THE OVERWHELMING PHYSICAL PRESENCE of the logging industry in populated areas of BC is hard to escape: it takes place almost everywhere except built-up urban areas, agricultural land and BC’s small system of protected areas. And even though employment in the industry has dwindled to 50 percent of what it was 20 years ago, the area of BC that gets clearcut each year is growing. That’s because the average size of the trees being cut is getting smaller and smaller as younger and younger trees are logged. To keep volumes up and remain competitive in the international market for wood, more and more land gets clearcut as time goes on. This is, of course, is subject to year-to-year market fluctuations, but the general trend is toward a greater area being cut in a given period of time.
As the area being cut each year increases and awareness of the problems created by clearcut logging grows in the public mind, the conflict over how publicly-owned forests are used is growing. One avenue through which that conflict gets expressed is in letters of complaint written to what some of us think of as the “mindustry.” Let me define that term.
“Mindustry” is shorthand for the alliance of people who have an economic interest in maintaining the logging industry at the maximum possible size. It’s that maximization that provides those folks with the greatest degree of job security. Included in the alliance are, on the one hand, employees of the BC Ministry of Forests and, on the other, employees of the logging industry. By “logging industry,” we mean the industry that plans logging roads and cutblocks, builds the roads and cuts the trees down, trucks them to mills or export terminals, and then mills the logs into wood products or loads raw logs onto ships. The mindustry includes the folks who replant the clearcuts and the educators employed to train foresters, forestry technicians and equipment mechanics at educational institutions like UBC and BCIT. And it includes businesses that supply the industry with the equipment, supplies and services required to remove forests. That’s the mindustry.
Every job in the mindustry is made more secure if the current level of logging is maintained. Any suggestion of significantly lowering that cut threatens the long-term job security of everyone in the mindustry, from government to industry to educational institutions. There is no other industry in BC that is so sensitive about its collective job security. That’s because there is no other industry that does so much physical damage to our life support systems.
When a conflict arises over proposed logging on a specific area of Crown land, those opposed to the logging will often put their objections in written form and send them to the company proposing to do the logging, and/or to ministry employees. In neither case is anyone in a position of authority going to do anything more than write a polite letter in response, which basically will say: “Thank you for your input.”
Ocassionally, a company will agree to postpone logging of a small area, but that logging is simply shifted to some other nearby area. The actual rate at which a company is cutting on an area-based tenure will only change based on market conditions and the company’s own needs. The company is required by the ministry to cut a certain volume within a certain timeframe.
So the question arises: What is the point of complaining about proposed logging?
The easiest answer is that if we remain silent, the government will understand that as consent. If we don’t speak out against the destructive use of the forest, then the company and Ministry of Forests will interpret that as tacit agreement with what they are doing. Since we don’t agree, we must express our disagreement.
This project is advocating a significant reduction in the amount of logging done on the Discovery Islands, which goes far beyond objecting to the logging of specific cutblocks. We understand that the mindustry—the alliance of economic interests described above—will be opposed to this direction, perhaps vehemently. Writing to them and asking for their support would be futile. Yet engagement with government is essential since only government has the authority to change the status of publicly-owned land.
Engaging with the rest of government—the Ministry of Environment, the Climate Change Secretariat, the Ministry of Tourism, the new Ministry of Land Stewardship, and so on—is where this project will need to take its powers of persuasion in order to be successful in reversing the ecological degradation, the immense release of forest carbon, the loss of carbon sequestration capacity, the increase in forest fire hazard and the suppression of forest-related employment that is occurring as a result of authority for management of island forests resting mainly in the hands of the mindustry.
This project will keep a record of letters and other submissions from people and groups engaging with the mindustry and with other government agencies. If you have written about some aspect of forest management on the Discovery Islands, please send it to us and we will add it to that record (please include the reply you received).