COLUMNS: Legal, fair and defensible key words for apportionment decisions

If you go onto the provincial government website and look under apportionment you will see information.

If you go onto the provincial government website and look under apportionment you will see information relating to how the government has allocated the harvesting of timber through legal documents (licences, agreements, tenures and reserves.)

In the decision-making process with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations the chief forester is responsible for the determination of the Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) and any AAC partition orders (if required)  while the minister is responsible for apportioning Timer Supply Areas (TSA) AACs.

For the Williams Lake TSA the AAC of three million cubic metres has been partitioned into equal portions of conventional (live) and dead volume i.e. 1.5 million m3 each. Of the live volume, replaceable forest licences and B.C. timber sale licences  make up approximately 60 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively.

Non-replaceable forest licences and First Nations woodlands tenures make up approximately  10 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively.

As you would expect, Tolko industries and West Fraser mills have the majority of replaceable forest licence volume (91 per cent) with 54 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively.

These two companies also purchase most of the logs from the other licence holders. My estimate would be that in the Williams Lake TSA these two companies process more than 90 per cent of all the logs milled for lumber, pulp chips and other by products.

There are two documents on the same site that give guidance to the decision makers once the day arrives that lumber production from beetle killed wood is no longer profitable.

For example, May 8, 2013  e-mail from Dave Peterson, Acting Deputy Minister addressed to other deputies, managers and directors regarding the declining timber supplies and allowable annual cut (AAC) management provided the following information.

“The anticipated decline in AAC in some management units is challenging government to provide sufficient timber volumes to existing licence holders while providing opportunities for new entrants, particularly those that can increase the utilization of fibre,  e.g. pellets, bioenergy.”

First Nations, new bioenergy entrants and rural communities are seeking a larger portion of AAC to further their economic goals to keep more timber dollars in their communities, but up until now most of the tenures issued are short-term, non replaceable.

Any reduction of volume in the B.C. timber sales program could have a negative impact on market pricing systems (i.e. ongoing soft wood lumber agreement with the USA regarding low stumpage fees charged for crown timer.)

Objectives of decisions.

Ensure that decisions are legal (consistent with legislations) and are both fair and defensible to existing tenure holders and stake holders.

Ensure that TSA AAC is sustainable over time and any decisions adequately protect the midterm timber supply.

I think most would agree the forest industry has never been faced with the kinds of impacts that could come from the reduced AAC anticipated over the next few years.

I hope the government takes the time to present options for public involvement and uses the potential changes to improve upon the apportionment system  wherever possible.

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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