Every year forest companies and government agencies spend millions of dollars to eliminate broadleaf species including aspen and birch from replanted conifer plantations. This is a website that seeks to provide information on this activity and highlight some of its questionable assumptions, including these:
- Will lodgepole pine monocultures survive as our climate warms? Recent studies suggest they could disappear from much of their present range as temperatures increase.
- Are we sure aspen and birch don’t play a role in reducing insect infestation rates? Preliminary studies suggest these species, by providing buffers against infestations, may in fact improve forest health outcomes.
- How do we know that aspen and birch won’t have increasing commercial values into the future? Unlike the annual cycle of agriculture, tree farming takes place over decades, during which time markets and demand can change dramatically. The species we are killing now could find new uses in the future.
- How do we know that aspen and birch and the many other shrubs we kill don’t play a critical role in forest soil replenishment? Our understanding of interactions between soil fungal networks and nutrients is in its infancy. How can we be sure we aren’t missing something? How do we know aspen, birch and other “weeds” don’t benefit the conifers we eventually wish to harvest?
- How do we know that the slower-burning aspen and birch won’t play a critical role in suppressing wildfires as warmer conditions prevail?
- How do we know that spraying a chemical that is a known toxin to frogs, insects and invertebrates is not going to have a long-term effect on our forest soils? Frogs are the keystone predator species in forest soil ecosystems and the most important vertebrate in terms of biomass in our forests. Yet we have conducted not a single study in B.C. on the impact of herbicide spraying on these animals or what impact it could be having on our forest soils.
- How can we be sure herbicide spraying is not affecting mammal and bird populations? Aspen are the most important tree species to wildlife and are crucial to biodiversity. What impact will their elimination have on these populations?
A long-standing practice, we’ve sprayed or manually brushed over 1.3 million hectares of forest across the Province since 1980, an area a third the size of Vancouver Island. We still spray around 15,000 hectares a year today, mostly in the Central Interior.