New B.C. forest policy fails to defuse protests and journalists fight RCMP for access to Fairy Creek site

On June 1, the government of British Columbia released  Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia, an “Intentions Paper” which  attempts to address the intense protests in the province over logging of old growth forests.  The government press release includes several backgrounders, including highlights of how the policy addresses the Old Growth issue,  but environmentalists are not satisfied.  “Five ways B.C.’s new forestry plan sets the stage for more old-growth conflict” in The Narwhal explains. Stand.earth reacted with an immediate call for deferral of logging for all at-risk old growth forests, and on June 4, after company bulldozers breached protest blockades, Stand.earth repeated their call, in order to “to reduce tensions and the threat of violence or injury in Fairy Creek and keep old growth forests standing — while the province undertakes a paradigm shift for forestry rooted in Indigenous rights and consent, ecological values, and community stability.”

Protests and unions

Protests began in Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island in August 2020, explained in “The Fairy Creek blockaders: inside the complicated fight for B.C.’s last ancient forests”  (The Narwhal, March 2020) . Since then, protests have grown in size and intensity, with five people arrested on May 17, and 137 arrested by June 1.  “Three days in the theatre of Fairy Creek” in The Tyee offers a lengthly personal front line account, as does “Three weeks on the front line: The battle for Old Growth in B.C.” in Ricochet , filled with photos. The forestry workers tell their side of the bitter story, as reported by CBC, “Forestry workers and supporters from across Vancouver Island rally to denounce Fairy Creek blockades” on May 30.

 “BC’s Cynical Attack on Old-Growth Forests” in The Tyee (May 19) blames NDP Premier John Horgan for the prolonged dispute, and states that “John Horgan’s alliance with corporate and union logging interests is stalling protection for remaining ancient trees.”  The criticism stems from “A Strategy for B.C. Forests That Benefits All British Columbians”,  an article written jointly in April by Jeff Bromley, Chair of the  United Steelworkers’ Wood Council, and Susan Yurkovich, president and CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries, defending the government’s  position. In contrast, in March 2021, co-authors Andrea Inness (a campaigner at the Ancient Forest Alliance) and Gary Fiege ( president of the Public and Private Workers of Canada, formerly the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada) wrote a Vancouver Sun Opinion piece , calling on the government to live up to their promise to implement the recommendations of their own Strategic Review , and stating “We can protect old growth forests and forestry jobs at the same time”. 

Protests and freedom

Amidst the heated protests, RCMP have been criticized for blocking journalists from covering the protests.  In a May 26  press release, the Canadian Association of Journalists and a coalition of news organizations released a statement, demanding  that the RCMP immediately stop applying “exclusion zones” to journalists,  so that the media can freely access protest sites, and get  close enough to record video and sound, conduct interviews and take photographs. The statement continues: “Journalists must be allowed to move freely on site, as long as they do not interfere with the execution of RCMP activities. This means that journalists should not be corralled or forced to move as a group or with a police escort;  The equipment of journalists must not be seized or otherwise interfered with, and journalists should not be arrested or detained while trying to document protest events.”

Members of the journalists’ coalition are: the Canadian Association of Journalists, Ricochet Media, The Narwhal, Capital Daily, Canada’s National Observer, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, The Discourse and IndigiNews. The Narwhal explanation appears in  “Enough is enough: Canadian news organizations file legal action for press freedom at Fairy Creek” ; “The Other Fight at Fairy Creek: Press Freedom” appeared in The Tyee (May 27); and “We’re taking the RCMP to Court” appeared in Ricochet.

Protests continue over old growth forests in British Columbia

British Columbia has no shortage of environmental flashpoints: the Trans Mountain and Coastal Gas Link pipelines, the Site C dam,  LNG terminals – and protection of old growth forests. Before the 2020 provincial election, The Tyee published a substantive overview of the political policies and issues, now updated with “BC Promised to Protect Old Growth. How Is It Doing?” (March 11) .  

B.C. environmentalists have actively called for protections, based on the recommendations of A New Future for Old Forests: A Strategic Review of How British Columbia Manages for Old Forests Within its Ancient Ecosystems , an independent report submitted to the government in fall 2020 and summarized here. The Sierra Club B.C. published a report card on the government’s progress in implementing the Strategy Report recommendations, here , and conducted its own research, published as Intact Forests, Safe Communities: Reducing community climate risks through forest protection and a paradigm shift in forest management, written by Dr. Peter Wood and released in February. The Intact Forests report documents the relationship of forestry practices and  climate related disasters like flooding, droughts, fires and heatwaves, and makes a series of recommendations to reform B.C.’s forestry practices , and apply Indigenous knowledge before the climate crisis worsens.  

Protests over the government’s inaction continue, with a high-profile hunger strike and blockade at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island, summarized here . The third annual Forest March B.C.   was held on March 19, organized by a grassroots coalition of community groups, and described in   “In B.C., communities march to protect old growth forests” in The National Observer (March 19 ) .   

New Brunswick’s Controversial New Forestry Plan Allows for Expanded Cutting on Crown Lands

The New Brunswick government released a new forestry plan in March 2014, following heavy lobbying by the forest industry, led by J.D Irving Ltd. The industry argued that they needed a long-term commitment to access the wood supply from Crown Lands to justify the large capital investment necessary to make New Brunswick mills efficient. The 2014 Strategy for Crown Lands Forest Management increases the amount of softwood (chiefly spruce and fir) that can be harvested from Crown Lands by 20%, and reduces the areas that are off-limits to industrial cutting (including watercourse buffers, deer wintering areas, and old growth forest) from 28% to 23% over a 10-15 year period. The result, according to the government, will be “500 new, well-paid private sector jobs” and “more than $22 million in additional annual wages”. Direct forest sector employment in New Brunswick had fallen 24% and the number of mills had fallen 47% since 2004, according to the government. Since the release, J.D. Irving Ltd. has committed to $513 million in capital investments in its mills, mostly at Irving Pulp & Paper in Saint John.

In response to the March Strategy document, Rino Ouellet, Atlantic area Director for Unifor, issued a press release which echos the government’s economic arguments and endorses the Forestry Plan. In a February press release, he had stated, “…in order for the plan to work, it must include in the process First Nations people, wood lot owners, labour, and crown land rights…and must continue to allow for environmentally-protected areas”.

On another side of this triangular debate, opposition includes: the provincial leader of the Green Party, who calls it “a plan for plunder”; the executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness, who calls it “regressive”; Graham Forbes, a professor from University of New Brunswick, who says it is unsustainable; and Rod Cumberland, a retired government biologist, who says many provincial government scientists are alarmed, but are too afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

The political storm continues on this issue. On April 24th, the government tabled in the legislature the terms of an agreement with J.D. Irving which increases the company’s annual allocations of softwood, for an initial term of 25 years, beginning on July 1, 2014. The contract calls for the company’s performance to be reviewed every five years, with five-year renewals contingent upon satisfactory performance.

LINKS

Putting Our Resources To Work: A Strategy For Crown Lands Forest Management on the New Brunswick government website at: http://www2.gnb.ca/content/dam/gnb/Departments/nr-rn/pdf/en/ForestsCrownLands/AStrategyForCrownLandsForestManagement.pdf

J.D. Irving press release is at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1335353/new-crown-forest-policy-drives-16-8-million-investments-in-the-forests-mills-and-suppliers-74-jobs-created

Unifor’s March press release: “Atlantic’s Largest Forestry Union applauds Long term plan for Sector” at:

http://www.unifor.org/en/whats-new/press-room/atlantics-largest-forestry-union-applauds-long-term-plan-sector; February press release at: http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1298929/forestry-plan-much-needed-for-new-brunswick

For Reactions: The Crown Lands Debate, a Feature on the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/nb/features/crownforestrydebate/ including, “Irving clout with Government challenged in wake of Forest Deal” at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/irving-clout-with-government-challenged-in-wake-of-forest-deal-1.2572410; and “New Crown Forest Plan slammed by retired Provincial Biologist” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forest-plan-slammed-by-retired-provincial-biologist-1.2580430; “New Crown Forestry Plan greeted with Shock, Dismay” at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/new-crown-forestry-plan-greeted-with-shock-dismay-1.2570803

“J.D. Irving’s Crown Forest Contract Made Public” is at the CBC at:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/j-d-irving-s-crown-forest-contract-made-public-1.2620780

New Strategy and Blueprint for European Forest Industries Considers Aging Workforce

In late September, the European Union announced a new forest strategy which takes into account the effects of climate change on the forest ecosystem. Surprisingly, the EU press release states that “forests cover more than 42% of the EU’s land area and forest biomass…supplies half the EU’s total renewable energy. ” The new strategy calls for sustainable management of woodlands, and is accompanied by a “Blueprint” document to guide forest industries, (wood-processing, furniture, pulp and paper, and printing) to increase efficiency and create jobs. The Blueprint outlines the economic and technological state of the art for these four forest sub-industries, and discusses their challenges, including the aging demographic of the workforce, the need for training, and possible mechanisms for training delivery. 

LINKS

European Commission Forest Strategy press release is at:http://ec.europa.eu/news/agriculture/130924_en.htm
EU Forest-based Industries: A Blueprint to Unleash their Economic and Societal Potential is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/newsroom/cf/_getdocument.cfm?doc_id=8129

 

3rd Anniversary of Canada’s Boreal Forest Agreement is not a Happy One

Referring to the withdrawal of Canopy, a forest conservation group, from the Boreal Forest Agreement (CBFA) in April 2013, Greenpeace Canada stated: “Their departure from the CBFA is a consequence of the Agreement’s inability to deliver greater protection for the Boreal Forest and a failure of its structure. The CBFA is simply no longer a credible tool for conservation.”

Read the Canopy press release at: http://canopyplanet.org/canopy-boreal-withdrawal/. And follow the continuing story about the expulsion of Resolute Forest Products in May with Environmental groups suspend further work with Resolute under Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (May 21) at the CPAWS website at:  http://cpaws.org/news/environmental-groups-suspend-further-work-with-resolute-under-cbfa.

Resolute was the subject of criticism by Greenpeace for its sustainability failings, for its treatment of workers, and disregard for Indigenous rights and communities. Read the report, Resolute’s False Promises: The (un)Sustainability Report 2013 at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/resolutefalsepromises/ 

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