FOREST PRACTICES BOARD CONFIRMS BELL UNDERSTATED FOREST PROBLEMS
The Forest Practices Board has confirmed that former forest minister Pat Bell has been grossly understating the true problems facing B.C.’s forests.
New Democrat forest critic Norm Macdonald said Bell needs to explain why his estimate of crown lands that have not been adequately replanted was less than 10 per cent of the total the Forest Practices Board revealed Thursday.
“Either the minister was badly misinformed or he was purposefully understating the problem facing our forests,” said Macdonald.
“The Liberal government has utterly abandoned B.C.’s forests. Tree planting and silviculture work has been reduced even after cutting increased and at a time when fire and pests like the beetle are already taking their toll on the forests.
“Healthy forests – most of which are owned by the people of British Columbia – are vital to the environment and are the infrastructure on which the forest industry is based. It’s unconscionable that the Liberals have treated this trillion-dollar resource so poorly.”
Last February, respected forester Anthony Britneff released a report showing that the total net Not Satisfactorily Restocked land was approximately 2.3 million hectares; the gross NSR land – including forest land not restocked after fire, pests or disease – is around 9.1 million hectares, three times the size of Vancouver Island. Minister Bell, as forest minister, claimed the total NSR land to be around 240,000 hectares. Thursday in Kamloops, Marvin Eng of the Forest Practices Board confirmed that Mr. Britneff’s calculations were closer to the truth.
“Compounding the problem is the fact that we just don’t know the full extent of the problem,” said Macdonald. “Even Mr. Eng acknowledged that his figures were based on old data.
“This government made massive cuts to the forest service, which has left the service unable to paint a true picture of what’s actually happening on the forest floor.”
In the 1990s, the province spent an average of $22.25 million annually on programs assessing forest inventory. By the last budget, that had shrunk to $7.5 million.
New Democrat leader Adrian Dix delivered the keynote address to the WSCA convention Thursday evening, saying the forest health crisis was an issue the provincial government must immediately address.
“Forestry has played a huge role in the development of communities across the province,” said Macdonald, “but a healthy forest industry of the future depends on a healthy forest today. The government has ignored the problem for far too long, and they’ve used phony, misleading statistics as cover for their inaction.”
Since 2001, more than 70 mills have closed and the forest industry has shed more than 35,000 full-time, family-supporting jobs.
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats believe that B.C. logs should support B.C. jobs as part of a forest strategy that respects First Nations, environmental and local needs.