As she looks toward the final meetings for the Special Committee on Timber Supply, Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett anticipates there will be some changes going forward from the committee’s recommendations.
“In the next year I think you’ll see some changes, just from listening and talking with industry and the public,” Barnett said at the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce luncheon July 26. “I think many people are afraid of what’s going to happen in the forest industry. For many, many years we have known there is going to be, in the mid-term timber supply — when the Annual Allowable Cut comes down, this will be nothing new to any of us that have been paying attention — there will be some major changes.”
Barnett said she is confident in the future of Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.
“I think you’re in a better position because you have more than pine forests. You have more diversification.”
One of the big questions has been about appertency — the notion that forests within an area should go to a local mill, she explained.
“The Opposition still talks about appertency, but I think that anyone that understands business and industry knows that if you have an appertency in Williams Lake and 100 Mile you wouldn’t have a mill today.”
As time goes and forests get cut down and second growth is not ready to cut, industry has to go afield, she added.
“You look at the mills in this town, for example West Fraser that has mills in Williams Lake, 100 Mile, Quesnel and other places. Every mill has its own threshold. If you cut trees in Lone Butte, you might have those trees to 100 Mile, a quarter to Williams Lake and the rest to Quesnel, but that’s what keeps the industry going, is the trading and movement of the species because every mill does not produce the same product at the end of the day. We have to understand that.”
Barnett noted the committee also heard that many people are being told that forestry is not alive.
“That frustrates many of us because we all know that the city of Williams Lake was built on forestry. We know the Cariboo Chilcotin was built on forestry. With the proper tools and support, and as long as we can keep that forest healthy and continue to support the new second growth, there’s a bright future in forestry in the Cariboo Chilcotin.”
By the July 20 deadline, the committee received more than 700 submissions from around the province, submissions Barnett described as very passionate.
“The message has come across loud and clear. Do not touch land-use plans. If you have to, because of the health of the forests, with consideration from trappers, ranchers, and tourism, people will come to the table.”
One of the things she would like restored are regional and sub-regional resource boards, to put the consultation process back in place.
Many people are working behind the scenes to try to come up with new ideas and new innovations within their own organizations.
“As the time changes, the world changes, and our forest tenure changes. We get tired of hearing it, how we have to do more with less, but we also need to quit wasting those piles you see on the side of the road.”
Tolko Industries Soda Creek Mill’s manager Ryan Oliver seized the opportunity to raise the issue of raw log exports.
“There is a lot of negative publicity or media around log exports from this area and I want to clarify that there is just about none. We have a tough enough time trying to harvest these logs in our own area here. If we were to transport these and pay the costs associated with that, there’s nothing in that,” Oliver said.
Responding Barnett said most raw log exports are taking place on Vancouver Island off private land, some from Crown land, in the Kispiox area and the north coast.
“That was a topic of conversation quite a bit when we were going around the province. The cost of those logs to the mills. They can’t afford to go get those logs and bring them to the existing mills because of distance. It’s a loss. None of us wants to export raw logs, but if I’m in business, that’s my private property. How many of you in this room really believe that government should be able to tell you what you can do with your private land?”
Barnett said her work with the special committee has been interesting.
“There are seven of us — three in the Opposition — and we’re pretty well all there for the same reason. It’s nice to see that we’re not enemies, that we’re there to protect the communities and work with them to help look after the most vibrant industry that has made British Columbia what it is today.”