Reply of the ‘envirocrats’

National Post
September 12, 2000

It is hard enough being trashed by the National Post without the source of the attack being a colleague whom I respect. Unfortunately, Lawrence Solomon’s got his facts all twisted up with his free-market ideology in “The envirocrats’ betrayal of the environment (August 29).

Mr. Solomon has done brilliant work skewering the sacred fiscal cow of Canada’s nuclear industry, and the organizations he helped found (Energy Probe, Probe International and Environment Probe) do important work. But he doesn’t know much about Canada’s forests. Environment Probe, which Mr. Solomon quotes without acknowledging as his own, is fixated on advocating the privatization of millions of hectares of Crown land as the solution to over-cutting and damaging forest practices in Canada. Unfortunately, this fixation is blinding him to the evidence that private lands are no better treated than Crown lands, and, in many provinces, are noticeably subject to greater abuse. The issue of “liquidation cuts” is increasingly in the news in the Maritimes where privately owned woodlots are being clear-cut with serious damage to downstream water users and to the local environment.

But no regulations apply, and private multinational companies are buying up land, as well as pressuring cash-strapped contractors to bring feller bunchers onto long-held family woodlots. Contractors have literally been going door to door to get economically stressed landowners to agree to clear-cutting their whole woodlot.

Yes, we must get rid of perverse subsidies to logging operations. But the evidence is strong that regulations and enforcement, more than ownership patterns alone, will determine the post-logging health of forest land.

When it comes to attacking virtually every environmental group in the country over the current agreement in Clayoquot Sound, Mr. Solomon is even more confused. His premise is that Sierra Club of British Columbia and other groups made some sort of deal with the government. Actually, following long years of protests in Clayoquot Sound, discussions began between the industry, organized labour, environmental groups and the Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nation. What resulted was protection of key pristine watersheds within Clayoquot Sound, which had previously been slated for clear-cutting.

The Nuu-Chah-Nulth and MacMillan Bloedel (now Weyerhauser) established a forest company to conduct ecologically sensitive logging — not clear-cutting — in areas already fragmented by logging operations. Environmental groups joined in an agreement to ensure employment opportunities for a community in desperate need of them.

It is hard to understand how the National Post could publish something so ill-informed. But, then again, it’s only a week since your call to bring back DDT.

Elizabeth E. May, Executive Director, Sierra Club of Canada, Ottawa

In his diatribe, Lawrence Solomon managed to malign many of the largest and most effective environmental organizations in Canada. The gullible traitors named, in order of appearance are: the Western Canada Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, Sierra Club of British Columbia, National Resources Defense Council, World Wildlife Fund, Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Wildlands League. Everybody is wrong it seems, except Lawrence.

I wonder why the Financial Post regularly gives Mr. Solomon a platform for his unusual views. Perhaps its because he represents the kind of stereotypical environmentalist that neo-conservatives love to hate: narrow, strident, righteous, arrogant and futile.

Today, most environmental organizations are more interested in results than righteous rhetoric and civil disobedience. In the difficult economy of the 1990s, they have found that considering all the interests of forest communities can result in real progress for nature, even though the outcome is less than perfect. Given the risks of negotiating for nature, it is important that hard questions are asked and the negotiators are challenged.

This is healthy and necessary. However, Mr. Solomon would be more effective if he shared information and views with the conservation organizations on the front line. Public attacks to weaken and deride conservation organizations are like standing outside a house and throwing rocks at the windows. This is less effective than getting involved with the folks inside, unless of course his real objective is the fun of breaking glass.

L. R. L. (Ric) Symmes, Executive Director, Federation of Ontario Naturalists

Unfortunately, the forest giveaway happened long ago. Almost all of Ontario’s public forests are under licence to forest companies. In the close to 50 million- hectare area covered by the recent land use strategy, all public land not within a park or conservation reserve was licensed to forest companies many years ago. This means all public forests not within protected areas will be logged.

Lara Ellis, project director, Wildlands League, Toronto.

Lawrence Solomon takes delight in criticizing my support for the Ontario government’s decision to permanently protect six million acres of the province’s wilderness, through 378 new or expanded parks and conservation reserves — the largest protected area in the province’s history.

I realize not everyone wants to believe that Mike Harris has done anything good for conservation, but the Living Legacy announcement represents a doubling of Northern Ontario’s protected areas network.

Monte Hummel, president, World Wildlife Fund Canada.

Read Mr. Solomon’s response: “Land deals save the exploiters”

Read “The envirocrats’ betrayal of the environment”

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