Forest plan does nothing for Charlottes, nothing for north, says MLA

  • Nov. 5, 2007 5:00 a.m.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons is taking the axe to the provincial government’s new “Coastal Forest Action Plan”, released last week by Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman. Mr. Coons said the plan does nothing to help residents of the Charlottes or northern BC, and will not rebuild the manufacturing sector in this region. He was most critical of the plan’s loosening of log export rules in the north, and he tied the growing amount of log exports to mill closures and job losses on the north coast over the past decade. “Log exports exchange short-term gain for long-term pain,” Mr. Coons said. “The expansion of log exports to the Queen Charlottes coupled with the continuation of old-growth logging will lead to the devastation of our vulnerable coastal forests. This plan once again offers little hope for workers and communities and we need to press for the necessary transition programs and funding for both workers and communities.” The plan’s new rules for log exports from crown land, which take effect on Feb. 1, divide BC into a northern region and a southern region, with the two regions treated very differently. In the southern zone, rates are going up, and will be linked to lumber export charges. In the northern zone, by contrast, the government says it will extend the existing orders-in-council that allow up to 35 percent of harvested logs to be exported, and the export fees on these logs will be lower than in the south – just 5 percent, compared to up to 20 percent in the south (southern rates differ according to species). The export of cedar logs from crown land is currently banned and that ban will be maintained, the government said, because cedar is a high-value, unique species. The Ministry of Forests says log exports play “an important role in the coastal economy by providing jobs in the logging and transportation sectors.” The northern and southern zones are treated differently because in the north, the ministry says, logging costs are higher and there are few manufacturing facilities. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said he was having a hard time understanding the government’s logic. “The idea that raw log exports are somehow a good idea is perplexing to me,” he said. “Increasing raw log exports is increasing the export of jobs.” Bob Matters, chair of the United Steelworkers wood council, said he doubted that the government’s action plan would affect anyone living on the Charlottes, except that we might notice more logs being exported. Instead of easing restriction on northern log exports, the government should have looked for ways to make it easier for companies to produce products right here in BC out of locally-grown lumber, Mr. Matters said. Instead, it spent great time and effort producing what Mr. Matters called “a very disappointing plan.” The government’s plan also calls for more harvesting of second growth timber, saying that second-growth could make up 44 percent of the harvest in the next decade, from 5 percent in 1995 and 29 percent today. Mr. Matters said it’s hard to call that a plan, since there’s not much choice about the shift to second-growth. “That’s not a plan, it’s a reality,” he said.