Paving paradise

In the year before his death, writer and broadcaster Rafe Mair warned me of guileless naivety after I expressed an expectation that John Horgan and BC NDP would be better stewards of our lands than were the BC Liberals.

I had heard positive commitments about environmental protections from the mouths of people in the Official Opposition.

Rafe said my mistake was trusting what they said.

Throughout my life, I have had a positive view of harvesting trees. One uncle, a professional forester, said logging was like farming, but with a much longer crop cycle.

In 1964, before heading to the big city to continue education, I was whistle punk (signalman) for the summer at a logging camp at the head of Powell Lake. I remember our small crew yarding and loading massive Douglas Fir logs.

On trucks with 11-foot bunks, the timber could only be carried out one log at a time. The trees had been close in volume to the famed Red Creek Fir pictured here.

To the crew, removal of this large and valuable timber was the triumph of man over nature. Like the others, I cheered. At today’s prices, a single log would have produced lumber worth more than $10,000, a single tree, $50,000.

So it is easy to understand why forestry workers and logging companies fight to remove every tree from every stand of old growth timber in the province.

But more than fifty years later, I know better. In the words of Natural Resources Canada:

Forests provide Canadians a wealth of benefits that go beyond providing jobs and income. Forests provide habitat for living things, fight flooding, keep us cool, feed us, heal us and provide sanctuaries of spiritual meaning for many Canadians and Indigenous people.

Old growth forest should be icons of British Columbia. Having survived hundreds of years, these must not be destroyed for the convenience and profit of a few, or for political debts owed to unions that funded John Horgan’s rise to power.

Ecological destruction of vast areas of British Columbia is underway in 2021. It is time for people young and old to rise up as they did during the War in the Woods against Mike Harcourt’s NDP government in the 1990s.

The Narwhal, courtesy of The Guardian:

Hundreds of activists are digging in at logging road blockades across a swath of southern Vancouver Island, vowing to stay as long as it takes to pressure the provincial government to immediately halt cutting of what they say is the last 3 per cent of giant old-growth trees left in the province…

NDP commitment to UNDRIP is meaningless talk

Categories: Forestry

13 replies »

  1. Why is it these “activists” are only “activists” when NDP governments are in power but largely silent when the BC Liberals are in power?


  2. Doesn’t this labour-oriented government realize that old growth is a finite resource that is nearing its end? Eventually, the jobs that depend on logging old growth will disappear along with the big trees. So why not start now to transition those workers to something else?
    I suppose the answer is the typical short-term thinking of elected governments. And Horgan showed his real priorities by calling that unnecessary election last fall.
    I hope support for the Green Party increases.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is a crime against nature. A tree-ocaust that should be halted, whatever the cost. Once these big trees are gone, they will never return, unless they are planning 1000 year harvesting cycles instead of 30 or 50.

    Many cultures respectfully say a prayer before taking something from nature. I wonder what kind of prayers the company workers are saying before they begin the old growth slaughter every morning?

    “Money Gods, please take care of us once we have downed the last big tree.”

    We should be weeping for what we have done.


  4. The value of the fibre in the lumber market is what drives the extraction industry. The argument now needs to be made, loud and clear, that the value of the fibre is in the enduring quality of the living tree. From this perspective the market is no longer a one-time profitable act of extraction but a multitude of valuable uses from medicines to tourism to carbon sequestration.


    • Wouldn’t it be great if our economy put a value on life rather than death?

      A living tree is counted as zero in GDP. Same goes for everything that lives… we need to have a stronger incentive to keep life and a reduced incentive to destroy life.


  5. Where are you getting that information? Activism hasn’t changed ever, regardless of which party is in power.


  6. John Horgan used the facile (and false) “point of no return” excuse handed to him by Christy Clark to proceed with Site C.

    He now appears to believe old-growth forest reaches a point of plenty of returns. For favoured friends.


    • It’s difficult for any government that cares about forest dependent communities like Merrit and Port Alberni to move away suddenly from logging old growth. I lived in Port Alberni the early 80’s when the forest industry was hit by a trade war with the U.S. and mills were shut down. There was also a strike going on at the same time. The effect ot that was simply devastating! I’m not in any way criticizing the decision to go on strike but I’m just trying to illustrate a point here.


      • Since your experience forty years ago, governments of all stripes have responded to environmentalists by talking as though they understand the need for retaining old growth ecosystems. Then allowing them to be logged.

        Forty years should have been long enough if the intent was ever to build the sustainable industry they promised. But here we are and the Forest Minister is still talking about some nebulous future utopia where we’ll be able to pick up dog turds by the clean end.

        “From my perspective, I think of it as a generational issue,” Conroy said, mentioning her nine grandchildren. “When they are adults, they should have the option to work in a sustainable, well-managed forest industry if they choose, but also the ability to go for a hike in an intact forest.”


  7. John Horgan used the facile (and false) “point of no return” excuse handed to him by Christy Clark to proceed with Site C.

    He now appears to believe old-growth forest reaches a point of plenty of returns. For favoured friends.


  8. As a species, we humans truly are a blight on the landscape. Forest industries in other countries and jurisdictions manage to operate in second, third and otherwise previously logged plantation forests. With no more than 3% of the productive, big tree old-growth forest left in BC, the damage done is horrific. The hour is getting late.

    A retired logger I spoke with in the late 1980s said the original old-growth Sitka spruce tree trunks (boles) along the Skeena River west from Terrace were sometimes so large the equipment could not handle them. In order to avoid being fined by the Forest Service, he said large trenches were excavated where the massive boles were buried to hide them.

    Our big tree old-growth forests are locally unique complex assemblages of microbes, plants and animals the likes of which shall never be seen again, as they took thousands of years to fully establish. These old-growth ecosystems, including their soils, are among the most complex of any on Earth; their capacity to fix carbon (assimilate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) is phenomenal. Foresters who tell us that all forests are equal as long as there are trees established, couldn’t be more brainwashed wrong!!

    Liked by 1 person

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