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Has it really come to this?

Dene Moore: the forestry crisis has pushed some from frustration to desperation.
Nowhere to turn.

A convoy of logging trucks and hundreds of forestry workers pulled up outside the BC legislature on budget day. I was glad to see the Save the Working Forest Rally…then I saw the petition they delivered to Forests Minister Doug Donaldson.

The petition circulated by the group BC Forestry Alliance appears to be asking the province to open up parks and protected lands to logging. I requested via Facebook a chance to ask one of the organizers, but didn’t get a response.

You tell me. The petition states:

“In its current state the forested land base in British Columbia consists of 1033 protected provincial parks. There are large portions of the land base set aside for social and cultural interests and environmental reasons. The forests of BC are a renewable resource and we ask that the remaining harvestable land base be protected as , THE WORKING FOREST, to be defined and dedicated to the purpose of harvesting and economic activities for the sustainable future of our Families, our Communities and the Province.

“To the Honorable John Horgan Premier of British Columbia; we the undersigned are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to bring into legislation, THE WORKING FOREST, defined and dedicated to the purpose of harvesting and economic activities.”

So, am I mistaken or does this suggest the answer to the forestry crisis is to log to the last log? The solution to mismanagement is to mismanage more?

I was preparing for the government’s 2020-2021 budget. Hoping not to, but expecting all the same to be writing this week about the lack of a government plan.

But I realized that if the people most affected by the forestry crisis are broke, scared, and frustrated enough to call for logging to the last log, then maybe it’s even worse than I thought.

Donaldson – Minister of All-Things-Going-to-Hell-in-A-Handbasket – went to the rally. He pledged his government’s support for affected forestry workers and reiterated his willingness to work with the sector.

But he said that work will be towards a “sustainable future.”

“The B.C. Forestry Alliance and others have made it clear to us that they are concerned about how old-growth forests are managed. That’s why we commissioned an independent, two-person panel to hear people’s perspectives on the economic, ecological and cultural importance of old-growth trees and forests,” Donaldson said in a statement after addressing the crowd.

That panel is expected to report back this spring.

Donaldson also pointed out that the province made changes to the Forests Act to give the minister greater oversight of transfers among companies of Crown timber. (Crown meaning public lands, belonging to the people of British Columbia.) And the provincial government’s latest budget does earmark $13 million over three years to support development of bio-products from wood fibre and invest in the forestry sector.

But the $69 million Forestry Worker Support Program has seen a slow roll-out so far – and it’s clear from the budget it has replaced the $25 million Rural Dividend for communities up to 25,000.

Most telling, the provincial budget doesn’t anticipate recovery any time soon for the ailing industry. It forecasts forestry revenues will fall to $867 million this year, compared to $1.16 billion in the 2018-2019 budget and $991 million last year.

Like the people gathered on Budget Day at the legislature, forestry fed my family. It paid for my brother’s hockey, my books, the food on our table. I support forestry and I believe it can be a sustainable, renewable industry.

But it hasn’t been.

Yes, B.C. has 1,033 provincial parks, recreation areas, conservancies, ecological reserves and protected areas covering 14 million hectares. That’s a little more than 14 per cent of the provincial land base.

But surely – lifting the protections for Wells Gray, Pacific Rim, Tweedsmuir, Garibaldi, Carmanah Walbrun and the other relatively few areas of the vast B.C. wilderness actually still wild cannot be the only option left.

If so, then I guess we’re out of options.

Dene Moore is an award-winning journalist and writer. A news editor and reporter for The Canadian Press news agency for 16 years, Moore is now a freelance journalist living in the South Cariboo. Moore’s two decades in daily journalism took her as far afield as Kandahar as a war correspondent and the Innu communities of Labrador. She has worked in newsrooms in Vancouver, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, St. John’s and Edmonton. She has been published in the Globe and Mail, Maclean’s magazine, the New York Times and the Toronto Star, among others. She is a Habs fan and believes this is the year.