Prior to Dr. Roy Rea’s presentation on moose, I had looked forward to gaining more insight into beneficial management practices for moose. I also had hopes that Dr. Rea would provide some deeper context as to why moose populations have declined compared to other areas. Unfortunately I was disappointed by the same clearcut bad/moose good arguments that have saturated the discourse on forestry for years.
While herbicides and cutblock shape may be connected, are there not aspects (root causes event?) of moose decline that may be more tied to forest policy than practices? It is frustrating to me that scientists often don’t speak to the social/legislative and values quagmire related to their are of study and I would argue that a significant component of being an expert in a field is to understand and be able to speak to the policies and legislation that contribute to a 70% decline in populations of your animal of study.
To leave the policy context completely out of the conversation I believe is a disservice to moose and does not move the conversation toward pro-active solutions. It is unfortunate that people may have left the presentation last Friday with an incomplete understanding of the complex wildlife, economic, and social aspects leading to moose population decline, particularly those from out of the country.
Balancing often competing values is a major component of professional forestry. The loudest scientist doesn’t always win and if science doesn’t include the social leg of that often overused metaphorical three –legged stool, then a significant part of the conversation is being left out. Policy context questions to ask as a lover of moose, may include: Why are there no legal protections for moose in the PG Timber Supply Area such as wildlife habitat areas, Ungulate Winter Ranges, enhanced riparian regulations, legal restrictions on herbicides, changes to stocking standards and free-to-grow requirements to allow for more deciduous.
In addition, what would the timber supply impact be of additional moose constraints? Why are moose not designated as species at risk? If clearcut shape in the PG TSA is comparable to other regions of the province where moose have not declined, how much is edge related to moose decline? If forest licensees are not broadcast herbicide spraying in the Stuart Nechako District, are moose still declining there? Answering some of these questions may help frame a better response to the moose problem by targeting those with the political motivation and ability to institute change.
Which leads to the final question: is there political will to enact moose protections? The key element I saw in the Chief forester’s guidelines for retention is the use of the word “Should” rather than “Must”. When will the government delve into legislation and why have they not done so yet? When will delegated decision makers expect more on moose from forest licensees? If there are initiatives in motion to protect moose in the region (Environmental Stewardship Initiative maybe?) why not speak to these. Where is the Landscape management plan discussion? It is unfortunate that the conversation is still just moose good, clearcut bad. There is more to talk about here.
In respect to how wowed I was by an element of this presentation, I was surprised by the discussion on how herbicides will kill entire root systems. Herbicides bad, willows good.