The auditor general’s recent report stated that the forests of B.C. are in a deplorable condition because the Ministry of Forests has not been doing its job.
The pine beetle “epidemic” began 45 years ago. Beetle-killed trees were seen at Lignum’s Tatlayoko mill in the late ‘60s. Residents were told that these bugs “were part of the natural cycle.”
Now these beetles have swept through the province, into Alberta, and the U.S., virtually unstoppable. Origins of the MPB are uncertain, the accepted explanation being global warming. Regardless of origin, the attacked timber should have been burned. However, this was not done, and fire suppression crews controlled wildfires.
In the early ‘70s beetle-killed trees were transported from the Kleena Kleene valley to Anahim Lake, when the bugs were flying. Once the dispersion of the beetles started, more areas were attacked in Tweedsmuir Park. There should have been a harvest strategy, but it seems there was no plan at all.
Response to the MPB was minimal until Bill Kordyban senior and Carrier Lumber started milling beetle-kill timber around Anahim Lake. Their forest licence was cancelled by the NDP in the early ‘90s (lumber prices were $450/mbf. at that time). Following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling, the company was awarded $150 million due to the government’s mistake.
Then, in 1996, Forest Renewal B.C. decided to fund value-added projects, a purely political decision.
Value-added businesses were a great success story, and several families did very well, but not much renewing of the forest took place. Likewise, the Liberals’ beetle action committee had more inaction, becoming a gravy train for member groups, and funded projects unrelated to the MPB.
The work simply never got done. Now the unharvested pines are falling over, making access to these areas impossible. Millions of cubic meters of timber have been lost. The pine makes excellent framing lumber, and is our most valuable species for remanufacture.
So why were these trees not harvested and hundreds of workers hired to restore the health of our forests? Williams Lake should have been fire-guarded. That would seem to be a priority. Imagine a wildfire moving towards the city with a wind behind it. More preventive work should be done.