The story that follows contains perspectives not necessarily shared by the Cortes Radio Society, its board, staff, volunteers or membership.
On Monday, November 25, 2019, the forest management company Mosaic began shutting down its Vancouver Island harvesting operations because of “very challenging pricing and market conditions.” Approximately 2,000 people – contractors, union and non union workers, are being dismissed “ahead of the usual winter shutdown.” Mosaic plans to “resume harvesting when the market outlook improves,” but some see this as symptomatic of a much larger industry problem. Sierra Club BC and the Wilderness Committee had planned to hold an event in Campbell River’s downtown Community Centre that same day. Two hours before this was to begin, the city of Campbell River cancelled it because of “the number of people anticipated, the strong potential for highly-charged emotion, and lack of time to establish a security plan for this booking.” This morning’s program is about the crises in our forests.
The Logging Crises
“Recently, it’s tough, you have a big company on the south end of Vancouver Island, Teal Jones that holds areas like the Walbran, they’ve been curtailed for a couple of months now in both second growth and old growth operations. The Western Forest Products strike will, I believe, hit the five month mark this week. So that’s five months of employees going without paycheques – and, a month before Christmas, this is tough. And then just on Friday … you have the second biggest logging company after Western, Mosiac, announcing that they were curtailing, sort of indefinitely, because of market conditions …” – Torrance Coste.
In the Podcast
In the podcast above you will hear interviews, or quotes from emails, with:
- Torrance Coste from the Wilderness Committee.
- (read out prepared statement) Ron Bowles, Campbell River’s City’s General Manager of community development
- (email from) Spokesperson with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
- Jens Wieting, from Sierra Club BC
- David Shipway, builder & Vice President of the Cortes Community Forest Cooperative
- (email from) Pam Agnew, Communications Manager with Mosaic Forest Management
The Timber Supply Crises
“There is no commitment, long term politically, to growing forests long enough to replace them … The second growth is already being over-harvested. The rate of harvest is too fast, it is being cut too young. We’re actually going to run out of second growth. We’re already cutting third growth on Vancouver Island at 40 years of age … We aren’t running out of wood, we are running out of the kind of wood that is good to work with …” – David Shipway.
“The actual harvest age of stands can vary from less than 50 years, on the most productive sites on the Coast, to 140 years or more in the Interior … On Vancouver Island, 50% of the harvest in the past 5 years has come from old growth defined as stands that are older than 250 years.” – Spokesperson, BC Ministry Of Forests
“When you take a closer look at those forests that people really care about, the big tree ecosystems with trees as tall as skyscrapers and wide as your living room, that’s when we have only tiny percentages left. Overall, less than 10% for sure.”
“When you look at specific ecosystems, like Douglas Fir old growth, then the numbers become really shocking because you are looking at single digits. The Douglas Fir ecosystem is the poster child for extremely endangered ecosystem because it is about 1% of the original old growth …” – Jens Wieting .
The Timber Quality Crises
The percentage can vary but, on average, 80-year-old second growth trees are about 50% sapwood.
“Sometimes you can use a mix of heartwood and sapwood for visual effects, but only indoors where it is going to stay dry. It can be used as a visual feature in cabinetry because it is kind of interesting to have the two colours, but if you are building outdoor stuff you want to stay away from sapwood altogether. It’s only got a few years and it’s rotted. If you build a sundeck that has any sapwood in the cedar, that wood is rotten within five years …”
” … The Chinese will buy our sapwood. I don’t know what they are doing with it … It’s not a product that is going to endure. When they buy our young trees, they are not making products out of them that are going to be around for very long. There is very little local market for all this young stuff that’s getting harvested because anyone in their right mind can see that these young trees don’t make good lumber …” – David Shipway
BC’s Emissions Crises
“The carbon loss from BC’s forests is growing worse and worse every year. This is a combination of destructive logging practises combined with worsening climate impacts [like wildfires]. A few years ago we took a closer look at the carbon loss across BC … instead of helping us in the fight against climate change … [they} had become a carbon source.”
” … These [forest] emissions combined are now three times greater than BC’s official emissions, those emissions that are primarily related to burning fossil fuels. It is a huge concern that the B.C. Government is not counting these forest emissions, which means there is very little awareness how big these emissions have grown …” – Jens Wieting.
“If our goal is to grow good wood that can sequester carbon and also grow forests that can sequester carbon in the ecosystem, then we have to get into longer rotations. There is no way around it … I would like to see 130 [year rotations]. When I realized that fir trees at 130 are still actually gaining in incremental growth, it just tells me that our idea that second growth is mature at 80 is kind of an industrial myth which we’ve been led to believe, but it is wrong … Technically, trees become old growth at 250 on the coast, [but] I honestly don’t think we have the capacity to think that long …” – David Shipway.
Has The NDP Government Done Any Better?
“There is no meaningful difference at this point in time [between the way the current NDP and previous BC Liberal governments handle forestry]. The BC Government has taken small steps in the right direction in terms of bringing back a greater level of control. They implemented 2 of more than 100 recommendations from the professional reliance report, which can result in more oversight. They have also initiated a review and asked for input …” – Jens Wieting
“Part of this government’s mandate is to do things differently in the woods. We are working hard to provide more clarity on the land base and with consideration to employment and economic benefits, and social, cultural and environmental values, and the need to address climate change.”
“Additionally, we have established an independent, two-person panel to engage with First Nations, industry, stakeholders and communities on old-growth management.
Members of the public will also be able to contribute to the discussion through the online engagement website at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/oldgrowth” – Spokesperson, BC Ministry Of Forests
“The forest industry has been in a tough way for a long time. The boom days of the 80’s and 90’s have come and gone. Over the last decade groups like the Wilderness Committee talk often about ‘how much old growth forest is lost and how much and how fast we are logging in rare ecosystems? Just as upsetting to me, as a Vancouver Islander, is what’s happening on the employment side. You have dozens of mills closing. In the last decade alone, BC has lost an average of a dozen jobs every single day in the forest sector. That’s a statistic that should infuriate people.” – Torrance Coste
“We should have old growth forests as an intent and a goal. It’s not like we just save our old growth forests and just log the younger ones – because the younger ones are crap. We have to grow a replacement for old growth forests and maintain the attributes of old growth in the active forestry landscape. You start to get those attributes in second growth forests at 80 to 100 years …” – David Shipway
“We’ve protected 54 of some of the province’s largest trees – each surrounded by a one-hectare grove to act as a buffer zone. As new old-growth trees are identified, they will be added to the Big Tree registry.” – Spokesperson, BC Ministry of Forests
Cortes Community Forest has only been operational for six years, but is already a model of how one rural community is managing its’ forest in a more sustainable manner. In a previous interview, one of the other Directors told me that their harvest rate is currently between 250 and 350 years. As most of the trees on Cortes Island are already +80 years old and there is also some old growth, our descendants may see a partial restoration of the old growth forests that once covered the coast. There are two weakness with this forestry model. The tenure comes from the Ministry of Forests, who could demand the cut rate be increased. Also 68% of Cortes Island is privately owned and thus outside of the community forest management area.
In the podcast you will hear both Ron Bowles, speaking for the City of Campbell River, and Torrance Coste, of the Wilderness Committee, commit to having “a future event with appropriate security plans for large numbers of people” in the Campbell River Community Centre.
(The quotes above were gleaned from the podcast, which has many more details and insights. Top photo credit – courtesy Jens Wieting)
Theme song: Rick Bockner – “You Gotta Think For Yourself.”