Column: Politics often at odds with good forest management

It appears balancing budgets often means research programs are the first to disappear.

It appears balancing budgets often means research programs are the first to disappear.

My observation is specific to the research program in what used to be the Cariboo Forest Region. The research program has been reduced considerably and it doesn’t appear that any new staff have been hired to replace those who have left.

A recent example of the need for sufficient staff and resources is contained in the chief forester’s report on the reduction of the annual allowable cut (AAC) for Williams Lake Timber Supply Area (WLTSA.)

The 60-page report by the chief forester, “AAC rational for Williams Lake TSA, February, 2015,” gives the background and rational for his decision to reset the AAC to three million cubic metres (reduced from 5.77 million cubic metres.)

He uses the harvesting history from the last seven years as one of the factors to support his determination.

He also lists four factors that will impact the short-term (10-year) harvest level and 13 factors that could impact the mid-term (60-year) AAC.

The mid-term reduced harvest is 1.5 million cubic metres of live volume (880,000 cubic metres of non pine trees and 620,000 cubic metres of live pine volume recovered when harvesting mountain pine beetle stands.)

One of the unique features of this determination is the concern of the chief forester that new information or major changes may occur in the management assumptions which could cause him to revisit the determination prior to the 10 years required by legislation.

For example, the chief forester expects the short-term (10-year) harvest to be as much as possible in the mountain pine beetle stands and the harvest volume of live trees to stay within the bounds he set.

He expects the government staff to monitor and report semi-annually the harvest performance of the licensees and recommend a new timber supply review if warranted.

He also expects district staff to make recommendations on a partition of the harvest if needed.

In addition, he describes nine considerations he expects the government staff to monitor and research which are critical in determining the impact on the mid-term AAC determination.

As he notes this will depend on the staff and financial capacities of the government.

There was an indication in the 2007 determination that insufficient resources may have resulted in an omission in one of the net downs when it was reported the caribou wildlife habitat area (amounting to an underestimate of 4.4 per cent) was “inadvertently overlooked.”

The government needs to clarify the staff levels and resources that are to be involved with the research and monitoring as suggested by the chief forester.

It is my opinion we should also monitor the amount of residual material that is burned following harvesting and be doing more research on uses of fibre other than producing saw logs.

As indicated in previous articles more work needs to be done on the impacts of climate change on silviculture practices.

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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