Earth Month Guest Blog: Let’s Talk about Regenerative Forestry and our Island Economy.
CEDC COMMISSIONER BRYAN YOUNG ADDRESSES THE OPPORTUNITY IN REGENERATIVE FORESTRY PRACTICES...
Forestry has been a part of Salt Spring Island’s economy for over 150 years. Today it creates employment in tree felling, land clearing for new construction, milling and more.
But our woods are in trouble. The Coastal Douglas-fir, Garry oak and arbutus that make Salt Spring a great place to live and visit, also represent our greatest climate crisis risk according to the BC Government’s climate risk assessment.
The fire resistance of our forests is falling as the compounding impacts of summer droughts and intensifying winter storms increase and weaken our trees. Adding to these climate change related impacts, we have scattered development patterns that see homes built amongst stressed trees, an over-abundance of hungry deer destroying forest understories which further dries soils, and forests made up of younger trees at peak flammability. Together, these elements provide the spark for the kind of disasters we are routinely seeing in the Western United States—with Kelowna and Nanaimo as warning shots.
At the same time, however, we have an opportunity to drive higher economic activity in our woods while addressing the challenges that are stressing our forests and endangering our communities with mounting fire risks. Regenerative forestry incorporates selective logging, pruning, planting, thinning, chipping of woody debris, and other practices. This results in increased stored carbon, higher quality timber, and more intact forest cover over conventional forestry practices. This lowers our fire risks, preserves and increases property values, and provides a wider diversity and number of jobs in our woods.
While we do that, we could support fully permitted island milling of lumber that is stamped on-island and legally used in new construction. That’s more jobs, and more value-added products created right here on Salt Spring. Examples like this from across BC and North America abound of classic win-wins for the community, for the economy, and for our forests.
What’s needed is for us to rethink some of our traditional forestry practices by adding to the toolkit, letting our trees mature longer in the forest, make it easier to have on-island milling, and reward property owners to keep more trees standing. In tackling these issues in a way that addresses many concerns at once, we bring people together to address a serious environmental crisis while protecting and creating livelihoods.
In 2020, environmental sector jobs grew 5% in Canada, while jobs in the rest of the economy fell. The 2023 forecast for Alberta shows renewable energy workforce capacity forecast to rise from 16% to 26%. The scale of these shifts is global—driven by the need to address mounting climate risks while transitioning workers to clean economy jobs. The Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan sets out recommendations to lower emissions 50% by 2030 and address climate change risks like forest fire, drought, and sea level rise. The plan outlines a path to creating great livelihoods while lowering the risk of fire to our communities from forests that require stewardship in these dangerous times.
These compounding crises provide us with opportunities for an island-wide dialogue that brings together our foresters, large property owners, realtors, Salt Spring Fire Rescue, the Community Economic Development Commission, Transition Salt Spring and others to talk about how we can continue to create livelihoods from our forests while ensuring their long term health for future generations.
For examples near and far of how sustainable regenerative forestry and economic growth can work together see the following resources:
- Harrop-Procter Community Forest: http://hpcommunityforest.org/
- Menominee Forest Keepers: https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/menominee-forest-keepers/
- Cortes Forestry General Partnership: cortesforestrypartnership.com/about/