Saving Interior B.C. primary forests: Choosing ecosystem over economics
A grassroots campaign to preserve what is left of primary mature forests in B.C. is taking shape in the southern Interior.
The campaign has a fundraising target of $218,000, which will be used to cover the expenses associated with meeting with other groups across the province and drawing support to the campaign, initiated by the Boundary Forest Watershed Stewardship Society (BFWS)
Speaking at a Zoom information meeting on Monday co-hosted by the Interior Watershed Task Force and the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance, BFWS co-founder Jennifer Houghton sees the ambitious campaign as a 12 to 14-month project to galvanize support and stand up to opposing pressure from the forestry industrial lobby.
“Nothing changes without change…and change will only happen if it is backed up by legislation,” Houghton said.
Loss of jobs in forestry is a vocal talking point for the industrial lobby, she said and needs to be countered with a realistic response that if jobs are lost in one sector, how they might be replaced in other ways.
“We need a common sense message that relates to each region of our province, which each has different needs and different histories when it comes to forestry,” Houghton said.
“We want to reach out and rally and motivate people to demand change.”
On the economic front, she noted B.C.’s GDP in 2019 saw forestry generate three per cent of our provincial economic output and support 1.9 per cent of the labour force.
On a regional level, as of October 2023 the Thompson-Okanagan region labour force numbers 300,000, and the forestry job portion of that is 2,800.
“The reality is the more we clear-cut our forests, the fewer jobs the industry maintains,” said Houghton.
Some of that is due to log exports to countries like China, the U.S. and Japan, and another factor is advanced mechanization expansion of harvest practices, she said.
Houghton says the impact on the natural biodiversity of a logging stand is secondary to the industry’s fibre management economic needs, and provincial governments have for decades fallen in line with that policy.
Michelle Connolly, a forest disturbance ecologist who runs the Conservation North based out of Prince George, also spoke in the Zoom meeting, reinforcing the importance of legislation to protect the ecosystem in our remaining primary forests.
She said that the process is not just for governments and professional foresters to decide, but also must involve affected area residents and ecologists.
Both Connolly and Houghton said their volunteer groups include volunteer experts who have valid contributions to make to any debate on preserving primary forests.
Connolly said increased wildfire destruction and impact on watersheds have resulted from the pursuit of logging for economic benefit for fewer and fewer people, at the expense of ecosystems being destroyed.
The Peachland Alliance has pushed for an end to clear-cut logging in the watershed that provides drinking water to the community because of the downstream impact of the clear-cutting timber stands, creating sediment collection and flooding issues downstream.
“If we continue to take trees out of these watersheds there will be more flooding. You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that,” said Houghton, who she says saw her Grand Forks home flooded in 2017 and 2018 as a result of overlogging in the Kettle River watershed.
It was that flooding which led her to organize the Boundary Forest Watershed Stewardship Society and similar concerns which created the Peachland watershed protection group.
For more information about the forest preservation campaign, check out the Facebook group BC Forestry Reform or visit the BFWSS website boundaryforest.org.
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