Minister's response shows a government in denial over crisis in forests
VANCOUVER, Dec. 9 /CNW/ - A new report tracking the effects of budget
cuts in BC's forests ministry supports the BCGEU's call for a
commission of inquiry to investigate the state of forest management in
the province, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU)
The union also criticized Forests Minister Pat Bell's partisan dismissal
of the report, which uses the government's own data in its analysis.
"We are disappointed that Minister Bell decided to play politics with
this issue, instead of addressing the serious concerns facing the
forest sector," said Walker. "Sadly, his response clearly confirms that
this is a government in denial over the crisis in B.C. forests."
"Years of budget cuts and reorganization has severely eroded the
government's ability to manage BC's public forests," says BCGEU
president Darryl Walker. "This report raises troubling questions about
the management of our public forests that can only be answered by a
public commission which would review the current structure and make
recommendations to revitalize the sector and restore public
The report, Axed: A Decade of Cuts to BC's Forest Service, jointly issued by the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives and the
Sierra Club B.C. on December 8, chronicles the legacy of budget cuts
and policy shifts in the Ministry of Forests that have created huge
gaps in research, management and enforcement of forest policy.
Between 2001 and 2010, 1,006 positions have been eliminated in the
ministry, a 25 per cent decline. Field inspections by compliance and
enforcement staff have fallen 46 per cent in that time, opening the
door to illegal logging, environmental damage and revenue loss.
Many timber supply areas in B.C. have not had tree inventories taken in
more than 30 years. And the ministry's research department, which
provides invaluable information to establish sustainable cut quotas and
tree growth data, has been gutted. The report notes that up to 9
million hectares of land - an area 3 times the size of Vancouver Island
- may not be sufficiently stocked.
"Budget cuts, staff layoffs and self-regulation in the forest sector has
resulted in the government losing its eyes and ears on the ground,"
Walker says. "When a cabinet minister publicly states that resource
ministries are underfunded and can no longer fulfill their mandate, you
know the time has come to change direction."
The BCGEU is also calling on the B.C. Liberal government to suspend the
reorganization of resource ministries, pending the results of a
commission of inquiry, and as a first step, to restore the funding cuts
in the 2008/09 and 2010/11 budgets.
SOURCE B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union
For further information: For further information:
Chris Bradshaw at 604-290-9611 or 604-209-4129