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10th January 2019
07 January, 2019, Monday
by Brian Horesis
Penticton Herald, Penticton, B.C.

Just over the hill to the east of Penticton is the Carmi Recreation area. Along with several other local public landscapes, it serves the recreational needs, choices and expectation of considerable numbers of regional citizens.

There are no figures on actual use but sentiment has it that use numbers thousands of days-use annually. Its value for the physical, spiritual and intellectual well being of a wide range of users is widely acknowledged.

Except, apparently, by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations (FLNRO) and it nested sister, B.C. Timber sales (BCTS).

For those of you who read government - civil service body language, you know immediately that places like the Carmi Recreation Area are and have been in constant danger.

A government Ministry that labels its function as forest and land “operations” is bound to deviate functionally and ethical from a government body whose function might be, for example, Forest and Land Management and Conservation! For this we can thank the Liberal privateers that reshaped democracy and formalized environmental subservience to industrial-human consumption during the Campbell-Clark years!

The startup logging plan for the Carmi Recreation area is severe fragmentation from 22 cut-blocks removing 60 ha of forest including trees up to 250 years old.

Most, if not all “recreation Areas” in the province, Carmi included, have no legal standing under the Forest and Range Practices Act. As was pointed out to me in an e mail from a provincial recreation officer, there is no “recreation” license associated with the area and no “tenure”, that is no legal protection or designation for recreation, in the Carmi area.

The email continued “first and foremost if is a licenced area for timber harvest”. Any access roads or lines there are “firstly resource roads” and while the Carmi area is identified by BCTS as “an intensive recreation area” the label “does not at all preclude harvesting”.

In the early 2000s, after the liberals butchered the Ministry of Forests workforce and conceived that practice of “Professional Reliance”, they concurrently farmed off regulatory responsibility to industry and it consultants (hence professional reliance).

Survivors in government hunkered down and had to find way to stay useful and relevant. In a political atmosphere where the private sector timber industry took on god-like dimensions, how better to survive then to work feverishly to feed that monster? BC Timber Sales was born of this fiasco, and so it engages in make-work projects which it then farms off to industry.

The kind of single use agenda we see threatening Carmi is widespread in B.C.; timber industry and logging entitlement gained regulatory domination as a consequence of that early timber industry lobbying that won concessions from the Campbell-Clark government permitting private industry domination of B.C. forests.

This massive retreat from public interest forest management was legally entrenched in earlier versions of land use plans which declared that any environmental protection regulatory measure, be it to protect grizzly bears or the ecological and visual sanctity of a recreation area, would not be permitted if it threatened to reduce the timber harvest by more than 10%.

This sleight of hand meant that FLNRO and BCTS could bludgeon into submission or irrelevance any scientific and social evidence for, or demand made by citizens to protect, a place like the Carmi recreation area.

It is interesting that a recent city of Penticton “economic cluster” analysis shows forestry contributes about 1.5% to the local job market. Yet the recreational contribution of Carmi obviously exceeds that, in participation, by a considerable proportion.

Industry is now running the show (Part Two)
Recreation in the Carmi area has not been, and isn’t now, the only casualty that will result from the BCTS logging agenda.

In the responses I’ve gotten from BCTS or FLNRO to my questions about ecological, economic and social soundness of the Carmi logging plan, and no where in their “planning” documents, is there evidence that they are planning logging with any modification for the drastically changed environmental conditions facing todays forests as a consequence of climate heating.

The science and evidence is already irrefutable that forests are not going to grow today, or in the future, like they have in the past. Where then, as just one on many worries, will todays old growth replacement stands come from if they continue to pounce on remaining 200 year old mature forests because, as they and some politicians keep pointing out to us, “they” are running out of timber?

The answer to that kind of overarching problem actually lies in my question; they’ve already run us – yes, we the people who thought we owned these forests – out of large trees, fragmented the remaining distribution, fractured ecological continuity and viability of landscapes, and consumed much of what can be profitably logged without resorting to expensive hauling distances. Under these mismanaged conditions, recreational areas like Carmi become “low hanging fruit” to ambitious foresters and loggers.

When British Columbians come to the realization, in spite of long standing and repeated attempts by some activists and scientists to alert them, that their local back yards (be it for recreation, water security, weather and snow pack stability, or wildlife value) are vulnerable, and that forest exploitation in B.C. has for half a century been a logging and regulatory free-for-all, it’s too late; to use a common euphemism, the horse is already out of the barn!

The glaring reality, that recreation areas that serve the physical, spiritual and emotional needs and choices of thousands of British Columbians are not protected by law or even regulation or policy, is a screaming call for reform of forest management and conservation in B.C.

This reform movement has to start with a Royal Commission accompanied by public hearings emphasizing citizen and social driven regulatory controls on the lawless logging behavior of BC Timber Sales and FLNRO.

A reasonable person would hope the NDP – Green alliance would see how unstable forest management in B.C. is, even if “just” based on the overpowering threat and evidence associated with the US softwood trade agreement, subsequent restrictions and tariffs, and a grossly overbuilt industry as reflected in inescapable declines in employment and milling capacity.

In terms of on-the-ground performance BCTS and FLNRO function as private commercial organizations servicing the logging industry. They may wear a public mask, but their agenda is crass commercialization.

They cannot, and will not, accommodate local objections to their agenda (other than occasional tweaks) because objections like that focused on the Carmi Recreation Area are common and widespread; to allow substantial or material local change would jeopardize BCTS and FLNRO standing with commercial interests, foremost being the logging industry.

The narrow balance of power and tenuous nature of todays government appears to be interfering with necessary democratic process and forest management reform.

Dr. Brian Horejsi is a wildlife and forest ecologist. He writes about environmental affairs, public resource management and governance and their entrenched legal and social bias.