Union says Nanaimo City Council should not be entering old-growth debate

Union says Nanaimo City Council should not be entering old-growth debate
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WatchUnion says it was wrong of Nanaimo City Council to pass a motion calling for some tracts of old-growth logging to be suspended. Kendall Hanson reports.

The union representing many of B.C.’s forestry workers says it was wrong of Nanaimo City Council to weigh in on old-growth logging.

Council passed a motion Monday night calling on the province to suspend the logging of B.C.’s rarest, oldest and most intact old-growth forests.

“We think it’s wrong for Nanaimo City Council to bring the motion forward and certainly to pass it. Forest issues are very complex,” said Brian Butler, President of United Steelworkers Local 1-1937. “That’s not the place for that debate. That debate is at the provincial government level.”

Coun. Ben Geselbracht’s motion called on the B.C. government to suspend the logging of the rarest and most intact old-growth forests.

Nanaimo council passed it by a 5-4 margin.

“The second part of the motion, which is very important and goes with the first, is a call to the B.C. government to allocate sufficient funding so that the deferrals can be enacted in a way that’s economically just with commitments to reconciliation, and also with the funding necessary to help workers and communities that will be affected as they transition to more sustainable forestry practices,” said Geselbracht.

This comes on the eve of a court decision on an injunction request by the forest company Teal Jones.

It wants a blockade at Fairy Creek, near Port Renfew, removed. Protesters at the blockade are trying to halt an old-growth logging operation in the area.

The B.C. government is also consulting stakeholders about old-growth logging across the province.

The union says the province should follow its process, which it says follows the science.

“But the councillor’s actions and other’s actions are really trying to appeal to people’s emotions and not the scientific facts of harvesting old growth,” said Butler.

Butler says “clearly the council is not up to speed on the facts” and “it would be best if it was left up to the provincial government and the hundreds of professionals at the ministry of forests to do the work that the independent Old-Growth Strategic Review has asked them to do.”

That report was released in September 2020.

Butler says the motion speaks to the entire Fairy Creek Valley as being clearcut logged. Butler says that’s not the case.

Geselbracht says he wants to province to defer old-growth logging as laid out in the review until all 14 of its recommendations are implemented.

“We’re investing a lot of money here in Nanaimo and in the province on climate change and climate resiliency and our old-growth forests play a very important role in that,” said Geselbracht. “We as the city of Nanaimo have an economic interest in that logging. We have mills that are using pulp still from old-growth.”

The United Steelworkers say there are many stands of old-growth around the province and the amount of old-growth is actually increasing.

Geselbracht says he’s disappointed by what’s he’s hearing from the union executive, which he says holds onto an old model of logging in B.C.

Geselbracht’s full motion can be found on page 91 of the City Council agenda.

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Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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