I was shocked to read the Minister of Forests quoted as stating we only “plant what we harvest” in a recent article.

The minister used this same logic in answers to questions I posed in Question Period about the precipitous drop in tree planting.

The reason the minister’s statement is shocking is because it is so wrong on so many fronts and it reflects an abject lack of leadership on an issue of prime importance to current and future generations.

Yes, companies that harvest public timber must ensure their areas come back as a productive forest, so the amount of planting in direct response to harvesting may drop as harvesting declines.

But (and the minister knows this), the provincial government has a much broader obligation to treat forested areas that are disturbed by pests, disease, and fire, and areas which did not reach full productivity after harvesting but have reverted back to the province’s responsibility.

According to the government’s own statistics, more than 15 million hectares have been impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB). Of that, between three million and six million hectares will not regenerate naturally and will require replanting. Responding to this will require up to six billion additional seedlings alone. The government’s own MPB strategy states there needs to be an incremental investment in our public forests of between $800 million and $1 billion over 10 years, and the minister is aware of this.

Last fall the minister was briefed about the total current backlog of public forest areas, which require a silviculture response by government. He was informed this number has ballooned to 1.4 million hectares. To treat this with an active planting program about 1.4 billion trees would be required over and above those needed to replant recent harvested areas.

That’s why it’s so shocking that tree planting will drop to a mere 150 million seedlings in 2012 from a recent high of close to 300 million, and why it’s so shocking the minister claims this is OK because planting is only required after harvesting.

The minister knows better and should be leading an appropriate response to this huge challenge, not minimizing it. He also knows we would support him every step of the way.

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