Thursday 28 April 2016

Ancient Forest, Ancient Politics

    Ever since people became aware of the giant Western Cedars in what is now called the Ancient Forest, they have been trying to get park status for the area, so that the rare Interior Rainforest ecosystem would be protected.  Thousands of dollars and hours of volunteer time have been contributed so that walkways and trails could be established, giving people access to the unique area which is located on Hightway 16 between McBride and Prince George.  The effort has paid off because everyday, cars stop and visitors pile out, to walk through the forest of giant old trees.
    Like I said, for years there has been an effort to gain park status for the area, by environmentalist, academics, and even government forest scientists and planners, but the BC Liberal government (Note:  “Liberal” is a misnomer) whose main constituency is resource extractors (logging and mining interests) was not about to do anything that might upset its funding sources.   Some limited protection was finally given to isolated stands of cedar and the main visited area of the Ancient Forest.    
    Last month the government did finally give Provincial Park status to a big area of the ecosystem and I was extremely happy, but at the same time it is upsetting to see how it probably happened.
    Half a year ago, I was surprised to hear that the Ancient Forest was going to become a Provincial Park.  This was not public information when I heard it, and I was amazed and puzzled that the BC government would do such a thing, given its history.  The story that was related to me was that a millionaire, donor to the BC Liberals, told the government that he wanted to see the Ancient Forest made into a park.  I know that money talks, but I was still not convinced it would happen.
    Months later, the government held a couple of community meetings for public input about the proposed park.  In the meeting I attended the local “red neck” faction was there in force, saying things like a park would “limit jobs” (they could make wood stove pellets out of those old cedars, it would prevent people from grazing cattle in the woods, and it stop snowmobiling there, if someone wanted to do it.)--all ridiculous arguments if you know the area.
    After getting home from the meeting I was very depressed.  These were the people that support the BC Liberals, surely the government would drop the park idea in response.  Amazingly, they didn’t and last month the government announced that the Ancient Forest had been given an “A” Provincial Park Status.
    There is a lesson to the learned here--like Randy Newman says in a song, “Its money that matters.”
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