A unanimously endorsed report was released by the Special Legislative Committee on Timber Supply Wednesday morning, followed by a press conference with the committee’s chair MLA John Rustad.
The report’s 22 recommendations range from ensuring the province meets its legal consultation duty and any required accommodations with First Nations, to the province funding the preparation of a five-year provincial inventory action plan.
It also recommends finding ways to grow more fibre and maximize its value by utilizing economic stands and/or investing in fertilization, as well as increasing the type of form of area-based tenures to support enhanced levels of forest stewardship and private sector investment.
“We heard very clearly from First Nations that they would like to participate within the forest industry. There seems to be a desire and appreciation for the new woodland forest tenures for First Nations,” Rustad said, adding the committee is not recommending a take-back of tenure from existing companies.
“One of the mandates we were given is that we could not have a significant financial impact on the province. A take-back would have had a significant financial impact on the province so it wasn’t a place that we could go, plus the amount of uncertainty that would bring across the area to industry.”
Rustad told reporters he believes the largest significant recommendation going forward from the report is around marginally economic stands.
“That’s where the greatest opportunity is in terms of the future for mitigating some of that mid-term timber supply. There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to partition that out to see if companies would like to and can operate in those areas to achieve fibre.”
In the report the committee calls on the chief forester to examine the potential of marginally economic forests to determine harvest opportunities.
It is estimated the pine beetle epidemic has killed 53 per cent of the pine throughout the impacted areas.
“That’s estimated to continue over the next few decades, at a lower pace, to be somewhere between 53 and 70 per cent. Most analysts now are thinking that it will be closer to around 57 per cent when all is said and done,” Rustad said.
As a result, if no changes to forestry are made going forward, close to 10 million cubic metres of annual allowable cut will be lost in the next 10 to 20 years in pine-beetle impacted areas.
When asked about possible resulting mill closures, Rustad said that amount is enough to supply eight reasonably sized sawmills.
“I do want to emphasize that in the Williams Lake area the reduction in the annual allowable cut may not be for another 15 or 20 years,” Rustad said.
The committee visited 15 communities and met in Vancouver for three days to hear from communities, including 22 First Nations groups.
“To date it was one of the more significant committees engaging in discussion with First Nations on such an important topic, such as timber supply,” Rustad said, adding there were 650 presentations of written or oral nature submitted.
Rustad voiced optimism about the future of forestry in the province and the focus to grow more fibre and achieve more value from that fibre through intensive silviculture and what could be done through a gradual shift in the types of tenures on the land base.
“All of that has led me to be fairly optimistic. There will be some changes, but I think the changes we’ll see over the next decade in the forest industry will be of a more positive nature.”
Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett agreed saying the report includes recommendations that will help growth and yield.
“The report is universal and encompasses all the TSAs.The only one that was singled out was the Burns Lake and the fire up there and how trying to move that community forward is urgent.”
One of the things Barnett thinks is significant in the report is the recommendation to respect existing land-use plans.
If land-use plans are going to be reviewed they have to be reviewed with consultation, she said.
“I think it’s important that the minister do his assessment as quick as possible and have the land-use consultation processes back in place as soon as possible. I personally believe a lot of the problems are created in our resource industries because of lack of consultation. More consultation with communities will result in better understanding.”
Barnett said she’s pleased with the report.
“I think we addressed the concerns and our terms of reference. It was an all-party committee of the opposition and the government that worked together to come up with best recommendations for the pine beetle communities in the province.”
To access the full report visit http://www.leg.bc.ca/timbercommittee/.