Like B.C.’s world-renowned parks system, our working forests need to be protected. Protected from environmental groups who seek to erode it until there is not enough left to economically harvest.
The government of Victoria, Australia recently announced the ending of all native forest logging. This closure of a once-thriving industry barely made a ripple; the industry had been eroded to a point where the job losses were relatively minor.
It came after many years where environmentalists had chipped away at the working forests, via more protected areas and stricter regulations. Sawmills shuttered as their timber supply became too small, fragmented or distant to turn a profit. Finally, the decision to end logging altogether didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
But it is a big deal. Wood is a renewable building material that offers a solution to climate change. Steel and concrete generate 12 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, equivalent to the automotive sector, while wood is a carbon sink. Carbon sequestered by trees lives on in wood long after that tree is harvested. For every tree we harvest in B.C., many more are planted and nurtured into healthy forests.
On the coast, the allowable cut has been reduced by 30 per cent since 1990. Today, 70 per cent of coastal forests are not available for harvesting. Now the environmentalists seek to protect old-growth, which would further reduce the working forests by 40 per cent. Should they succeed, more mills will close, and jobs will be lost.
At the end of the day, the public will still need wood. But rather than being sourced from our regulated, sustainably managed B.C. forests, it will come from parts of the world where regulations are less strict. Where forests are often not replanted. Out of sight, out of mind. That will be the real environmental tragedy.