The Working Forest of British Columbia.
Peter Robson, Gerry Butch, and Art Walker.
Madeira Park, B.C.: Harbour Publishing, 1995. 167pp, cloth, $39.95.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Peter Ross Croskery is an Environmental Communications Specialist
living in Grimsby, Ontario.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
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.
The Manitoba Library Association
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