Gov’t must listen to the public

Members of the Special Committee on Timber Supply have my sympathy and respect.

Members of the Special Committee on Timber Supply have my sympathy and respect.

They have a brutal schedule and a daunting task. The problems in our forests have been decades in the making, and there is a lot more at stake than the health of the timber supply for the lumber industry.

Listening to presenters here on Thursday and later reading the minutes from other  areas (www.leg.bc.ca/cmt) it struck me the public wants trees left for future generations; more local involvement in planning; and ensuring there is room in the forests for other users, not only other industries (agriculture, tourism guiding, trapping etc.) but also for small forest- related endeavors.

I have a personal interest in the welfare of our  forests. Four members of my family depend on local mills for their livelihoods, and for a few years I have chaired the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) which is concerned with land- use issues. CCCS was born in the 1990s during the days of the B.C. Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE) and the development of the Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Plan (CCLUP). Many presenters want to keep the plan (no logging steep slopes, low-value stands, protected areas or old growth forests).

Concern about timber supplies is nothing new. Back in the 1970s some local mill owners worried about it (pine had little value then). In the 1980s, at least one senior forestry official believed more forest revenue should go to sustaining the forests. Now we’re playing catch up.

It’s all very well to pay lip service to balancing the economy, the environment and social needs. The challenge is how to do it over the long term. Committees and commissions seeking public input have been around for years. I’m all for them, but too often governments put short-term political considerations ahead of the public’s recommendations. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.