The Minister of Forests and Range has urged the WSCA to lobby the Western Climate Initiative, environmental NGOs and the general public to encourage the recognition of forest restoration as a key component to meeting the B.C. government’s climate change initiatives.

Speaking at the Prince George 2010 WSCA Annual Conference in January Pat Bell said the contractor organization needs to get active on this political front “before it is too late.” According to the Minister carbon-related revenues could provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund forestry in British Columbia. But whether that money will ever be available depends on decisions made by committees making up the international Western Climate Initiative and other organizations including international ENGOs and BC’s Pacific Carbon Trust. These groups are responsible for setting up critical green house gas protocols that will determine the kinds of forestry activity or inactivity that qualify as mitigating the effects of climate change; and by virtue of that attract investments.

“Real key at the moment is to work with the Western Climate Initiative. They are the policy-making organization that will most impact North America,” said the Minister. He urged the WSCA to build alliances, including the ENGOs and bring the silviculture sector’s practical knowledge to the table. He also recommended the WSCA use its contacts with First Nations to help them better understand carbon management.

In a year when BC produced more tons of wildfire smoke than it did lumber, the relationship between forest management and climate change should seem obvious. But that is not the case in all quarters. Recently the Pacific Carbon Trust produced the disappointing recommendation that forestry activities that met the criteria for climate change mitigation should only include fertilization, superior seed use and afforestation. Environmental groups have been effective in promoting the idea that the best way to sequester carbon is to leaves forest intact, including much of the area under assault from the mountain pine beetle.

Meanwhile, in spite of the Minister’s apparent support for improving the level of forest management in B.C., his attitude seems to run contrary to the general disposition coming from his own ministry. In the case of the MPB plague the Forests For Tomorrow program will only address a minor increment of the 15 million hectares; and that over the next 20 years. At the same time Ministry-funded research consistently seems to lean towards recognizing the natural regeneration in MPB attacked stands without examining the long-term silviculture uncertainties that might entail. As well, the studies ignore the probability of future disturbances such as the increasing presence of pathogens and wildfire on the landscape.

With the area of the MPB area that is not recovering through natural regeneration estimated in some cases as high as 40 per cent of the attack, the ministry of forests has yet to come up with a strategy to address this extensive degradation in forestry abundance and diversity. The obvious need to mitigate the decay and degradation in B.C.’s forests, particularly in the context of climate change mitigation, shouldn’t be a hard sell. But as the WSCA has found out previously, in working with some of the initiatives and organizations the Minister has mentioned, including members of his own ministry, there is resistance to this self-evident imperative. Nevertheless, the WSCA has taken the ministers advice and is renewing and continuing work with the groups he has described.