Nearly half of the Canadian province of British Columbia could be opened to logging and other commercial interests if the provincial government has its way. In an effort to encourage business and stabilize B.C.’s economic base, the government is proposing to set aside 48 percent of the province, or some 45 million hectares, as a “working forest,” a designation that permits logging, mining, ranching, tourism, recreation, and other commercial activities. Of that land, 23 million hectares are already open to the timber industry, while 22 million are not currently being harvested. Stan Hagen, minister of sustainable resources management, said environmental concerns would still be taken into account in assessing the future of the region’s forestlands, but that they would be secondary to commercial interests. Environmentalists are decrying the proposal as “perhaps the most-sweeping anti-environmental forestry legislation in B.C.’s history,” in the words of Ken Wu of the Western Canada Wilderness Society.

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