The B.C. Liberal government is ignoring dead forests — a policy that will haunt the Interior economy for decades, Opposition leader Adrian Dix charged Thursday.
“We don’t know key questions about the inventory in our own province. That’s one of the things they learned today at this conference,” Dix told reporters in an interview.
The New Democrat, fresh from a poll that places him as B.C.’s most popular leader, was the keynote speaker at a Western Silviculture Contractors’ Association conference in Kamloops.
Dix said the province is ignoring forests killed by mountain pine beetle that have either not been replanted or have not regrown naturally. Those areas are known in ministry lingo as not sufficiently restocked.
“The Interior will pay a significant price for that.”
Dix said the B.C. Liberals cut B.C. Forest Service staff and reduced research funding, making estimates of not sufficiently restocked areas something like a wild guess. NDP MLAs said the B.C. Forest Practices Board reported that number is about two million hectares of logged forest that is not regrowing.
“Pat Bell (former forest minister) said 284,000 (hectares not regrowing). Now they’re saying 715,000. The Forest Practices Board today said two million.”
That failure hurts B.C.’s economy now and for generations, Dix said.
“Government believes if you don’t do an inventory, don’t do research — it doesn’t matter. They’re taking the principle if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it then it doesn’t make a sound… . That’s not good forest policy.”
Earlier in the day, Jobs Forest and Innovation Minister Pat Bell pledged a $550,000 grant for a human resources strategy for the silviculture industry, which is struggling to recruit and retain workers for the skilled and difficult work of planting, spacing and brushing.
Dix lauded the investment, saying it’s important for the industry to improve its human resources.
But Dix said the Opposition will continue to push the government toward a better forest policy.
“We’re talking about having an industry in 10, 20, 30 years. Right now we seem to have a policy that says ‘all that matters is this year.’”
But Dix said the party is not promising to turn back the forest policy to the decade before the B.C. Liberals. The newly elected government cut rules that tied forests to local communities. Those changes punched a whole in many rural parts of the province, which saw local trees driven to large, centralized mills.
“We have to operate on basis of what is, not what was,” Dix said.