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COMMENTARY · 13th November 2011
Bill Henderson
In many parts of the province, including the North-West, logging second growth for export is a growing part of local economies. There is a strong export market. Logging second growth is relatively low cost: the wood is generally close, on low, flatter terrain - not the 'guts and feathers' high up on the mountainside, and in many instances the roads are already there or just need a minor upgrade - no major roadbuilding costs or expensive heli time.

Logging second growth provides economic activity and jobs in many parts of the province where falldown and high costs have devastated the forest industry and local economies.

But is this 'utilization' of second growth a Godsend or is it another cycle of continuing timber management that rewards a small group today for looting the wealth creation and nature's services opportunity for many future generations? Do we want forest industry jobs for future generations? Timber is but one of nature's services from healthy forests - are we robbing future generations of all of the benefits of healthy forests?

After the Second World War, the Sloan Commissions mandated sustained yield forest management - the Liquidation-Conversion Plan, the radical redesign of forests for a flow of commodities - and easy to reach old growth was clearcut and sold for relative pennies compared to what this timber would be worth today. The loggers of that day left little forest opportunity for future generations and today the mills are closed down, gone and there are few jobs left in forestry to support the community.

Back in the 50s and 60s they didn't log the whole profile - they took the easiest to reach and most lucrative to log first. They didn't share - they drank the whole case: clearcut every valley bottom, every stand, every reachable wealth creation opportunity. They didn't care about the consequences of this progressive clearcutting, this radical redesign of forests; they didn't care about future generations of loggers, the wildlife, the water flow, the carbon sequestered, the range of other human uses of these forests.

Those that benefited first either didn't know better or didn't care. Is logging second growth today just another cycle of this disastrous short-term, self-interest timber management or have we learned hard lessons? Do we now care about truly sustainable forestry and protecting the wealth creation opportunities and nature's services from healthy forests for future generations?

Do you want to know the truth? Check out your local second growth logging:

How old are the trees? Most of the second growth being logged today is 50 to 80 years old; immature, with little value-added potential, good for studs and pulp.

Today ecosystem-based forestry science strongly suggests that we should leave these damaged forests regrow with only minor controlled thinning until they are at least in age classes over 120 years and then use appropriate logging methods and cutting levels to produce valuable timber. Finer grained timber from 120 year + trees is approximately twice as valuable today as the present immature logs. This longer rotation will also help hasten the development of old growth characteristics and most importantly, health, resilience and normal production of nature's services.

These forests had trees historically in age classes of hundreds of years and had evolved over thousands of years. Returning the radically clearcut forests that surround us towards historic structure, health and productivity would be in everybody's long term best interest. Harvesting 50 year old trees tells you something is seriously wrong.

How many jobs is this second growth logging creating in your neck of the woods? Logging second growth creates relatively few jobs. There is little roadbuilding. The terrain and type of wood allows high mechanization - feller bunchers instead of sidehill crews. The wood is trucked and scaled but the sawmills are some place else and there are few local value-added spin off industries. There are some industry supplier spin off jobs and the wages of those that are presently employed do have multiplier effects in the local economy, but most of the real opportunity is spent on fuel and cost of capitol and most of the wealth creation lines the pockets of people elsewhere.

What opportunity and what costs are we leaving as legacies for our descendents 40 or 50 years down this path - Isn't it the same robbery of opportunity and environmental degradation that we (both inside and outside of the forest industry) suffer today? Is this logging of second growth now the path to healthy communities in healthy forests?

Bill Henderson is a boomman and activist who lives in Gibsons, B.C. He got his start at Coast booming at Iceberg Bay at the mouth of the Nass in the early 70's. Bill (at)
Forestry,most accurate article !
Comment by blocky bear on 16th November 2011
Thanks Bill,sounds about right to me. I started my logging career age fifteen setting chokers at Elk River Timber camp 10 in 1959, so I believe I can add some weight to your comments. The 1% seemed to have gained control sometime in the fifties and started liquidating all the best stands on the coast. In Roderick Haigh-Brown book ,The Living Land . The sub title being the resources of B.C.(published 1959) he describes the coast as being terribly overcut compared to the interior. At that time the technology did not exist to harvest the smaller trees in the hinterlands, that oversight was corrected by the late seventies with the advent of feller bunchers, tree processors and grapple skidders and hydraulic loaders. more later d.b.
Forest Practice Code???
Comment by CB on 15th November 2011
In most cases around the northwest, the second growth is being logged off too early to accomodate the market. Not good practice. Also the logging of these areas are opening up huge scars well within view of public roads, towns, and recreational areas. When I was a Forest Tech back in the 90's, we could never get away with what is bieng done today. Just drive from Kitwanga to Terrace and you will be disgusted looking up at the hillsides and just off the right of way along the highway. What ever happened to the Forest Practice Code? I'm not opposed to logging by any means, but think that it needs to be done in a sustainable manner. The logging seen lately around the Terrace area will leave nothing for the future license holder. Areas being logged are close to highways, towns, on existing roads, and basically the cheapest locations to log. So what happens when the current license holder logs off everything cheap and easy? I guess it will be time to sell the licence and the next license holder gets stuck with logging the back end of roads, new road construction, yarding operations, and basically areas not feasable to log or expensive to log. Something needs to change with the current logging practices. Even the oldtimers agree and are disgusted.
Comment by Sheldon Davidson on 14th November 2011
The author has no comments on hemp?
No prob Searle
Comment by Bill Henderson on 14th November 2011
Glad you explained what was puzzling to me about your first comment. And I understand how easy it is to blame China for lost, exported jobs but (IMHO) China is just a jurisdiction to be exploited for cheap manufacture by those seeking to benefit from globalization. Those benefiting most are not Chinese; those most reasonably blamed for the export of jobs are those 1% guys.
great article
Comment by Brian L on 14th November 2011
excellent article highlighting many of the issues with the way logging is done in the Northwest today. Thanks for this article, I would say you should send it on to Pat Bell but I think it may fall on deaf ears. Would be nice to think we have learned from our mistakes in the past but it doesn't seem that way now looking at the logging around Terrace these days.
Not you Bill
Comment by Searle on 13th November 2011
You wrote an interesting article. My comment was directed at a comment, the first one in fact, a comment that now appears to have been withdrawn and removed. This comment deplored the fact that we were selling our raw logs to China, and used words to the effect that wasn't the war supposed to have prevented this type of thing. It sounded to me at least to be distinctly anti Chinese as well as ignorant. No my comment was not directed at you, Bill.
know my history?
Comment by Bill Henderson on 13th November 2011
I don't think there is anything anti-Chinese in my op-ed Searle???? WW2 did happen and I only mentioned it to locate the important Sloan Commissions in time. Know about the Sloan Commissions?
Comment by Sheldon Davidson on 13th November 2011
Would it not make more sense to grow hemp? Its renewable several times a year. Trees are renewable several times a century.

You need to check your history
Comment by Searle on 13th November 2011
I am not sure what war that you are talking about. In WW2 China fought on our side against the Japanese. They were our allies and shed their blood for us.I am against raw log exports because I feel that the lumber processing jobs should stay in B C, however if the raw logs do get exported it hardly matters who we export them to. Do I detect a little prejudice against the Chinese in your post?