Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PIne beetle jobs disaster and government inaction (and secrecy)

Independent MLA Bob Simpson yesterday raised questions about a government document forecasting half the forest jobs in the Interior would disappear in the next few years. The rush to harvest the pine beetle wood will be over. The damaged forests will be decades away from harvest size. No wood, no mills, no jobs. The document proposes a few short-term measures, like logging in protected areas. (The government was quickly removed from the government website once Simpson asked about it in the legislature.)
The economic crisis reflects a massive government failure to respond to an inevitable and obvious crisis. In a 2004 column, I wrote about the job losses when the pine beetle wood was harvested.
The crisis would challenge any government. There are no easy routes to economic diversification to replace a core industry, or retraining for its workers.
But the federal government's response has been anemic, given the scale of the disaster. The province's Pine Beetle Action Plan has been hopelessly inadequate, especially in terms of economic development. The provincial government has failed to warn workers that their jobs will end, and missed opportunities to take bold action.
All despite the fact that this disaster has been unfolding in slow motion, in plan sight.

Update: Simpson has the document, now declared secret by the government, at his website here.


Scotty on Denman said...

One must be careful defining job losses due to beetle-kill. There was accelerated cutting to salvage what could be salvaged of the least desirable tree species killed in the insect epidemic. Should we measure job losses against the extra jobs created by salvage operations?

The supposed "leak" of this document is really preparatory, setting the balls up for a trick-shot intended to be performed just ahead of the next election. Indeed, the document "recommends" the government "decide" if it should authorize cutting into protected areas (to compensate for beetle-kill) before the end of 2012 because making it an election issue would somehow put the government into "conflict."

That absurd notion alone should ring alarm bells. The BC Liberals have been making hay out of the beetle-kill for ten years, their disingenuousness exposed by their abiding raw-log export policy, which is the real job-killer here. And the real purpose of the supposedly "leaked" document is to wedge and bait opposition to this dying, disgraced government.

The fact that logging protected areas would only forestall job losses for a short time while the protected forests would be forever gone, should put paid to BC Liberal perfidy in this issue.

Let's recap and summarize the mendacities:

The document is a plant, not a leak;
Logging protected areas will not save jobs;
The issue does not conflict with an election;
Raw log exports, not pine beetles, is the real job-killer in the Interior.

We should be reminded of the horrible job the BC Liberals have done of managing our forests.

scotty on Denman said...

I worked in the woods when the mountain pine beetle first showed up. Nobody got overly excited about it because nobody wanted lodgepole pine. Of low lumber value due to it's relatively small size, knottiness and hardness and expensive to pulp because of its pitchyness, lodgepole is the least desirable of Interior tree species. There were two reasons why there was so much of it: we got good at putting out wildfires for the preceding century so vast areas of single-aged stands flourished where they wouldn't have naturally, which partly explains the severity of the subsequent insect infestation; but the real reason why there was so much lodgepole was that nobody really wanted it.

Another illustration: I was there when the BCFS announced a fifty percent reduction in Allowable Annual Cut in the Lillooet Timber Supply Area, which would have been received as an unmitigated disaster in any other TSA. At the time we were all focused on chasing another beetle, the spruce bark beetle; in fact, we were just logging the last of these high elevation stands when the bad news came. The salvage of spruce bark beetle-infested stands had resulted in a massive dent to long-term timber supply. But instead of switching the reduced cut to pine, of which there was plenty, the mills and all the contractors packed up and left. They just simply didn't want to work for peanuts in the pine.

I was, as a west coster, stunned at the response but no one else even batted an eye.

Then came the beetle, spectacular in its wide devastation, monstrous in consequence. Gordon Campbell created a new policy upon which to stump his political fortunes. "I'm going to open up the forests to salvage the pine and create jobs, jobs, jobs...." (this was when he coined the "Heartlands" moniker for what everyone had called the Interior for generations.) There was a dirty little secret, though: nobody wanted healthy, living lodgepole pine, much less dead, decayed ones. Furthermore, the breadth of the devastation outstripped harvesting capacity, even if every single logger in the province was focused on the task.

Christy Clark, still governing under Campbell's disgraced mandate, has, unsurprisingly, continued the shell-game razzle-dazzle of the dirty little beetle-kill secret, depending, as usual, on generally fuzzy public understanding of basic forestry facts, only this time employing the lowly pine beetle to wedge ideology amongst the electorate and to allow friends of the BC Liberals to pillage protected forest areas of spruce, balsam, Douglas fir and larch. Short-term profit once again seeks to trump the long-term health of our forests and the human communities that live in them.

It would be a shame for the BC Liberals to permit liquidating these protected areas to profit their insider buddies. They're going to lose the election anyway so it's as cynical a move as any they're contemplating as the day of doom approaches.

Anonymous said...

The Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, want to log our Rain Forests. This we have to stop. How anyone could be so stupid, boggles the mind. Their greed, absolutely disgusting.

Campbell shipped BC mills to China, along with our raw logs. Mills in BC will become obsolete, which is Campbell's evil intention. There is freighter after freighter loaded with logs, on their way to China. There has been, no reforestation done in BC, what-so-ever.

China also owns BC mines. China is bringing their own people, to work our mines too.

Harper has given the dirty tar sands, to China. They refuse to pay Canadian wages. Harper has given China permission, to bring their own people to work, their vast tar sands projects. China is bringing thousands of their own people, to build the Enbridge pipeline as well.

Remember what Fadden of CSIS said, China is making huge inroads, into Canada. He was exactly right. BC was specifically named.

Harper and the, Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, are totally responsible, for the tragic state BC is in. BC's assets and resources, thieved and sold because, Campbell is working for Harper, right to this very day.

Harper is a Neo-Nazi Reformer, from his Northern Foundation Party, of 1989. They said, the skinheads organized Harper's, more than shady party.

Harper's so called Conservatives. BC's so called Liberals and the BC Conservative Party, are all one and the same. They all have, interchangeable parts or, one size fits all.