About a year ago, I caught wind of a government initiative examining what incremental timber supply might be made available if land-use restrictions in mountain pine beetle impacted timber supply areas were relaxed or lifted.
The only sector the government was engaging in this assessment was the major licence holders; in effect, the companies that would seem to have the most to gain from any increase in timber availability.
I met with the minister of forests and the chief forester at the time and urged them to be careful how they went about this review, because the land-use plans they were playing with were highly contentious compromise deals that people are still vested in. I warned that if word got out that the government was only talking to timber interests about logging areas reserved for other values, many people would say “no” to these plans before we had a chance to have an informed discussion about what the government’s assessment uncovered.
Bad process always leads to bad outcomes. In this case, the government’s mishandling of the midterm timber supply review is leading to an unwanted and unnecessary fight between timber and non-timber interests at a time when we can least afford a polarizing debate. Groups and individuals have already written to the minister saying they won’t support any logging in forest reserves before we’ve had a public conversation. Over the past few months, I’ve been urging the minister to get the report that came out of the government’s midterm timber supply review into the public domain as soon as possible. This week I had to bring those private urgings into the public sphere through question period, and I did not get a satisfactory answer.
The government must quickly engage us all in an informed discussion about our future timber supply.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.