Too many healthy forests are being logged and massive amounts of usable wood are being wasted in response to the mountain pine beetle, says a study released today by B.C.’s top environmental groups and woodworking unions.
The groundbreaking co-publication by environmental and labour organizations warns of climate change impacts and worsening prospects for workers and communities should large numbers of healthy trees continue to be logged indiscriminately, along with beetle-killed pine.
“There must be a fundamental shift in how government and industry address the beetle problem,” says study author Ben Parfitt, a resource policy analyst with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “Healthy forests that are nature’s best defence against catastrophic floods are being prematurely logged, leaving nothing for workers or communities for the next 80 years – versus a wait of perhaps only 20 years were such forests left alone for now.”
The study, which proposes five practical solutions to the current crisis, notes that action must be taken now. For every two pine trees logged in response to the beetles, one or more healthy spruce or fir trees are logged too, with disastrous consequences for workers and communities. Left unchecked, such logging also threatens key wildlife species such as mountain caribou.
The study advocates a response to the beetle outbreak that fully considers how climate change will alter our Interior landscape. The ultimate goal must be healthy, resilient forests. Without safeguarding our environment, there is no economic security.
“The best thing that can be done for both the environment and our forest-dependent communities is to ban clear-cut salvage logging in most forests. Many forests have withstood the beetle attack very well. They are filled with smaller and younger trees that are healthy and growing. We need to leave those forests alone for now. They are our hope for the future,” says Rob Duncan, forestry specialist with the Sierra Club of BC.
The study also chronicles how lax government regulations have led to staggering increases in the amount of usable wood being left behind at logging operations.
“Wood waste levels are unconscionably high”, says Steve Hunt of the United Steelworkers, which represents former IWA members. “Last year alone, nearly 1,300 more people could have worked turning usable logs that were left on the ground into lumber and other wood products. Instead, the logs were burned and added another 1.5 million tonnes to B.C.’s CO2 emissions.”
The study outlines a number of viable policy solutions to the current crisis. First, there should be an immediate end to salvage logging in mixed forests. Second, tougher regulations are needed to ensure that there are both enhanced job prospects in the forest industry and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Improving the resilience of BC’s forests in the face of climate change requires a more patchy interior landscape to better protect biological diversity and reduce the potential for future infestations to reach similarly severe proportions. The study concludes that in order to get there BC should increase its funding of reforestation and rehabilitation efforts.