Concerns around forests and forestry management were front and centre at a rally held in Salmon Arm.
The Shuswap Rally for the Forests, held Friday, Sept. 18 at Salmon Arm’s Ross Street Plaza, was one of 16 events taking place in the province geared at challenging and changing B.C. government forestry policy.
Shuswap event organizer Jim Cooperman said the rallies were spearheaded by Jennifer Houghton of Grand Forks and Taryn Skalbania of Peachland. Cooperman noted Houghton experienced the flooding that devastated Grand Forks in May 2018.
“While the government and the forest industry blame the weather for these disasters, it was massive clear-cutting in the watersheds of two rivers that was the real reason for this flooding,” said Cooperman. “When the trees are removed, more snow piles up in the winter and melts much faster in the spring. It’s pretty simple really.”
Singer and playwright Linz Kenyon opened the Ross Street Plaza Rally with song, which was followed by a short play, The Lumberjack’s Dilemma, put on by actors from the Salmon Arm Actors Studio.
Dr. Art Borkent spoke from his background in entomology on forest health, the importance of insect species to biodiversity and how evolution, not forest management, results in resilient forests. He explained how clearcuts decimate the diversity of insect species that keep forests thriving.
“This is a disaster… because it’s all those (insect) communities that keep the healthy soils going that have been there for millions of years; there’s a diversity that no one is talking about and no one is studying…,” said Borkent. “Forestry has never invested in trying to understand what biodiversity truly looks like in British Columbia.”
Borkent also criticized silviculture practices, stating when clearcuts are replanted with nursery plants, it stops healthier subsequent generations.
“When we clearcut an area… the survivors that are healthy… are eliminated, and they are replanted with old seed stock that is very homogeneous,” said Borkent. “This makes no sense in terms of actually generating further healthy forests. You’re always planting the old and decrepit in a sense.”
Cooperman said a major concern in the Shuswap is the threat of more landslides, caused in part by land clearing and road building. He expressed concern the province and industry are ignoring local concerns with clear cutting on Bastion Mountain, where a landslide in 2017 destroyed property and took the life of a Sunnybrae resident.
“We have a huge challenge ahead of us, the concerned public, to move this agenda forward, in the face of all that the government is doing, and not doing, regarding forest management, we cannot continue to remain idle.”