I don’t envy the people whose job it is to research, inventory and assess the state of the province’s forests, wildlife and fisheries. For more than a decade they’ve been asked to do more with less.
The province has consistently cut the budget of the people expected to manage B.C.’s most valuable resources.
We’ve been cutting dollars from the forest research budget for so long that the new lows seem normal now. Some critics report that the budget for forest research over the past decade has been halved from what it was the decade before. It’s reported that the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals recommend that the annual budget for forest inventory be at $15 million dollars while the current budget for forest inventory is $7.5 million.
If you were asked to do the job you’re expected to do with half the resources you need, how well could you do your job?
And it isn’t just research that has been hit hard. Reforestation fell to the wayside just as research did, and not because there wasn’t a willingness or a way to get it done, but because the money just wasn’t there. In a budget crunch natural resources usually comes out a loser, unless there’s a short-term (in time for the next election?) big publicity gain to be had. The forest just takes too long to show the results of sustained and effective management.
But maybe times are changing. The fertilization program we reported on last week is a step in the right direction. I don’t mean that the science is solid and therefore we should do it, because I’m not qualified to comment on the science.
What’s right about it, at the very least, is the fact that money is hitting the ground in an effort to increase the long term health of the forest.
Large scale forest inventories and assessments are also underway and the province seems committed to seeing them through as quickly as possible. Within two years the Lakes District will have complete and comprehensive post-pine beetle inventories and silviculture strategies in place.
Any particular action or strategy can be criticized, and it will always feel like whatever happens, can’t happen quickly enough. We always have to be vigilant that money is spent wisely and that effort is weighed against result. But if we step back from the details for a moment and take a broader view, we can see that we’re moving in the right direction.
We’re not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. Does the province, do we, have the political will to follow through on what needs to be done if Burns Lake is to have a new mill and a sustainable timber supply?
Hampton believes a new mill is viable, but we need to recall that Hampton never said that it would be without its own challenges or that the Lakes TSA could continue to be managed the way it had been before the mill fire. Can the Lakes District sustain a new mill and continue to supply mills outside the district? This brings us back to the work being done by our professional foresters and ministry workers.
We have to turn to them for an answer, and they need two things. Resources to do their work, and the freedom to put the unvarnished truth out whether the truth works for short term political gain or not.