Clearcutting increases the impact of fires

Dear Editor:

Re: How B.C. can start to break forest fire cycle (opinion page column, Sept. 15)

Murray Wilson omits the fundamental reasons for the Okanagan turning into a tinderbox. His prescription of “chainsaw medicine” to remedy the situation will only make matters worse.

Three key reasons that have turned the Okanagan into a tinderbox fueling the megafires of today are: fire suppression, the rate of clearcutting and global warming.

Decades of fire suppression and prohibition of indigenous, traditional “cold burns” have allowed dead fuel to accumulate.

The rate of clearcutting results in ever-increasing expanses of dry soil and woody debris and in vast areas of young plantations less than 25 years old.

Scientists Meg Krawchuk and Steve Cumming tell us that fire ignition by lightning is more likely to occur in a clearcut than it would in the forest the clearcut replaced.

Young plantations are highly flammable and contribute to the rate of spread of recent large fires. Together, clearcuts and young plantations are the driver of recent megafires made the worse by global warming.

Scattered parks, a few protected areas, and conservationists are not the problem. In fact, they are part of the solution being relatively fire-resistant and storing large amounts of carbon.

The forest industry would have us increase the rate of clearcutting as Wilson suggests under its fear-mongering mantra of “cut it down or let it burn.” This reasoning is bewildering because, if true, all B.C.’s magnificent forests would have burned millennia ago.

The forest industry uses every crisis, whether it be insect infestations, tree diseases or wildfire, to advance its agenda of increasing the rate of clearcutting with no regard for the social, economic and environmental consequences of its actions.

Those consequences include, among many, an increase in the frequency, magnitude and duration of major floods, severe droughts and mega-fires, contaminated drinking water, biodiversity loss, destruction of property, smoke-induced health issues, and loss of domestic animals — all directly or indirectly related to clearcutting, and made worse by global warming.

But global warming itself is made worse by clearcutting. In fact, wildfires in B.C. have increased in size, frequency, duration, and intensity so dramatically that they, together with clear-cut logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.

So industrial forestry is feeding a deadly cycle: clearcut logging worsens wildfire, which in turn worsens global warming, which intensifies wildfire. We need to break this cycle of destruction.

Climate change is the defining issue of our times. At a societal level, our choice is between life and money. Within the context of forestry, the choice is between profit (driven by clearcutting) and community safety and health driven by a new paradigm of forest management based on ecology and conservation.

Taryn Skalbania, Peachland

Business as usual won’t work in our forests any more

Dear Editor:

Many of us have attempted to fix something only to make it worse. It’s the difference between a stuck zipper and no zipper at all, or a lawnmower that idles badly and a lawnmower that won’t even start.

It is a humbling experience because eventually you’re forced to admit that you didn’t really know as much as you thought you did. You should have left it alone. Awkward.

Thankfully, zippers and mowers can be repaired or replaced.

Here in Joe Rich, we are faced with an exponentially more complicated problem. We have logging companies gearing up to harvest trees ever closer to Mission Creek in the name of fire mitigation.

The reality is that dynamic weather events (remember this summer’s “Heat Dome”?) challenges much of what we thought we knew about managing forests.

So, what does burn hotter: clear-cut areas or tightly packed tree stands? Does partial harvesting temper crown fires or does it encourage the growth of “ladder fuels.”

What impact does all this interference have on water quality and quantity? Who can tell us?

I do know that in light of the catastrophic fires in Canada and the United States, many current, compelling studies are being carried out by universities and think tanks to address this annual inferno.

Take the article entitled, “Forests, Floods and Freshwater,” written by UBC Okanagan’s Adam Wei and associates (ok.ubc.ca/okanagan-stories/forests-floods-and-freshwater/). It sheds a persuasive light on the situation in which we find ourselves.

This past summer, Premier John Horgan confidently announced a policy document to “modernize the B.C. forestry industry.”

Nothing was said about forest management within the present climate crisis. This told the forestry industry everything it needed to know. Business as usual. Well after this summer, I think we all know that “business as usual” can’t be the case.

The playing field is changing under our feet. If the industry does not practice the latest forest management techniques, it should be their responsibility to get educated, and the provincial government as well. We’re not talking about lawnmowers, or zippers here.

John Van Dyk, Joe Rich Forests, Trails, and Watershed Sustainability

No sign of police state during walk in Lake Country

Dear Editor:

Here we go again, another delusional rant by Garry Rayner proclaiming that Canada is becoming a ''police state'' akin to the Soviet era. (Freedoms are being taken away, letters, Sept. 17)

 Well, I just came back from a nice peaceful walk along the lake and was never stopped or harassed by any gun slinging thugs in uniforms — just lucky I guess! 

Rayner then goes on to spout his drivel that the medical restrictions issued by our government are illegal and that Prime Minister Trudeau is threatening our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It's pretty obvious Rayner is anti-vax with his diatribe about ''being forced to act contrary to his conscience without freedom of choice,” and his fear mongering statement, ‘’Rise up Canadians.”

These paranoid few need to realize that their decision to not get a vaccine is not only putting themselves in danger but affecting the majority of people who've been vaccinated and putting a strain on the medical personnel in the hospitals, who are already over-stressed with helping those with COVID-19.

Rick St. Martin, Lake Country

Injured kayaker grateful for help from strangers

Dear Editor:

Last Monday while kayaking at Bear Creek I slipped while I was getting back into my kayak after taking a shore break. When I stopped for my break, the beach was completely empty.

I was laying in the water and looked up to see two people watching me. Their names were Cindy and Chris. Cindy asked if I needed help to which I replied no, I am just resting. I’m OK. 

I really thought I would relaunch and be on my way, but getting up was quite the struggle.

Cindy insisted on coming into the water and helping me while Chris determined what camp site I was in and went to retrieve my husband. 

Cindy worked at getting me to shore where I finally made it to a log and rested. She kept me calm by having conversation with me until Chris returned with my husband. With the help of Cindy on the one side, my husband and Chris behind me and a walking stick I made it up the incredibly challenging trail (not really, just to me but it did have a really big log) to our truck. 

It turns out I broke my ankle in two places. Thank you so much to my stranger-friends, Cindy and Chris. What you did made a huge difference  for me and I am so grateful you were there to help.

I also want to thank all the wonderful ER staff at KGH. All of you from the nice woman at the door to the nurses, doctors, orderlies and especially the volunteers are pretty incredible.  Thank you all for your compassionate care. 

Despite all the turmoil we are experiencing today it is still a wonderful world and I am so very thankful for the help of strangers.

Deborah Guthrie, Kelowna

Conservatives split vote, hand win to Liberals

Dear Editor:

What more is there to say?

I’m amazed at the divisiveness in Canadian conservatives. Supporting a splinter party with no chance in hell of unseating our flamboyant, irresponsible and unethical prime minister is self-defeating, to say the least.  

There are a lot of expressions that could be used to describe frustrated right-wing conservatives. Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is one; and another is shooting oneself in the foot. 

There is another saying that pops to mind: half a loaf is better than none. Guess who is left with the crumbs now.

I’m sure many Canadians would have gladly held their noses and voted for a pest exterminator if he or she was the leader of an ethical political party with a good chance of delousing the PMO.

The Liberals didn’t have to run a campaign of divide and conquer; conservative-minded Canadians did it for them. Now, we are stuck with the same self-centred prime minister who has the support of one out of every three voters.

More than half a billion dollars wasted by an egotist on a useless election.

Lloyd Atkins, Vernon

(Editor’s note: This letter was submitted before the election results were known.)

Lake Country taxpayers can’t afford a pool

Dear Editor:

I just received correspondence from the District of Lake Country asking why we don’t have an indoor pool. They are suggesting taxpayers should approve the district borrowing $20 million to purchase land and build an indoor pool.

Lake Country has a population of 15,000 and that includes children, so the number of taxpaying properties is significantly lower than this number.

Our mayor and council have an itch to borrow and spend for a major purchase every other year.

In 2015 Lake Country held a referendum asking to borrow $2.6 million to purchase the portion of the rail line that ran through the district. It was approved via referendum. The municipality then proceeded to borrow over $5 million for that purchase with no approval for the additional funds, claiming Kelowna was investing in half of our portion when in fact it was clearly an interest-bearing loan.

This project was sold to residents as being paid off over 20 years, but instead of an itemized line on our taxes it was built into the tax base so even once the loan is repaid taxes will not be subsequently reduced.

A year later the mayor and council elected to add $125 tax per property annually to go towards refurbishing our roads.

Two years ago it was a $10-million fire hall which is only nearing completion now, the old fire hall was definitely overdue for replacement, but there was never any consultation with the public as to the need to spend $10 million.

Could a suitable fire hall have been built for less? Taxpayers will never know.

How much can you burden a small tax base and can you keep going to the well every other year for another major borrow-and-spend project?

Increasing the debt and taxes every year is not sustainable for any level of government. The district’s name was changed to Lake Country for a good reason, there are plenty of beautiful lakes to swim in locally. We don’t need to go further in debt for another major project this year,

I’m curious what project our mayor and council plan to spring on us next year?

Guy Bissonnette, Lake Country

Email: letters@ok.bc.ca