the graph below of ministry of forests’ data on the relative extent to which the beetle, forest fires and logging have gone through BC’s merchantable timber supply since 2000.

    To elaborate on the impact of conservation on BC’s timber supply, Bennett reached out to an industry forester. He wrote: “Jim Girvan, an independent forestry consultant, points to the Prince George timber supply area (TSA) as an example. At eight million hectares, it is the single largest TSA in BC. But once all the exclusions for recreation, wildlife habitat conservation, old-growth preservation and other measures are accounted for, it leaves just three million hectares that can be logged, Girvan said.”
    If I am reading that correctly (please correct me if I’m wrong), of 8 million hectares, there are only 3 million that can be logged and the rest has been set aside for recreation, wildlife habitat conservation, old-growth preservation and other measures. That sounds a lot like 5 million hectares of conservation measures, doesn’t it? Wow, 5/8ths of the areas has been conserved? That’s 62 percent!
    However, if one were to actually read the ministry’s account of how it determines the area of land that’s used to establish the level of timber supply from the Prince George TSA, one would find that the total area of all land that has some conservation-related objective is 1.8 million hectares, or 22.8 percent of the gross area of the Prince George Timber Supply Area—not the 5 million hectares that Girvan and Bennett seem to claim.
    Moreover, of that 1.8 million hectares, only a part of that is forested land, and only a fraction of that forested land is feasible and economical to log. Once those considerations are applied (the ministry calls this “netting down”), we find that only 860,000 hectares of forest have been set aside for parks, ecological reserves, protected areas, conservancies, ungulate winter range, recreation, old growth management areas, wildlife tree patches, and riparian retention areas. That amounts to 10.8 percent of the gross area of the Prince George Timber Supply Area, not the 62 percent implied by Bennett and Girvan.
    Even that number, though, overstates the impact these “conservation” areas have on timber supply since nearly all of these conservation areas in the Prince George TSA had a significant portion of the forested area within them logged before the conservation objectives were established.
    All of the information needed to determine that no more than 10.8 percent of the total area of the TSA has been set aside for conservation or recreation purposes is publicly available.
    Bennett and Girvan then went on to elaborate on how the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement has deeply impacted timber supply.
    Bennett wrote, apparently using information supplied by Girvan: “The coastal cut has shrunk by 8.5 million cubic metres since the 1990s. That is enough to supply 10 coastal sawmills, Girvan said. The Great Bear Rainforest alone took 6.4 million hectares. Only 295,000 hectares were preserved for logging.”
    Bennett then quoted Girvan: “In that 295,000 hectares, now you’re very restricted on what you can log.”
    According to the ministry of forests, however, the “295,000 hectares” is actually the new area (made up of 8 separate smaller areas) that “will be off-limits to logging,” not the area “preserved for logging.” Girvan and Bennett got this particular fact inverted.
    They could have determined the expected impact of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement on the provincial AAC by comparing the AAC for the area before the agreement (2,543,018 cubic metres per year) and after (1,633,000 cubic metres). They didn’t, but the ministry’s figures indicate the agreement was expected to create a drop in timber supply of about 900,000 cubic metres per year, or roughly 1.4 percent of the provincial AAC. All of those numbers, of course, are subject to the warnings outlined above.
    In the end, Bennett’s and Girvan’s analysis didn’t provide any insight into why timber supply is so much lower than was predicted in 2004, but provided cover for the most serious cause of the decline. How is that going to help forest-dependent communities understand what they are facing?
    The good news
    The best evidence suggests that even 2021’s cut is well above the new, lower level of sustained yield. Unless the public comes into possession of that evidence more broadly through mainstream media, public opinion will continue to think of logging as “sustainable” and overcutting will continue. With continued over-exploitation will come even more serious negative consequences: bigger, more destructive forest fires, larger, more catastrophic floods, worse degradation of ecosystems and increased civil strife.
    There is an odd twist to this story, which some may see as “good news.” Because of 2021’s extremely high prices, the ministry of forests collected a much higher average rate of stumpage than ever before. For the first time in many, many years, the $1.8 billion collected in stumpage will likely cover more than the cost to the public of managing BC’s forests so the industry can cut ‘em down.
    However, the higher stumpage will definitely not cover the physical damage done by 2021’s forest fires and flooding, or the economic disruption that accompanied that. Nor can it heal the civil strife that is erupting in BC over the over-exploitation of our forests and the consequential degradation of our life support systems.
    David Broadland writes about forest-related issues.

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