CM March 15, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 22

image The Working Forest of British Columbia.

Peter Robson, Gerry Butch, and Art Walker.
Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 1995. 167pp, cloth, $39.95.
ISBN: 1-55017-116-X.

Subject Headings:
Forests and forestry-British Columbia.
Forests and forestry-British Columbia-Pictorial works.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Peter Croskery.



This book is directed to the larger segment of the public which accepts the idea that part of the province's sprawling land mass should contain a "working forest," a timber production area where some level of ecological disturbance is acceptable, as long as it is reasonable.

image The logging industry in British Columbia is big business. "Over 70 percent of Canada's exports of sawn lumber and half of Canada's total export of forest products comes from British Columbia." Logging in B.C. also evokes controversy with various factions polarized either for or against logging -- a conflict that often makes the national news.

The Working Forest is but another in the series of books that have appeared supporting one side or the others in B.C.'s logging controversy. What makes this one different is that it's an appeal for public support from big business -- the logging industry itself.

The principal writer is Peter Robson, a former editor of Westcoast Logger and Westcoast Fisherman magazines. Assisting with the project were professional foresters Gerry Burch and Art Walker. Both Burch and Walker have a wealth of forest-industry experience.

The major element by which this book makes its case is:

. . . an excellent series of archive photos in which contemporary stands are compared with the same sites at different stages in the forest management cycle.

This extensive use of high-quality colour pictures, providing "before and after" images of B.C. logging activity, gives The Working Forest strong visual impact. The pictures prove that even heavily logged areas do return to forest. The testimonials from professional foresters that accompany the photos further strengthen the industry's argument that B.C.'s forests have never been healthier.


But as I read the book, I couldn't help but feel that I had heard the industry messages before -- "We create jobs, provide new recreational opportunities through roads into wilderness areas, better habitat for wildlife and healthy forests." But I also recalled that many of these messages are half truths.

There are many instances throughout Canada of towns dependent upon forest-based industries that have suffered as logging "moved on." And, although environmentalists appreciate the industry's commitment to rehabilitating logged sites, the industry doesn't appreciate the unique scientific values associated with old growth forests. Replanting will never return an old growth forest's genetic diversity or unique biological character. These are forever lost.

What The Working Forest fails to provide is any solid evidence that change is occurring or will occur within the industry. Granted, concessions have been made to protect environmental values and clear-cut sizes are smaller than they once were. However, these are not the only changes needed within the industry.

For a better alterations to forestry practices that should be considered, the reader is advised to read Forestopia: a Practical Guide to the New Forest Economy (also from Harbour Publishing). Forestopia focuses on the economics of forestry and the sociological effects the industry can have.

Still, The Working Forest is a remarkable instance of the industry actually trying to explain and defend its actions. Perhaps that in itself is an acknowledgement that industry must be accountable to the public in the future.

Though it's an interesting way to approach B.C. logging issues, the before-and-after pictorial record has limited reader appeal. After viewing a dozen picture sets, I didn't need to see more. (Though if the pictures were of areas I was intimately familiar with I might have been more interested.) The accompanying testimonials are almost exclusively from professionals within the forest industry. I wonder what non-forest industry personnel might offer had they been asked to comment.

While The Working Forest is a beautifully produced book, I don't feel the content justifies the cost.

Not recommended.

Peter Ross Croskery is an Environmental Communications Specialist living in Grimsby, Ontario.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to

Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364