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National forestry organization urges caution on BC land use changes

The national organization representing foresters and other professionals is urging the British Columbia government to be cautious about making any changes to how public forests are managed.

"We support reasonable options to protect forest sector jobs, understanding that sustainability of all forest resources is essential to conserve biodiversity, wildlife, watersheds, scenic values, recreational potential, and other non-timber values," wrote the president of the Canadian Institute for Forestry, Mark Kube, and the organization's executive director, John Pineau, in an April 26, 2012 letter to Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson.

The letter addresses what to do about the shortfall of timber coming in central B.C. as the increased logging to harvest trees killed by the mountain pine beetle is phased out. Premier Christy Clark has said the B.C. cabinet is considering allowing increased logging in areas set aside for wildlife habitat, old-growth, views and other values.

"We respectfully recommend caution and careful thought for any changes contemplated on public forested lands, and that we uphold our collective responsibility of ensuring the sustainability and conservation inherent to the social license that allows economic benefit from the forest," the CIF letter said.

It continued:

"Harvesting uplifts initiated a decade ago to salvage value from beetle-attacked forests were deemed necessary by some groups, however are not sustainable, as several decades worth of softwood resources were harvested.

"Protected areas, special management areas, ungulate winter ranges, riparian buffers, and old-growth management areas all play important roles in sustaining wildlife and forest ecosystem resilience. Those reserves and areas deferred from immediate harvesting have been designated through detailed, complex analyses and stakeholder negotiations, often as part of large-scale, long-term land use allocation processes (i.e. CORE, LRMPs, etc.).

"As forest professionals and practitioners, we believe that the recent history of mountain pine beetle attack and accelerated harvesting should not alter the overall balance of land use expected from our forests."

The organization "strongly endorses" the need for public consultation and emphasized that professionals should be involved in any changes to harvesting restrictions. Even stands of trees killed by beetles provide old-growth values, including places for wildlife to escape and protection for streams and rivers, the letter noted.

"Perhaps the impending timber supply crisis will generate opportunities to make some important transitions in B.C.'s forest sector," it said. "Creative solutions may include greater consideration of the broadleaf resource and further options for the bioenergy industry."

Last week The Tyee reported that the mayors of five northern communities had written to Clark urging the government to consider the long term sustainability of the places they represent when it's making forestry decisions.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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