GERDING: Forest industry facing tough times

Upcoming protests seeks change in how B.C.’s forests are harvested

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield’s line that he never gets any respect could also be applied to B.C.’s forest industry.

Dating back to the mid-1980s, our forest harvest even then was being referred to as a “sunset industry,” as tourism was becoming the perceived future gold mine for B.C.’s economic fortunes.

The writing was already on the wall despite the reality then how the forest industry was still a booming entity.

Harvesting trees, a reusable resource if trees were replanted, in theory, could have remained an ongoing backbone of our economy. But tree planting and silviculture efforts are expensive and labour intensive, with a return on investment 80 to 100 years from now not so attractive to corporate shareholders.

Today, the forest industry has been abandoned. By the industry corporations who see their investment targeted at mills and timber rights south of the border.

By the environmentalists who want it severely restricted.

By a provincial government tired of dealing with free trade issues over timber rights subsidies.

RELATED: B.C. suspends some old-growth logging, consults communities

RELATED: Forest convoy snaking its way down the Island today for legislature rally

Over the last two decades, mills have closed, high paying manufacturing jobs have been lost.

For Peachland resident Taryn Skalbania, she still sees a future for logging, but one on a much smaller operating scale, an industry perhaps returning to its roots before the mass clear-cutting corporate thinking entered the picture.

She sees an opening for value added products being generated by our wood supply, rather than sending raw logs off to countries like China so we can buy their value added products.

And she envisions an industry that fits in with rather than diminishes watershed ecosystems.

She cites Gorman Brothers in West Kelowna as one example of successfully adopting that way of thinking, and Westbank First Nation moving in that same direction.

She says the economic stats belay an industry in decline.

Being subsidized by the province to the amount of $1 million a day, Skalbania says the allusion that our forest industry revenues build hospitals and schools is fading from reality.

Today, she says Vancouver International Airport has only a slightly lower contribution to the province’s GDP than forestry, 3.0 to 3.69 per cent.

“It’s a strange thing…forestry used to be a big player, but it has been replaced by real estate, high tech, health, tourism, even mining,” Skalbania said.

“People in the industry hate it when you it’s dying, but I do think it needs to be reshaped. So many things need to change. The days of clear-cutting and leaving behind the trees that are too large or small in diameter dimensions for milling can’t continue any longer.”

The bark beetle epidemics have also forced the acceleration of timber harvesting to save the value of the trees, but the inevitable timber shortfall will hurt so many of the B.C. Interior’s one-resource towns. At least that was predicted.

But since the ‘80s, Skalbania says any push for changes in forestry management have hit the same brick wall — legislation favours corporate profits over ecosystem health and local job creation. Liberal or NDP, the government has remained committed to large-scale timber harvesting and log exports.

“Industry is not going to change and the government is not going to change unless we at the grassroots level lobby for change,” she said.

To bring greater attention to that discussion, Skalbania joined forces with Grand Forks resident Jennifer Houghton to organize a forestry summit conference online, featuring 12 different topics, culminating in a provincewide day of action protest for change on Sept. 18.

Their protest deserves our collective attention, to push for a new way to preserve what is left of a fading industry and high paying manufacturing sector jobs that can’t be replaced.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Just Posted

A monument was unveiled during a ceremony in Tofino last week honouring Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka. The monument will be placed on Hwy. 4 near Kennedy Lake. (Photo courtesy of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC)
In the line of duty: Remembering two beloved Vancouver Island paramedics

Sombre ceremony held in Tofino to mark 10th anniversary of fatal Kennedy Lake ambulance crash

Adam Ireton holds his son Weston, along with Kristen and Beckett as they celebrate Weston's last day of treatment for lukemia. (Kristen Ireton photo)
799 days: ‘Super’ Weston defeats cancer

North Island kid celebrating the end of a battle that has taken up the bulk of his life

Artists, activists and supporters stand at the ‘More Justice, More Peace’ mural in Victoria’s Bastion Square after the letter ‘S’ was painted over in black. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
ACAB removed from Victoria’s More Justice, More Peace mural

New message points to VicPD, City of Victoria for silencing BIPOC voices

(file)
Province rejects Parksville needle bylaw as counter-productive to health and safety

Mayor says he fails to understand the logic against proposed limits on hypodermic distribution

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Newly public Emily Carr painting depicts well-known Victoria view

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

According to a Nanaimo RCMP press release, Jason Klughart, 28, was arrested at about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at Port Place Shopping Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
RCMP officer and security guard team up to detain suspect after chase in downtown Nanaimo

Jason Klughart arrested on outstanding warrant for possession of stolen property

Victoria police are asking for people's help identifying the suspect of a sexual assault that occurred early Oct. 29. (Black Press Media file photo)
VicPD searching for suspect in sexual assault incident

A woman was sexually assaulted at the 800-block of Cormorant Street just before 4 a.m. Oct. 29

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

This house in the 600-block of Linden Avenue in Fairfield has a Día de Muertos theme for 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Haunted Oak Bay

Residents spookify houses

Most Read