Gov’t timber report looks strong, foresters say

Professional forestry association is hopeful after reading government's timber report.

The BC government’s action plan Beyond the Beetle takes forestry out of the political realm and puts it back into the scientific realm, the Association of BC Forest Professionals said last week.

Speaking with the Tribune, ABCFP’s chief executive officer Sharon Glover said the report released by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations outlines the government’s plan to respond to a number of issues.

“It’s a good report that answers a lot of questions that the special committee on mid-timber supply raised after touring the province last summer.”

The plan to include forest professionals, communities, and First Nations is also welcoming, she said.

“We’re delighted they realize they need the input of forest professionals and the expertise that they bring to the table.”

She’s also pleased the government recognizes the need to update inventory information, something the association’s been focused on for a number of years.

“They’ve signalled it’s important. It would be nice if there was more money allocated, but until then we know they are seized with trying to get it done and they should be congratulated for putting it on the radar screen.”

Glover emphasized the issue of whether to look at sensitive areas is very tricky, however said the fact the government is suggesting a science-based approach, that they’ve accepted that committee recommendation, means the association can only assume that forest professionals, as well as biologists, will be included in the discussions.

“Those are the professionals that can look at, not only wildlife, but at the broader ecosystem, and help out in that review. We also assume they are going to be looking at the long-term health of the forest.”

Moving forward from the report, ABCFP plans to work with the government to develop various aspects of forest policy as it looks at various recommendations.

“We’ll be working on them with various consultations with our members to see if we can get some input for them. We’ve got over 5,500 forest professionals that have the training and have thought about various issues and how to improve things in the forest. We certainly have the person power to offer advice.”

It’s a step in the right direction, Glover said, in comparison to prior to the special committee being appointed.

“I think it was mostly politics that was driving this. Now the recommendations are mostly coming from the ministry and it’s going to be ministry staff that are taking a very careful considered look at these recommendations and working with forest professionals and others to come up with solutions.”

When it comes to whether or not the mill at Burns Lake should be re-opened, Glover said it’s a difficult decision for any politician to make.

“They are well aware of the risks of making promises to any one mill when we have many, many small communities with mills that will inevitably run into difficulty within the next 10 years because of timber supply.”

More money could be spent helping communities diversify forest economies when they run into difficulties, she said, adding “there’s got to be more effort put into what can be done.”

The ABCFP also plans to be involved with the discussions about changing legislation to allow for the conversion of volume-based to area-based forest licenses.

“We don’t know what that legislation will say. There are a number of policy issues about how it will work and how will a tenure holder be eligible to switch over and what the province might get in return,” Glover explained.