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Op/Ed: Glyphosate and our forests

Photo from Stop the Spray

Material contributed by “Stop the Spray BC

When a forest regrows after logging or fires, it can be and should be a paradise for wildlife including bees, moose, birds, and beavers, with a large selection of food including fireweed, poplar (aspen), birch, willow, grasses, berries and many other plants that are necessary for  wildlife.  

However, to industrial forestry, only one type of plant has value -- conifer trees like Lodgepole Pine.  

Utilizing aircraft equipped with spray nozzles and tanks of herbicides, companies spray these cutblocks 5 to10 years after logging with industrial-strength glyphosate to kill every plant that isn't a conifer.  The effects are devastating and long-lasting, as a forest without aspen and other deciduous plants will support far less wildlife, and especially fewer moose, than one with a more complete, more natural ecology.

10,000 to 20,000 hectares of diverse forests are sprayed every year in BC, mostly aspen forests in the Prince George and Cariboo area.  That is enough forage to support 2500 to 5000 moose. 

Why?  In the Central Interior of British Columbia there is no factory that utilizes the trees that are killed by spraying.  There is no other reason.  

Without an industry to utilize the deciduous trees, the government designates these trees as “weed species” and makes it legal to eliminate them (and every other plant that glyphosate kills) from the forest, along with the many other species that depend on them.  

The result is a monoculture forest with very little biodiversity. 

There is no adequate justification for spraying our forests with a toxic substance to kill a wide variety of  wildlife-supporting forbs, shrubs and trees. Intelligent forestry should embrace the biodiversity that nature provides.  We should allow mixed forests with pine, fir, aspen, and birch.  We should allow soil-building fireweed to flourish, and berry bushes. These things will benefit the soil, wildlife and us as our climate changes,  protecting us against catastrophic losses. Mixed forests with healthy understories are less vulnerable than monocultures.  They produce more timber, and utilize light and water more efficiently.  And they are much, much better for wildlife.

NDP claim forestry glyphosate spraying is being “phased out” does not square with reality

Current NDP messaging around spraying being phased out and in decline in Northern BC is contradicted by one forestry company’s plans for spraying this year.

This past year one of the major corporations spraying the Prince George area, Canfor, had plans to spray around 5000 hectares of regenerating forests to kill native vegetation and broadleaf trees like birch, cottonwood, and aspen, to grow conifer monocrop plantations, some of it right next to the Ancient Forest.

The plan did not proceed, not because of NDP policy, but because it was too wet to spray.

Recently local NDP operatives have told us that spraying was only around 3000 hectares last year and that spraying was being phased out.

NDP candidate Scott Elliott running in North Cariboo, one of the most heavily sprayed areas in BC, stated on Facebook: "The use of pesticides has been dropping since we formed government. It's down to a few thousand hectares (which sounds like a lot until you remember BC is more than 95 million hectares) and it's being phased out."

However, this has nothing to do with NDP policies, which remain identical to those under the BC Liberals. Corporations have the exact same legal authority to spray now as they did 3 years ago.

“Countless experts have told us we need to diversify our forests, and that includes the broadleaf trees like aspen, birch, and cottonwood,” said Stop the Spray BC spokesperson James Steidle. “The war on these species continues unabated, regardless of what the governing party is telling the public.”

Deciduous regeneration is even still being sprayed and brushed in Prince George-South, despite the fact moose are in serious decline and 40% of recovered moose in this area have died of starvation.

“You would think our politicians would be interested in the safety of our Central Interior communities from fire, and would want policies to help recover our moose. But it’s the same anti-aspen and anti-deciduous policies as before, resulting in flammable match-stick plantations devoid of wildlife.” said Steidle. Moose overwhelmingly depend on deciduous plants, which we spray and kill.

Over 90% of spraying takes place in northern BC, much of it in the vicinity of Prince George. The disproportionate spraying of this area is the result of policies emanating from Victoria.  

“At the end of the day people in the North have had it with a reforestation strategy out of tune with our local ecosystems and our local needs.  These policies and the NDP messaging are coming from large out-of-touch urbanites hundreds of kilometers away who could care less about the local harm they cause, who think aspen have no value.  We need to regain local control over these alienating policies.”