(Vancouver) The BC government should spend a minimum of $118 million more per year for the next five years on research, reforestation and restoration efforts in pine beetle-attacked forests, regardless of any future funding it might receive from Ottawa, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Battling the Beetle: Taking Action to Restore British Columbia’s Interior Forests calls on the province to implement a bold action plan and reverse a decade of government spending cuts on reforestation.
“Without doubt, provincial government neglect and questionable forest company replanting strategies have made a bad situation worse,” says Ben Parfitt, CCPA-BC resource policy analyst and author of the report. “Fortunately, there are solutions at hand. The right investments in the right places can lessen the impacts on forest-dependent communities and make our forests more resilient in the face of future outbreaks.”
As the infestation of the mountain pine beetle has grown, public investment in reforestation has plummeted, contributing to the current forest health crisis in the province. According to the report, current projections outlined in the latest provincial budget for ‘beetle response and reforestation’ are inadequate.
“The province must take primary responsibility for the ambitious plan needed,” says Parfitt. “However, there is another obvious funding source for such a strategy. With BC forest companies reporting record profits of $1.5 billion in 2004, it is time to raise minimum stumpage rates on beetle-infested wood and dedicate those funds to investments in one of our most important natural resources.”
Among the report’s recommendations, it calls on the province to:
- Spend $100 million annually on reforestation and restoration efforts in forests attacked by the beetles and not logged by forest companies.
- Invest a further $18 million per year on tree-thinning and spacing efforts.
- Immediately increase the nominal 25-cent-per-cubic-metre stumpage fee on beetle-attacked trees, using the additional funds to pay for reforestation.
- Carefully monitor tree-planting efforts to ensure diversity of species.
- Initiate a program of carefully set and controlled fires to restore greater diversity to the Interior landscape.
- Reverse a decade-long legacy of cuts to the Ministry of Forests, so that more provincial staff can oversee important research, restoration and reforestation work.
- Increase the area of forest ruled off-limits to commercial logging — a counterbalance to the large increases in logging occurring in response to the beetles.
“If the province is more creative in responding to this crisis, we can go far to ensuring that we have a healthier, more diversified working forest in the future,” says Parfitt. “The alternative is to see the current crisis intensify. Nobody wants that.”
To arrange an interview, call Avi Goldberg at 604-801-5121 ext. 229.