Light coming through a forrest

Encouraging the province to become more involved in forestry research

CKTZ News, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

At their July 14th Meeting, the Strathcona District Board moved that “a letter be sent to the Minister of Forests encouraging the province to become more involved in research and distribution of science-based information.”

As Mayor Martin Davis of Tahsis, who made the motion, explained, “In the last several years there has been a real drop off of participation of Ministry of Forests in providing the research and background that we would hope would be impartial. I think that is a real lack. To depend on the logging companies for our information is really not the best place to be going for this. There should be independent research we can depend on.” 

Photo courtesy the Wilderness Committee

The idea came out of the SRD’s Municipal Services committee where Charlie Cornfield, one of the more influential of five Campbell River directors that recently carried placards at a pro-industry rally, agreed.

“It has always been a problem to find an acceptable source of information,” he said.

This was one of the few points that Cornfield and Davis agreed on.

Meeting with industry

Mayor Brad Unger of Gold River, Mayor Andy Adams of Campbell River and Campbell River Directors Colleen Evans, Ron Kerr and Cornfield were all praising a meeting they had with the forestry sector the previous day.

“It was a very healthy and engaging process as we continue to work with the forest sector, as it plays a significant role in the economy for the entire North Island,” said Adams. 

“It was really good to see,” said Unger. 

“It made me feel optimistic and positive for the first time in a long time,” said Kerr. 

To which Evans added that the industry provided talking points for their new marketing campaign. She recommended that they be distributed to the SRD. 

“I think it is important that we, as directors, all have the same facts when sharing information with residents,” said Evans.

“The difficulty right now is that there is a lot of misinformation out there … regarding storage of carbon, fighting climate change, sustainability, old growth management – a lot of information that is not true,” said Cornfield.

He went on to emphasize the importance that forestry has to the north Island’s economy. Campbell River is the third most important forestry hub in the province, surpassed only by Vancouver-Lower Mainland and Prince George.

“Believe me, everyone in the North Island is forest dependent. You don’t know until it is not there and I’m not willing to trust that to others,” said Cornfield.

Some of the ‘facts’ that Cornfield mentions in the podcast above: 

  • forestry contributes more than $250 million a year to the (local?) economy
  • 1/4% of the old growth harvested in any given year, “a very small percentage point.”
  • Western Forest Products has a net positive carbon balance of 14.2 million tons, they store way more carbon than what they produce.”
  • 70% of all the old growth within Western Forest Products tenure is already conserved and that figure does not include parklands that have never been in inventory.

Questioning the statistics

Davis replied he would like to see the statistics. When he was sitting on the Climate Caucus, he had been pushing for an accounting that included the industry’s burning of waste. 

“I know a huge amount of waste was burned all over BC,” said Davis. “Myself, I have worked in the forest industry for 40 years. That was the first year I haven’t done any of that because I am too busy with this. I am appalled by the amount of wood waste that is getting burned across this region. I know that when there is road access, there are many people that are not only cutting firewood from this waste but are also stockpiling it for themselves and milling it. I’m talking about yellow cedar and fir and all that.”

Cornfield replied, “Burning wood is one of the most environmentally sound ways of providing heat and everything else. It does not produce greenhouse gases. Wood is part of the current energy cycle. You only get climate changing impacts when you are burning fossil fuels. That’s the big one. The rest is all natural. When you burn it, you only affect the decomposition timeline.” 

“Western has done a complete, total calculation of their carbon, which is how they get a net positive carbon balance,” he reiterated. “They have looked at every one of their operations.”

Some additional facts cited by Cornfield

  • While it is good to use the wood waste left on logging sites, any biomass that remains provides nutrients for the soil.
  • Rapidly growing young trees sequester a lot of carbon
  • On average, after trees are 200 years old their ability to store carbon diminishes and they become net producers of carbon dioxide

“I’ve recently seen some research that was saying quite the opposite, that old growth is actually a better carbon capturing (not sure what you would call it) than what we are seeing in young forests,” said Davis. “Young forests certainly start to capture a lot of carbon after 10-15 years, but it is a net emission up to that point.” 

While there appears to have been a wide range of opinion as to what this would mean, the Municipal Services committee unanimously agreed to ask the Ministry to become more involved. 

On to the SRD Board

The Regional Directors got to express their opinions when the matter came before the entire board on July 14.

Gerald Whalley observed that the provincial government relies on industry to provide the scientific data.  

Regional Director Jim Abram suggested a slight change to the wording, which was rejected.A considerable amount of time had already been expending finding wording that could be supported by directors of such diverse opinions. 

“What do you want the Ministry to do? To send out research to whom? About what? For what purpose? Is this anti-old growth logging? Is this pro-logging? I just have no clue where this is coming from,” said Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson

After hearing Martin Davis’ explanation, she said, “If whoever is going to write it has a really clear sense of what this is about and it is what director Davis just said, that’s fine.” 

The motion passed in an unanimous vote.

Top photo credit: In the Woods by Arnaud DG via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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