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October 27, 2017 11:46 pm

Can we afford to be fickle about our forests?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 @ 3:45 AM

By Peter Ewart

Forests are the lungs of our planet.  They operate as vast reservoirs for capturing, storing, and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as providing oxygen.  They also provide wildlife habitat, landscape stability, water storage and filtering, and other important environmental functions.

And they create a foundation for human activity and community, including manufacturing and processing, trade, scientific research, tourism, recreation and culture.  In all these respects, British Columbia has a treasure in its vast, diverse and bountiful forests.  At a time of rapid climate change, which, according to the prevailing view of the scientific community, has been dramatically accelerated by the proliferation of greenhouse gases (GHG) from human activity, the importance of this resource cannot be underestimated.

In terms of removing greenhouse gases (GHG) and carbon from the atmosphere, trees play a key role in accumulating and sequestering these gases through photosynthesis which converts them into organic matter, energy and oxygen.  It is estimated that BC’s 55 million hectares of forest store “approximately 6 to 7 billion tonnes of carbon” and remove huge amounts from the atmosphere every year (1).

In that regard, a large amount of carbon is also stored in wood products such as lumber and pulp & paper for both short and long periods of time depending on the product.

On the other hand, forests also emit GHGs through respiration, decay of organic matter, forest fires, fuel burning, and landfills.

As noted by various scientists, “a forest is considered a source of GHGs when it emits more GHGs than it removes from the atmosphere, whereas it is considered a sink when it removes more than it emits” (2).  It follows that it is in the interest of humanity and the planet to have our forests function more as sinks rather than sources.  In that regard, how we manage our forests is key.

According to a report (1) released in January of 2016 and provided to participants at a recent workshop at UNBC, there are three main categories to mitigate or reduce GHGs and atmospheric carbon: “(1) maintain or increase forest areas, (2) maintain or increase forest carbon density (the amount of carbon stored per hectare of forest), and (3) increase the use of wood.” 

In other words, we need to invest more time, energy, research, innovation and funding into forest management in British Columbia.  The benefits that will flow from such an investment not only impact GHG and carbon mitigation, but also job creation and economic development, community viability (both First Nations and non-First Nations), and environmental and cultural values.  We have the opportunity to further advance our province, as well as make a contribution to humanity.

Indeed, in the face of various serious challenges, including economic and environmental, British Columbia has the opportunity with its renewable forest resource to be a world leader in GHG mitigation and sequestration, as well as wood manufacturing, development of new wood products, environmental and cultural preservation, and other diverse uses.

For over 100 years, our forest resource has provided much of the backbone of the provincial economy and the foundation of many communities.  Going back thousands of years, it has provided a way of life and a means of sustenance for First Nations peoples.

However, in the last provincial election in 2012, this historic contribution, as well as the great opportunity our forests now provide in terms of carbon mitigation and economic development, was not put front and centre as should have happened.  Not by a long shot.

Instead, we were treated to the spectacle of LNG and fossil fuels taking centre stage with the provincial government promising 100,000 jobs, a $100 billion prosperity fund, and the elimination of the provincial debt, along with other grandiose promises.  Forests and the forest industry were sidelined once again, part of a trend of diminishing the focus on our forests and forest industry, whether by slashing funding for reforestation and silviculture, removing oversight of the forests, and other cutbacks.

What is especially galling is that forestry is a renewable resource, while LNG and fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource that threatens our planetary environment through GHG emissions, fracking, pollution, and other problems.

Yet, despite its renewability and great possibility, a view often prevails that forestry is somehow a sunset industry and, despite no results so far in terms of committed projects, that the future lies with LNG.  But the opposite is actually true.  And that environmental and economic reality is being driven home every day.

The dictionary defines the word “fickle” as that which is “inconstant or changeable in loyalty.”  Our forests have served us well for thousands of years and will likely do so forever.  Can we afford to have governments and political parties that are fickle towards them or that are dazzled and blinded by the glow of gas flares?

Will our next provincial election prioritize our forests and their importance for our future or will once again will we be subject to fickleness and the flavor of the day?  That is a question that needs to be asked again and again in the lead up to the 2017 election.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca  


  1. Peterson St-Laurent, Guilllaume & George Hoberg.  “Climate change mitigation options in British Columbia’s Forests: A primer.”  Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.  January 2016.
  2. Natural Resources Canada.  Is Canada’s forest a carbon sink or source?  Canadian Forest Service Science Policy Notes 2007 [cited 2015 March 5].







No Peter you are the fickle one bowing to authority without any research what so ever. Peter there is no virifible reproducible science proving man’s infinitesimal addition of C02 is affecting climate. Look at history nothing new is happening to our climate.

Thank you Peter.
I will SHARE this article within my circles of influence and encourage others to as well.

Where I agree with the spirit of your article, you. Must know that mankind has less than a 4% contribution to the planet? Mankind is really a very small player compared to Mother Nature it self. The climate is changing. It has changed before and it will continue to change in the future
On the forestry issue,you are right on! we are doing a terrible job of managing our forests. The Morris Report showed that very well. So, what is our government doing about implementing this. Does nothing sound familiar?

A well-researched, and well written, article Peter. Too often we focus on the one side of the global warming equation which is our production of Green House Gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide, etc. that contribute to global warming rather than our misused and abused natural ecosystems that attempt to keep those GHG’s, and thus climate change, in check.

An important part of maintaining carbon balance in our atmosphere is our forests, and what was once the backbone of our provincial economy, is being ignored by our LNG pipedream Christy Clark government. From a well-managed sustainable industry, the forest industry is now largely unregulated and poorly managed in British Columbia.

www. vancouversun.com/forestry+watchdog+finds+timber+companies+have+much+power/11613128/story.html

I completely agree with today’s comments posted on 250’s “Trucks rally to support LNG” story. The Christy Clark government’s LNG pipedream is no longer economically viable amid a worldwide glut in LNG and rock bottom prices. The LNG pipedream is dead, we need to focus on our renewable forest industry and make it great again!

    JGalt:-“From a well-managed sustainable industry, the forest industry is now largely unregulated and poorly managed in British Columbia.”
    We have never had a “well-managed sustainable industry” in the forest industry, or most others. We have had various pretences made that it was so, but that’s all they’ve been. Pure illusion. It will be thus so until we are able to deal with the pernicious effects of ‘inflation’, which will make a mockery out of any notions of ‘sustainability’.

      BC’s forest industry is internationally recognized as well managed and sustainable.

We can start making our forest healthier by not using chemicals to kill off all the growth in the newly planted areas.

When you consider that we will not log a reforested area for at least 80 years, one would think that we would allow mother nature to regroup and provide natural growth over time until the pine, spruce, fir, etc; force out the popular and birch, and other species.

Killing off all growth including berries, birds, wildlife, etc; is a terrible way to go. We need healthy forests for more reasons than logs, and we could have both, if they would just quite using chemicals.

Any George Carlin fans out there

ht tps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB0aFPXr4n4

It would be nice if Peter would supply some references, he never does for some reason.

So JGalt I would say its a poorly researched article. Okay Peter or the rest of you walk into a car lot looking for a new wiz-bang. The resident expert says look at this one, its the best wiz-bang on the planet. Do you folks buy that wiz-bang because the resident wiz-bang seller being the expert says his wiz-bang is the best or do you look around, hey maybe some research.

Doctor says you are dying, would you not get another expert opion?

Science is not about consensus but vieifable proof, no proof in mans c02 contribution to climate effects if any.

Peter you should read and listen to this, by the way Dr. Curry is a climate scientist who understands the scientific principle

ht tp://www.steynonline.com/7488/sticking-it-to-the-alarmists

What just thumbs down no factual counter data, typical indoctrinated warmist response.

I read this article as being pro forest industry/economy, not ‘don’t touch the forests’. Steady depletion of forest values with minimal re-investment isn’t sound management any way one looks at it. Let our forests show how much we care for them.

    Steady depletion of forest values with minimal re-investment? What forests are you referring to? Certainly not ours!

“At a time of rapid climate change”

Really? What exactly is changing? Global warming? It hasn’t warmed for 19 years. Not exactly rapid change, is it?

As for forest being used more than they are now as carbon sinks, not gonna happen. We log the forests, make lumber and paper that sequester carbon for decades, maybe centuries. Then we plant and the new growth absorbs even more CO2. All well and good, but we’re already at the maximum cut, and if we can’t cut any more, we can’t plant any more than we already are. It doesn’t matter how much research you do, we can’t cut any more.

The Libs championed LNG during the last election because it held the potential of massive economic benefit for the province. But, as usual, opposition from other political parities, environmentalists and first nations stalled development of the resource and allowed international competitors to get to the markets ahead of us.

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