This week the BC Liberal government released its response to this summer’s Special Committee on Timber Supply. The Special Committee consisted of both Liberal and NDP MLAs, and its final report represented the unanimous agreement between the two political parties.
In essence, the government has accepted the committee’s recommendations and has “committed” to act on them. The overall intent of the government’s plan, dubbed “Beyond the Beetle,” is to keep harvest levels as high as possible for as long as possible in order to minimize any mill closures and job losses in the near to mid-term and to enable the rebuilding of the mill that burned down in Burns Lake earlier this year.
To accomplish this feat the government will allow logging in areas currently set aside for other values. They will include “marginally economic stands” into their annual allowable cut calculations, and they will pass legislation this spring to convert volume-based licenses to area-based tenures.
These fundamental changes to B.C.’s forest management and forest tenure regimes will be done without an updated inventory or any additional funding for forest health and silviculture activities. Facing budget cuts in each of the next two years, the Minister of Forests can only promise that B.C.’s forest inventory will be updated over the next 10 years.
In short, we’re going to blindly stumble into a whole new forest management regime. We need to have the courage to face reality: the traditional forest sector is going to downsize, there will be mill closures and there will be job losses.
We must undertake an immediate re-inventory of our public forests that takes into account the implications of climate change and analyzes the potential to take advantage of economic opportunities outside of our traditional timber markets.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.