The envirocrats’ betrayal of the environment

Lawrence Solomon
National Post
August 29, 2000

The great battle to preserve Canada’s environment took another drubbing last week. The loser this time was old- growth forest in British Columbia’s Clayoquot Sound, where the chainsaws whirred while the victors — a species of environmentalists known as envirocrats — cheered them on. “We have changed,” enthused Adriane Carr of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, a fine specimen of the mutated environmentalist. “We realize there can be a mixed economy here.”

Your group has changed, Adriane. Western Canada Wilderness Committee once helped inspire one of the biggest shows of civil disobedience in Canadian history — the 1993 non-violent protests that led to more than 800 arrests, focused the world’s attention on B.C.’s coastal rainforests as never before, and dramatically restrained the wanton destruction of one of the world’s most special places. Now your group — along with fellow envirocrats at Greenpeace, Sierra Club of British Columbia and Washington-based Natural Resources Defence Council — has joined your former adversaries: the B.C. government, which remains bent on uneconomically cutting Crown-owned trees, and the forestry companies, which are only too willing to profit from the government’s squandering ways. You have become a self- appointed, quasi-government bureaucrat, negotiating deals on behalf of the public at large, making compromises on behalf of those who don’t want to be compromised.

You are not alone, I know. Envirocrats are teaming up with industry and governments elsewhere in B.C. and Canada. Last year in Ontario, envirocrats at World Wildlife Fund, the Federation of Ontario Naturalists and the Wildlands League signed the Ontario Forest Accord, one of this century’s biggest resource giveaways. The accord effectively delivers most of the province to mining and logging interests, promising, for example, to help sawmills and pulp and paper mills obtain improved access to Crown forests in order to log farther and faster, and endorsing the ever-richer taxpayer subsidies needed to maintain uneconomic resource operations. Working on the public’s behalf, our envirocrats agreed to punish eco-tourist operations that depend on wilderness areas: If tourist operators insist on plying their trade in wooded areas, they will be taxed to compensate forestry companies for the inconvenience of logging elsewhere.

The very day the envirocrats signed the accord, the Ontario government issued press releases trumpeting its triumph, and announcing a slew of new mining subsidies. “Ontario is open for business,” the government boasted, saying that under the accord, the mining industry is free to prospect in protected areas. If ore is found, the industry can “borrow park land for mining while substituting it with land of equal natural heritage value.” After the parks are mined out, the industry would “restore land to the parks system.”

Astonishingly, the accords require the envirocrats to become mouthpieces for the industries and the governments they claim to watch over. In British Columbia, envirocrats have committed not only to endorse but actually to market old- growth wood for forestry companies. To justify the logging of old-growth forest, some envirocrats rationalize that the logging will mimic nature by taking down big trees, just as a winter storm or disease would — as if big trees, or fallen trees, pose a problem for Mother Nature. In Ontario, as part of a multi-million-dollar PR campaign to boost the image of the Mike Harris Conservatives, envirocrat Monte Hummel, president of World Wildlife Fund Canada, did his PR duty this week.

“This government has made an unprecedented contribution to conservation on a global scale. This is definitely a good day for loons, for old-growth forest and protected areas, and it’s a good day for people too,” he says, in an extravagant poster-sized insert lauding the accord that arrived on Ontarians’ doorsteps Saturday and Monday, along with their morning newspapers. The glossy, four-colour insert — Ontario’s Living Legacy — says nothing of the accord’s legacy of senseless wilderness destruction.

Although envirocrats think they are driving hard bargains and striking necessary balances between the needs of the environment and the needs of the economy, they are, in fact, being gulled. Without government subsidies, such as those that Ontario’s envirocrats helped secure for the resource industries, Ontario would see little large-scale logging. Most logging in British Columbia’s old-growth forests would also stop, because the land is worth much more as standing forest. An Environment Probe study of logging in B.C.’s Carmanah Valley, another forest battleground last decade, found that MacMillan Bloedel then stood to earn between $1-million and $2-million for logging the entire valley over many years — less than the profit one high-end tourist lodge could expect.

The Wilderness Committee’s embrace of what Ms. Carr touts as a “mixed economy” for Clayoquot Sound should not be confused with a market economy. The B.C. government runs its forests as a giant make-work project, even in the prized residential and tourist country that includes Clayoquot Sound. Private woodlot owners don’t log at a loss and, when not coerced by governments, they often don’t log at all, because wooded areas generally have higher recreational value, whether for wilderness camping, hunting or cottage lands. Private woodlot owners, unlike governments, often dream of passing on their lands to their children and grandchildren. If only the envirocrats shared the same concern for the future.

From an Ontario government press release dated March 29, 1999, the day the Ontario Forest Accord was signed.

Hodgson says Living Legacy Good News for Northern Ontario

The province’s Living Legacy and the Lands for Life process on which it was built, are good news for Northern Ontario, Northern Development and Mines Minister Chris Hodgson said today. … we can assure the sector that it has achieved the certainty it wants for the industry. “Access for environmentally sensitive mineral exploration is being protected in areas of provincially significant mineral potential, and it is business as usual for existing claim holders and mining activity already underway.”

“We are satisfied with the degree of certainty Living Legacy provides for the long term,” said Michael Wills of RBC Dominion Securities. “The government is willing to put its guarantees in a written contract and that substantially increases our comfort level.”

“It is vital that we have the access we need to land in Ontario with significant mineral potential,” said Inco’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Sopko. “This initiative contributes to ensuring the continued success of the mineral industry in Ontario.”

“We are pleased that exploration will be allowed within the new protected areas,” said Don McKinnon, director of MCK Mining and Baltic Resources. “It makes good sense to follow carefully prescribed practices that have already proven successful in environmentally sensitive areas.”

The minister also announced that the province would be investing $21-million over two years for programs to boost mineral exploration in Ontario.

“Along with freezing mining taxes and fees, reducing red tape, streamlining regulations as well as lowering Workplace Safety and Insurance Board rates for mining, this government has demonstrated to the international mining community that we welcome its investments,” said Hodgson. “We’re proud of our track record on this front and fully intend to remain the front runners in this industry.”

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