Protection will revitalize economy: study

  • Feb. 14, 2005 6:00 p.m.

By Heidi Bevington–How could protecting 45-percent of the islands from industry revitalize our economy?
By opening up new markets for ecologically-friendly lumber, and attracting investment in the tourism and shellfish aquaculture industries, argue the authors of a 112-page report entitled Revitalizing BC’s Economy.
Consultants Jim Johnson and Don Harrison call their proposal the Sustainability Scenario in a just written report for four environmental groups: ForestEthics, Greenpeace, The BC chapter of the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network.
They’re interested in finding away to revitalize the economy in a way that keeps jobs and money in the region. The report looks at land-based industries like logging, mining and tourism. Sport fishing lodges are included, but commercial fishing and potential developments like oil and natural gas are not discussed.
Fishing and logging have formed the backbone of the region’s economy, but most of the money and benefits went elsewhere leaving behind deeply-rooted social problems like poverty, poor health and inadequate housing, said the authors. And the prospects for the future are bleak if industry and the province continue with business as usual.
The logging industry is under pressure, according to the report. Global competition is increasing, and the demand for old-growth timber is declining. As well, those people who do want to buy old growth timber are increasingly concerned it be harvested in an ecologically sound way.
The industry has responded to these difficult conditions by high-grading valuable cedar from the most accessible areas of the forest, said Mr. Johnson and Mr. Harrison. As the amount of easily-available cedar declines, companies will have to move to more difficult terrain, and begin cutting lower value wood like hemlock. They will also have to begin cutting lower value second growth timber. As the value and volume of the timber logged in the region continues to decline, so will the economy.
The timber in areas proposed for protection is of marginal value, said the authors, and besides, the best way to support the economy isn’t to cut down more trees and export them raw, but to cut fewer trees and to process them in BC. By logging less and using sustainable ecosystem-based management business practices, markets that want ecologically-friendly lumber will become accessible to the BC industry and attract socially responsible investment dollars to support emerging industries like shellfish aquaculture.
Protection will have minimal impact on the mining industry because the islands, north coast and central coast have no large mineral deposits that could be developed economically.
Tourism on the other hand would benefit greatly from protection. Wilderness tourism exceeded $900-million in 2001 in BC-half of that on the coast, said the authors. Certainty about what will and won’t be logged, will attract investment in both high end lodges and smaller nature tourism operations.
Shellfish aquaculture is a developing industry the authors estimate could result in as many as 350 jobs for the region. It’s “becoming one of the leading community based industries on BC’s coast and it is poised for rapid expansion if economic conditions are right,” says a summary of the report.
The authors conclude “the Sustainability Scenario is a rational economic choice for society to make, even if the conservation gains involved are not considered in the analysis.”
For a copy of the report go to www.pacificanalytics.ca.

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