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Last week National Geographic and a leaked Alberta government report suggested the province’s forestry standards lack scientific rigour leading to overcutting damage to non-timber values.

Alberta Forestry Practices Criticized

International and provincial media had little good to say about A.lberta forestry last week. Rapacious harvests, suppressed reports and allegations of unscientific and opportunistic practices lead an assault on the province’s forest management standards. The June 2002 National Geographic singled out Alberta in a feature article on the Earth’s boreal forests as a prime example of the “deleteterious effects . . .of resource extraction.” In the magazine, which reaches 40-million readers world-wide, Alberta is portrayed as caught up in a self-serving and exploitative resource boom with little regard for the long term effects on habitat and the landscape.

But the most damaging criticism comes from a report commissioned by the Alberta Government itself. The document, leaked by the province’s Liberal opposition, has never been officially released to the pulblic and appears to confirm some of National Geographic’s assessment.

Two years ago a panel of scientists were asked to review the scientific basis of forest regeneration policy in Alberta. They made their startling conclusions a year ago saying the forest sector is at risk unless a more rigorous, science-based process is adopted to predict forest growth. The report warned that while current forestry practices are lopsidedly focussed on timber production at the expense of other values the science behind regeneration forecasts is poor. The province could be harvesting beyond sustainable levels. The report makes numerous recommendations including the creation of a Forest Science Board to guide the increasingly complex requirements of determining sustainable harvest levels and meeting other social concerns.