Viewpoint: What are election candidates’ positions on protecting ancient forests?

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By BRIAN SMALLSHAW

The federal election announced on Aug. 15 will be the climate change election, and as a citizen of British Columbia I would like to hear from all parties and their candidates in this riding about how the protection of the last of the ancient forests of coastal B.C. fits into their climate change plans.

We know that in addition to being places of majestic beauty, spiritual inspiration and remarkable biological diversity, ancient forests like the one at Fairy Creek are enormous carbon sinks. When they are cut, and especially when they are clearcut, a huge amount of carbon is released into the atmosphere; the resulting lumber continues to sequester carbon, but the waste that is left behind, the sawdust, the emissions from decay and burning amount to well over half of the carbon contained in the original forest. 

Even worse, after old-growth forests are clearcut the land loses much of its ability to retain moisture and the second-growth forests that follow are much more susceptible to forest fires, which when they occur are huge emitters of carbon, not to mention their disastrous impact on air quality.

In British Columbia active logging of old-growth forests continues, despite the fact that very little of the area containing the original bottomland giants has not been logged. How much actually remains is a subject of some debate, but even the most generous estimates have it at less than 10 per cent of what once existed. Yet they continue to be clearcut, in many cases because the First Nations on whose land they reside are in such a state of economic deprivation that they are forced to sell off their most valuable assets to survive.

This is madness in a world where there are almost no ancient forests left, where people are clamouring for the spiritual rejuvenation from time spent in nature, and in a world that is literally on fire because of the climate change that has resulted from humanity’s carbon emissions. It is doubly mad when one considers the minimal cost of protecting these forests and the economic gains for everyone (except a few logging companies) that would result from their preservation. They are worth more standing.

So my question for the Greens, Liberals, Conservatives and NDP: If you form government after this election, what steps will you take to end all logging of ancient forests in coastal British Columbia, and Canada as a whole, and how will you ensure that the First Nations where these forests exist are economically advantaged by this ban?

The writer is a Salt Spring resident.

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