#6 MYTH: Job losses in forestry are largely due to areas being set aside for conservation.
REALITY: BC’s forest industry was historically built on logging the biggest and best old-growth stands in the valley bottoms and lower slopes. Over time, the remaining trees have become smaller in size, lower in value and more expensive to reach on steep slopes at high elevations, far away in valley headwaters. Today on Vancouver Island, over 90% of the productive, valley-bottom old-growth forests that historically built the forest industry have now been logged. This has resulted in diminishing returns for the forest industry as expenses have gone up and revenues have declined. Old-growth-dependent sawmills everywhere have shuttered and thousands of forestry jobs have been lost. In the mid 1990’s, almost 100,000 people were directly employed in BC’s forest industry; today, about 60,000 remain. The forest industry has boxed themselves into a corner through their own unsustainable history of overcutting the biggest and best old-growth stands and saying it’s conservationists fault. They think in order to survive, they must log the last unprotected lowland ancient forests.
Around the world – whether one looks at fishing down the food chain or old-growth logging – this pattern of high-grade resource depletion, of taking too much, too fast, has resulted in the collapse of both ecosystems and of resource-dependent communities. Not only do we lose the biodiversity – and water quality in this case – we lose the jobs.
The decline in forestry employment has particularly been exacerbated when the BC Liberal government largely deregulated the forest industry, removing the local milling requirement in 2003. Had it remained, it would have mandated logging companies convert their old-growth mills to handle the maturing second-growth stands. Instead, as the original mills shut down, there has been a mass exodus of raw, unprocessed logs leaving the province for foreign mills, facilitated by the BC Liberals, who marketed these last old-growth stands to buyers in China.