Government policy changes can be a very slow process

Columnist Jim Hilton continues his discussion on the reduction of slash pile burning in B.C.'s forests.

As pointed out by Adam Kamp in his master’s thesis (in Political Science) it took government 50 years to make regeneration (tree planting) a contractual obligation of tenure holders even though the science showed it was necessary decades before.

Mr. Kamp’s 2012 paper entitled “Policies for the reduction of slash pile burning in BC forests” provides some timely and useful information on the cull pile discussion.

The executive summary in this 68-page document included the following introduction.

“In B.C. it is common practice for forest companies to burn unwanted fibre after harvesting activities. While this was an efficient disposal mechanism, it poses numerous problems for society including CO2 emissions, fibre utilization issues with declining timber supply and air pollution that could affect human health.”

He then states his study will examine options that will reduce the amount of fibre burned in B.C.

The primary method of research was in-depth interviews with industry, government and ENGO stakeholders.

He described four policy alternatives designed to reduce the amount of material burned.

• Attach a fee for all fibre burned.

• Increasing the use of cruise based billing.

• Introduce a fibre based annual allowable cut determination.

• Eliminate waste benchmarks and increase penalties for waste.

After evaluating the four policy alternatives looking at effectiveness, equity, stakeholder’s acceptability and negative externalities he recommended two alternatives as being the most effective. i.e. Fee for fibre burned and an increase in cruise based billing.

He provides some details on how the fee could be applied fairly to cull material located considerable distances from potential processing facilities.

He mentions the application of these policy alternatives will require significant stakeholder engagement and additional analysis will be required to determine a specific level of the fee and how it will be charged.

The paper also provides some useful information on the history of government policy and various commissions that led up to today’s policy of burning forest residual material.

A variety of views within the government are also presented. “Today there are many values when it comes to logging residuals that the forest service must balance, including different views within the B.C. government. For instance fire protection officers are concerned with fuel loading, forest ecosystem specialists are concerned with biodiversity, silviculture foresters are concerned with planting spots, harvesting foresters are concerned with logging costs, and scaling foresters are concerned with utilization standards’ (Arsenault 2002).”

It is the fire abatement issue that seems to be the controlling factor in cull pile burning. The BC Wildfire Act 2004 requires that companies reduce the amount of fuel left on site after harvesting. The act does not require burning but the debris must be removed in some way.

Companies must ensure that their logging activities do not increase the risk of starting a fire on the site, increase fire behavior or suppression associated with a fire. Government will not provide any detailed guidance that could relieve the liability of the companies and put the liability on government through official induced error.

The wild fire branch does not visit sites to ensure fuel hazard has been abated but investigates wildfires to access compliance to see if companies are to be held liable. Companies are therefore very conservative in their abatement measures and burn most culls material leaving as little as possible fuel behind.

It is also stated that the Wild Fire Management Branch would prefer to see the debris taken off the site and used for more useful purposes rather than being burned. As stated before, other uses are not presently economical with existing policy and cull piles are burned as a result.

In future articles we will discuss some ways that fire hazard may be reduced with some modification of the way the cull material is handled during processing. We will also look at the impact burning has on silviculture issues.

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.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake GMHL expansion questions, concerns, to be discussed later this month

If approved, the team would begin play in the fall of 2021

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read