Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities dialog could lead to positive change

Don't forget to take part in the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities dialog session planned for Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Wells Gray Inn

Don't forget to take part in the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities dialog session planned for Saturday afternoon, Jan. 19 at the Wells Gray Inn.

Registration will begin at 12:30 p.m., while the dialog session is expected to last from 1 to 4 p.m.

Purpose of the forum will be to explore the future of forestry in the North Thompson Valley in the post-beetle era.

Actually, to speak about a "post-beetle era" is almost certainly too optimistic. The mountain pine beetle epidemic is winding down but there is a host of other forest parasites waiting to feast on the remaining trees - things like spruce budworm and Douglas fir bark beetle. If climate change continues, and there is no reason to believe that it will not, then the mountain pine beetle epidemic is just a taste of things to come.

As the region warms, the forests will come under increasing stress. As stress levels rise, opportunities for insect pests and other parasites to take advantage of the situation also will increase.

The old model of very large forest companies headquartered in large cities far from the trees they depend on has proven itself too inflexible to deal with even modest changes to the environment. What are needed are smaller, more nimble economic entities that are locally-based.

Wells Gray Community Forest is a good example. Specialty sawmills such as Wadlegger Logging and the Colbornes' birch mill in Upper Clearwater would be others. They all came through the recent downturn in the forest economy and now appear to be poised to do great things.

The community forest is quite different structurally and in its purpose from the small sawmilliing companies. However, those differences just add more diversity and therefore strength to the local economy.

Clearwater, and in fact the whole North Thompson Valley, is just a small, resource-based community. Speaking alone, our voices are unlikely to be heard.

The Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities program is a province-wide initiative. Other resource-based communities across B.C. are in situations similar to the one we find ourselves in. The people in them likely are thinking along lines similar to our own. If we work together, and are patient, there is a good possibility we will see real, positive change in how our forests are managed.