Action Plan for an Ailing Forest

It’s a stretch, but imagine a newly elected government has come into power and they are effective. These are the concrete steps they would need to take to protect, restore, and add value to BC's forests

Letter to the Editor from Van Andruss

BC Forest | Photo (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Moss

That BC’s forest are in an ailing condition, I will not argue. It’s simply a fact. How to restore these lands to health is the question. I am an advocate of Herb Hammond’s plan of action. Herb Hammond, long-time director of the Silva Forest Foundation, recommends an ecosystem-based conservation approach, or what he likes to call “nature-based” forestry.

It’s a stretch, but imagine a newly elected government has come into power and they are effective. A groundswell of support empowers them to take radical steps on the issue of climate change and forestry.

The first step is concerned with information-gathering, carried out swiftly from a precautionary approach that consists of targeted field assessments (not armchair assessments) and a GIS analysis, supplemented by an Indigenous knowledge and science-based focus on the protection of natural ecosystem integrity.

While awaiting results, an immediate reduction in the annual allowable cut is imposed and a firm prohibition on the logging of primary forests, including old growth.

Next, in a long overdue action, the control of public forests by timber companies is abolished. Tenure arrangements are revoked. Logging companies and their investors, with few exceptions, have enriched themselves at the expense of land and public. The outcry from logging companies is heard around the world. But the government, bless them, stands firm. The game is up.

Once liberated from private interests, public lands are returned to Indigenous nations and public hands (do not forget they were stolen to begin with). The planning and use of Indigenous/public lands is placed in the hands of Community Forest Boards (CFBs) scattered throughout BC, not only in towns but equally in outlying communities. The entrusting of stewardship to CFBs is not unqualified or “discretionary.” Stewardship is strictly legislated by principled ecosystem-based standards. The Professional Reliance model is scrapped. Professionals and all workers hired by the Boards are held accountable by the Boards themselves and a government agency that provides administrative and technical support.

Instead of the short-sighted planning characteristic of logging companies, focused on blocks to clearcut, long term planning is instituted.  Landscapes are analyzed across multiple spatial scales, from large watersheds to individual patches that make up sub-watersheds. Here the focus is fixed on creating protected forest networks that serve to maintain, and where necessary, restore a beleaguered ecological integrity. Clearcuts and tree plantations are things of the past. The new goal is continuous forest cover, maintained by natural forest processes.

Community-based forest protection, restoration, and production of value-added forest products furnish high levels of meaningful work. CFBs will collect user fees for various forest uses sanctioned under nature-based plans. Where timber is involved, regional log sort yards managed by CFBs auction the logs. Revenues from log sort yards are shared between Indigenous nations, CFBs and the government agency responsible for forests.

Such are the bold outlines of Herb’s timely plan. To get a more complete idea of Herb Hammond’s nature-based philosophy, see his book, Maintaining Whole Systems on Earth’s Crown.

Van Andruss, Moha, BC. June 2001.

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