New broad approach to managing publicly-owned forest resources

Ben Parfit's paper helps fuel the greenhouse gas debate, columnist Jim Hilton says.

Ben Parfit’s paper: Managing BC’s Forests For a Cooler Planet:  Carbon Storage, Sustainable Jobs and Conservation will provide lots to think about regarding the greenhouse gas debate.

This  relatively recent (January 2010) article is supported by a  research alliance led by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA-BC) and the University of BC, along with some unions and conservation groups.

The paper looks broadly at five topics:    forest conservation, forest products and their role in carbon storage,  wood as a source of green bioenergy, tree planting and carbon storage; and a  carbon neutral philosophy in managing our forests.

The paper includes  recommendations that would set B.C. on a new course in managing its forests and forest products to store more carbon and produce less carbon dioxide.

Some of the recommendations, supported by extensive references, include the following:    “Conserve more forest;  Increase the age at which the forests  are logged; Eliminate egregiously high levels of wood waste at logging sites; Chart a new way forward for reforesting and rehabilitating forestlands; Promote solid wood products as the first and best use of the wood coming out of our forests; Carefully weigh under what circumstances wood-based energy may make sense from a climate change perspective; and fully account for all forest carbon in both forests and forest products.”

While some of the recommendations like preserving more old growth especially in the productive long lived forests and promoting an older age for AAC determinations are controversial in the highly competitive forest industry, the author makes a  strong case for future carbon capture and cap and trade scenarios.

The promotion of wood products for construction purposes should be encouraged by both industrial forest companies and conservation groups.

The author points out that it takes 2.9 times more fossil fuel energy to produce the equivalent amount of concrete slabs, 3.1 times more energy to produce the equivalent amount of clay bricks, and 17.3 times more energy to produce the equivalent amount of steel studs as it does softwood lumber.

While steel can be recycled, tremendous amounts of energy are required to do so.

Such energy far exceeds that expended to grow seedlings and transport them to logging sites, where the seedlings soon offset all of the energy required to produce them by pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Other initiatives include the suggestion to raise the limit of wood frame construction from four to six stories and utilization of less steel in multiple family housing.

Finally, while wood is demonstrably better for our environment when compared to other building materials, it may all come to naught if the buildings themselves are not built to last. i.e. “leaky condo crisis.”

In some buildings  the exterior walls of buildings were re-sheathed at enormous cost in terms of new materials and energy output. In 2008, total repair costs for improperly built strata title apartments and condominiums alone was estimated at $3 billion to $4 billion.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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