Burning merchantable timber in B.C. still a problem

Using a conservative estimate, there were 3,500 jobs lost in a 12-month period when the logs left after logging were burned.

Using a conservative estimate, there were 3,500 jobs lost in a 12-month period when the logs left after logging were burned.

In the true spirit of recycling, I took this information from an article by Ben Pratt, Nov 29, 2006, in The Tyee.

Some highlights of the article are as follows: “B.C.’s Ministry of Forests has long maintained a database known as the harvest billing system.

“The database allows anyone to access information on the amount of trees being logged. By doing six simple searches of the database covering the most recent 12 months, The Tyee arrived at a province-wide figure for the amount of wood listed as ‘waste/residue.’

“According to Coleman’s ministry, such wood is ‘merchantable,’ meaning it could be used to make lumber or pulp.

“And according to the database, 3.5 million cubic meters of it, enough to fill the beds of 100,000 logging trucks, was left on the ground between Oct. 1, 2005, and Nov. 1, 2006.

“Using a conservative calculation of one job per 1,000 cubic meters of wood, that so-called ‘waste’ could conceivably have kept two of the largest sawmills in B.C. busy for a year and put 3,500 additional people to work in our forest industry.

“Instead, the wood was torched and forestry dependent communities lost untold opportunities to create jobs by making lumber and other products.”

Additional information was provided that indicated that the waste billing could be well below what is there.  It appears that the government and industry has reached a compromise in that the payments made to the government for the logs wasted was just under $7 million in one year.

If you take the time to read the article you will see a very disturbing photo of a huge cull pile (apparently one of the small ones.)

It happens to have been taken by our local photographer and artisan, Fred Knezevich.

The good news is (if there is any with this topic) this work supports the research I reported on previously in Forest Ink.

The bad news is, it has been eight years since this article was published and I fear little has been done to address the issue.

While my next article will give some actual examples of industries’ innovative use of wood waste, we will have to judge if the pressure for change must be continued.

Before finishing this column, I have a confession to make. In a previous article, it was stated the government had only achieved an apportionment of .98 per cent of the provinces Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) for community forests after 14 years of supporting the program and only .31per cent for woodlots over a longer period.

A reader suggested an alternate source of information with more up to date data on issued community forest agreements and woodlot licences.

The new data provided a more accurate estimate of 1.7 per cent for community forests and 2.1 per cent for woodlot licences.

Using the same information it is possible to arrive at an apportionment of 2.4 per cent for community forests if one includes an amount the government has set aside but not yet approved, and an alternate long-term provincial AAC and not the current uplifted AAC.

For the purposes of the point I was trying to make, and in my opinion, this may be a bit too generous on the government’s behalf, but I respect another viewpoint that suggested the higher percentage.

It is always humbling to admit a mistake or oversight but the most important thing is that the best information is used.

It is therefore important to acknowledge the quick response of the reader and the alternate information source that was provided.

I am still a little confused as to why the government maintains two sources of information that gives different answers.

The lesson learned, double check your sources.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.


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