Forests have value



In Doug Hockley’s opinion piece from Sept. 15, he states, “‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ doesn’t need to apply for the District of Sechelt. We still have a Community Forest that requires harvesting to keep it healthy for future generations.”

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The comment begs deeper analysis of the direct benefit that Sunshine Coast Community Forests (SCCF) – a logging company, actually – contributes to the long-term economic health of Sechelt. For every clear-cut forest heading off Coast on the back of a logging truck, there’s an associated loss of a natural asset.

Green accounting of environmental services shows that intact forests provide about $10,000 per hectare, per year. Of course forests have been providing these services for free over millennia; however, society is now understanding that these services of carbon sequestering, habitat protection, oxygen production, water retention, recreation, as spiritual havens, tourism generators, for wildcrafting and First Nations use are the underlying pins to life itself that we can’t live without, and thus have a real cost to communities when they are lost.

The forests being logged by SCCF are not second-growth tree farms so are not being “harvested” – they are the last remnants of the natural forests at low elevations that once graced this coastline. The problem is that once SCCF logs these intact forests, the web of biodiversity is lost forever, and not calculated anywhere as an economic loss in the accountant’s spreadsheet.

It’s curious that Mr. Hockley doesn’t mention tourism as a real and potential economic driver for Sechelt, and how protecting local old forests could play a greater role in attracting tourists from B.C. or internationally. Tourists don’t come to see clear-cuts – they come to view giant trees, pick mushrooms, hike trails, and view wildlife such as the majestic Roosevelt elk.

The cost-benefit of logging the last natural places surrounding Sechelt and providing a small dividend to the district (projected 2017 amount is a mere $100,000) vs. the long-term benefits that forests provide to residents, and as tourism generators, needs to be weighed. We know that Sechelt council is excited about promoting tourism and festivals, and one way they can do more is by rethinking the logging of unique forests and having them rebranded as tourist assets.

It’s time to plan for a green economy to bring new growth to the Coast.

Ross Muirhead, Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF)

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