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Volume 1, 1997, http://naturalscience.com/ns/articles/01-mis/ns_mis04.html
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SIERRA LEGAL DEFENCE FUND

BACKGROUNDER

Government Documents Substantiate Greenpeace Report

On April 21st, 1997 Greenpeace released Broken Promises: The Truth About What’s Happening to B.C.’s Forests, a report detailing the B.C. Government’s failure to substantially improve destructive logging practices in the province. The release of Broken Promises prompted B.C. Premier Glen Clark to brand Greenpeace and other environmentalists as “enemies of British Columbia.” Clark painted the report as part of a “campaign of misinformation.”

Recently-obtained government documents obtained by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund through a Freedom of Information request substantiate the Greenpeace report. The key findings in the Government’s unpublicized analysis are summarized below.

Regarding the accuracy of Broken Promises...

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Greenpeace’s report was prepared based largely on or interpreted from government and forest industry data, including Freedom of Information requests...It would be difficult to attempt to discredit the report because of the source of much of the data upon which it is based.1

Regarding BIODIVERSITY...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

With no endangered species act and a refusal to implement the elements of the Code that might protect some endangered species, many B.C. wildlife species are in jeopardy.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Greenpeace correctly notes that current government policy supports low biodiversity emphasis option as the provincial government default...Under low emphasis, the Biodiversity Guidebook indicates, ‘The pattern of natural biodiversity will be significantly altered and the risk of some native species being unable to survive in the area will be relatively high.’2

Until landscape units and landscape unit objectives are in place, low biodiversity emphasis remains as the default, and biodiversity conservation is in jeopardy in British Columbia.2

Recent government staffing and budget cuts will increase the time needed to complete landscape unit plans and objectives across the province.2


Regarding PROTECTED AREAS...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

While originally the Protected Areas Strategy was intended to protect 12% of ‘representative’ ecosystems (i.e., 12% of each forest type)...61.2% (of new protected areas) is classified as alpine/subalpine terrain (meaning rock and ice).

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Greenpeace’s analysis is based on protected areas approved to date. This points to a weakness in application of the conservation goals.2

Regarding STREAMS AND RIPARIAN AREAS...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

83% of streams in 1996 cutblocks were clearcut to their banks, leaving no riparian zone.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

For fish streams less than 1.5 m in width,...the Forest Practices Code permits this practice. In other words, under the Code, this practice is not illegal.2

Government’s regional review of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund’s document “Stream Protection Under the Code: The Destruction Continues” found that 30% of streams field-checked by government staff were not identified correctly [by the logging companies]. Nine streams (14%) were not identified at all.2

Regarding the RATE OF CUT AND THE LOSS OF OLD-GROWTH FORESTS...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

The unsuitable rate of cut is the single biggest ecological forestry problem we have. Despite openly acknowledging the overcut problem...the rate of cut has not slowed.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Retention of old growth is increasingly becoming less of an option, and government is now having to consider rebuilding old growth over three rotations while still continuing to harvest old growth as a priority.
...Fall-down [in harvest levels] is the result of intentional overharvesting of British Columbia’s old growth to capture maximum economic benefit from high volume old growth trees... The role of fall-down is not being adequately discussed or acknowledged outside of Timber Supply Review.
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Regarding STREAMS AND RIPARIAN AREAS...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

The destructive logging practice called “cross-yarding” - in which downed trees are dragged across streambeds - continues to be common and routine.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Currently, the discretion left to company engineering staff to fall and yard away where possible is problematic.2

Regarding the EXCESS OF DISCRETION IN THE FOREST PRACTICES CODE...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

After almost two years under the Code, it is now clear that the discretionary powers given to District Managers have effectively destroyed any power the Code may have to regulate better forest management.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

The decision-makers must be fully accountable for their decisions and exercise professional judgement, otherwise the potential for misuse of the power and mismanagement of the resource could remain unchecked.2

Regarding ENDANGERED SPECIES AND WILDLIFE...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

Species like woodland caribou, grizzly bears and salmon are still at risk...The current logging plan threatens the outright extinction of an internationally significant herd of 1,500 woodland caribou under provincial stewardship.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Protection for [endangered species is] constrained by a 1% cap on impact on timber supply, previously set by Cabinet...The 1% impact cap on identified wildlife means that additional protection, through strategic land use plans and higher level plans, will be required for [grizzly bear] and other wide-ranging species, such as mountain caribou.
Mountain caribou are not protected in British Columbia...Caribou are being considered for inclusion...but, may be excluded owing to the 1% timber impact cap. Mountain caribou are also not adequately dealt with in many current strategic land use plans, e.g. Cariboo-Chilcotin Land Use Plan or other similar plans.
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Regarding ENDANGERED SPECIES AND WILDLIFE...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

Despite opinion polls showing that 96% of British Columbia want legal protection for endangered species, the government continues to ignore public calls to introduce an endangered species act.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

The province has chosen to protect endangered species and their habitat through other mechanisms, e.g. the Protected Areas Strategy and the Forest Practices Code. It should be noted that these mechanisms do not apply to private lands or other non-provincial forest lands. Several important threatened and endangered species occur on lands on eastern Vancouver Island and in the Okanagan, and are threatened by urbanization and agriculture. Some other legislative mechanism would be needed to extend protection beyond areas covered by the Code and Protected Areas.2

Regarding the IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FOREST PRACTICES CODE...

Greenpeace’s report, Broken Promises, states:

With fewer and fewer staff and resources, government enforcement of the Code is fast changing from unlikely to impossible, and the B.C. forest industry is reverting to the days of self-policing and voluntary compliance.

The B.C. Government’s internal analysis states:

Recent staffing and resource cuts will mean delays as fewer staff are expected to implement the Code...Implementation cannot be expected immediately given available staffing and resources.1

SOURCES

1. Joint MELP/MOF Ministers’ Briefing on Broken Promises. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, 24 April 1997 (File#: 97-23).

2. Greenpeace Report: Broken Promises. Analysis Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, 23 April 1997.


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