Merritt weighs in on forest management
A focus on community forest management and incentives for reforestation could improve the outlook of B.C.’s timber industry, says Don Brown of the Logan Lake Community Forest Corporation, which supplies Merritt’s Aspen Planers with much of its wood.
“This is a watershed point for forest regulation and legislation in British Columbia, much the same as in the late ’80s and early ’90s,” Brown said. “This is a time when government can rebalance the distribution of volume in the amalgamation of crown forest to three or four companies in B.C.”
The government-appointed Special Committee on Timber Supply — consisting of seven B.C. MLAs — visited the Merritt Best Western for a five-hour public consultation on Thursday, July 12.
Brown and other stakeholders at the meeting relayed their ideas about what can be done to mitigate a lack of available timber for harvest.
He wanted to increase the amount of community-controlled forests by approximately three times, adding that the District of Logan Lake replants trees approximately 1.5 years after harvest, compared to the provincial average of four to seven years.
“The reason is there is no incentive for the licensees to be quicker in reforestation,” he said. “The best forestry management would happen through incentives, the same incentives that are making Logan Lake choose its management strategies.”
Vernon Monashee MLA Eric Forster questioned where the volume would come from.
“In most areas, we’re looking at reductions in [supply] for the next while,” he said.
According to Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley, “Rebalancing the distribution of forests runs contrary to some of the industry that would like to see a conversion to area-based tenures, for example.”
Merritt Mayor Susan Roline relayed to the committee her discussions with city council, which suggested opening up other areas to harvest.
“[We discussed] going into more Crown land, lands closer to the city than we normally log,” she said, adding that local mills haven’t felt much of an impact but anticipate future revenue issues. “We have some of our mills that are looking to other buyers for different product.”
Roline said one of Merritt’s four sawmills will likely close due to the suffering sector.
“I guess it will depend on how creative that sawmill is for them to be able to stay in business,” she said.
“Then we would probably see shifts being cut down, so then that would mean people out of work.”
Other ideas at the meeting included: following through with identified mitigation options; setting a supply target and having B.C. forest managers shoot for the goal; and increasing funding for timber analysis.
Actions such as fertilizing the trees so they grow faster and harvesting around streams and wetlands — not currently allowed — could also increase timber supply.
The committee estimates 80 per cent of the lodgepole pine throughout the province will be killed by the beetle. That number drops in the southern regions, including around Merritt.
The pine beetle has destroyed approximately 18.1 million hectares in North America.
Timber supply is expected to drop by 20 per cent below the pre-infestation levels in 10 to 15 years, lasting for approximately 50 years.
The committee is travelling throughout B.C. for a series of public consultation sessions before reporting to the Legislative Assembly of B.C., expected on Aug. 15.