Journalists need to ask tough forestry policy questions

Aren’t we all getting a little fed up with media just printing government press releases, quoting industry facts, regurgitation instead of investigation, why not question their sources?  I am- so wrote a letter to journalists about it.

Timber supply cut may not be what it seems

Dear Editor:

Re: Interfor takes haircut on Boundary harvesting rights (Feb. 12)

Journalists reporting on recent announcements by the chief forester on new allowable annual cuts (AAC) for Interfor’s tree farm licence (TFL) 48, for the Okanagan timber supply area (TSA) and for Canoe Forest Products merely parrot what the chief forester says in a press release without question.

Has the logging actually been reduced in the Kettle River basin as a result of a reduction in the cut for TFL 8 and the Okanagan TSA?

The chief forester provides two reasons for a reduction of the cut in TFL 8: (1) management measures that address Indigenous interests; and (2) the accumulation of unharvested timber volume in the TFL amounting to an undercut of 115,987 cubic metres.

But why the undercut in TFL 8? The likely reason is that Interfor has been high-grading the timber and has run out of high-quality timber.

Is the undercut merely a measure of how plantations — the driver of timber supply — are failing as the Forest Practices Board pointed out for the Okanagan TSA?

“Indigenous interests” likely means the government intends to transfer cut from Interfor to local First Nations. This does not lower the overall cut or rate of logging in the Kettle River basin; it just moves it around on paper. But does the undercut actually exist on the ground?

For decades, scientific studies have shown that industrial forestry through clearcutting and an unsustainable rate of logging in B.C. is:

— Destroying terrestrial and aquatic habitats, extirpating species and driving others to extinction;

— Fouling drinking water for communities;

— Ravaging soil and the fungal life necessary for forest health;

— Releasing vast amounts of carbon from below and above ground into the atmosphere – more than any other economic sector in B.C.;

— Disturbing large and small watersheds both of which are highly sensitive to clearcut logging resulting in flooding and landslides; and,

— Causing in part the large, rapidly moving and intense wildfires of recent years.

Why haven’t journalists asked the chief forester how all the preceding harms have been considered in determining an AAC?

To mitigate against these harms, the chief forester and the provincial government will need first to deal with the biggest culprit in B.C., which is the logging industry.

With public safety at serious risk from the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, a concerned and alarmed public needs the assistance of journalists in asking the right questions and in seeking informed answers.

Taryn Skalbania, Peachland

Appeared on Castanet

and Kelowna Daily Courier