We are running out of trees. Sixty years of overharvesting, bugs and fires have left us with only a fraction of what we had.
There are now only two options. We can do what the East Coast fishery did when cod stocks were getting scarce – keep harvesting until the cod were nearly all gone and then shut the fishery down. That happened in 1992, it still hasn’t reopened, and a cod grows faster than a tree.
Or we can slow things down a bunch and leave something for a few more generations. That will mean more job losses soon. Those promoting the first option are either only thinking of themselves or have their heads in the sand.
Industry and government would like us to believe that the bugs and fire are the culprit and to some degree they are. But overharvesting and questionable reforestation practices need to take a big chunk of the blame. The bugs and fires just sped up the inevitable. Space doesn’t allow me to tell the entire story but both industry and government have known for decades that sustained yield is either a myth or a nasty, mean joke. Ken Bernsohn’s well researched, still relevant 1982 book, Cutting Up The North, documents it well to that point and things haven’t changed.
Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris probably has the best political grip on where we are today and has the strength of his convictions to say what he thinks. He has been telling anyone who would listen for a few years how serious the problem is.
So now we will see if Premier David Eby has what it takes to make the tough calls needed and then, if he does, will the electorate chuck him out in the next election. If he slows down the forestry sector even more there will be more job loss and voters won’t like that. Value-added could be part of the solution but efforts to make everything from chopsticks to plywood haven’t lasted.
In hindsight, perhaps the cool to vindictive NIMBY reception given to West Coast Olefin’s proposed plant may now appear to have been a tad hasty to several hundred soon to be out of work industrial workers.
With hundreds of good paying sawmill, pulp mill and logging jobs evaporating in the forestry sector I would guess the jobs we turned our collective noses up at would look pretty darn good to a lot of folks. Sure, there were concerns about the Olefin plant but there was a noticeable suspicion and lack of enthusiasm for what might have had a lot of upside. This lack of enthusiasm for a new industry in our industrial city makes Mayor Simon Yu’s commitment to grow our city tougher. We need to find something other than trees to stake our future on.
Watch for more shutdowns.