Biodiversity Jan 99

"The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us for."
E.O. Wilson

1998 has been a terrible year for the B.C. forest industry. Competing in a global economy awash in cheap commodities, suffering the loss of markets due to the prolonged recession in Japan, the Asian flu, and the countervail agreement limiting access to the U.S., the B.C. industry is teetering on the brink.
Environmentalists have been making a strong case that this downturn is not merely cyclical but structural: an opportunity to speed up the transition to a low volume, high value-added industry. Unfortunately - but all too predictably - the crisis in the industry has focused everybody's attention on only short term economics. As industry spokesman call for 'sympathetic regulation', the far more important implications of business as usual in the final stages of the liquidation-conversion project pass unacknowledged and undebated.
The overwhelming priority ought to be healthy, fully functioning forests. Forest science can now attempt to achieve that goal, but in B.C. the responsibilities of managing ourselves in forest management is a lesson unlearned. The Clayoquot Scientific Panel's ecocentric forestry has healthy, fully functioning forests as the primary management goal and should have been adopted as a template for developing an ecocentric forestry for all forests in B.C.. Unfortunately, this quarter's Main Street and mall business health is a more important priority of the government. There is almost no popular, informed debate about the relative merits of continuing to manage forests for a sustained yield of products. Employment and local economic health dependent upon historic AAC harvest levels preclude even debating the merits of managing forests for their continued health, integrity and function .

"Two broad schools of thought exist regarding landscape planning. In one, future landscape patterns are described in specific desired products (e.g., wood fiber, habitat) and known ecosystem processes. The theme can be summarized as 'we know what we want and we know how to get it'. In the other approach, future patterns are based upon historic patterns to the degree feasible.
This point of view reflects the fact that we cannot even name all the species in the landscape, much less rationally plan for their habitat needs and ecosystem functions. A premise of this approach is that native species have adapted to the disturbance events and resulting range of habitat patterns of the past thousands of years. The probability of their survival is reduced if their environment deviates substantially from the range of historic conditions."
Cissel, Swanson, McKee and Burditt Journal of Forestry

Look again at the Timber Supply Analysis age class diagrams. Despite all the environmentally correct rhetoric, the plan is still to radically change historic forest patterns in a redesign of forests for fiber production. The post CORE, post PAS, post Forest Practices Code sustained yield plan remains controlled liquidation of old growth and replacement with early successional forests.

"Given the importance of the forest industry to the provincial economy however, timber production will remain a priority."
B.C. Deputy Forests Minister John Allan

Three recent state of the art forest management plans have a different priority:
The FEMAT plan for an ecosystem sustainable alternative to timber management in federal forests in the U.S. Pacific North-West reduced the level of cut from the 1980's average 4.6 billion board feet (bbf) to 1.2 bbf.
The Clayoquot Scientific Panel, with a mandate to develop a world class forestry, repudiated existing "constrained flow of commodities" timber planning in favor of a forestry whose prime goal is ecological health and integrity. Changing from management for timber outputs reduced the cut in Clayoquot Sound forests by 62%.
Herb Hammond's ecosystem-based Silva Plan for the Slocan Valley proposed a short term AAC of 10,288 m3 and a long term AAC of 23,022 m3, a 94% reduction from MoF's current cutting level of 170,000 m3.
Clearly the historic timber management level of commodity flows is at least three times the level of what forest scientists now regard as cutting levels compatible with ecosystem sustainability. Twentieth century forestry, a scheduled redesign of forests for a flow of commodities, is no longer tenable (except perhaps on private land) because this planning for commodities is far too radical a departure from historical patterns necessary to sustain forest health, function and integrity.
The numerous but cosmetic and bureaucratic policies of the NDP government have greenwashed the debate, co-opted environmentalists, and fooled the public, but the bottom line is that the actual cut in B.C. forests has only fallen from 74.2 m3 in 1991 to 68.4 million m3 last year - by less than 10%.
( In the NDP's defense, after decades of overcutting and denial, the necessary transition will entail a politically unthinkable economic dislocation for dependent B.C. communities. Premier Clark and his government, the industry, all of us to differing extent, are entrapped in the factory sequence of the fifty year old plan.)

"B.C. is conducting a vast, province-wide experiment with its forests, converting them from wild, idiosyncratic, resilient ecosystems to less variable, more predictable (maybe), managed ecosystems."
Pojar, J. and K. Price BC Forest Service, Research Branch

Noted conservation biologist Michael Soule has recently stated that even after the parks creation of PAS, 50% of biodiversity remains at risk of extinction. Until B.C. renounces liquidation-conversion in favor of an ecocentric forestry, economic benefits from forestry will continue to come at the expense of future generations. Forest health, biodiversity and opportunity for future generations are increasingly at risk because short term economics is the priority.

"When systems are pushed outside the bounds of natural variability, there is a substantial risk that biological diversity and ecological function will be jeopardized and therefore, ecological systems will not be naturally maintained."
Ayn Shlisky Journal of Forestry

Meanwhile the argument is still just about 'sympathetic regulation' to reduce the very marginal and cosmetic constraints of the Forest Practices Code. This is an indication of how short term economic considerations dominate our societal mindset and governmental processes.

"Although there is considerable variation in detail, there is remarkable consistency in the history of resource exploitation: resources are inevitably overexploited, often to the point of collapse or extinction."
Carl Walters, Donald Ludwig, Ray Hilborn


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