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LETTER: The tyranny of the district forest manager

James Steidle, Stop the Spray BC.

BY JAMES STEIDLE

Stop the Spray BC

Our landscapes are being converted to simplified plantations.  A relentless government and industry program sprays and brushes fire-resistant, moose-feeding deciduous, the cradles of life of our northern forests, the birch and aspen.  Trees that were there before. Trees that sequester more carbon and absorb much less heat. That gather and store more water. Cut down and sprayed.

Who do you complain to?  Surely the Forest Practices Board will take note of this over-the-top war on forest resiliency and adaptability. But alas, this is all entirely legal. Better call the guys in Victoria who set provincial policy.  But nope, that actually isn’t their responsibility either. They tell me they don’t even agree with these policies, but it is entirely on the Forest District manager’s shoulders, not theirs. 

The district manager.

It’s an obscure bureaucratic position that we are told has no power. They can’t deny cutting permits or road permits. Whatever the logging corporations want, they get.

But their impotence is not entirely true. The district managers decide which trees live and which shall be cleansed from the regenerating forest.  By a stroke of a pen they can decide that aspen, a forest type that may cover 20 per cent of the landscape, is suddenly a weed in cutblocks to be assaulted with herbicides and brush saws under “pest” management plans.  The species that support the majority of the wildlife, the habitat that moose prefer, that supports the beavers, suddenly it is no longer legitimate.  It must get sprayed or cut down.

At the very most, you may have five per cent deciduous forest in a cutblock. And it is legal to cut down and spray 100 per cent of it in every cutblock and there is no requirement to preserve any of it in any law or statute anywhere.  Not for biodiversity, fire resistance, not along waterways for beaver, nothing. The stuff that does survive, does so in spite of the district managers, not because of them.  

This is an incredible power.  The district manager can fundamentally alter the nature of an entire landscape with no regard for the prior ecosystem.  By classifying aspen a “pest” and requiring its removal the whole forest can become more flammable, will sequester less carbon, and will absorb more sunlight and heat and support less biodiversity.  The exact opposite thing on a warming planet we should be doing. And the district manager can make it worse at the stroke of a pen. There is nothing anybody can do to stop it.

A tyranny is typically defined as a system of governance where a ruler/official can make arbitrary decisions unrestrained by law. That’s exactly what we have.

Our local district managers can allow horizon-to-horizon pine plantations, oblivious to prior pine beetle infestations, with no restraint from any law.  They can authorize the destruction of the aspen forest type that supports 1,000 per cent more forage for cattle on public rangeland with no restraint from any law.  They can authorize the destruction of fire-resistant deciduous forests around private property, exposing them to risk of fire, with no restraint from any law.

You don’t like it? That’s too bad.  Has world-renowned scientist Suzanne Simard proven the war on deciduous is destructive? Yes, but who cares. Neither you nor anyone else, including apparently the minister, can do anything about it, short of a new law. Furthermore, they can toy with your life and that of vast populations of wildlife arbitrarily, with no explanation or justification whatsoever.  

That’s a tyrant. And a destructive one at that. When legal recourse for injustice is unavailable, what other options are there? Or do we just let unelected and unaccountable public officials stuck on autopilot keep ignoring research and common sense just because they can?

The government must change how decisions over our forest composition are made. Because right now these decisions serve nobody but outdated, tired, and self-destructive ideas that we need to immediately leave behind us.

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