The forests we have left are critical to the environment

Fifty years ago, we selectively logged the larger trees and took care not to damage smaller trees.

By logging this way, we were able to go back about every 30 years and again log the larger trees in the same area. Over a 90 to 100-year period, this would yield about twice the volume of timber harvested in a given area as opposed to clear-cut logging. This was a good plan as during this 30-year rotation of harvesting there was no impact on the environment and at the end of a 90 to 100-year cycle, there was just as much volume of timber on a given area as when we started logging.

If a forest fire started, loggers, sawmill workers and any able bodies available attacked the fire at daylight and, in many cases, had the fire under control within hours. Local B.C. forest rangers cruised stands of timber and sold this timber to the highest bidder. This was all a good plan and created lots of jobs in the woods. This has all changed!

Sawmill companies told the B.C. Forest Service that they needed a guaranteed supply of timber for their sawmills so the B.C. Forest Service gave them huge areas of forests to manage and log to supply their sawmills.

These sawmill companies did not have to bid for their timber and lobbied for a cheap rate on the pretense that it would create more jobs and be good for the economy. It was not!

Fifty years later, the B.C. Forest Service is controlled by the big timber companies. Fifty years later there are 60 per cent fewer loggers and sawmill workers employed in B.C.

Fifty years later, the logging companies are clear-cut logging and wasting over 40 per cent of the fiber in the forests by this process and creating a desert for years, impacting the climate and creating greenhouse gasses with the waste they leave behind. They stock this waste up into piles.

After clear-cut logging, the small animals and rodents, etc., move into these debris piles to protect them from predators such as hawks and eagles. After three or four years of these piles drying, the B.C. forest engineers or company engineers light these piles on fire, cremating all of the small creatures who have made their home there.

About 45 years ago when the pine beetle started to be a problem, I approached the Forest Ranger in Lillooet. I suggested that the area that was getting populated with beetles should be logged and the debris burned. This would slow down and maybe eliminate the spread of the pine beetles. The forest ranger agreed with my suggestion and approached the Minister of Forests in Victoria. The minister said no, we will not allow these trees to be cut but will wait for a cold winter to kill the beetles. They are still waiting for a cold winter 45 years later.

In the meantime, the pine beetle has created a desert twice as big as Vancouver Island and is the largest ever natural disaster in Canada.

It took over 40 years before the B.C. Forest Service started to replant this desert that they helped to create. This is not good forest stewardship.

The world has lost 25 per cent of its forests in the last 100 years because of industry and clearing forest land for farms and towns, cities, etc.

The forests we have left are critical to the environment. A Douglas fir tree’s fiber is composed of over 70 per cent carbon. Trees absorb this carbon from the air, and its roots absorb oxygen from the ground and release it into the atmosphere. This is nature’s way of balancing the environment. Clearcutting the forests takes away this ability to absorb carbon and release oxygen for years.

Forest policies in B.C. and lack of firefighting capability are creating a terrible impact on the environment in B.C. Out-of-control forest fires release tremendous amounts of carbon into the air.

The B.C. Forest Service and the Minister of Forests in B.C. have proven thousands of times over that they are not capable of managing the forests of B.C. to the benefit of the environment – the benefit of the economy or utilizing damaged and downed timber due to fires or wind etc. Millions of damaged trees are left to rot, creating global warming when the timber could be sawn into valuable lumber or other wood products.

It boggles my mind how stupid it is to waste this damaged wood. The forest service will not let us access this wood!

the B.C. Forest Service have proven thousands of times over that you cannot fight a fire burning in Prince George by sitting at a computer in Victoria. The B.C. Forest Service will not lot local forest rangers attack a fire when it starts – they tell the local rangers to monitor the fire and report back to Victoria. Victoria then sets a budget to start fighting the fire. By this time the fire can be thousands of times larger and sometimes already out of control. How can you budget a fire until it is out?

This policy is costing the B.C. economy hundreds of millions of dollars burning up millions of trees worth billions of dollars and releasing thousands of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

What can we do to improve the situation?

Here are a few suggestions:

The Ministry of Forests in Victoria should be disbanded. Professional forest engineers should be hired with no input from government or lumber companies. Thy will set up a free market system with local forest officers already in place to set up cutting permits in timber sales. Tree farm licences will be no more. Also, chart areas should be cancelled. Lumber companies will have to buy their logs form loggers who have bought the timber sales. This would require hiring at least twice as many forest officers.

Local forest rangers would be required to set up an organized work force complete with water trucks, equipment, etc. and have an open budget to attack a fire when it starts and put it out using any meas they deem necessary – including water bombers and helicopters.

This policy would save the forest fires from getting out of control and save the economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, no more log exports – we will saw the lumber here.

I believe my plan would bring at least twice as much money into the government from the forestry sector, creating at least twice as many jobs in the forest industry. I believe it is critical to the environment of the world to manage our forests better.

I do not have all of the answers and welcome any comments for or against what I have proposed.

Walter Crombie

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