Preserving the Carmanah Valley

January 2, 1991 Dear Friend of Environment Probe: Canada is blessed with one of the natural wonders of the world, the magnificent Carmanah Valley in British Columbia. Home to 30-story-high Sitka Spruce, the tallest in the world; to Red Cedars that are 1,000 years old; to Western Hemlock that are among the largest in the world; and to majestic Cypress that were alive when Christopher Columbus discovered North America, this virtually untouched valley is one of the world’s last remaining temperate rainforests. Most Canadians would consider the Carmanah, known as Khrowbodewah (the beginning) by the Nitinat Indians, to be absolutely priceless, and deserving of preservation at any cost. But a few influential people in the forest industry and in government circles disagree. Clearcutting the Carmanah is necessary for economic development, they say, because without such clearcuts, our standard of living is threatened. For this reason, Environment Probe decided to investigate the economics of logging the Carmanah: we wanted to see how “profitable” logging would be. To our surprise, our study of the Carmanah is the only one that exists: from our dealings with the B.C. government, which owns the Carmanah, and with MacMillan Bloedel, who was given the right to log it, we know that neither has yet analysed the Carmanah’s profitability. Here are our findings: the British Columbia government will probably receive less than $2 million over the 70 years MacMillan Bloedel is expected to take to clearcut this valley. (This figure is in 1990 dollars). That comes to about $80,000 in income to the government per year or less than 2 cents per B.C. citizen, and less than one-third of a cent per Canadian citizen, if the Canadian economy as a whole is measured. MacMillan Bloedel also has little to gain – a $2 million profit if log prices stay at current levels, which are near historic highs, and less than $1 million if log prices revert to their historic average. That amounts to a 2.4% return – less than it would earn in a bank saving account. But the Carmanah’s profitability has little to do with MacMillan Bloedel’s desire to log it. The Carmanah is a small and relatively unimportant part of a larger, more profitable area. Due to British Columbia’s forest regulations, the giant forestry firm must commit to clearcut the Carmanah to be entitled to clearcut the larger area at its present rate. Rather than logging the Carmanah, MacMillan Bloedel would do better logging elsewhere, such as in second-growth forests that don’t have such great ecological significance. Managed intensively and sustainably, as Scandinavia has done for decades, the second-growth forests would also provide far more jobs for the logging communities whose livelihoods depend upon the forest, putting an end to the continual threats of economic ruin that they face. Destroying the Carmanah is a poor way, and a divisive way, to create jobs. In fact, there is hardly any social or economic justification for logging the Carmanah, and there certainly is no environmental justification. We are presenting our study to the British Columbia government – which will soon be examining how best to log the Carmanah – with a request that it re-evaluate its decision to allow MacMillan Bloedel to log the valley at all. We are also asking the government to exempt MacMillan Bloedel from the requirement that it log the Carmanah, and we are explaining our position to MacMillan Bloedel, because we don’t want the forest industry to fight measures that make sense from an economic, let alone from an environmental, point of view. But we are putting most of our faith in the good sense of the Canadian public: we have time for a reasoned public debate over the Carmanah, and we should make the most of it. Few Canadians, even those with no special concern for the environment, would contemplate ruining our priceless heritage once the facts of the matter are known. Please support our efforts to distribute these facts far and wide with a generous donation, and please also write to Premier Bill Vander Zalm, c/o Legislative Buildings, Victoria, B.C., V8X 1X4. As Canadians who must all pull together to preserve what’s precious about our country, we all have a responsibility to act when a national treasure such as the Carmanah is threatened. Sincerely, Lawrence Solomon Executive Director


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