BC Timber Sales has become a lightning rod for controversy, with many expressing dismay over the NDP’s ‘business as usual’ approach to logging
A BC Timber Sales old-growth clearcut in Thursday Creek, Upper Tsitika Valley. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee
The expanse of ragged stumps, stretching up a steep slope beside Schmidt Creek, on northeast Vancouver Island, serves as a graphic example of controversies over old-growth clearcuts approved by BC Timber Sales and a growing push-back from those who want better protection for intact forests.
The clearcut, above the world-famous Robson Bight orca rubbing beaches, has drawn the ire of conservation groups, whale biologists and First Nations provoking questions about how BC Timber Sales is assessing parcels of old growth for auction.
BC Timber Sales, which was created in 2003 by the Liberal government, manages 20 per cent of the province’s annual allowable cut, making it the biggest tenure holder in B.C. This year, the government agency plans to auction off about 600 hectares more old-growth forest on Vancouver Island, an area about 1.5 times the size of Stanley Park. The agency has plans to auction off another 8,800 hectares in future years.
Old-growth trees are at least 250 years old and are prized by timber companies. As they become increasingly rare, BC Timber Sales is auctioning off parcels close to communities or recreation areas, meaning conflict is more likely, said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner.
“They are running out of places to find timber where they can log without conflict, so they end up pursuing what I call extreme old-growth logging,” Wieting told The Narwhal.
Floods, droughts and fires are also shining a spotlight on the impacts of climate change, made worse by logging.
“These forests provide clean water, clean air and carbon storage,” Wieting said.
The mandate for BC Timber Sales puts the standalone agency in a straitjacket, Wieting said.
“Auction 20 per cent of B.C. volume no matter what. So, instead of using BC Timber Sales to develop and implement best practices in the midst of climate and species emergencies, they behave like a machine designed with a single purpose: find the fibre,” he said.
That is not how BC Timber Sales sees its mandate and, in an emailed response to questions from The Narwhal, a spokesperson said forestry practices are rooted in the precautionary principle and failing to auction off 20 per cent of the allowable annual cut would “put the integrity of the timber pricing system at risk.” MORE