Leaked Cabinet document reveals how far government was willing to go
When I was home during the Easter break I caught wind that the government was contemplating a “Burns Lake Recovery Act,” legislation designed to guarantee a log supply for Burns Lake to ensure Hampton Affiliates would rebuild the mill that burned down in January. Industry representatives told me that the path the government was contemplating was not one they were either interested in or happy about.
They were not interested because they felt the government was going too far in their thinking about lifting land use constraints in order to free up timber in the Lakes District. Rather than simply looking at relaxing things like Visual Quality Objectives (VQOs) or seral stage (mixed aged stands) that would not undermine the integrity of the non-timber values protected under land use plans, the government was willing to effectively negate the entire land use plan in the Lakes District.
The industry reps I spoke with believed the government’s over-the-top reaction to the Burns Lake situation would invite a fight with other forest users, conservationists, and First Nations. They were also worried that it would prevent any discussions about more moderate relaxations of land use constraints in other timber supply areas. Based on the reaction of the Wilderness Tourism Association and the BC Wildlife Federation to rumors about what the government was contemplating, these industry fears were not unfounded. I was also told that taking this path could bring industry’s third party certification and BC’s reputation as a sustainable forest manager into question, which would threaten more jobs throughout BC than would be gained from the government’s overreaction.
During the Easter break I was asked, by industry, to do what I could to stop the government from overreacting to the Burns Lake situation when the Legislature resumed. Some people pointed out that there weren’t a lot of people out of work in Burns Lake, as pretty much anyone who wanted a job got one. Consequently, they said, there was no need for the government to panic and set precedents that could make the situation in the interior and throughout BC worse than it was.
It was timely to get a leaked document last week that confirmed industry’s worst fears and allowed me to raise the profile of this issue in the media. If you care about the future of our forests and forest dependent communities and families, please read this document carefully, because it indicates that the current government is willing to put our future forests at risk in order to achieve a political objective before the next election.
As the document clearly states, the government appears willing to mine what’s left of the Lakes Timber Supply Area in order to cobble together enough saw logs over the next 15 years to get a mill rebuilt. Everyone knows that this region will have to close mills or curtail production in order to get back to harvesting our forests at anything near a sustainable level. To prevent this, it appears the current government was/is willing to give Cabinet the authority to set cut levels and assign timber – completely politicizing forest management in BC just to prevent mill closures on their watch.
BC currently does not have a Chief Forester, and it’s clear from the leaked Cabinet document and subsequent statements by both the Premier and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations that the Liberal government is intent on undermining the role the Chief Forester plays in ensuring we manage our forests wisely for both present and future generations. This issue isn’t over, so I hope you’ll stay tuned and engaged.
The leaked Cabinet document is available here.