No one seems to be interested in forestry policy any more

Re: Public Forests and RiverCity

Many of us fairly new to Campbell River assume that most people in the city and the region are interested in forests, their conversation and their sustainable use by the forest industry.

Still, in truth, almost no one seems to be. At the turn of the last century, Vancouver Island’s forests were deemed ‘inexhaustible’ and as time passed, as it became clear that they were being depleted, it was determined by the political and economic powers of that day that the forests of the Island would be used to “open up the whole country” and build an industry that would grow and eventually take over forest administration from the government, the representative of the people’s interest in the values held in trust. To do this, early decision-makers decided to use a large portion of the financial interest for development of the industry. Only at the last minute in the process did the public intervene and stop the government’s policy in the early 1980s from converting areas administered by government to tree farm licences, a form of timber tenure owned by one individual or firm, which seems to be a logical step in privatizing the forest.

Still, as long as the policy of “wasting” or “using up” public-owned forest values in the name of creating a world competitive forest industry, our public forests are in jeopardy. Let’s fact it, the industry is based in regional geo-monopolies made up of major timber tenure holders mostly owned by multi-national corporations. These corporations are not responsible to local interests and this should even heighten public concern.

In a way maybe it has.

Is the resulting move for preservation of public forest lands in parks, conservation zones, a questionable practice in protecting endangered species, and recently, The Great Bear Rainforest, a partnership of the preservation interests, industry and the Province part of a heightened public concern? Is privatization of the remaining productive public forests still an important driving force in provincial forest policy?

We in Campbell River share a legacy of disinterest in forest policy issues stemming from the days when the majority of us were largely itinerant workers employed directly in the woods. After all, who really wants to take their job home to share with their family? Today most of us are largely separated directly from the economic benefits of working directly in the woods or the industry. Still all of us use the woods. We occasionally hike, visit lakes and streams, view wildlife and generally share our beautiful location with others coming to visit.

I would really like to know how many of us would like to know more about forest issues that impact our city and its ability grow sustainably within the natural limits of its private and public forests? How many of us are interested in natural and fiscal issues concerning trees? Are diseases, insects, wildfires and windthrow dangers real to us and our Coastal forest?

Isn’t disinterest by the public forest landowner and not sharing it with his or her ‘trustee’ the greatest hazard of all? How much forest ownership power do you want to delegate to private preservationist groups, industrial interests and their partner, the government?

Please look at your property tax bill when you answer that question.

I know the municipality or the regional district has very little power in the formation provincial forest policies but in a democracy doesn’t the citizen have a duty to keep informed then make his or her public representatives aware of his or her opinions and the reasons for them? Maybe the city council and the directors of the regional district should organize a public information session to inform and gather ideas on planning for an appropriate future community direction with our public forests in mind?

Roderick L. Haig-Brown in his Measure of the Year wrote “…in the last analysis all governments reflect the concerns of the people they govern…” Should not all of us, elected officials and citizens alike, be concerned about the future of forests that make up so much of our lives?

William L. Wagner, PhD, RPF

Campbell River

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