The provincial government of British Columbia released a strategy Wednesday to ease the impact of a looming fall-down in the annual allowable cut as the aftermath of the mountain pine beetle epidemic takes hold in BC’s forests.
Entitled “Strong Past, Bright Future,” it contains 49 actions aimed at three inter-related goals: healthy, resilient forests; diverse, globally competitive industry; and stable communities and First Nations.
British Columbia Government Set Forest Sector Agenda
The provincial government Thursday released its agenda to enhance the competitiveness of BC’s forest sector so that it continues to make investments and provide family-supporting jobs in communities throughout the province.
The agenda called “Strong Past, Bright Future” contains 49 strategic actions to address three key inter-related goals: healthy, resilient forests; diverse, globally competitive industry; and stable communities and First Nations. This agenda sets the stage to improve BC’s competitive position, maximize the value derived from BC’s forests, and tap into innovation. The agenda is supported by other recent government programs, including the three-year $75-million Rural Dividend and $85 million for the newly created Forest Enhancement Society of BC.
Other key actions in the plan announced include:
- Enhancing the promotion of BC wood products globally, focussing on the province’s strong regulatory environment and the benefits of BC’s wood products.
- Through Forestry Innovation Investment, promoting new wood-construction technology to global markets and developing non-traditional uses of wood and wood-pulp fibres.
- Advancing opportunities for forest carbon management and promoting greater use of lower-value wood and wood residue in support of the province’s climate leadership goals.
- Investing in timber supply and restoring forests impacted by the mountain pine beetle and wildfire.
- Strengthening timber-supply data using state-of-the art technology to provide a completely updated forest inventory by 2023.
- Maintaining healthy forest ecosystems that support values such as fish and wildlife ecosystem biodiversity, clean water, recreation, fibre for forest products, and forest carbon storage.
- Continuing to enhance First Nations’ participation in the forest sector, and encouraging business-to-business relationships between First Nations tenure holders and forestry firms.
- Creating more trades and training seats at post-secondary institutions, targeting funding for occupations in demand.
BC’s Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister, Steve Thomson, said to the Prince George Citizen Thursday the aim is to start by replanting 20,000 hectares and increase that by 20,000 each year to reach a goal of 300,000 replanted in five years.
The newly-created Forest Enhancement Society is getting $85 million to reduce wildfire risk around communities and rehabilitate forests damaged by the beetle, and $75 million over three years will go to a rural dividend program to help small communities through economic transition, Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond said.
“BC’s economy has diversified in recent years and forests may not be the predominant sector it once was but it’s still absolutely a critical component of our province’s economic backbone,” Bond said to the Prince George Citizen.
NDP Opposition Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations critic Harry Bains said the strategy consists of “stuff that should’ve gone on for the last 15 years.”
“I think it’s more electioneering than a real forestry plan because if they wanted to do it, they should’ve done it 10 years ago, they haven’t done it and now they’re talking about even further down the road,” Bains added.
BC’S CLIMATE LEADERSHIP PLAN
According to Caren Dymond, a research scientist with the forests ministry, the B.C. Climate Leadership Plan, revealed in mid-August, will begin with a baseline goal to reforest 20,000 hectares in the first year of the project, which begins in March 2017, and steadily increase production each year, up to 100,000, said CBC Monday.
Some of the trees would be available to be logged after 50 years of growth.
To meet carbon reduction goals, the province has called for 300,000 hectares of forests damaged by wildfire and pine beetle to be rehabilitated over the next five years in order to turn the forests back into a carbon sink. It’s titled the Forest Carbon Initiative. “If this is really 300,000 hectares that are going to treated over five years, then that would amount to [the replanting] of hundreds of millions of seedlings,” said John Betts, director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association to CBC.
“That would be huge.”
Betts says the Forest Carbon Initiative represents the largest commitment the industry has seen out of the government in decades.
According to B.C.’s GHG inventory, forests sent over 60,000 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2014 — almost half of the provincial total — due in large part to wildfires, decay from pine beetle devastation and slash burning.
Russ Cameron, President of the Independent Wood Processors Association of British Columbia detailed to Madison’s Thursday in an email:
The key point for us is the GBC’s ‘in writing’ recognition that the products produced by non-tenured, non-affiliated, wood processors should not be subject to duties, border taxes, or quotas.
Pursue an exemption for value-added companies from duties under a new Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Trade Agreement since they buy input material from the open market.
Our 2 principles:
- The dispute is about the administrative pricing of the non-competitive harvest and those companies that enjoy these exclusive benefits should pay the entire cost of retaining their benefits.
- And if non-tenured producers do get exemption, while it is technically none of our business if the tenured producers negotiate a border tax based agreement or a quota based agreement, a quo- ta based agreement is infinitely easier to manage in terms of the US circumvention concerns that would arise if the non-tenured companies no longer had to subsidize part of the cost of retaining administrative pricing and it would free BC from US oversight of BC’s forest policy.
We are very pleased with Minister Thompson’s efforts to help us and particularly pleased that he has acknowledged that we should not be penalized for the tenured companies desire to retain their status quo.
John Betts, Executive Director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association wrote to Madison’s in an email Friday:
Part of the agenda, as you point out, refers to the Forest Enhancement Society of BC and Forests For Tomorrow. So that is not new news. But what it does show, along with a series of announce- ments this year including: the formation of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, signing on to a revision of the National Wildfire Strategy, includ- ing forestry investments as a significant part of the the Climate Action Leadership Plan; is our gov- ernment continuing to frame a major commitment to getting our forests back into shape. That has to be good news for the silvilculture sector and for the province’s forests.
Elsewhere, the Truck Loggers Association of British Columbia supports the BC government’s newly released agenda, the agency said in a press release late Thursday:
There are three critical goals within this Competitiveness Agenda and the third one—Stable Communities and First Nations Partners—aligns well with the TLA’s strategic plan. TLA members are the economic backbone of BC’s rural coastal communities with over 90 per cent of the provincial harvest done by independent logging contractors in one shape or another. This means the success of the forest sector is very much linked to the success of independent business owners—our members—in their coastal communities.