Areas of blowdown salvage on Stoney Hill. (Al Siebring photo)

Areas of blowdown salvage on Stoney Hill. (Al Siebring photo)

Letter misrepresents blowdown harvesting in forest reserve

This is hardly the reckless carnage described in Ms. Dobell’s letter

Letter misrepresents blowdown harvesting in forest reserve

Re: “Blowdown salvage not as advertised” (Citizen, July 24)

As I read Ms. Dobell’s letter in Wednesday’s paper, the old adage about “a lie getting half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on” came to mind.

The letter claimed that “hundreds of live trees have just been logged on Stoney Hill,” and that “the salvage is not what they told us. It’s not the removal of ‘damaged timber only’ — not even close.”

I was alarmed enough at the allegations in this letter that I went and did a tour of Stoney Hill to see things for myself. The salvage work is wrapping up this week, and I came upon a spot that had been completely finished. It’s a patch about half a hectare in size; the municipal forester estimates we took about 50 to 75 trees out of this area. As you can see from the picture, there’s a substantial number of standing trees left behind.

Image across page, with cutline

Areas of blowdown salvage on Stoney Hill (Al Siebring photo)

And the stumps that are visible are not — in the main — the remnants of “live” trees. Rather, they are root balls which have re-settled into their original resting spots when the blown down trees were cut. The other thing to notice is the condition of the landscape. In a year from now, the small patches of dirt where salvage was done will be regrown with salal and other native vegetation, and a casual observer would never know this area had been subject to major work.

Yes, some live trees are being cut, mainly to provide access to the blow down areas, and to deal with safety issues inherent in the process. But the contractor estimates that we are taking out only one “live” tree for every 10 to 15 blown down trees. This is hardly the reckless carnage described in Ms. Dobell’s letter; in fact, this is precisely in line with what council had envisioned when we authorized the harvesting of the blowdown.

It’s also worth noting that this highly selective harvesting process is considerably more expensive than standard logging practices; we’re paying the contractor more to do this work on the understanding that it is much more labour-intensive. So our profits from selling this timber are substantially reduced.

Ms. Dobell’s letter also references the idea that “carbon tax credits and not logging could earn revenue comparable to logging.” The municipality has asked the province this very question more than half a dozen times in the past 10 years, and we have consistently been told by provincial regulators that our municipal forest is not eligible for carbon credits. Council has recently agreed in principle to obtain assistance from a UBC partnership to confirm whether a carbon project is possible and feasible. But at this time, Ms. Dobell’s position on this simply cannot be substantiated. It’s also worth noting that if revenues were the same under the carbon credit scheme, we would still carry major obligations for road and trails maintenance, planting and other silviculture activities, along with fire suppression. These costs are currently financed through our operations, before we net out our Forestry revenues.

In summary, Ms. Dobell and her Where Do We Stand group have repeatedly brought forward what are demonstrable inaccuracies about the harvesting of blow down. While they are certainly entitled to lobby for a total pause in harvesting, the kind of misinformation contained in her letter does nothing to further trust or confidence in the pending review of our Forestry operations, and is disrespectful to our professional staff, the contractors conducting this salvage on our behalf, and the members of the public interested in accurate information on this subject.

I call upon Ms. Dobell and Where Do We Stand to put their energies into sharing accurate information that creates a basis for constructive, informed community dialogue on the future management of North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve.

Al Siebring

Mayor, North Cowichan