Across the B.C. landscape a number of destructive biological imperatives are gathering force including, besides the mountain pine beetle epidemic, other forest pests and blights, general eco-system degradation and impending seasons of landscape-scale forest fires. All these dramatic features of the province’s ongoing forest health crisis are connected in causes, circumstances and consequences.
At the moment there is an array of disparate task forces, programs and funding from both the federal and provincial governments directed at social, economic and environmental facets of the ongoing assault on the provincial forests. But, unlike the biological connections between interrupted disturbance patterns, pests, blight, and wildfire, none of the ongoing management planning is integrated in an overarching strategy. If government intends to effectively mitigate and rehabilitate the effects of the present threats to the forests and communities it must execute a comprehensive scheme with all its strategic elements aligned and linked.
Government can begin by committing to restoring the province’s forests with the same conviction it is salvaging the MPB-affected stands. To focus, as the province is now, on extracting the most value from these forests before they are lost is practical and necessary. But effective forest health strategies need to extend beyond this short economic cycle which is expected to be limited to the next 10 to 15 years. Governments need to promptly establish where and when to begin integrated rehabilitation and to provide goals, tools and skills to put this restoration into proper effect. These would include: resolving the potential contention around how the present tenure and license agreements actually take shape on the ground (declaring where salvaging ends and restoration begins); identifying opportunities through appropriate mapping; linking ongoing wildfire urban interface strategies to broader landscape planning; and guiding these and other initiatives through a strategic working group comprising expert resources from academia, the private sector, communities and government.
To deny or delay the proper rehabilitation of our forests will ensure the devaluation of this precious resource. It will exacerbate anticipated timber supply declines, increase future forest problem types, delay regeneration, amplify the wildfire threat and create numerous social, economic and biological consequences for communities dependent on the forest resource. As well, delaying addressing these looming environmental deficits will increase the costs and decrease the effectiveness of future treatments. As for our markets, not expeditiously treating the increasing areas of degraded forests will diminish the province’s reputation as a world leader in forest management and sustainable practice.
(Click on the link above to read the entire Green Plan document)