BC Timber Sales and city throw forestry jobs under the mountain bike tire

It was with some dismay that I read the May 6 cover story of how the mountain bike lobby wins Snowden Forest trail protection.

RELATED: Mountain bike lobby protects trails and watershed from logging

First, it should be made clear that the major trails (and 10 metres either side) in Snowden were given protection by a government action regulation (GAR) order long ago, what is at issue today, is the forest lands surrounding those trails.

One should note the trails in Snowden were initially constructed illegally without any consultation. The district manager made a GAR order that gave those trails protection. I would argue that this district manager should not have made that decision because of a possible conflict of interest or at least a perception of one. I don’t argue that the decision was wrong just it should have been made by someone with no close attachment to the area. The Snowden area contributes to the timber supply and if you reduce the timber supply you reduce jobs.

The City of Campbell River should be embarrassed by their hypocritical actions in regard to forestry jobs. On Feb. 18, 2020, they spent taxpayer’s dollars to attend a rally in Victoria to show support for forestry workers who were/are struggling from the effects of the lengthy strike and at that very time, they were participating in a Snowden advisory group hell-bent on reducing the harvest level in the Snowden and effectively killing forestry jobs.

One of the questions I posed to BCTS was, with the proposed reduction in harvest within the Snowden, how did they plan to deliver on the BCTS goal of harvesting their apportionment? The answer I received was “Tenure holders with volume-based licenses in a TSA have always been able to move their operations around within their designated chart areas and this is what we are doing. There is no problem with moving the harvest volume around but eventually, the volume you moved around has to come back to the area it originated in and BCTS has no plans to do that in the future. The cut reduction that is proposed is permanent.

This sneaky way of making a permanent reduction in the harvest levels is not within the authority or mandate of the Strait of Georgia (TSG) business area. BCTS’ mandate is to harvest their apportionment which can not be done over the long term if you create permanent reserves or log arounds.

The manager I spoke too at TSG said, “The decision to scale back operation in the Snowden is based on social considerations – one has to remember that two years ago there was considerable pressure on the province to create new parkland over the Snowden.”

This may be true and it is certainly within the mandate of government to act and create parks or reserves as they see fit. It is not, however, within the mandate or authority of BCTS to create a pretend park in the core area of the Snowden.

At the Feb. 18 rally, Minister Donaldson said, “I’ve heard from you about the stress of not knowing about the future of the forests,” and agreed to present an 8,000-signature forest worker petition asking to protect the working forest, to the government. So I am thinking the current government is not interested in creating a park in Snowden.

The BCTS manager I spoke to said, “The planned harvest level or rate of harvest was the result of a lengthy public (Stakeholder) engagement process that analyzed and attempted to strike a balance between timber values and the many non-timber values in the area that have become ever more popular with the public in this area.” This statement makes me believe that the 10,000m3 now promoted was more of a negotiation than a scientific calculation. In 2013, BCTS calculated the sustainable harvest level was approximately 13,000m3/yr. People should be appalled that BCTS does not think enough of forestry workers and their families to be considered stakeholders in a forestry issue.

The manager also talked about a lengthy public stakeholder engagement process. Would it surprise you that of the 10 members (including the BCTS chair) of the group, not one member represented forestry workers or their families? Cycling clubs, hikers and just plain old protectionist groups were well represented. I for one don’t consider this to be a public/stakeholder advisory group but rather a special interest group. When questioned about the advisory group makeup and lack of forest worker representation, BCTS said, “As for representation from the forestry community, that was the role BCTS fulfilled. We were the ones representing our registrants and ensuring the industry’s interests were not lost to parkland.” I’m thinking that BCTS registrants and the forest worker community might want to reconsider who they have representing them.

This advisory group’s role was “The advisory group will provide input on values and options to BCTS regarding management of forestry activities or recreation in the Snowden Demonstration Forest.” Nine protectionist groups are advising one BCTS representative on forestry activities or recreation. Anyone else feel concerned that BCTS thinks this is a representative advisory group, one that could fairly represent forestry workers and their families?

So based on BCTS figures, you drop the cut from 10,000m3 per year to 5,000m3 per year over a rotation (I used 80 years) means a loss of 400,000m3 of harvest volume. This represents enough volume to keep roughly 80 people working for a full year. It also represents lost stumpage revenue in the range of $24,000,000. This number doesn’t account for the spin-off benefits of income taxes, services, fuel, etc which are significant.

So what are the alternatives? One only needs to look a little farther south to Cumberland. Most of those trails are built on private forest lands. There is a mix of trails in advanced second growth and young third growth. It is a good blend. The Cumberland trails have no impact on the harvest levels on the private lands. The trail builders and forest company work together to move trails and reduce the impact to trails as best they can when harvesting takes place. But rest assured, harvesting does take place when the forest company decides it is time to take out a block. So I propose that BCTS needs to redo the advisory process and include a good balance of users including Forestry workers and their families. That any group should have as part of their terms of reference to maintain harvest levels at what is sustainable for the area and leave the creation of parks and reserves to big government which has that mandate.

In closing, I love the Snowden trails and regularly can be seen walking the trails with my miniature golden doodle Keeper and I will still enjoy them as harvesting continues knowing that good forestry jobs are being maintained in perpetuity as is recreation.

Norman Nalleweg RFT (ret)