SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2000


by Erica Thompson


They are BIG and they are everywhere -- it is 'variable retention' gone wild!

You can see it for yourself; cutblocks creeping up to 200 hectares in size. They are monstrous and make up the majority of Weyerhaeuser's 2000-2004 Forest Development Plan. From Ian Lake in north Graham Island, to Masset Inlet's Kumdis Island, to the pristine forests of Security Inlet on Moresby's west coast the style is big; bigger than we have ever seen.

'Variable retention' fell on people's ears two years ago as part of MacMillan Bloedel's move away from clearcutting.

"This strategy," MB said, "applies current ecological thinking to address mainstream public concerns on clearcutting coastal old growth forests."

This current Forest Development Plan, now bearing the logo of American forestry mammoth Weyerhaeuser, is dominated by variable retention zones which overshadow even the largest clearcuts of former logging practices.
On the west side of Kumdis Island ­ Kumdis Slough being one of 14 Haida protected areas ­ there are seven blocks laid out over 619 hectares. The largest weighing in at 185 hectares, the smallest a hefty 45.9 hectares - still 5.9 hectares bigger than the former maximum clearcut area of 40 hectares for the coast.

The lands on the north side of Ian Lake house some of the Island's biggest blocks. Here, three adjacent blocks cover 106, 114.7 and 177 hectares of forest. At Security Inlet, blocks ranging from 99 to 103 hectares are charted along Security Creek accompanied by others at Security Right-hand and Boomchain Bay Creeks .

By the end of this planning period there will be 12,573.8 more hectares of forest transformed into Weyerhaeuser timberlands - laid out it is enough to cover the province of Prince Edward Island twice over - and 4,638,460 cubic meters of wood harvested.

Viewing the Forest Development Plan at the Ministry of Forests provides little clarity for the public to understand what 'variable retention' will look like on the ground. The 'stewardship zones' so loudly touted in the media - including 'old growth zones with retention minimums of 15%, and timber zones with 10% and 5% retention areas - are nowhere to be seen. We are assured by Weyerhaeuser that a "primary management objective is the conservation of old growth values," and "about two thirds of the existing forest will be retained," but the evidence is not visible on the maps at this stage of the planning process ­ despite the Forest Development Plan being the only opportunity for public to comment on the logging blueprints.

Though the volume of wood removed from an area may be initially reduced via variable retention the amount of lands i

mpacted by development is increased - these cut-blocks are massive and the amount of road impressive.
The Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) has remained high, perched above 3.7-million cubic meters a year for MB's (Weyerhaeuser) TFL #39 since 1989. The AAC for local Block 6 is on record at approximately 1.2 million cubic meters and has been since 1996. Though the licensee has not cut the full AAC, the undercut is not a reflection of their legislated opportunity.

In the end, with the Ministry of Forests policy of liquidating the old growth and an AAC that is unsustainable what do the promises of this new management strategy offer us?


SpruceRoots Magazine - February 2000