There is a crisis of understanding about the forest industry in B.C., according to Stewart Muir.
Muir is a two-term director of the Nature Trust of B.C. and the executive director of Resource Works, an organization that “communicates with British Columbians about the importance of the resource sectors to their personal well-being”, according to their website.
Coun. Tek Manhas invited Muir to speak to council and said he wanted to ensure that council and the public were being presented with a balanced approach towards forestry.
He said he feels that almost all the information that has been presented to council so far during the ongoing review of North Cowichan’s 5,000 hectare municipal forest reserve has been one-sided against logging it.
Manhas said the representatives from the University of B.C. that are assisting the municipality with the review are already advocating for the use of the reserve’s forests for carbon credits instead of logging even before the public engagement part of the review resumes.
“While Mr. Muir didn’t directly speak to our forest review, we need to have a more balanced approach to this process,” he said.
Speaking to North Cowichan council at a recent meeting, Muir said many of B.C.’s elected officials, including North Cowichan council members, are currently being bombarded with people who have issues with the forest industry, but the industry is vital to the province and its economy.
He said in North Cowichan, along with a lot of the rest of the province, forestry is a valuable presence.
“The Crofton mill is the municipality’s number-one corporate taxpayer and it contributed more than $4 million in property taxes to North Cowichan in 2020,” Muir said.
“Western Forest Products, the number two corporate taxpayer in North Cowichan, paid more than $600,000 in taxes last year. In total, that’s the same as 1,152 homeowners each paying $4,072 in property taxes. Mosaic Forest Management spends $43 million a year to businesses and suppliers in North Cowichan, and $145 million in this region.”
Muir also pointed out that the average wage of a forestry worker in B.C. is $41.47 an hour, the highest of any industry in B.C., while the average wage is $30 for most other industries.
He said some forestry critics are suggesting that only 35,000 hectares, or three per cent, of productive old-growth forests remain in B.C.
“That’s not really true, and the fact is that more than 500,000 hectares of large old growth trees exist on the B.C. coast alone,” Muir said.
“The public deserves a balanced and rational discourse on the forest industry and its practices. We should build on what we have. Promises of a ‘new economy’ seem alluring and anyone can propose this, but are they always realistic?”
Muir suggested that people have the option to choose to continuously improve, in collaboration with all the stakeholders, industries like forestry that are proven economic drivers.
“We need to hear from all the experts,” he said.
“We need to seek out those with rich, expert knowledge who aren’t aggressive or political in their approach.”