On Tuesday, the province announced its plan to defer logging in 2.6 million hectares of old-growth forests.
Timber sales are on hold in those areas and as a result, the government is anticipating job losses with mill closures.
But any job losses are considered too many, according to Brian Butler, president of the United Steelworkers Union Local 1-1937.
“It’s hopefully less than what industry is announced, but even at 4,500 jobs or 18,000 jobs, it’s too many for the forest industry to take. Communities all over BC will be devastated by the changes the government announced yesterday.”
The province wants more than 200 First Nations to agree to the deferrals in 30 days or come up with their own deferrals and Green Party MLA Adam Olsen says that’s unfair.
“It puts indigenous nations rights in the middle with a very, very difficult decision to make: basically agree with the provincial government in the thirty-day notification and defer, and not receive any economically viable compensation for that decision, or be ostracized for continuing to log old-growth.”
The government plan pauses logging operations within the designated old-growth forests.
Ernie Sellentin quit logging in the 1990s and retrained as a biologist.
“There is just so little left. I just can’t see the rationale for trying to continue with any of it at all,” Sellentin said.
He says it’s time for a shift in how the entire industry is managed.
“We need to go to select logging and downsize the industry to the point where we put more people back in the woods and maybe they won’t be making $150,000 a year, but there is nothing wrong with making half of that and being home.”
The co-author of the study behind the old-growth logging deferrals, Garry Merkel, said current forestry practices have to change.
“What will happen is some of these eco-systems will be extirpated completely. They’ll be gone. So the genetic material in those is gone.”
The province set aside more than $12 million for First Nations consultations.
But affected forestry companies are not eligible for any compensation.