Monday, November 17, 2008

Arsenic Tree Locations Revealed

At long last, the Campbell government has decided the people of British Columbia deserve to know about trees treated against the Pine Beetle with Arsenic. To be more precise, Campbell and his cronies have decided now is the time to talk about "legacy trees", and the risk to the surrounding ecosystems where this arsenic was used. Looking back as far as 2004, there were notes showing potential leakage of arsenic into Burns Lake and and Vanderhoof area's of the North. Yet again, an example of how this administration refuses to listen to and take seriously the worries of Northern Communities. Shame on them for this.

The full Canada Press [CP] release is available below:

VICTORIA, B.C. — Years after the use of a toxic pine beetle pesticide was stopped, the B.C. government has posted no-go zones throughout the province to keep people from being exposed to potentially harmful levels of arsenic.

Questions are being asked by the province's NDP forestry critic, Bob Simpson, about why it took so long to pinpoint these forest areas.

"Why is data about our public forests so corrupt that we've been waiting four years to put this quarantine on the land base," said Simpson.

The former forest company manager said there had been a huge "backlash" over the potential immediate and long-term effects of the pesticide monosodium methanearsenate, or MSMA, in 2004.

That triggered a halt to its application in the province.

But Forests Minister Pat Bell did his best to downplay the health concerns posed by the pesticide during a conference call from China.

"The best information that we have is that there is not significant risk to human health or to animals," he said.

Bell is leading a trade mission aimed at increasing sales of B.C. lumber in China.

The B.C. Ministry of Forests has been updating its website to address public concerns about the perceived health risks of exposure to trees treated with MSMA.

The first maps showing some areas where the poison was used were posted last week.

MSMA, marketed under the name Glowon, was injected into the base of single trees, usually lodgepole pines but sometimes spruce, from the mid-1980's to 2004 in locations throughout the northern and interior parts of the province.

It was done to combat bark beetle infestations, particularly the mountain pine beetle, which has had a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest land.

"There were about 100,000 trees around the province that (were) treated this way and the information we now have says let's be prudent, let's tell the public what we know. And we've done that," Bell said in the interview.

While treated spruce trees were generally felled within two weeks, the pines were usually left standing in the forest, and are now euphemistically referred to in B.C. government literature as "legacy trees."

A ministry pamphlet produced earlier this year outlines the concerns and contains instructions about identifying such trees.

They have a distinctive ring of axe marks around the base and are often marked with high-visibility plastic tape or paint.

"MSMA is an arsenical compound and recently there have been concerns that residual arsenic in legacy trees may be a risk to human health and to the well-being of the environment," the pamphlet states. "Scientific investigations will be directed towards determining the extent and validity of these concerns."

The pamphlet also warns the trees are not to be removed from the forest or burned until the results of the investigations are complete.

Simpson is upset the investigation has taken this long.

He notes it was 2004 when evidence surfaced that the poison may be getting into water systems in the Burns Lake and Vanderhoof areas of B.C.

"We should have known very shortly after 2004 what the implications are, not four years later," he said. "Who knows what hunters have been out there, the impact to wildlife, to water systems."

He wondered if cuts to government services by the B.C. Liberal administration have been too deep to be able to respond quickly to these kind of public health situations.

"I'm mostly concerned about the issue of arsenic throughout the food chain (because) we have lots of people who still use these areas for hunting and fishing and also for community watersheds."

Three years ago, the Ontario-based distributor of the chemical allowed its registration to expire, and it's no longer sold in Canada.

The chemical is still used in the United States as a lawn treatment and to mitigate insect threats to cotton crops.

For more info
rmation on this, feel free to drop by my constituency office or give us a call in Quesnel. You can find all the information to contact myself here and more from the Ministry of Forests & Range here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Congrats are in Order

British Columbians just finished voting on their municipal governments. In my hometown of Quesnel, I would like to send congrats out to Mary Sjostrom, who is the towns new Mayor. In addition, congratulations to the multi-centre task force in that community, their "yes" win is surely a sweet victory. I look forward to the possibilities this new center will bring to Quesnel - for the economic possibilities and the benefit to members of the community.

I look forward to working with the newly elected mayors and council's throughout the Cariboo-North, and send congratulations to each and every one of you.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Democratic Involvement

Last week I was a part of a rally to save jobs and old growth forests at the British Columbia Legislature. It was amazing to see the passion displayed by not only the environmental groups, but the trade union representatives who were on hand.

I have found these two groups are often at odds with each other, but not anymore. As I said to the media, people are willing to fight to make a tangible difference in British Columbia. I think it is amazing when citizens turn up in massive amounts to tell their government what's what.

On a local note, the Quesnel School District recently unveiled a hybrid school bus. This initiative should be able to pay off in the long run - bringing down fuel costs for the School District and contributing fewer emissions to our atmosphere. I hope to see more of these buses around the province in the future.

Lastly, congratulations to Spencer Herbert in Vancouver-Burrard, and Jenn McGinn in Vancouver-Fairview. Clearly, voters are already sending a message to Gordan Campbell that it is time to shape up. Interestingly, Spencer Herbert is now the youngest sitting MLA in the BC Legislature. It just goes to show you are never too young to change politics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

National Forest Week

In the midst of National Forest Week, I started thinking about the theme for this year: "Canada's Forests - Biodiversity in a Changing World".

It is interesting how much the forestry sector has changed throughout the years. Instead of focusing on exports and softwood, value-added products are a key component to the British Columbia Forestry system. Alongside the value-added products is an emphasis on sustainable development and management of our forests and all associated industries.

The BC NDP caucus has developed a well-rounded plan to ensure that value added products are created within BC, and that the forest industry is available for generations to come. This plan - conveniently named "State of OUR Forests" - includes:
  • a green plan for B.C.'s forests,
  • develop a new approach to the forestry industry,
  • create a community and worker sustainability program
  • establish a permanent forestry commission in British Columbia
  • negotiate softwood lumber and tenure reform.
Interestingly, the theme for National Forest Week includes the idea of protecting the biodiversity of our forests, while adapting to a changing world. Taken from the National Forest Week website:
National Forest Week is a time to reflect on the important role that forests play in our daily lives and to celebrate Canadians' connection to the forest. The life of a forest may span many human lifetimes, yet it is possible to explore a forest’s past and influence its future. Maintaining a healthy forest depends on intricate relationships among the living things that make up that ecosystem – in other words, biodiversity.

Our knowledge of forest biodiversity, built over many generations, is key to understanding how a forest grows and changes over time. This insight, combined with the principles of conservation and sustainable forest management, helps us to use our forests responsibly.

Without being overly partisan, pieces of the BC NDP plan take into account the needs of communities who rely on the forests for their livelihood AND the takes the necessary steps to keep the forests around for future generations.

The Federal Scene

Yesterday, I attended the office opening for our Federal New Democrat candidates Bev Collins [Cariboo-Prince George], and Betty Bekkering [PG-Peace River].
It was a good opening, and I am certainly excited about the New Democrats prospects in this federal election. During my "speech" [really, it was just a friendly hello], I mentioned the lack of action from the Conservative Party of Canada - particularily in their soft-wood lumber agreement.
Frankly, the people of the North Cariboo deserve more than to be sold out by the likes of Dick Harris. Despite the monies promised to help those most critically affected by the mountain pine beetle infestation - compounded by the softwood lumber "deal" - the federal government has simply not delivered on their promises.
I hope this election brings light to issues that matter to Northern communities, and I encourage everyone to be vigilent in questioning your candidates on issues like carbon taxation, softwood lumber, affordability, and creating a stronger economy.
Meanwhile, outside of the hub-bub of the federal scene, my office is always open and available to residents of the North Cariboo. So please, come by anytime.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why OUR forests

For a long time now, the forests of British Columbia have been taken advantage of by external forces - governments in Ottawa that sell out on softwood lumber deals, provincial governments worried more about the latte crowd than the hard-working people living outside of the lower mainland.
While the Campbell government has been exporting raw logs - and the associated jobs - outside of British Columbia, 14,000 individuals have been laid off due to mill closures. That is 14,000 families that were affected by the inability of Mr. Campbell and former forestry minister Rich Coleman to protect the forestry industry.
This is why I am doing a "State of OUR Forests" tour throughout the province. I will be stopping in communities hit hardest by the pine beetle infestation and softwood sell-out. I want to bring a discussion - a debate - about how to improve our forestry industry. The Forests of British Columbia belong to you. You are the key stakeholders, and YOU are the people who have the power to decide what will be done with the forests of British Columbia.
After each stop on my tour, I invite you to share your thoughts here and keep the discussion going beyond each town hall.