Greenpeace report on British Columbia forestry difficult to discredit: so says environment ministry
August 2, 1997: British Columbia has roughly one-quarter of the world's remaining old-growth temperate rain forest. At the present rate of harvest, most will be gone within a decade. In the process, unless harvest methods are radically altered, many plant and animal species will become extinct, salmon habitat will be damaged or destroyed, hillsides will be eroded, and large quantities of plant and soil carbon will be released to the atmosphere. Greenpeace's report Broken Promises: The Truth About What's Happening to B.C.'s Forests (see Greenpeace Threatens British Columbia Loggers, naturalSCIENCE, April 30) chronicles a series of commitments by the Government of B.C. concerning the establishment of “world class” logging standards in the Province and contrasts these claims with recent government data to show a large gap between rhetoric and reality.
The Government of British Columbia, which has ultimate responsibility for managing British Columbia's publicly owned forest lands (i.e., 95% of the total) and which relies on stumpage and other forestry-related taxes for much of its revenue, responded aggressively to the Greenpeace report. Premier Glen Clark called Greenpeace “enemies of the province” who are engaged in a “misinformation campaign.” “We don’t,” he said, “intend to take this kind of thing lying down.”
But despite the public reaction, it is now clear, by the Environment Ministry's own admission, that, on the main points, Greenpeace was right. The admission is to be found in documents obtained by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund through a Freedom of Information request. Here we publish two of these documents: one, a memorandum written in connection with a briefing of cabinet ministers in which it is stated that “it would be difficult to discredit the (Greenpeace) report because of the source (i.e., government and forest industry) of much of the data upon which it is based;” the other, a more detailed analysis by the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks of the Greepeace report Broken Promises. In addition, we publish here the text of a Sierra Legal Defense Fund press release and background paper relating to these government documents.