Columnist Jim Hilton discusses the Allowable Annual Cut in light of the impact of the summer’s wildfires, as seen here along Highway 20 east of Hanceville in August. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

OPINION: Allowable Annual Cut will be impacted by fires

With the number and intensity of the wildfires in 2017 there will be an impact on the allowable annual cut (AAC) but the question is how much of an impact and when will it come.

Jim Hilton

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

With the number and intensity of the wildfires in 2017 there will be an impact on the allowable annual cut (AAC) but the question is how much of an impact and when will it come.

The most immediate impact of the wildfires will be the need to harvest the dead and damaged wildfire trees.

This comes at a time when the harvesting of beetle killed pine (especially west of the Fraser River) and the ongoing harvest of fir bark beetle trees is still ongoing.

The challenge for the government and licensees will be to harvest as much of dead/damaged material as possible before they move back to the green timber which will be in shorter supply forcing a reduced allowable annual cut (AAC).

The only way to determine an accurate AAC is to have a new determination based on a re-inventory of the Crown forest land and in particular the timber harvest land base.

Timber re-inventories are expensive and take time so it would make sense to conduct a new inventory once the salvage of the dead timber is no longer viable.

This new information would be used by the chief forester to work with the respective government staff and stake holders to determine a new AAC.

The last determination for the Williams lake TSA was done in 2015 when the chief forester set the AAC at three million cubic meters for 10 years after which it was to be reduced to 1.5 million cubic meters for a mid-term period from 11 to 60 years.

There was also the additional requirement that half of the cut was to come from the dead pine west of the Fraser River. A reduced AAC could come as early as 2020 if the dead pine component was not harvested.

The next few years will be critical to see if the fire killed timber, beetle killed pine and fir bark beetle along with some green wood can maintain the three million m3 AAC until 2020.

The additional assumption is that the harvested wood can still be marketed.

Unfortunately the NAFTA and soft wood lumber negotiations are still ongoing with the Americans and is complicated by the storms in the southern USA which will likely create a larger market for lumber due to the damage to the houses and business.

The Americans are also experiencing wild fires in some states and could work in favour of the Canadian producers. A recent CBC radio program indicated that the duties and penalties imposed by the Americans has not to date caused as much disruption as first anticipated.

My assumption is that the smaller lumber producers will likely be the hardest hit especially from the retroactive penalties.

According to the 2014 Williams Lake Timber Supply Area(TSA) discussion paper about 56 per cent of the 3.2 million hectares of crown forest land is part of the timber harvesting land base (THLB) which means that 44 per cent is excluded from harvest with the largest of the 15 exclusions being old growth management areas, Caribou no harvest, low productivity sites and parks.

Theoretically, only burns on the THLB will have an impact on the AAC but if there were significant losses in some of the critical old growth management areas or caribou no harvest, the chief forester may decide to take some land from the timber harvest land base which would have a significant impact on the AAC.

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

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