Forestry was not the career I chose when I left high school and entered university. But after using forestry employment to pay for school, then buy a house, I find myself look back after nearly 20 years wondering how time flies. In a world where certifications and specialization have become the norm, I am very proud to be a Forestry Jack of all Trades. I have worked for government, worked for private companies, been paid by the day, by the hour, by the metre and contracted. I have completed contracts for BC Parks, Parks Canada, private land owners and the local licensees. I am not claiming to know it all, but I have seen a lot and experienced every level of success and failure.
Forestry always has been, and still is, the economic backbone of this province. While tech and tourism services may have surpassed this historic industry in terms of per cent of GDP, there is no illusion about how stumpage and taxes from our forest industry still pays the bills for public services. As an industry insider, I can assure readers that protection of Old Growth is a concern shared even by the highest production loggers. Most loggers also hunt, fish, ski, and participate in all other forms of outdoor recreation. They also tend to be resolute in passing this outdoor-oriented tradition on to their kids. So protection of Old Growth is not the political divide some of the political parties want it to be.
Partisan extremism and branding earns votes. The easiest way for parties pandering to urban voters, and urban-sentiment rural voters, is to pit urban voters agains rural ones. How can we beat the politicians to this game? Well, why not start the conversation at the citizen level? We live in a democracy. This means compromise, a word no longer valued by many. The problem with proposing new regulations on logging is not that these regulations are not needed. It is that old regulations never seem to budge as the compromise. So if we are to shift our primary values to protecting Old Growth and Carbon storage, we must look at the equation and decide which other values should budge. Here is what I propose.
Visual impact guidelines. It always amazes me how esthetics gets thrown into the environment file. What looks ‘pleasing’ or ‘pretty’ to humans ignorant of the science is oftentimes contrary to what is actually most environmentally balanced. For instance, we have restricted logging in the main corridors on visual impact guidelines. What has been the result? Pressing further and further into the back drainages to chase wood where nobody is looking. Guess where all of the Old Growth and Caribou habitat is? Now try chasing some fir beetle in the local bike park, or dealing with a disaster of dead pine on Blackman Road. Suddenly a small group of very loud people think that the stumps of dead-standing infected trees are the worst thing in the world. One month later, the grass and shrubs have grown up, and nobody can even see the effects of the logging, but the outrage has already been noted, and it will cool the appetite for local forest planners to chase infected trees on the edge of town again. In Blue River, the local Heli-ski company has managed to kill two birds with one stone. Instead of cutblocks in the main corridor, dozens of ski runs have taken shape. It just makes sense, provides front-country wood to mills, reduces the potential for catastrophic wildfires and reduces total flight time for their helicopters. Imagine that! Forest and tourism complimenting each other.
We have all kinds of potential in this province. We do not even do anything close to the intensive and highly productive forestry that our European and American neighbours have achieved for hundreds of years. So by all means, let us protect Old Growth and caribou, but this means getting to work in our very own backyard instead.