Monthly Archives: June 2010

this is the spirit… 6 Chinook returned last year — 1600 required simply to survive

Thursday evening, I drove back from Kamloops, British Columbia following two days of meetings that included Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff. As per usual, for almost any comment made, or criticism suggested, DFO bureaucrats have a bafflegab filled response. There’s a whole lot of “at the end of the day…” & “change doesn’t happen over night…” & “we care…” & “we are considering your input…” and so on,and so on.

Now, it’s not that I hold a personal grudge against these folks… I do think that many individuals have good intentions within various government ministries and some do good, hard work. However, the difference between DFO bureaucrats and, for example, First Nation representatives attending a meeting to discuss salmon is the difference between “a job” (with full benefits) and “a way of life“.

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean hasn’t really been around all that long; a few decades. The relationship between First Nations people and communities and salmon… well… that relationship has been around a little longer….

A mid to high level DFO staffer sitting in these meetings is surviving comfortably on a $70,000 – $100,000 per year job, with a full suite of benefits: medical, dental, RRSP contributions, and one heck of a decent pension after all those “years of service”. That’s somewhere between $6,000 per month – $8,000+ per month, or about $300 – $400 per day.

When someone such as myself attends a meeting (at a rate of $0 per day) and suggests that the Wild Salmon Policy is a joke; that it’s a nice piece of paper with pretty pictures;  that came into being in the late 1990s, took until 2005 to bring it into legislation, and here we are in 2010 listening to DFO staff explain the “challenges” in implementing…(not to mention that DFO’s own internal audits suggest a severe lack of accountability in many of their multi-million dollar programs)

Therefore, when a DFO Policy gets called piece of shit, DFO staff jump up and defend these ridiculous little gatherings of words, sentences, and meaningless bumpf — as if it’s religious gospel. It’s about as close to gospel, as the Policy is to preparing for a Salmon Resurrection… (it’s also about as close to effective as the B.C. bike helmet law…)

I suppose they have to… it’s their job; and for folks working on salmon issues within DFO, it’s worked into their job description: “thou shalt sing the praises of the Wild Salmon Policy!”… (at least until 5 pm on weekdays…) “thou shalt defend shitty computer models as if they are one of the Ten Commandments”

And, as it’s been pointed out lately… “thou shalt bury any independent investigator [e.g. Justice Cohen] in a litany and avalanche of paper”

(Ghad knows, 10,000 full time equivalents within one department can produce A LOT of paper. Let’s say 5000 employees create one piece of paper per day (on the supreme low end). That’s 1.8 million pieces of paper in one year… good luck Justice Cohen and your team of lawyers)

_ _ _ _ _

On my drive back from Kamloops, I drove north through the communities of Barriere, Clearwater, and Blue  River — the north Thompson River. One of the areas I drove by was Louis Creek, just south of Barriere. Yesterday, this great little poster was emailed through various circles with the title: “Important message from Interior of BC“.

Now this is the type of paper that is truly important:

Here’s a link to the document for a better view of this important message.

When kids speak, more folks should listen.

Save Our Louis Creek Chinook

Having grown up on Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as Queen Charlotte Is.) with a very close connection to salmon (see forthcoming book), as well as many years of salmon related work, I am not one to discount a kids connection to watching salmon swim up one’s home streams.

Some grumpy folks might suggest these kids were “put up to this”… I say hogwash. Kids care.

And truly… when there are only 6 Chinook counted, and even DFO says 1600 are required to simply keep the run alive.

Start listening – and maybe start thinking about: Hard decisions… If not now; when?

(for more info on this issue see posts like Fisheries and Oceans Canada breaking laws? and others related to Fraser Chinook)

oh, how we never learn…

Here is a headline and story from our local newspaper:

This is a similar mentality that has Oregon salmon sport fisheries coastwide this year despite low forecast returns for the Sacramento River.

Oregon ocean salmon fishing open coastwide this year, commission decides

“The ocean sport fishing season for chinook will run May 29 through Sept. 6 from Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, south to the California border.

Fishing in that area relies on fall chinook from the Sacramento River. Poor returns to the Sacramento severely restricted chinook seasons in 2008 and 2009.

Sacramento returns are still expected to be weak this year, but high enough to allow more fishing. That’s a boon for hotels, restaurants and tackle shops that suffered from severely restricted seasons the last two years.

Sporties head out in Pacific City, OR -- May 2010

Same mentality that also has various sport fisheries in British Columbia open, despite significant run size concerns.”

Now, of course, I’ll probably get lambasted in some sport fishing forum again — even though I am classified as one myself, being a freshwater and saltwater angling license holder in many years.

I fully recognize the economic impacts of keeping sport fisheries closed; however same thing I’ve asked before: hard decisions… if not now; when?

“Low salmon returns… DFO has a deal for you”

High time for more real business and less fishy business in DFO?

This is not one of those red-neck leaning commentaries on First Nation organizations — this is directed at the many shoes that must drop at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). This is also a commentary based on some pro bono work I do for a First Nation community in an ‘isolated’ area of British Columbia. And some commentary on the challenges of politics, deal-brokering, and negotiations that involve healthy day rates, many jet flights, and endless per diems — that will continue to stifle actual progress, actual implementation, and real “action” (not plans for action – as in “Action Plans”).

National Geographic

At the same time, it’s not to take away from places where good work is being done, where some results can actually be demonstrated, and relationships are changing for the better.(I’d be happy to hear about these…)

The aboriginal organization I attempt to assist straddles a fascinating part of the Province; they have part of their territory in the Fraser watershed, part of their territory in the Skeena watershed, and part of their territory in the Arctic (Peace/Mackenzie River drainage). The once huge sockeye runs that spawned in the upper Fraser watershed, are going the way of North-Atlantic Cod; and thus this community is left to catch their food fish (for a community several hours from the nearest paved road and grocery store) in the headwaters of the Skeena watershed (a long journey from the main community).

(Sturgeon in the Fraser, and specifically in this area, are already parallel with North-Atlantic cod…)

In the Arctic drainage portion of their territory, fish such as grayling and rainbow trout have been heavily impacted by that fine engineering feat: WAC Bennett Dam and 350+km long Williston Reservoir downstream — the same body of water that has a fish advisory suggesting only one fish a year is suitable to eat (due to significant levels of mercury – natural leaching and from the trees that were never logged prior to flooding).

Throw in the apparent benefit of over a hundred years of placer mining for gold (when a stream bed is turned upside down and hosed out to find gold nuggets), multiple decades of logging, and now the scourge of online mineral staking and mineral exploration.

Twenty minutes from the main community is a 1940s mining relic — a mercury mine that has never been properly cleaned up and still leaches mercury into the surrounding environment. The same road that accesses the old mine is now used by another mineral exploration company with a large, active drilling program zeroing in on a potentially large copper-gold deposit.

In the community itself, cancer rates and other illnesses — e.g. diabetes, strains of which are now being linked directly to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like PCBs and other chemicals that exist for a long time and build up in food chains — exist at scarily-high rates.

_ _ _ _ _

A visit to Fisheries and Oceans Canada website: Fisheries and Oceans Canada  Departmental Plan for Transfer Payment Programs 2010-13 shows all of the planned annual transfer payments to various programs over the next few years. Within the Fisheries and Aquaculture Management program there are a variety of programs with upcoming annual transfer payments. For example the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy (a program in existence since 1992 following the Sparrow decision in the Supreme Court of Canada) will have transfer payments of approximately $32.3 million each year.

The Aboriginal Aquatic Resources and Ocean Management (AAROM) program — which funds aboriginal coalition or collaborative organizations — will have transfer payments of almost $14 million per year. Part of this program includes license buy-backs in the commercial sector.

The Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative (PICFI) will have transfer payments of approximately $35.5 million. Parts of this are also commercial license buy-backs.

Other programs of note: the Pacific Salmon Foundation will receive close to $1 million; the Fraser Basin Initiative $1.1 million; and the Maa-Nulth treaty settlement (west coast of Vancouver Island) $3.4 million.

Rough total for transfer payments related to Pacific salmon management: just under $90 million per year.

This does not include DFO staff costs – of which if you’ve seen earlier posts – on the Draft 2010 Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) close to 100 staff are listed as contacts in relation to these plans. And thus could we say on the very, very low end each of those staff cost about $100,000 each when one adds in wages, benefits, employer costs, and travel. Is my math right to suggest that’s about $10 million? (on the very, very low end. Travel adds up in a hurry. For example, for me to attend two days of meetings in Kamloops, BC traveling from Prince George, BC is easily over $1000 a pop in travel and meal costs alone. I was at meetings recently where DFO showed up with 13 staff members to a meeting where 2 would have sufficed).

What’s my point here?

Have you seen my post (it appears to be rather popular) — $2 for one wild salmon… do you see a problem?

Last year the landed value of wild salmon was only $20 million.

Are there some imbalances at work here….?

_ _ _ _ _

And how much does this aboriginal organization I do research for receive in Fisheries funding?

$0

This organization is part of a tribal council that receives approximately $300,000 in funding from fisheries — however this is largely project-based funding, with a focus on counting fish (enumeration). Plus this tribal council represents approximately 6 different communities in its fisheries work, so that the $300,000 does not go far. Probably pays for about two staff members and some sporadic project funding — this across a substantial geographic area and is only focussed on the Fraser River watershed.

So where is the $90 million or so of funding going?

And what happens when there’s no more salmon to count? Will DFO then actually begin doing habitat restoration work?

_ _ _ _ _

One is left asking — are there any evaluations of these programs?

In a 2007 evaluation of the AFS program:

The evaluation concludes that the AFS assists DFO to manage fisheries in a manner consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Sparrow and subsequent decisions. The AFS also relates directly to DFO’s strategic outcome of Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture.

The relevance of AFS to the public interest is amply demonstrated in that the AFS works to build stronger relationships and improve the quality of life of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and facilitates the participation of Aboriginal peoples in modern fishing and aquatic resource management.

These statements are made early in the paper, and yet when one reads to find any substance to these claims, for example, for an isolated community that received absolutely zero funding even though they straddle three major watersheds. Apparently there is a process of DFO evaluation called: Results-based Management and Accountability Framework (RMAF).

A RMAF was developed for the AFS in 2003, providing a strategy for measuring the performance of the AFS through the identification of expected outcomes. The RMAF also identified the data requirements that were to be used to assess the achievement of the expected results of the Program. The formative evaluation team encountered a number of challenges that affected its ability to assess achievement of the AFS program’s expected outcomes.

…The data required to support the outcomes and performance indicators was not collected in a systematic manner that would allow for the RMAF to be used as an effective management tool. The evaluation also found that some outcomes and indicators identified in the RMAF may no longer be relevant and need to be validated. In addition, accountability for data collection had not been effectively assigned

…A second challenge was that a planned national database had not been implemented at the time of the evaluation….

…A third challenge was that the quality of reporting from some Aboriginal groups, especially those with smaller agreements, was either weak or absent in many instances

In other words, in 15 years of the program by the time of this evaluation — and 4 years of a renewed program certain basic evaluation tools were never put in place. That makes sense at over $30 million per year:

“The relevance of AFS to the public interest is amply demonstrated”

… is that so?

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The Aboriginal Aquatic Resources and Ocean Management (AAROM) program isn’t any better.

In a 2009 an internal evaluation of the program was released by DFO.

AAROM was a 5-year contribution program from 2004-05 to 2008-09. Participation in this program was voluntary and the funding totalled $51.0M over five years.

The internal evaluation found that this program ran pretty ad hoc and loose:

Effectiveness
A Performance Measurement Strategy, that identified expected results as well as the indicators and data collection methodology to assess them, had been prepared for AAROM.  The strategy, however, was not fully implemented.  Individuals involved in the program explained the successes of the program, however, much of this is based on anecdotal information and not on concrete reliable performance information.

Success of this $51 million program is based on anecdotal information?

Wow…

It gets even better – and remember this is an internal evaluation…fishy folks investigating fishy folks:

At the time that AAROM was implemented in 2004, a Results-based Management and Accountability Framework (RMAF) was prepared for the program.  The RMAF included a performance measurement strategy (PMS) for the program.  This strategy was never implemented.

While the RMAF set out criteria for assessing the program, the information needed was unavailable as this had either not been collected or where collected, it had not been consolidated in a manner to allow for program assessment.

The Aboriginal Policy and Governance Directorate (APG) had planned to implement a database that would capture key information that would measure the performance of the program.  This database has not been put in place and remained under development at the time of the evaluation.

[still in development 5 years into the program? are you kidding me?]

The non-implementation of the the PMS and the absence of the database to accumulate performance information limited the evaluation team’s ability to fully assess the program.

So how the heck does anyone know these multi-million dollar programs are doing anything effectively…?

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Is it time for third-party management of DFO?

Maybe more folks with business backgrounds and a little less fishy experience?

Cohen Commission — more sticky territory

The fuss over the Cohen Commission — Public inquiry into Fraser River sockeye declines — continues. Apologies, I’m a day late on this article from Mark Hume at the Globe and Mail:

cohen commission:  Salmon inquiry’s credibility under fire

John Cummins, MP from Delta-Richmond east (Vancouver area) continues his relentless attack on the Commission in two press releases the past couple of days:

The Cohen Inquiry Has Turned Into a Farce

Unfortunately neither Cohen nor his scientific panel see a conflict of interest when these same scientists who made a career out of providing DFO with advice are now placed in the position of evaluating their own work and recommendations,” concluded Cummins.

This is Not a Science Seminar

If the Cohen Inquiry is to regain even a modicum of credibility, the first order of the day must be the replacement of the existing scientific advisory panel with outsiders untainted by any association with DFO and the return of the Inquiry to its original purpose: that of evaluating the policies and practices at DFO that have lead Fraser River stocks to the brink of collapse.

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I define a conflict of interest as “a situation in which a person, such as a public official, an employee, or a professional, has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties.”

-Michael McDonald at UBC’s W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics: Ethics and Conflict of Interest

There are three key elements in this definition. First, there is a private or personal interest. Often this is a financial interest…

The problem comes when this private interest comes into conflict with the second feature of the definition, an “official duty” — quite literally the duty you have because you have an office or act in an official capacity. As a professional you take on certain official responsibilities, by which you acquire obligations to clients, employers, or others…

Third, conflicts of interest interfere with professional responsibilities in a specific way, namely, by interfering with objective professional judgment. A major reasons clients and employers value professionals is that they expect professionals to be objective and independent. Factors, like private and personal interests, that either interfere or appear likely to interfere with objectivity are then a matter of legitimate concern to those who rely on professionals — be they clients, employers, professional colleagues, or the general public. So it is also important to avoid apparent and potential as well as actual conflicts of interests.

An apparent conflict of interest is one which a reasonable person would think that the professional’s judgment is likely to be compromised. A potential conflict of interest involves a situation that may develop into an actual conflict of interest.

And this where I think some folks have very legitimate concerns surrounding the appointment of some specific individuals as scientific advisers to the Cohen Commission. It is by no means a suggestion that these well-qualified individuals can not provide top notch, objective information — nor that they lack any caring for salmon — nor that they are not consummate professionals.

The issue is simply with the appearance of factors that might interfere with objectivity, and as McDonald points out its important to avoid “apparent and potential” conflicts of interest as well as actual.

Now I recognize, I might be forced to the gallows for dare questioning the “objectivity” of these important fisheries scientists… however, again, that is not the issue at hand here. The issue at hand, at this point in time, is simply appearance of factors that could impact some individuals objectivity.

McDonald offers some “tests”:

How do you determine if you are in a conflict of interest, whether actual, apparent, or potential? The key is to determine whether the situation you are in is likely to interfere or appear to interfere with the independent judgment you are supposed to show as a professional in performing your official duties…

And, so here we are again with the simple “appearance” of conflict of interest. And here’s a crucial point:

Trust, in my opinion, is at the ethical heart or core of this issue. Conflicts of interest involve the abuse, actual or potential, of the trust people have in professionals. This is why conflicts of interest not only injure particular clients and employers, but they also damage the whole profession by reducing the trust people generally have in professionals.

I think I can safely suggest that maybe the entire profession of “fisheries science” is coming under the microscope at ever finer focus. We are not really awash in examples of “fisheries science” going well; granted it’s not always the ‘science’ that’s the issue but more the lack of brave action by politicians or difficult decisions by industry… and maybe quite a lot of the old tragedy of the commons.

But sometimes it isn’t enough to know that there is a particular private interest influencing a professional’s judgment; the client, employer, etc. expects that the professional will stay out of such situations. So the second way to avoid conflicts of interests is to absent yourself from decision making or advice giving if you have a private interest.

This is a sticky point… are any of the scientific advisers to the Cohen Commission, or the organizations they represent, going to be receiving,  funding from Fisheries and Oceans in the future? (many have certainly benefited from employment, contracts, or research in the past). If so, does this not have the “appearance” of conflict?

McDonald offers some advice:

It may take some skill and good judgment to recognizing that you are in a conflict of interest situation. This is because private and personal interests can cloud a person’s objectivity. So it may be a lot easier to recognize when others are in a conflict, than when you are. This suggests that it may be useful to talk to a trusted colleague or friend when you are in doubt.

But once you recognize that you are in or are headed into a conflict of interest situation, the ethical responses are straightforward: get out of the situation, or, if you can’t, make known to all affected parties your private interest. These responses will preserve the trust essential to professional objectivity.

Conflict of interest can be a gray, shape-shifting, issue — and I think often misunderstood, as, simple “appearance” of this beast, or simple perception,  can often be worse than an actual conflict.

$9 billion wasted on failed ‘restoration’…

I think many of you probably know this story:

The consequences of the steep salmon and steelhead declines in the [enter river here] — cultural loss, broad economic harm, diminished quality of life, persistent uncertainty — are not limited to [enter Province or State here] or the [enter watershed] Basin.

This quote is from a letter to two U.S. senators in Washington State from a broad coalition of folks (business owners, fisherfolks, conservationists, and so on). It was forwarded to me from folks south of the border working on Columbia River (Snake River) issues.

1.WA.Senators.Ltr.June16

There is also a press release here:

1.PR.Westside.Ltr.June16

And the website: Working Snake River with the tag line: “restoring a river that works for people and salmon”.

From the letters:

Commercial and recreational fishing, a powerful economic engine for the lower Columbia River and Washington coast for generations, has been deeply harmed. Our state’s salmon economies have lost thousands of family-wage jobs, with hundreds of westside businesses and their communities suspended in uncertainty over whether they have a future or not. Restoring a river to re-establish productive, sustainable Columbia Basin fisheries would be a great boon to westside communities.

In addition, the science is now plain that recovery of Puget Sound’s endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and recovery of endangered chinook salmon in the Columbia Basin are inextricably linked. The 2008 Recovery Plan for these orcas recognizes that steep declines in Columbia and Snake River chinook have resulted in a critical loss of preferred prey during the six months the orcas spend outside of Puget Sound. The Columbia Basin, and particularly the Snake Basin, provides our greatest opportunity to restore significant chinook populations to foster orca survival and recovery. We know you understand both the cultural and economic importance of Puget Sound’s orcas to people, businesses and communities throughout the Sound. The prolonged endangerment of Columbia/Snake salmon leaves at risk orcas and all they mean to Washington.

The issue with endangered Orcas is not just south of the border – see one of my earlier posts: Cull the endangered Orcas? It also has a direct connection to Fraser Chinook, many of which are on death-spiral declines.

One of the biggest threats facing our resident orcas today is the availability of food,” said People For Puget Sound executive director Kathy Fletcher. “Our killer whales depend largely on chinook salmon – whose numbers have dropped significantly in the Northwest. This relationship between orcas and salmon is one more connection — like those of food and energy — uniting the people of Eastern and Western Washington. And its one more reason why we need leadership from our senators to bring our communities together to find effective lasting solutions.

No salmon — no orcas. It’s that simple.

Cohen Commission “advisers” under fire

A few folks are pretty excited about some of the “science advisers” hired by the Cohen Commission – Public Inquiry into Declines of Fraser River Sockeye. I can safely say I don’t disagree with the criticism. How does it make sense for a 30-year DFO bureaucrat Dr. Brian Riddell, who left relatively recently to head up the Pacific Salmon Foundation (which receives over $1 million per year from DFO)?

Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is supposed to be under scrutiny in this Commission — including past bureaucrats decisions — now there are four individuals appointed to the Commission that have long ties to DFO.

As Mark Hume suggests in his Globe article from this past weekend:

Tory MP smells something fishy about commission into sockeye collapse

I don’t necessarily always agree with John Cummins’ opinions and rants on some fisheries issues; however, I think he’s got a pretty good point on this one…

Seems the Cohen Commission is continuing down a slippery slope… one covered in sockeye slime…

Raif Mair also has some comments on this issue at the Common Sense Canadian.

Cummins Raises Potential Conflicts of Interest in Cohen Sockeye Commission

The Cohen Commission also released a Discussion Paper last week outlining “Issues that the Commission intends to Investigate“.

Pretty broad, pretty fluffy – however some promising issues such as “cumulative impacts”. Glad to see it… as I keep saying anywhere and everywhere “there is no smoking gun”. This a cumulative decline caused by a variety of factors; some within our control, many outside of our control.

The Common Sense Canadian website has a short interview with Dr. Daniel Pauly, who reflects exactly this message:

Dr. Daniel Pauly on the Fraser Sockeye Collapse.

Euphemisms for sex…

This is a fitting addition to the Bumpf Word Bingo card:

from Jessica Hagy's blog: "Indexed"

I took some liberties and added in a circle and a few other bumpf-word, bureaucratic bafflegab, don’t-know-what-I’m-trying-to-say catchphrases — straight out of Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy or the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, or any other “agreement”, “accord”, governmental policy, or other empty marketing pitches.

or... cooperative copulation

And in the spirit of Ms. Hagy’s blog here’s another:

Mean what you say... less is more

(Maybe I should remember that: “less is more”… some of these blog posts carry on for quite some time)

This next piece also seems to fit in well here from Hugh Macleod’s Gaping Void morning emails.

Mediocrity loves slavery - "Gaping Void"

Some of the text from Macleod that goes with this:

…my peers and I have a different kind of slavery to contend with, the slavery we impose upon ourselves.

Enslaving ourselves to the jobs, careers and lifestyles we hate, just in order to pay the bills. Just in order to buy fancy stuff that makes us look good on paper.

It never occurred to me when I was younger, that this kind of slavery has an element of complicity to it.

We got ourselves in this situation, partly because we willed it. We WANTED that outcome. We wanted the fancy stuff. We didn’t want to do the hard work work that would keep us away from it. We just wanted an easy life….

Mediocrity seduced us. Mediocrity won.

It’s never too late to break out of this cycle, luckily.

It all depends what you’re willing to give up. Only you can answer that.

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And, yes, there is this element of slavery in the decisions we make with our lives — there is also a level of “complicity” and “slavery” when using empty, meaningless, bumpf-filled language. Verbal junk-food as some folks refer to it.

Sure it sounds all gooey and sweet when you’re surrounded by your peers in a boardroom or committee meeting; you fill yourself up on “best practices potato chips” and “ecological benchmark cake” all covered in “sustainability icing” and “conservation cookies” with “socially significant chips”…

You know the routine.

We don’t have to do it. We don’t have to become a slave to meaningless language – because as Macleod’s cartoon suggests, it breeds mediocrity. And it breeds obesity… obesity in language, which clogs arteries; the same arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain. If we aren’t getting oxygen to the brain, we aren’t thinking clearly.

Let’s think a little more clearly. Let’s eat a few more fresh vegetables and stop filling ourselves on verbal junk food.

To finish this today on a pretty funny note, to a devastating event; if you’ve followed some of the ‘tactics’ that BP has utilized to try and clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (for example, human hair over the well along with garbage such as tires, balls, etc., celebrity input, blown estimates on how much oil is leaking, and so on) you’ll most likely get a good laugh out of this, it’s pretty clever:

how much basing on ‘based’ is the best basis for ecosystem-based…

This is not a nursery rhyme I intend to teach my kids. I think I’ll stick with: how much wood can a woodchuck chuck?

Hey, wait… that’s not a bad question — how MUCH wood can a woodchuck chuck?

Well… if that woodchuck is made by Finning, or Caterpillar, or Madill (wait… they went bankrupt) — then it can chuck a lot of wood. So if a woodchuck is chucking wood in Canada’s Boreal Forest — how much wood can it chuck before it chucks a caribou or two?

Hmmm.

I suppose the nine enviro groups and multiple logging companies that signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement are suggesting that we should trust that they know how to accurately measure (or will learn quickly) how much wood a ‘sustainable’ woodchuck can chuck before it chucks a caribou… or a woodchuck for that fact (oh… the irony). But wait… in the logging industry it’s called hoe-chucking (when a track hoe moves fallen wood from the previous forest, to landings at roads).

So how much wood can a woodchuck hoe-chuck…? (ok… enough)

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See this is where ecosystem-based planning comes in… But then whenever I see anything followed by (or even preceded by) “based”… I always tend to ask: how “based”?

Like a Hollywood movie “based” on a true story… it’s true story-based, but how much truth-based? and how much entertainment-based? And how much just plain made-up-based?

Or protein-based smoothie… how much protein-based? All? 86.78%? 50%? 10%?

Or how about one of my new favorites: vegetable-based plastics? Apparently Sony has been doing work in this area. Sounds good, hey? But how “-based”?

Then there’s biodiesel; vegetable-based fuel.

Or soy-based inks? — supposed to be way better than petroleum-based inks…

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From the “Abridged” Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement:

basing the basis for based

I’m not to sure the theory behind having to state “on-the-ground” within the agreement — last time I checked that’s where forestry happens… And even sustainable forest management; but then maybe that’s the point — the folks that concocted this thing realized that some critical individuals (not mentioning any names…) might suggest: “sustainable forest management practices” are a nice idea on paper, but rarely practiced “on-the-ground”…

But here we have it: confirmation that these “sustainable” practices will be “on-the-ground”. Or better yet: “on-the-ground”-based.

Because, as this goal states the sustainable forest management practices (the on-the-ground ones) will be “based” on the principles of ecosystem-based management, etc.

So how much will they be “based” on them? As much as the movie Apollo 13 was “based” on actual events — or more like the yam-based excrement of my infant son who has taken to solid foods like a seal to salmon.

_ _ _ _ _

Maybe I’m being overly picky with wording; however, as I can’t say enough… when folks start marketing something as “world-leading”, or the “world’s biggest conservation agreement” (but oh yeah, it didn’t include any governments…), or “historic”… then it better have some substance, some serious grit. It better say what it means, and means what it says.

To try and understand what this first “Goal” is suggesting is near impossible. To understand what “ecosystem-based” actually is, or “active adaptive management” — one needs to turn to the definitions section of the agreement.

Trust me… clarity is not to be found there.

from Final version - now posted on website

“Management systems that attempt…”

1. What the heck is a management system in relation to ecosystems…?

2. Ecosystem-based is defined by “attempting…!?

3. And worse yet, attempting to  “emulate”!?

Folks, please, please check your definition of words before using. Emulate means… basically to imitate: “To strive to equal or excel, especially through imitation” . So, sticking with the theme here… it’s “imitation-based” .

So what we have here is a “management system” that is “attempting” to imitate “ecological patterns and processes”… with the goal of maintaining and/or restoring natural levels of ecosystem composition, bla, bla, bla?

How does one “attempt” to imitate “restoration” of an ecosystem by logging it, or pieces of it?

Like… really… how does one best “maintain natural levels of ecosystem composition, structure, and function”?

Well…leave it the hell alone is not a bad starting point.

_ _ _ _ _

Wait though… the number one goal of this agreement is to have this great “sustainable” forest management (by 21 companies — many of them massive multi-national conglomerates with one sole purpose secure as much “wood fibre” as possible — like I alluded to at the beginning how much wood can a “sustainable” woodchuck chuck…?) BASED on principles of Ecosystem-BASED management.

You know….. that management system that attempts to imitate nature…

So how “based” is this sustainable forest management going to be “based” on principles of ecosystem-based management??

“Principles” is another curious choice; it means: “A basic truth, law, or assumption.” Well… ecosystem-based management is neither a “truth” or a “law” and thus it must be an “assumption”.

And so folks you have designed and signed a “voluntary”, “aspirational” agreement that has, as its #1 Goal an airy-fairy statement about some loosely defined ideal — sustainable forest management –  (oh but wait, it’s not actual management… it’s “practices”: something done to polish skills…).

This “practicing” for sustainable forest management (which is not defined in the agreement) will be “based” (we don’t how much) on “principles” (i.e. assumptions) of ecosystem-based management — which is a system of imitating nature.

And this will all be confirmed through a system of “Audits”.

Audit: “An examination of records or financial accounts to check their accuracy.”

Auditing nature.

Wow.

Environmental groups & the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Some sanity-finding, sketchbook release, for “turd polishing” agreements like the “voluntary“, “aspirationalCanadian Boreal Forest Agreement signed a little over a week ago by nine environmental groups and a collection of Logging companies (21 apparently, but only a handful that actually operate in Canada’s Boreal Forest) and being marketed heavily in industrialized states as a “historic” agreement – the largest conservation agreement ever signed.

You know… like a Guinness World Record (side note — did you know that the Jim Pattison Group own the Guinness World Records name? they do…)

You know… when I “aspire” to something I draft up 60+ pages of legalese, bumpf, and empty language. And, most certainly, when I enter “voluntary” programs, like community sport team coaching… or community boards, or… I also look to sign a 60+ page agreement full of legalese, etc.

This entire marketing effort is full of so many contradictions, stretching of truths, un-Orwellian language (remember he was an advocate of keeping language simple and would cringe at the ‘un’…), and I think some folks have lost track of what “aspire” means… generally to “desire or to hope” for something.

So this is an agreement that:

  • aspires to be historic,
  • aspires to be world-leading,
  • aspires to be the world’s biggest conservation agreement…

It’s a long, long, long ways from getting to those aspired to goals. Sort of like a 6-year old Canadian kid that aspires to be the world’s best hockey player, or the 6-year old Brazilian kid that aspires to be the word’s best soccer player… they have a long road ahead of them before they can tag themselves with things like “historic” and “world leading”.

And we won’t even discuss the odds that they face…

Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Logging companies "Active Adaptive Management"

Cohen Commission on Fraser Sockeye

The other day I drew these cartoons before the Cohen Commission of inquiry into Fraser River sockeye declines released the discussion paper “Issues that the Commission intends to investigate” today.

Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) evidence for Cohen Commission

Meanwhile back at DFO headquarters: Planning to Plan about the Plan

Opening hearings begin next week in Vancouver.

There are some positives in the paper; for example the Commission intends to travel to Fraser River communities:

The commission plans to conduct public forums in several coastal and Fraser River communities for the purpose of hearing from members of the public on the issues the Commissioner is mandated to consider.

There is also rumblings of a serious look inside the machinations of the multi-thousands of employee Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans.

And even some “site” visits:

The Commissioner plans to visit various sites that are important to some aspect of the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery, and to video record site visits, if possible.

I suppose… we’ll see…

I think it might be safely suggested that there is some serious “turd polishing” going on within some DFO departments.

… or at least some strategic planning and PowerPoint presentations about what grit cloth might be used for the polishing…