About 20 years ago, I was at one of the inaugural public meetings of the Kalum LRMP (Land and Resource Management Plan). One of Terrace’s most respected professional foresters was sitting next to me. After a briefing by a local forest service representative about the “state” of the Kalum districts forest, he turned to me and said “If we shut down one of the major mills now, maybe we can save the other one. There’s not enough wood for two.”
A year later I was standing in the offices of Skeena Cellulose looking at a wall-sized satellite photo of the entire region, with remaining forest, and logged off areas clearly delineated. A Skeena Cellulose forester asked me “What do you think?” and I replied “I think you are running out of wood.” His reply was “You’re right, but nobody wants to believe it.”
These were not the pronouncements of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, but the opinion of a leading forester with decades of experience. We know and live what ensued.
Recently it’s been revealed that the BC government is considering opening up forest reserves and protected areas in order to keep a struggling remnant of our forest industry afloat as we simply run out of accessible, affordable timber. A deadly combination of climate change induced disease (pine beetles) and decades of over-cutting have taken its inevitable toll.
Locally we see the results as present day companies attempt to access not yet ready second growth wood close to town and already built roads, or remnant stands of old growth that were left standing for a reason.
What little accessible old growth that remains at the upper ends of our river valleys is often uneconomical to log and develop.
We witness the humiliating failure of that industry as remaining high quality logs are stuffed into shipping containers to be processed in China.
While I think there is likely some sustainable level of continued harvesting, I have no confidence that is what is guiding decisions as to what gets harvested. And we must remember that this remains a public resource – it is not the property of companies, or political parties. Hopefully the increased influence of First Nations who now have some control over the remnant forest and industry will lead to better decisions.
We have really screwed up badly in BC in managing our forests. But that’s water under a bridge. However the choice remains as to how to proceed. Forest do grow back in time. Salmon habitats will heal. It’s way past time for a public and civil conversation about our forests, and our responsibilities to future generations.
Conservationists were vilified by industry and government when we warned that this was the future. We were described as enemies of the state. Government and industry gleefully pitted neighbor against neighbor. But in the end it wasn’t conservationists that crippled the BC forest industry, or the creation of a few parks, but greed, shortsightedness, corruption and mismanagement. We were fools to allow it to happen, but we will be bigger fools if refuse to learn from our past.
Bruce Hill, Terrace, BC