Old growth trees are worth more standing than when cut
There has been massive clear-cutting of old growth trees in the past two decades all in the name of ‘we need the jobs’. So, has this clear-cutting actually created jobs?
In 2009, according to Statistics Canada, there were 93,479 forestry-related jobs in B.C. Between 2009 and 2019 forestry-related jobs in B.C. have decreased by the following numbers: Forestry & Logging – 6,565; Pulp & Paper – 10,596; Support Activities for Forestry – 11,262; Wood Product Manufacturing – 14,457. Thus, 42,880 in forestry-related jobs have been lost while we were busy clear-cutting old growth forests. This has been due to a number of reasons: increased mechanization, shutting down of local mills and a massive increase in the export of raw logs. Between 1997 and 2017 the raw logs exported has increased from 0.2 million cubic metres to 6.5 million cubic metres, a more than 32-fold increase. The solution to decline in forestry-related jobs is to stop export of raw logs and to promote the development of local mills that can handle second and third growth trees and promote wood manufacturing. The solution clearly is not to cut more majestic old growth trees since this has not worked.
The value of iconic old growth forests is more than the timber present in the trees. Iconic old growth forests are the forests with trees taller than 20 metres, that now form less than three per cent of all B.C. forests, with forests containing trees taller than 25 metres being only 0.67 per cent of B.C. forests. Morton and co-authors concluded regarding old growth trees that the “net economic benefit is higher when the trees are left standing than if they are logged,” in their 2021 report entitled: Economic Valuation of Old Growth Forests on Vancouver Island: Phase 2 – Port Renfrew Pilot Study. Much of this value is derived from the spiritual refreshment that people receive when entering an old growth rainforest; thus, this leads to increased tourism with its economic spin-off as the Port Renfrew and BC Chambers of Commerce can attest. There is cultural value of such forests for First Nations people. It is noteworthy that the Union of British Columbia Chiefs has recently supported the blockade at Fairy Creek and we must also remember that Premier Horgan campaigned on protecting old growth forests but so far has done little.
Many who voted for the NDP are now protesting the cutting of old growth forests. Those who protest the logging of old growth forests are comprised mainly of two groups: young people and old people. The young are there because they want a future for themselves and other creatures that inhabit this earth and the old are there because they want the young people and other creatures to live in a habitable earth.
Besides the economic value, mature forests provide many functions that keep the planet healthy. They are important for carbon sequestration and the survival of many plant and animal species. Parenthetically, the old growth forest areas licensed to be clear-cut are known to be the home of at least two endangered species, and likely more: the Old Growth Specklebelly Lichen and the Marbled Murrelet. Mature forests are also important for replenishing aquifers and maintaining healthy streams and other water bodies that are important for the survival of B.C.’s iconic salmon as well as many other species.
Is not the long-term gain of allowing the little old growth forests still remaining to be left alone worth more than the short-term gain of logging such forests?
The B.C. government is currently paying the salaries and fringe benefits and lodgings of dozens of RCMP personnel and equipment so that iconic old growth trees can be cut. The equipment not only includes police vehicles, paddy wagons but also a helicopter that flies for many hours daily. I estimate that the costs of all of this is at least $2 million per month, and probably much more. These monies can be better spent promoting the development of forestry-related jobs. Should the government not stop the massive export of raw logs, promote the establishment of local sawmills that can handle the logs from second and third growth forests and, importantly, promote manufacturing of wood products using the lumber from these mills? Is this not a better use of tax payer monies?
Of course, protecting the remaining small amount of B.C.’s forests that form the iconic old growth forest is only the first step is setting aside and leaving untouched enough of the earth to ensure a healthy livable planet.
Bernhard H.J. Juurlink