The Islands' forests have evolved since the last ice age. The stands
are usually mixed species with a wide range of ages, from seedlings to towering
monarchs to fallen, decaying logs. Trees have been aged up to 1,200 years
and some measure over 20 feet in diameter.
As the old growth forest is shrinking, the potential for conflict over what remains is growing. There is a lack of public confidence in forest inventories, and widely-ranging opinions as to how much ancient forest is left and how much should remain undisturbed in order to sustain ecosystems.
Since the turn of the century, about 170,000 ha of forest have been logged
and are now in second growth (Sierra Club Mapping Project, 1995). In the
mid-19th Century, fires burned extensively over much of the east side of
Graham Island, from Masset to Skidegate Inlet.
Both industry and the Ministry of Forests claim that current inventories of second growth underestimate by as much as 20 percent the volume of wood they contain. They also state that certain areas of second growth provide significant opportunities for economic activity.
This is encouraging, however there is insufficient data to assess or substantiate this claim.
The fundamental assumption of the timber management system was that all
'operable' old growth forests would be logged and replaced with second growth
trees. The theory was that the last of the old growth would be harvested
just as the second
growth became viable.
The fall-down effect occurs when current cut levels cannot be met by the available supply of timber, leading to reductions in harvest. Contributing factors leading to the fall-down include: smaller land base, over-cutting and changing management standards. On the Islands, while the second growth looks promising, the fall-down is in the time frame between the first harvest and the second growth coming on stream.
The existence of the fall-down effect is evidence that this particular timber management assumption is not conducive to community stability, nor is it equitable with respect to the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
The fall-down effect is directly related to the Annual Allowable Cut, which is set or approved by the Chief Forester. Successive Chief Foresters have failed in their responsibility to consider the long term environmental, social and economic effects on the Islands Community.
To define the land base and a realistic rotation period and adjust the
harvest to a sustainable level.
That inventories for old and second growth forests, traditional uses, and non-timber resources be examined in a public review process, described in section 11 below.