Skip to content

OPINION: When city folks run the forests

James Steidle


Special to the News

Recently our politicians in charge of forestry were in town.  That would be Lower Mainland MLAs Bruce Ralston, our Minister of Forests, and our fresh-eyed Minister of State for Sustainable Forestry Innovation, Andrew Mercier.

I have no idea what was said to our struggling forestry workers. They don’t talk to critics like me who volunteer their time to highlight forestry issues.  But I suspect it was the usual “solutions.”  The moose will pay.  Our wildlife will pay. Our primary forests will pay.  And of course, eventually, you will pay. 

Everything will pay except for the bottom line of the investor and billionaire class.  We will scrape the forests barren of life, cut down every moose-sustaining patch of aspen, plaster the landscape in monocrop pine plantations, a fake forest as flammable as it is prone to beetles, just as long as every last dollar of investor profit can be siphoned out of our region to keep the global shareholder class happy.

We have more than enough forest and timber to sustain our workers and our forests and moose and wildlife along with them.

But we don’t have enough forest to support the deadweight of the global investor class so they can get rich doing nothing, sipping martinis while big capital, their glyphosate-spraying helicopters, heavy iron, and automated supermills, raze valley after valley.

I was reminded of this on the weekend when I walked through an old-growth fir stand where a couple of trees had been taken out by cheap skidders and human muscle 30 years ago. These small selective harvesting methods would never make sense today with the big million dollar machines, the air-conditioned feller bunchers and processors. 

Nowadays only a small fraction of the income from logging pays for labour. Most of what we log nowadays is to pay off the financiers and investors behind the big equipment, and only a massive clearcut can keep them happy.

Last week at COFI, the investor class actually had the nerve to say red tape was to blame for the decades-long decline of the forestry sector, a sector that lost nearly half of its work force at the same time the floodgates were opened to deregulation and big capital.   

There is indeed red-tape to blame, but it’s the red tape that prevents small sawmillers, commercial firewood, and value added industries from thriving.  It’s the red tape that protects megacorp ownership rights over public resources even after they closed down every single board foot of manufacturing capacity in an entire timber supply area.  

Whatever happened to the old mantra, “jobs for logs?”

And naturally, our Lower Mainland representatives, Andrew Mercier and Bruce Ralston, haven’t done a thing to correct any of this.  Instead their latest initiative is to make it easier to log more, to strip mine the burns to make a few bucks for the supermills. They claim this will enable “quicker reforestation” but the science shows salvage logging sets the recovery process back and further simplifies the forest towards yet more pine. 

One of the quirks of our political system is this thing called Victoria. The reality of Victoria is a buffet of endless suit and tie functions, smooth talking lobbyists, and a media and political staffer class as juvenile and unserious as they are devoid of any actual knowledge of, let alone interest in, our forests or forest industry.

Bruce Ralston isn’t just unserious. His entire bureaucratic and political apparatus is unserious. And it’s intentional. It’s not about serving the North or the people. It’s about enjoying that fresh ocean breeze that keeps the wildfire smoke away. And to enjoy that privilege, you best serve the interests of the metropolitan investor class. That’s who Victoria works for. Serving the thing that actually matters, Prince George, northern forests, and northern workers, won’t get you very far in that alien environment.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 thoughts on “OPINION: When city folks run the forests”