Who is holding B.C. Timber Sales accountable?

Oct 10, 2019 | 41-4, Blog, Governance, Question Period, Video | 18 comments

We have learned that there are considerable issues with how B.C. Timber Sales is operating. It appears that they are not even following their own rules. This is deeply concerning.

I have been asking government of the continued liquidation of old-growth, specifically on Vancouver Island, for the better part of the past year. With most of it already harvested, and only a fraction still standing, I’ve been particularly critical of the doublespeak I hear in the responses from the Minister. On one hand the provincial government voices recognition of the value of old-growth for biodiversity and the health of ecosystems, while at the same time they are actively auctioning the last remaining stands of pristine old-growth. The inconsistency is lost on no one.

It appears that the Ministry of Forests own people have been investigating B.C. Timber Sales and raising the red flags about their practices. The compliance and enforcement officer on the file made recommendations that were ignored and he was sidelined. The public interest is not being served. British Columbians are concerned, indeed, many are furious. We are dangerously close to harvesting the last remaining old-growth trees meanwhile the Ministry continues to produce rhetoric, patting us on the head, and telling us everything is fine.

So, I asked the Minister of Forests, Hon. Doug Donaldson about it in Question Period.

[Transcript]

LOGGING PRACTICES AND PROTECTION OF OLD-GROWTH FORESTS

A. Olsen: The British Columbia forestry industry has been collapsing for decades because successive governments have been overharvesting trees. People in remote, rural and urban British Columbia are voicing their concern. People within government are expressing their dismay.

British Columbians are concerned that the changes made by the previous government in handing over the public interest to foreign interests are hurting them. This government continues to rapaciously log old-growth ecosystems on Vancouver Island, and it appears that they’re doing so in a way that doesn’t even comply with their own rules.

Let’s look at the Nahmint valley in Port Alberni. Earlier this year, the photos of majestic tree stumps went viral. The vast clearcuts were once rich habitat, home to endangered species. Two separate investigations appear to have found that B.C. Timber Sales are auctioning off cutblocks that are violating their own rules.

Two separate investigations appear to have found that B.C. Timber Sales is auctioning off cutblocks that are violating their own rules. The compliance and enforcement officer from the Forests Ministry, in one investigation, recommended that the logging of the valley be halted and that the future harvesting be put on hold. Yet the logging of this pristine valley continues, with no end in sight.

My question is to the Minister of Forests. Why is the government ignoring the recommendation of this investigation, continuing to log irreplaceable old-growth ecosystems in the Nahmint valley?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, I thank the member for his thoughtful question. We, as the government, understand the importance of old-growth forests to supporting biodiversity in the forest ecosystems. We are blessed in B.C. to still have options on the management of old growth.

He refers to the Nahmint valley, and it was designated a special management zone in 2000 under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan. The values that underline this special management zone include wildlife, biodiversity and recreation. And staff in my ministry are currently working as part of a working group that includes First Nations and staff from B.C. Timber Sales to legalize old-growth management areas, OGMAs, in the Nahmint valley. This involves using new and up-to-date information and incorporating other important values, including legacy trees and large cultural trees to provide additional protection.

We take the member’s concerns seriously. We are not ignoring this issue or this topic. From what I understand, B.C.’s independent watchdog, the Forest Practices Board is investigating the Ancient Forest Alliance’s complaint, and the Forest Practices Board investigation will be made public.

Mr. Speaker: The Member for Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.

A. Olsen: Indeed, we do have options until, of course, we log all the old growth, and then those options are gone. I thank the minister for the response.

I think the problem is that B.C. Timber Sales and the ministry’s enforcement officers are too closely entwined. They work side by side. They report to the same people. So it appears to the public, whose interest we are in this place to protect and who B.C. Timber Sales works on behalf of, that we have serious compliance and enforcement issues.

It appears we have a serious conflict of interest in the administration of the public interest. This is highlighted by the fact that the compliance officer responsible for the investigation that I mentioned earlier says that he was told that at one point to “close down the investigation, not write a report and just send an internal memo.” That is a worrying statement. B.C. Timber Sales appears to be ignoring the internal government recommendations, violating the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, and they may have been allowing overcutting of old growth for the past 18 years.

My question is to the Minister of Forests. There is a growing lack of certainty whose interest B.C. Timber Sales is representing. Who is holding B.C. Timber Sales accountable for their actions?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, the B.C. Timber Sales is held to the same standard as private companies, and they’re accountable to the public. They submit forest stewardship plans. Those forest stewardship plans now, under our new legislation that we passed in May — under the Forest and Range Practices Act — are much more transparent than they were before. It allows a forest operations map to be made public, and transparency is there for people to be able to see where cutblocks and roads, for instance, are planned.

The compliance and enforcement branch has the authority to investigate B.C. Timber Sales. They are a compliance branch, so they monitor and ensure compliance with the certain natural resource legislation, including compliance with forest stewardship plans. When necessary and appropriate, they take enforcement actions, and that’s the oversight with the BCTS, the same as it would be for any forest licensee.

However, we understand that there are people who are interested and concerned about harvesting practices on a timber-harvesting land base. That’s why we introduced a legacy tree policy in June, where there’s the ability to register large trees, and each of these trees is protected by a one-hectare buffer. That’s 100 metres by 100 metres.

We’ve also convened an old-growth strategic review panel, consisting of Garry Merkel and Al Gorley, who will be travelling the province to gather information and report back to me in the new year for recommendations around old-growth strategic policy.


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18 Comments

  1. JoAnne Jarvis

    Well done Adam.
    They will continue to study until all the old growth is gone, no doubt.
    Please push for a moratorium until they finish their study which will show that the public wants them to stop altogether. What more do they need from us who have been crying out to save all old growth for the last fifty years! If this is “public” lands and the public is paying their salaries then what are they waiting for?

    Reply
  2. Thomas Cheney

    Hi,
    Great comment, why not work to set a regulation that requires selective logging in all old growth forests. That provides some feedstock for speciality wood producers while maintaining old forest characteristics over a much larger proportion of the landscape. Extended rotation forestry is also an option to enhance biodiversity. The US forest service is doing something called Variable Density Thinning which helps develop older forest characteristics in younger forests. Keep up the Good Work!

    Reply
  3. Andrew Lipman

    That is troubling. I think you are doing important work. Is there going to be a call to action with this kind of future email, such as a link to a letter that can be sent,etc?

    Reply
    • Adam Olsen

      Hello Andrew,
      Thank you for your response. I am happy to receive your advocacy and keep all the emails we receive and provide updates when we have them. Keep your advocacy coming. You can always email my office at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca.
      Adam

      Reply
  4. Adam Macer

    Thank you for holding those responsible for this travesty accountable.
    This demonstrates clearly why people have less and less faith in government, local and federal, to act in the best interests of all.

    Reply
  5. Wesley Price

    The timber supply chain is a near valueless tool whose primary raison d’etre is extraction of profit.

    Not surprising, all these boards, committees, subcommittees, and strategic review panels are missing one very important feature. Teeth. The kind that bite.

    I get it. Wood is a hugely important resource. Lots of people depend on it in a pure economic sense.

    How then can we value an ecosystem in and of itself? The rights of nature? Pure heresy. Or is it?

    Reply
  6. ELISABETH JIRIK

    Please keep pushing. That’s what we have to do. 100 sq meters is a joke for an old growth grandad. Sure how little they understand about what’s going on in an interact forest

    Reply
  7. Sarah

    Thank you for being our voice in Parliament. Keep asking the and driving the gard questions, making them accountable.

    Reply
  8. Karen Dhanwant

    You cannot protect old growth values by protecting legacy trees and just leaving buffers. Old growth dependent species, many of which are threatened or endangered now (such as goshawks), require larger amount of habitat. Also, these small patches blow down and then salvage companies come along and take the wood for reduced stumpage. Regulations require incentives for conservation.

    Reply
  9. Shannon OBrien

    Thank-you for your advocacy regarding these beautiful and ancient living beings. We have a group here in Ferndale, Michigan ( on the Detroit border) that is working to preserve an area of trees and a field (20+ acres) that have been affected by old industry, that now stand the threat of being developed in to housing..unaffordable housing for many folks on top of it. There is no foresight regarding such action. We need balance on our dear planet. I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for your work protecting these trees and all that comes with the forest.

    Reply
  10. Kevin J McGinn

    Thanks Adam for your work on this issue – I wonder though what is stopping the Government from just stopping old growth logging completely. We can’t lose any more – it is already gone too far. Just stop it! Can Hon. (I write this with as much hope as I can muster) D. Donaldson answer why this can’t just be stopped and get on to just sustainable logging? We can do this. ANd it must be done ASAP – like today. There needs to be the will to do it is all. WIll this Government please look at the highest good instead of the highest bid? AND it is not just for Canada this is a GLOBAL issue. Thank You for your continuing to get action on this Adam. Yours truly Kevin McGinn

    Reply
    • Adam Olsen

      Thank you Kevin. The government is twisting themselves into pretzels on this. Partly is the situation they inherited, however the longer we go on this the less blame can be cast backward. Blaming the BC Liberals is easy (and not totally inappropriate) but as you have stated it’s now time for action.

      Reply
  11. Dora

    From the ivory tower they speak… and are applauded. What a mockery of democracy. Lack of respect for the voice of the people, the people whose lives are affected. Thank u Adam for speaking out. The amount and area of cuts is great and we residents see it every day. Very sad indeed.

    Reply
  12. David Anderson

    I was really dismayed at the Minister’s answer to your question. The issue surely is not about what processes are in place, but about whether or not old growth forest will be preserved. The idea that particular trees can be designated for protection with a 100 metre by 100 metre plot around them sounds like someone who lives in a city wh0 thinks a football field is gigantic. It’s absurd. How can the rogue process be stopped?

    Reply
  13. Jerome Piguet

    As stated by the Minister, the old growth protection plan seem truly appalling , in particular the “”100 meter buffet zone”” and the oversight process.
    By number, most BC residents would probably support an initiative to stop the logging of old growth, full stop.
    Why is that impossible ?
    Jerome Piguet

    Reply
  14. GARY McGIMPSEY

    Keep the pressure on the NDP government and the Green Party who support them to do something right away. These aren’t Conservatives in sheep’s clothing are they? This is the conundrum of the human race. As the human race continually grows we are putting ourselves in the position of depleting the earth’s resources. Are we going to wait until these resources collapse with the resultant collapse of the human population or are we going to do something now instead of just talking about it. Our world is interconnected but too many are still focused on economic growth something that overshadows major concern for our biospheres. I expected more from the two political parties that espouse more than unrestrained capitalism.

    Reply
  15. Clara

    Thank you for standing up for BC Forests. We need to do everything in our power to protect old growth. Please continue to be a strong, loud voice for the beings that cannot stand up for themselves.

    There is nothing more important to the human race than air to breath. We need to protect our forests at all cost, there is not one thing that is more important in the long term of our species.

    Reply
  16. Andreas Hobyan

    Is it time for another war in the woods? The time for talking is over! I’ve shed many tears in the Nahmint Valley over the last couple years and the logging there has to stop!

    Reply

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