Our governments are paying forestry companies to tear down our Crown-owned forests and ship them to the U.S. and Asia. Here’s how our "forest management system" works, taking British Columbia’s rainforests as an example.
Logging a majestic stand of hemlock and balsam in British Columbia’s coastal rainforest costs logging companies $100 a cubic metre. Selling the hemlock gets them an average of $60 a cubic metre, the balsam gets them less. "We lose $40 on every cubic metre of hemlock that we bring to the sawmill," explains Steve Crombie of Interfor, one of B.C.’s large product exporters.
How dumb does Prime Minister Jean Chrétien think President George W. Bush can be? Very, very dumb, judging by the arguments over softwood lumber that our Cabinet ministers and trade officials had been floating prior to Mr. Chrétien’s meeting with Mr. Bush yesterday. Only someone as thick as a plank could buy the lulus put out by our government leaders in what — at over $10-billion per year — is by far the most important trade dispute between the two countries.
These are bad times for Canada’s forests. We are slowly losing our forested areas across the country, as new growth fails to keep up with increased harvests. And we are plagued by bitter conflicts over how forests should be managed. In Northeastern Ontario’s Temagami region, disputes over logging have resulted in demonstrations, blockades, arrests, court challenges, and even an explosion. The Ontario government has opened up vast areas in the region to logging and mining. But native people claim the area’s lands as their own and demand the right to manage them. Meanwhile, environmentalists insist that the provincial government close access roads and set up a wildland reserve to preserve some of our last remaining old-growth white pines.
Over the years, British Columbia’s public forest managers have promoted increasing timber yields from public forests in the belief that more timber volume means more processing, more jobs and therefore greater benefit to society. Timber yields have increased manifold over the years, as new techniques and economies have opened up virtually all of British Columbia’s crown forests to industrial forest management. But a large proportion of the present allowable annual cut (AAC) makes no economic or technical sense. As much as one-fifth of BC’s AAC occurs by government fiat. A central tenet of this policy is utilization standards.
The objective of this study is to determine the cost to society of preserving the Carmanah Creek watershed in its natural state. The cost of preserving the valley is viewed as the cost of forgoing the opportunity to harvest the timber. A complete cost-benefit analysis would compare the economic benefit of logging with the benefit from preserving the timber. Only if the benefits from logging exceed those from preserving should the timber be harvested. But due to the difficulty of measuring intangible non-timber benefits, the cost of the forgone opportunity to harvest the timber is the best measure of the cost of preservation. If the cost of preservation (the benefit of harvesting) is relatively low, then intangible non-timber value are more likely to exceed timber values—the prudent decision would obviously be not to harvest.
Wherever trees grow on private land, forest owners seem to draw the ire of their governments. The government of Ontario has a problem with the way many of its small, private woodlot owners tend their forests: They won’t cut down their trees. The government’s surveys conclude that these smallholders – mostly farmers, professionals and retirees, who control more that 10 million acres of timberland – have what government experts call "a rather indifferent attitude" toward their land.
If we had free trade, says economist Miles Richardson, we might save Lyell Island. Lyell, a wilderness heritage of unparalleled beauty, is no ordinary island, and Richardson is no ordinary economist. He is the president of the Council of the Haida Nation and a leader in the fight against the British Columbia logging giants eyeing the forests on Lyell, South Moresby and other islands in the Queen Charlottes, where the Haida have lived since time immemorial.