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Unmasking The Eco-Myths

Summary: Ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick Moore works these days to counter the forestry myths and misinformation put forth by radical environmentalists. Most don't have a clue what they are talking about, says Moore.

By L. Ward Johnson
Copyright 1996. Contact publisher for permission to reprint.

The second of a two-part LSJ Profile.

Dr Patrick Moore, ex-Greenpeace co-founder working now for the industry- sponsored BC Forest Alliance, is well aware that he is viewed by his former environmentalist colleagues as a traitor and an eco-Judas. Moore doesn't see it that way. "When I hired on with the Forest Alliance of BC in 1991, my principal objective was to initiate an environmental agenda that would lead to a higher level of sustainable forestry.

The industry had to change its logging and silvicultural practices and no one was more aware of that than the industry itself. "Because of my background and my public profile," he continues, "I was able to expedite that process and the result was the 21 Principles of Sustainable Forestry, which were adopted by a majority of the major companies in 1992 and resulted in the adoption of forestry audits.

The objective was to establish a level playing field for progress toward sustainable forestry. "Since I began my work with the Forest Alliance however," Moore says, "what I term the radical element has emerged as the dominant force in the environmentalist camp and I now find myself exerting considerable effort trying to dispel myths created by these people.

For example, the radical element maintains we are turning our forests into monoculture stands and nothing could be farther from the truth." Part of the problem, according to Moore, is that people who argue against the industry haven't the professional training to correctly assess what is happening within the ecology and "don't appreciate or accept the rejuvenating capabilities of Mother Nature. "

Since a clearcut looks ugly, their view is that anything the industry does is unnatural and a violation against nature, from which it can never recover. They want all timber harvesting stopped. It's wrong to judge the environmental health of the landscape by aesthetics alone. Environmentalists who advocate a Garden-of-Eden approach should focus their efforts on wilderness preservation and leave forest practices to people who know something about the subject." The way Moore sees it, if you look at a new forest, there is a plethora of life there made up of many species of plants, insects and animals; it is anything but a monoculture. In subsequent years, that forest will go through many successive stages until it again reaches the status of what we call an old-growth forest.

Nature has been doing this through thousands of years, despite natural phenomenon such as fire, insect attacks, ice ages, etc. "This is a testament to the resilience of nature which radical environmentalists want to overlook to achieve their objectives," he says. Moore adds if you want to see monoculture in action, look at any farmer's field. "If you look at the prairies, for instance, you find that all the original vegetation has been stripped away, to be replaced by a single species. Not only that, but the farmer likely discs, harrows, cultivates or poisons any subsequent vegetation on to ensure the are a remains totally dedicated to one crop.

That's monoculture _ and it's a far cry from a new forest, where many kinds of plants play out their role in the natural course of events." Moore says forests are one of the most renewable resources on this planet and therefore one of the most sustainable. "With proper care and sound forestry practices, we can even increase our utilization levels and still preserve the ecological and environmental integrity of our forest stands," he says. "

An industry built around such a resource has a great potential to provide us humans with benefits of all kinds, including financial and aesthetic. " What at is needed to achieve these objectives is a more holistic and realistic ecological vision of forests and forestry and I'm becoming more and more embroiled in that effort all the time. Many environmentalists are perpetuating nothing more than myths where forestry and forest harvesting is concerned, and they must not be allowed to achieve their objectives under such a pretext of mis-truths."

Moore defines bad logging as logging that causes excessive soil loss and damage, and disrupts drainage and water courses. Conversely, he defines good logging as logging planned around the entire landscape that ensures all elements of the forest community are maintained. That includes old-growth and habitat for biodiversity. When clearcutting is the best method of harvesting and forest renewal, the logging plan must protect soil and water, he says.

When asked about the newly introduced Forest Practices Code, Moore says that in the initial stages, it is all stick and no carrot. His biggest criticism is that there is not enough allowance for site-specific discretion. He says good things happen when people know what they are doing and they are able to make site-specific decisions. He specifically cites riparian zones as an example of where the Forest Practice Code is too rigid.

Moore is optimistic about the Code, though, and believes that eventually the initial difficulties will iron themselves out. "Once common sense prevails, it will be a world-recognized standard against which forestry operations everywhere will measure themselves."

Moore thinks the industry is meeting with some success in the dispute over harvesting. "Five years ago, the perception was that environmentalists were right and the industry was wrong. I see that changing now," he says. "Environmentalists have become too extreme and the public is becoming reluctant to buy into that approach. I think everyone in this province realizes forestry has a significant impact on jobs and the economy and that it would be a disastrous move to shut the industry down. In addition, government has established more stringent operating requirements and added considerably to park areas and reserves. These moves have been greeted positively by most people and society is beginning to take a more rational approach to logging. After all, we musn't forget there are human needs to meet as well."

Moore says the most effective way to counter myths and untruths about logging is to provide accurate interpretations of what is going on and relate specific operations to the overall ecological picture. He says it's a constant battle, requiring endless presentations and public relations efforts. Moore says he has high hopes for his book, Pacific Spirit, which has given the industry a tangible vehicle to get the message out. "I always like to look at farms and cities and compare their impact to that of logging,"

Moore says. "When you put up a subdivision or plough a field for a farm, the biodiversity is lost, whereas in a clearcut, it will grow back and it will continue to be there as long as the area supports a forest." Moore says the forest industry doesn't exert nearly enough effort or spend nearly enough money on promoting public understanding of forestry and logging. Forestry is a $47-billion industry in Canada, he says, yet it spends only a small percentage on publicity. "The entire forest industry doesn't spend like Greenpeace spends," he says. "Every citizen must understand both sides of the issues so that the right political decisions are made. There needs to be more effort in schools for instance, for both the students and the teachers.

It's important to reach the students before their minds are closed by someone perpetuating myths. The industry must develop more communications skills and promote sustainable forestry practices. Forestry is the most important industry in Canada and the greatest contributor to the wealth of the economy. Maintaining that industry is one of the most significant issues in Canada today." Moore has faith in the future. He believes env ironmental activists will change their confrontational strategy and start working with government and industry to promote good forestry.

When they do, they will become strong advocates for the sound practices being developed now. Moore thinks this process has already begun. "I see things changing now. The Principles of Sustainable Forestry and the Forest Practices Code and Forestry Audits are all part of a new wave sweeping the industry. We will depend more and more on the forest as other resources that are non-renewable are exhausted. That means an even brighter future for forestry, but first we've got to get our house in order, and that's what we're doing now."

April 1996 articles - Forest Expo Show Guide

  • New Deere Buncher
    Eastern and western contractors assess the new 653E.
  • Riverside Forest Products
    A $17 million upgrade produces a 12-percent recovery gain
  • OSB Fast Track
    Ainsworth opens its second OSB plant in as many years.
  • Caribou-Friendly Harvesting
    A look at a working study in BC's Chilcotin region.
  • Eye on the Orient
    With a confusing Timber West/Fletcher Challenge ownership behind it, the Elk Falls lumber mill invests $16 million to retool for Asian markets.
  • Unmasking the Eco-Myths
    Ex-Greenpeace activist Patrick works these days to counter the forestry myths and misinformation put forth by radical environmentalists. Most don't have a clue what they are talking about, says Moore.
  • Ancient Enterprise Still Thriving
    The oak forests and processing industry of France predate the Romans. LSJ's peripatetic editor Reg Barclay takes us inside a highly efficient plant in Burgundy, France.
  • Diploma Mill with a Difference
    A Crestbrook Forest Industries program that combines on-site industrial training with high school completion courses is well-accepted by employees.
  • Marketplace: Supplier NewsLine
    Equipment information including the Implemax Equipment skid steer grapple, the Dynaweld detachable trailer model, the Imac PowerSwivel, the Morbark Model 1300 Tub Grinder, and more.
    This month: Kiln controls including Drystar Computer Kiln Controller, Winkiln Control System, Custom Dry Kiln PLC and more.
  • New Era in Bush Communications
    Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome TMI Communications' new mobile satellite communications network.

Last modified 6/10/96

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