We need a rapid response team too

In the wake of the fire at Babine Forest Products the government has stepped in to help the community of Burns Lake.

In the wake of the fire at Babine Forest Products the government has stepped in to help the community of Burns Lake and I applaud both its efforts and the generosity of other forest dependent communities, the Steelworkers Union and other organizations that are stepping up to provide relief.

However, the questions surrounding Burns Lakes’ fibre supply are just as imminent in our region as they are in the Lakes Timber Supply Area, and the government should provide every mountain pine beetle affected community with the resources needed to “ground truth” their timber supply projections so we too can know with much greater certainty what our future holds. The Lakes TSA had a new annual allowable cut set by the chief forester in July last year, which should mean he has all the available information he needs to answer the question of whether a stable mid-term fibre supply exists to warrant rebuilding the Burns Lake mill.

One can be excused for thinking that the minister and the chief forester should have all the information they need to say “yeah” or “nay” to the mid-term timber supply question being asked by the good people of Burns Lake. The problem is that there is simply too much uncertainty in the government’s forest inventory data, growth and yield projections and the models it uses to predict timber availability and set AACs. Read any one of the chief Foresters most recent AAC determinations and you’ll quickly see there’s an awful lot that we don’t know about the state of our public forests. Yet we desperately need to know what’s really going on in our forests as soon as possible. How many mills and jobs will we lose simply because we won’t have the logs? When will these closures occur? We have a right to know. Now. The $800,000 the government spent on partisan advertising for its so-called job’s strategy would have covered the costs of a comprehensive on the ground audit and assessment of the true state of our public forest resources in the MPB region. The government has an obligation to put taxpayer money to better use than pre-positioning for the 2013 election.

Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.