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9th February 2019
Dave Milton writes in about forest management in the Boundary.

Feb. 7, 2019 12:00 a.m.OPINION

While forestry corporations are exporting raw logs, shutting mills and laying off workers, our MP Richard Cannings’s question in his regular ‘From the Hill’ spot (Gazette, January 16th) “How can the federal government help forestry?” opens a can of worms.

In the four years to 2016, 26 million cubic meters of raw logs – with a value of about $3 billion(!) – were exported, mainly to China. In 2016 alone 6.3 million cubic meters of logs went overseas. That amount represents some 3,600 on-shore value-added jobs, while the 2016 tally alone was enough material for 134,000 new homes! According to the BCGEU, 70 mills closed between 2001 and 2011, taking 36,000 jobs with them. Raw log sales are trending upwards and many of the private woodlots are being sold, after logging, to the ‘development’ sector. This means that forest lands will be built on, changing the very nature of the landscape, especially on the coast, while weather changes there will affect the climate here.

Those logs are mainly from Crown lands. This should mean that national and provincial treasuries – on behalf of the citizenry – should be the principal benefactors. Currently, home scarcity worsens, home affordability is increasingly out of reach and social cohesion is severely tested. Increasingly, Canadians can’t afford to live in their own country.

In a world dominated by rampant corporatism, international capitalism and a widening chasm between rich and poor, the social fabric that supports balanced societies is severely tested. There never have been ‘equitable societies’ – there have always been rich-and-poor divides. There is a grotesque disconnect between corporate profitability and domestic housing shortages.

Locally, it’s probably too late to make the case for a Kettle-Granby watershed community wood lot (most of the best wood is long gone and it would need centuries-long rehabilitation), but it is increasingly urgent that forests need a completely revised management system. I see no reason why a community such as ours should not be responsible for its own water management. Why water you ask? Because forests are the primary water management systems and demolishing forests means watershed mayhem. We need a gutsy water authority that governs mountain resorts, forestry, farming and all forms of back-country activities, including hunting, in the watershed. Such authority to report directly to the appropriate ministers of the Crown with no bureaucracy between them. (References to ‘The Crown’ are abhorrent to me: They infer a distant, ephemeral authority under whose aegis my national citizenship is demeaned, while ‘commonwealth’ does not mean what it says).

Mr. Cannings’s question begs testing. I believe it should not be about corporations but how communities will better thrive when more responsible for their own resource management. I’m sure that forestry-based communities would be further ahead when subsidiary industries – such as milling and re-man, local wood-based value-added industries – large and small – build a symbiotic industrial base in their own territories that engender co-operation and from which the rewards (earnings) are more likely to be used locally. As a result, forests will be far more carefully exploited. These notions have been around for ages but international corporations, with their juggernaut lobbying tactics and squadrons of retained lawyers, have almost always had their way with our politicians and, abundantly clearly, always to the detriment of the ecological whole and societal cohesion. Forest communities forfeit huge incomes and well-being when distant multi-nationals run the show.

Corporate mind-set is hard-wired towards exports. Forestry products, oil and gas, mineral ores, agricultural products, ocean harvests – even our water – do not get into domestic value-added enterprises. That system condemns species to extinction; in our own time and in our own Canada, cod, mountain caribou, burrowing owls, polar bears and orcas are condemned to the fate of the dodo. Bees and butterflies are ailing, noxious weeds abound in our fields. Our environment is a living organism and we beat up on it at our peril.

Our MP’s question smacks of social democracy kow-towing to big business. His question should be, ‘How better must we manage the resources entrusted to our stewardship, in our time?’ In your deliberations of this bear in mind that we live on a stolen continent (that’s where the ‘Crown’ came in) and that sooner than later it will revert to rightful ownership. What historical condemnation of us if all that’s left is a blasted heath bereft of everything that made it such an exciting enterprise a century and a half ago. We have a lot to do.