In a standing-room only forum held at the Pioneer Complex in Williams Lake Thursday, presenters to the legislative assembly’s timber supply committee said the forests are crucial for the future.
Several speakers referenced the Cariboo Chilcotin Land Use Management Plan, suggesting it be upheld.
Cariboo Conservation Society’s Martin Kruus said old-growth management areas were allocated for a reason and shouldn’t be logged.
“Unique compromises that were made between environmental groups and industry need to stay in place,” Kruus said.
Rancher Randy Saugstad agreed, saying the decisions on how much should be logged and when were all arrived at through extensive consultation and land-use planning processes.
“All that should not be wiped out for a short-term political decision for the benefit of a few at a very great cost to the rest of us,” Saugstad said. “I’m not against logging if it’s done in a professional and sustainable manner, but I’m absolutely against what’s already happening out there and how much worse it might get if this committee comes to the wrong decision.”
On behalf of the city, Mayor Kerry Cook suggested an annual allowable cut of between 2.8 million and 3.1 million cubic metres as a base line target for the Williams Lake timber supply area.
“I understand that there are additional opportunities involving forest inventories and incremental silviculture that could help to further increase the timber supply,” Cook said, adding the city recognizes the need to protect the mid term timber supply but that the volume of timber attributable to steep slopes and low volume stands must be harvested.
“If there are issues around the economics of logging steep slopes and low-volume stands, then we need to do whatever is necessary to make these areas accessible and economical to log, such as looking at different trucking options, eliminating the carbon tax, and reducing administration and obligations on timber harvesters.”
Gary Arnold, interim general manager of Ulkatcho’s West Chilcotin Forest Products, the entity trying to restart the mill in Anahim Lake, said one million cubic metres of trees have been shape filed in the Anahim Lake area.
“There is no possible way the West Chilcotin and Anahim timber supply can support all the allowed impact that currently is there,” Arnold said. “By removing the partition, we’ve opened up the western supply block to be impacted by Williams Lake licences,” Arnold said, adding outdated timber inventories don’t allow Ulkatcho to have meaningful and deep consultation.
Esket’emc chief Fred Robbins described elders sitting on their porches watching truck loads upon truck loads of timber leaving their territory while they are living in poverty.
Tax dollars aren’t enough — First Nations need revenue from resources, Robbins said.
If companies are going to clear cut an area, they should have to replant within two years, he added.
Esket’emc band member Irvine Johnson also condemned forestry practices.
“I don’t think we should be waiting to see what’s going to happen with regeneration on a mountainside,” Johnson said. “The prescription treatment for the mountainside should be different to prevent slides and other siltation.”
Advocating that it’s important to genuinely include First Nations in the annual allowable cut, Johnson suggested First Nations are more than just a referral process and have a stake.
Tl’esqox (Toosey) Chief Francis Laceese likened the spread of pine beetle to the small pox epidemic and blamed the government and industry for spreading the beetle.
“They spread the bug kill around so they can get access to green wood,” Laceese said. “Now they’re telling the natives: ‘You go ahead.
“You take the dead wood. We’re going to keep taking the green wood. ‘You know, they’ve been playing that game for a long time. You spread your bug kill around just like you spread smallpox around back in the 1800s. That’s what’s going on. You tried to annihilate us. That’s your same government that did that intentionally. I’m not scared to say that.”
He recommended a moratorium on logging in the Big Creek, Hungry Valley and Churn Creek areas until further studies are done.
“If you don’t do that, we’ll put a moratorium on it ourselves. It’s that serious of an issue.”
Xeni Gwet’in (Nemiah Valley) Chief Marilyn Baptiste outlined measures her community has taken historically to protect their land and ecology.
“We demand to be a part of these processes if you want to continue to work in our territory. If we are not properly and adequately consulted we will be kicking people out of our territory,” she warned.
Sam Zirnhelt, stewardship department manager for the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said a lot of good work has been done.
“You can’t convey in this forum what First Nations communities have been working on to engage in the forest economy in the last five to 10 years that I’ve been involved, nor the work that’s been done with various sectors in the region, like the beetle action coalition, and the massive amounts of energy and thought that are still sitting on paper.”
Simply relaxing harvesting constraints won’t do much for the value of the tenures that First Nations hold, because they are not able to sell or process the volumes they have, he said.
Registered professional forester Jane Perry said forests have been taken far too much for granted, and this is the time to take advantage and demonstrate respect for them.
Bob Macnair, financial secretary of the United Steelworkers Union, said the union does not want to see a short-term gain for Tolko and West Fraser at the cost of the future of jobs in this community. He asked how the government can make decisions about the land base when it’s not actually known what there is as far as inventory.
Panel chair MLA John Rustad responded that the ministry believes pine beetle wood will continue being cut for the next 10 to 20 years in the area before there’s going to be a drop in the AAC.
Macnair answered that he didn’t buy it.
“Nobody’s been able to get out there and do the inventories,” he said.
Mauro Calabrese, planning forester and biologist for West Fraser in Williams Lake, advocated that area-based tenures are the way to go.
Moving to area based tenures can reduce the fall down in the allowable cut, he explained, adding he’d rather see that done to mitigate the timber supply than harvesting old growth management areas and landscapes that have already been heavily salvaged.
“It’s my opinion that volume-based licensing does not promote good forest stewardship and hinders my ability as a forest professional to achieve the balancing of forest resources and the demands of forest users,” Calabrese said, adding that “there will be more accountability within an area-based system, as there will be no question as to who is actually managing the area and responsible for what is happening there.”
The Special Committee on Timber Supply held a forum the following day in Quesnel.
Full transcripts of the meetings can be viewed at http://www.leg.bc.ca/timbercommittee/learn-more.asp.