Foresters weigh in on timber report

Tolko’s woodlands manager in Williams Lake says the timber supply report is a start.

Tolko’s woodlands manager in Williams Lake says the timber supply report submitted by the legislative special committee last week is a start.

“I look forward to seeing where we go from here and how the government and communities will move forward with these recommendations,” Tom Hoffman says. “From a forest health and community sustainability stance, the committee’s work was extremely important.”

Hoffman insists there will be a contraction in the industry.

“It’s important that we don’t exacerbate that, but that we plan in an organized, structured fashion and wherever possible mitigate those impacts,” he says.

The recommendations captured much of what Hoffman had expressed in his presentation to the committee during the hearings in 100 Mile House.

“I expressed that one size does not fit all, that there are different issues and different opportunities in different regions within the province with regards to the mid-term timber supply.”

He says he is pleased the report recommends the resurrection of local management committees.

When it comes to operating in marginally economic stands, he says that’s something already taking place in the Cariboo.

“That’s not the same in other jurisdictions, but in the Cariboo we are already doing that. We need to ensure that we do access and harvest the dead pine stands now to preserve the mid-term timber supply, not to be forced into the green stands that contribute to the midterm but to focus more right now in the Cariboo.”

There is a “whole bunch” of dead pine out there that needs to be addressed both from an economic and a forest health perspective, he adds.

“We need to get the land base back, growing young revitalized forests and the recommendations talk about that; however, this a report that’s written for the province and we really need to drive down to what is possible, what is important, and what are the opportunities locally.”

Dave Lehane, West Fraser Timber’s vice president for the company’s Woodlands division, prefaced his reaction stating the beetle epidemic in Williams Lake is not new.

“The first step was to salvage as much as possible of beetle-killed timber for as long as possible. The companies in Williams Lake have done a very good job of that. Those companies, Tolko and ourselves, are manufacturing logs that have been dead up to 10 years, “ Lehane says.

The report is encouraging because it highlights that options exist. Each timber-supply area or community will have different solutions, he suggests.

“From our view we’re eager to work with government and folks like the Beetle Action Coalition to try and develop those options.”

It is important, he adds, that whatever options are considered high environmental standards and globally recognized forest management practices are maintained.

“That has to be the underpinning of any review of options,” Lehane emphasizes.

In his assessment of the report, registered professional forester Bill Bourgeois from Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities notes the recommendations raise the profile of forest management, but do not push the envelope and are focused on short-term economic actions and include only a minor amount of long-term sustainability.

Bourgeois outlines deficiencies in the recommendations including the lack of a timeline and the cost of implementation.

“The committee should make it clear whether the expectation is for government to provide funding and resourcing, if the the overall timber supply objective is to be achieved.

“Without additional resources, the tendency will be for government to pay lip service to the recommendations and say they are advancing forest management and community adaptation,” he notes.

Bourgeois also supports the committee’s recommendation to re-establish land-use implementation committees and says the recognition of the committee of the importance of more involvement by communities in forest management is encouraging.

He is, however, concerned the government will consider the report as a blueprint, along with the Roundtable on Forestry report to revitalize forestry.

“This would be totally incorrect as key issues have not been addressed. A comprehensive strategic action plan is being prepared by the Healthy Forests-Healthy Communities initiative that will provide recommendations on all the identified priority issues of communities and forest management experts,” he adds.

In a press release Independent MLA Cariboo North Bob Simpson says the reports confirms there will be a dramatic timber reduction soon.

“Up to this point the government’s mountain pine beetle strategy has been to log as much as possible. This report essentially recommends continuing on that path in order to support the status quo. What we need instead is a bold, long-term provincial forest strategy that takes into account climate change and a changing economy. Unfortunately, you won’t find it in this report.”

Simpson lists five points about the report that require attention:

• Reforestation programs must be directed at growing healthy forests that will be adaptable to climate change.

“I am pleased to see the committee highlighted silviculture as an area that needs more attention, but the focus needs to be on managing for healthy, resilient forest ecosystems, rather than simply growing more timber.”

• A thorough review of the Beetle Action Coalitions (BACs) is necessary.

“Before there is any more investment in these BACs, they need to be completely audited for effectiveness and restructured.”

• The government should act on the recommendations of the Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council. The FFESC report recommends looking at all aspects of forestry and land-use planning through the lens of climate change.

• Their recommendations must be implemented immediately, including promoting resilient forests and developing hardwood management strategies.

“Minister Thomson has said that utilizing bio-energy and biomass will be an important part of mitigating the upcoming economic impacts. What we really need is for the minister or someone in cabinet or even in the Opposition to lead and be a champion for an aggressive bio-economy strategy,” Simpson says. “The government has several reports sitting in front of them outlining progressive strategies, but they haven’t acted on them.”

• Finally Simpson advocates not to rebuild the Babine Forest Products mill.

“From everything I’ve seen and heard, that mill cannot be rebuilt without sacrificing forest health and putting other communities at risk.”

The report and background documents indicate that half of the fibre that Hampton needs to rebuild is not currently available and must be sourced from marginal volume stands, old-growth management areas, and areas set aside for visual quality objectives, Simpson adds.

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