View from the stump
By David Elstone
As we move into the summer months and high tourism season in Canada, it’s important to convey to our industry’s detractors who often see things in absolute terms, it’s not forestry or tourism. Rather, when it comes to the forest resource and the great outdoors, it is forestry and tourism.
By David Elstone
This spring, B.C.’s provincial government announced that 4.5 million hectares of old-growth forests are conserved within old growth management areas, parks, ecological reserves, land conservancies and recreational areas. Currently, almost 37 per cent of the South Coast Natural Resource Region is designated as parks, protected areas or conservation areas. This demonstrates B.C.’s conservation work is strong and it’s an achievement to be proud of.
However, the provincial working forest – the forested areas used for harvesting and reforestation – has shrunk significantly over the last 40 years and is now only 22 million hectares. The coastal B.C. allowable annual cut (AAC) has declined from 23.6 million cubic metres to 16.5 million cubic metres between 1975 and 2015. This decline has impacted the forest industry, as well as the communities that relied on the economic benefits those now set-aside areas used to generate.
We also need to keep in mind that logging practices have evolved considerably over the last 30 years. More trees are now left unharvested within a cutblock for riparian zones, wildlife habitat areas, etc. And other sections of the working forest – such as old growth management areas – are set aside completely. Old growth management areas cover 186,198 hectares across the Sea to Sky, Sunshine Coast and Chilliwack Natural Resource Areas. Moving forward, we’d like to see areas like these serve more than one conservation purpose rather than just the preservation of old growth.
There is an opportunity to improve forest stewardship and economic forest activity by taking an integrated approach that supports a number of objectives through co-location. That is, instead of looking at areas for a single purpose like the protection of old growth, there are significant opportunities to provide for multiple values on the same area. This multi-valued approach can provide equivalent or greater ecological benefits while at the same time provide some stability to the working forest.
We have a similar opportunity within the working forest in areas where overlapping recreation and business interests operate. There’s almost always a compelling reason to not harvest in interface areas – it’s close to someone’s home, anchorage, kayaking business, community watershed, etc. – but each area removed, even if it’s small, adds up and ultimately reduces the working forest which is the foundation of the forest industry. That is why we must strive for a balance when addressing competing interests within the forest resource.
Forestry practices, as I mentioned above, have evolved considerably over the last 30 years. Over that same time, B.C.’s coastal tourism industry has grown significantly, too – alongside active logging and harvested blocks. This shows that tourism and logging can thrive side-by-side in B.C. So what we need here is a change in perspective. Instead of apologizing for a visible cutblock, tourism operators need to explain three things. First, the trees were harvested sustainably and created jobs for local British Columbians. Second, those hectares will be replanted and new trees will be left to grow for decades before being harvested again. Third, much of what looks like “pristine” forest on B.C.’s coast and Vancouver Island was harvested once already and now it’s beautiful, healthy second growth. If we can work together, we can take into consideration everyone’s needs and work to accommodate them.
We know a well-managed working forest is sustainable and creates jobs. As 95 per cent of B.C.’s forests are owned by the public, it’s important the public’s best interests are served through well-managed and sustainable forestry.
TLA member companies are based in B.C.’s rural communities. These companies hire local employees, pay local property taxes and buy city business licenses. The same can be said for tourism businesses. Both industries are good for rural B.C.’s bottom line. And both industries can be successful if we ensure a strong working forest.