Forestry jobs focus of visit

More than 1,000 B.C. Forest Service jobs have been cut in less than a decade, leaving remaining forest workers responsible for up to 232,240 hectares of land each, according to resource research specialist Ben Parfitt.

  • Jan. 26, 2011 2:00 p.m.

More than 1,000 B.C. Forest Service jobs have been cut in less than a decade, leaving remaining forest workers responsible for up to 232,240 hectares of land each, according to resource research specialist Ben Parfitt.

From 2009 to 2010, 245 jobs were lost across the province, including 12 in Castlegar. When the Castlegar Forest District Office was scaled back last summer due to budget cuts, Garry Beaudry, district manager for the Kootenay Lake Forest District said jobs would be available for employees willing to relocate.

“Looking at it through that lens, there’s no getting around the fact that 12 full-time jobs are gone,” Parfitt said.

Parfitt, along with Darryl Walker, president of the B.C. government and service employees’ union were in Castlegar this week to talk about the state of the B.C. Forestry and the community dialogue on forestry.

“My concern is, we tend to lose sight of the fact that in this province the majority of the land is publicly-owned,” Parfitt said. “We’re dangerously low on the number of people we have working in the forest service today and as a result there are real risks.”

Those risks include “an era of unprecedented insect attacks that have killed hundreds of millions of trees; forest fires of increasing number and severity; a reforestation challenge of unimaginable extent and complexity; and a pressing need both globally and at home to respond to these and other climate change-related events in ways that conserve forests both to protect biological diversity and to provide society with wood products,” Parfitt wrote in his report, “Axed: A Decade of Cuts to BC’s Forest Service.”

Parfitt said it’s unfortunate how much has been cut from the B.C. Forest Service, especially since the United States hasn’t cut nearly as much. He worked out the figures, and each U.S. Forest Service employee is responsible for an area of land 10 times smaller than that of a B.C. employee.

“To put it in its plainest form, the more cuts you had, the more land area you are making each service forest worker responsible for.”

He said it’s impossible for each forest worker to cover the amount of land they’re responsible for.

“It’s just a simple fact. The fewer people you have when you have a very large land base, difficult to move around in, great distance to cover, the more unrealistic it becomes the public servants are actually going to be able to serve the public interest.”

Reforestation hasn’t been a large priority for the provincial government either, Parfitt said.

“We’ve seen steady declines in the amount of money the provincial government is putting into reforestation,” he said, adding that clearly there is a commitment from the U.S. government to reforest their land.

What could be considered most confusing, however, is when the cuts have taken place over the last decade.

“If you look at the totality of these cuts, the largest cuts to the forest service, ironically, occurred during years of record profit in the forest industry,” Parfitt explained, “so there’s no correlation.”

Parfitt believes that an inquiry should be made into whether the current forest service and provincial government is capable of addressing the “immense challenges that lie ahead in managing BC’s publicly-owned forests.”

And until that happens, he hopes no other cuts are made.