Legislative Session: Fourth Session, 39th Parliament
Special Committee on Timber Supply
This is a DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY of debate in one sitting of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. This transcript is subject to corrections, and will be replaced by the final, official Hansard report. Use of this transcript, other than in the legislative precinct, is not protected by parliamentary privilege, and public attribution of any of the debate as transcribed here could entail legal liability.
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS
SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2012
The committee met at 9:49 a.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good morning, everyone. It's nice to be able to be here. I'm John Rustad. I'm the Chair of the Special Committee on Timber Supply. I'd like to welcome everybody to our first of our public hearings.
The Committee on Timber Supply has been tasked with looking at the mid-term fibre supply throughout the pine beetle–impacted area and reporting back to the Legislature by August 15. That gives us a very short time frame, so we've had to accelerate when we would normally have done our public consultation and start with this week.
The process that we will be going forward with, the public consultation, is to spend some time with mayor and council and the local government rep. Then there will be an opportunity for First Nations in the community of Smithers, which we are at here today.
The First Nation has decided that they wanted to participate with the other First Nations in Burns Lake as part of a group of six, so we'll be taking a little bit of a break during that time, I think. Then we will have a public input session, which will start at 11 and go through to about two o'clock today.
This afternoon we are travelling to Houston to have a repeat of the same type of process. Throughout the course of this week we'll be travelling the entire Highway 16 corridor, ending on Friday out in McBride and Valemount.
As I mentioned, the purpose of this meeting is to garner some input, have a discussion around fibre supply and try to understand your concerns or issues or things that we should be considering when, ultimately, we come together to do some deliberations.
A few technical things that everybody should be aware of. These meetings are public. They are recorded by Hansard as well as broadcast on the Internet.
With that, I'd like to introduce the members that are here with me, starting with the member on my right.
E. Foster: Good morning. I'm Eric Foster. I'm the MLA from Vernon.
D. Barnett: I'm Donna Barnett, the MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
B. Stewart: Good morning. My name is Ben Stewart. I'm the MLA for Westside-Kelowna.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Good morning. I'm Norm Macdonald. I'm the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
B. Routley: Good morning. Bill Routley, MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
H. Bains: Good morning. Harry Bains, MLA, Surrey-Newton.
J. Rustad (Chair): With us as well is Kate Ryan-Lloyd — she is our Clerk of Committees — as well as our Hansard staff who have travelled with us, and one of our special advisors here, Larry Pedersen, former chief forester of the province of British Columbia.
The committee has two special advisors that were appointed to assist the community with any technical or other types of information that might be required.
As I mentioned, this process is meant to be an opportunity for some input as well as a little bit of discussion. Our first group that are here is the mayor and council for Smithers, so over to you, Mayor Taylor, to introduce yourself and your councillors that you have with you.
T. Bachrach: Thank you very much. My name is Taylor Bachrach. I'm the mayor of Smithers. On behalf of all of council, I'd like to welcome the committee to Smithers on such a beautiful day. It's sort of a shame to be cooped up inside.
With me today I have Coun. Charlie Northrup, Coun. Phil Brienesse and Coun. Bill Goodacre. Our other councillors, unfortunately, weren't able to make it due to work constraints. But we've had a short discussion about these matters.
I really appreciate you doing this. I looked a little bit at your travel schedule over the coming weeks, and it's incredibly gruelling, so we appreciate the time that you've given us.
I also wanted to recognize that not only is there incredible expertise on the committee, but also behind me in the audience. It makes me incredibly nervous to be speaking on these very complex issues with such a massive brain trust here in the Bulkley Valley. I'm really looking forward to hearing from our local expertise later on today.
Also to acknowledge that…. I believe it was about a month ago that a number of mayors from Highway 16 communities wrote a letter to the Premier requesting that there be further consultation prior to a decision being made. I want to acknowledge that there has been a response to that, and that's very much appreciated. The committee is evidence of that.
I would also offer that I'm not sure that the amount of time we have here today is adequate to address these very important and complex issues. I hope that this is the first such opportunity in a very reasoned deliberation over what we're going to do and the choices that are put in front of us.
I was up really late reading Hansard, so my brain might not be as sharp as it should be. But I wanted to emphasize that forestry is very important to Smithers, as all of you know. It's a major employer. It's an important part of our history, and it will be an important part of our future. Some of council had an opportunity on Friday to meet with representatives from PIR, our local sawmill. That was a very beneficial opportunity. What we heard is….
You know, PIR employs 205 full-time employees just in their plant alone. The total employment related to their operation is over 500 jobs, so it's an incredibly important part of our community's economy. Not only that, but we have, I believe, a very successful community forest here in the Bulkley Valley. It's a partnership between the town of Smithers, the village of Telkwa and the Office of the Wet'suwet'en. Looking forward, that's a very promising aspect of our forest industry.
The other thing I wanted to speak briefly to was the local land use plan, and this is something that came up on Friday in our discussion with the mill. I was very pleased to hear from the mill's representatives that they value the local land use plan and consider it a very important part of obtaining the social licence to operate — not only the social licence to operate, but ensuring that the community is on board with how forestry moves forward.
Although I didn't live in the valley for the creation of the land use plan, I've learned a bit about it sitting on the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board for about five years, until very recently. I think that the LRMP in the Bulkley Valley is a very special and unique land use plan in that it really brought to an end a period of intense conflict over forestry resource use in the area. It continues to be seen by the community as representing an agreement, a social choice, about how we value different aspects of the land base.
I would offer that over the years not enough resources have been put into maintaining and ensuring that those land use plans all over the province, as well as here in the Bulkley Valley, are kept up to date. If you read on the first page of the Bulkley Valley LRMP, it says that the success of this land use plan, and I'm paraphrasing, rests in our ability to make it a living document and to practise adaptive planning and incorporate new information and invest in the process of monitoring to see whether the strategies laid out in the plan are indeed achieving the goals and objectives that they were meant to achieve.
Although I certainly don't speak for the resources board, my experience while sitting on that board was that we didn't have that information and that we didn't have a strong sense of whether the strategies that were put in place are indeed achieving the objectives. So I think, especially when it comes to non-timber forest values, it's very important that we reaffirm our commitment to those plans and invest the resources in finding out whether they're having the effect that they should be.
It seems like it was…. Some of the strategies put in place, such as landscape corridors and core ecosystems — some of the different ideas behind forest management — were at the time our best guess in terms of what would sustain the forest values that we wanted them to sustain. I think we need to revisit whether that is indeed the case.
I know we have a limited amount of time, and we're going to let my fellow councillors speak as well, so I'll try to keep this brief. The land use plan continues to be very important in the Bulkley Valley, and we encourage further investment in that.
The one thing…. Around choices, it seems like…. If we're being offered a choice, I'm not sure that there's enough information about what the alternatives to that choice are. It seems that we're being asked whether we want to look and see if there's more timber there for the mid-term, but I feel it would be useful to have more information about what we're being asked to trade off in order to get that timber and provide the benefits that come from that.
It seems that the other values on the land base are talked about as constraints, but really, these are areas that…. There was a social choice made to put these areas aside for other values. I think it's very important, when we're talking about reducing those other values on the landscape, that we have a very good understanding about how much we are reducing them by and what the implications are for those other values.
In reading through Hansard and trying to wrap my head around some of the background information, I wasn't able to get a good sense about what the implications are of going into those areas that we've set aside.
I was trying to think of analogies last night, and it reminded me of when I'm working late at night and there's a piece of cake in the fridge that I've promised my wife I'll save for my kids' school lunches. It's a certain-sized piece of cake, and as the clock goes on, I start thinking about whether they would notice if I took just a little bit of that piece of cake. So you take a little bit, and it looks about the same size as it was before. Then another hour goes by, and you're reading some more Hansard transcripts. You open the fridge door again, and you take a bit more of the cake. And you know, often by morning that piece is looking pretty small.
I hope that doesn't make it into the record.
E. Foster: You're in there now.
J. Rustad (Chair): You'll get an opportunity to read that tonight.
T. Bachrach: The last thing I'll say is that it seems to me that we're talking about two things here. One is we're talking about the timber supply situation facing the entire region. Our community is acutely aware of the very difficult situation in Burns Lake with the loss of their sawmill, and our sympathies certainly go out to that community around the very difficult situation they've been faced with, the difficult choices and the road ahead for that community.
There are two things. I'm asking whether this is the case. The two questions being asked…. One, are there opportunities to secure more mid-term timber supply by looking at some of the decisions we've made in the past around timber? The other question is: are there opportunities out there that could lead to the reopening of a sawmill in Burns Lake? I'm not sure, in reading the terms of reference of the committee, whether the latter question is something the committee is dealing with very specifically.
Can I ask that question? Is that something, John, that…?
J. Rustad (Chair): Sure. In my opening comments, actually, I neglected to mention a couple of things that I will mention now. The pine beetle–impacted area in the Bulkley TSA is very minimal at this stage and hopefully will remain so. Although the epidemic still has an opportunity to be able to grow in this area, the hope is that we'll be able to control that.
But throughout the pine beetle area, which is basically from the Houston-Smithers area down to about 100 Mile House, down into towards the Kamloops-Merritt area, the total estimated impact at this stage — at varying levels, and that could be two years from now, or it could be ten years from now; it depends on economics and the life of the pine wood that's standing there — will be a loss of about ten million cubic metres a year, or about a 20 percent reduction from what we consider to be the Interior fibre supply.
That translates into the wood supply needed for about eight mills. The challenge is: are there things we can do to mitigate some of those challenges? Like I say, the impact in this area is fairly minimal.
To your question around whether there are opportunities for a rebuild in Burns Lake and what the committee's role in that is, what the committee has been asked to do is to look at the fibre supply across the entire impacted area, to look at what options could be acceptable. Maybe no options are acceptable. We'll see how the process goes through. Once that's determined the ministry would then take that report and decide whether or not it would implement all the recommendations, some of the recommendations or none of the recommendations. That's what their options may be.
From there, that would set a fibre supply in the mid-term, what at mid-term it would look like. "Mid-term" is loosely defined as when we get out of the dead pine wood and have to start cutting primarily in green wood. That's when mid-term fibre supply starts. Once we can determine what that will look like going forward, that would set how much fibre would be available, and then companies would have to make decisions based on what that fibre is. Our committee is not struck to look at a specific mill or a specific community but at the broader region across the area.
T. Bachrach: Fantastic. Maybe, just adding to that, one of the concerns out there for many of the other communities along Highway 16 is that there's a shared understanding that there's going to have to be a rationalization of milling capacity along the highway corridor and that the rebuild of a mill in Burns Lake could adversely affect mills in other communities. If that's something that's being considered, it's something that in Smithers — and I believe that I would speak for all of council in saying this — we would be very concerned about: our mill's ability to access timber in a competitive market in the areas to the east of us.
Right now our mill is a net importer of saw logs, and we would want to ensure that government decisions moving forward protected the ability of these different mills to compete on a level playing field.
Perhaps I'll wrap up there and allow the other councillors to add their thoughts. I appreciate the opportunity to speak today and look forward to hearing what others have to say.
C. Northrup: Charlie Northrup, councillor for the town of Smithers. I won't repeat any of the welcome, etc., that the mayor has done.
I guess I want to take a little more basic approach and make sure the committee members understand that a short-term gain against a long-term loss is common sense, and in government we want to see common sense used. So as you deal with this pine beetle…. You're going to hear later from the village of Telkwa in their presentation dealing, also, with the OBAC opinions on this issue — we've known the pine beetle is going to create some shortage in our marketplace — and how we're going to deal with it.
The existing mills must have a consistent and long-term supply to support their current production and continued investment. The West Fraser mill in Smithers a few years ago put $14 million plus into their mill based on their current supplies and knowing that supply is coming in. If you adjust those supplies, their loss on their investment…. They lose their confidence to continue to make those investments. The success of a mill is good investments and long-term operation.
The mayor touched on the employment in the community. Certainly, the forest industry is one of the strong things that has made our community the sustainable community it is, and I'm glad. Talking to the members that are on the panel, they've said it's a beautiful community, and we have lots going for it. The forest industry is probably one of the key pieces that has got us where we are today, and we want to make sure it stays there.
When you're making decisions about allowable cuts, maybe one of the things you have to consider, too, is the difference between a saw log and a pulp log. They have two different values — certainly, to the mills and those that are cutting saw logs.
I think it's really important that you make sure that there's an open market and access to logs versus direct awards, or you're going to start losing confidence in your industry. We've got a good system that's working. You have to be careful not to start adjusting that.
I also think that if you start increasing your allowable cuts…. You'll hear this in Burns Lake, and I'm kind of disappointed we're not going to hear from First Nations here in Smithers. But I'm sure when you get to Burns Lake they're going to talk about the fact that, as the mayor of Smithers earlier stated, if you could get a 5 percent gain by allowing some visual cuts and environmental issues that you've been protecting, that could be a huge loss. I'm sure First Nations will deal with that — if you start increasing those cuts against our environment risks.
When we were meeting with the West Fraser employees, one thing I realized, sitting at the table, is that in Smithers our employees aren't fly-by-night employees. I'm sure that when Larry Pedersen walks back in the room and meets the industry people, it's the same people as when was here in Smithers — getting to where he is today, to assist you. It's the same employees. I think their shortest-term employee in the Smithers mill in their woods division is 16 years.
I know, as a retired realtor, that 31 years ago one of my first sales was to Gary Hanson in the forest industry, and Gary's still here. He's still planting those trees, and he wants to see those trees that they've planted go through the mill down the road.
I think it's important you understand that the people that are in this community are committed people. They're part of that planning process, protecting what they have. I think that's really important for you to understand in our area.
So what's the solution, if you're looking at something like Burns Lake, and what else can we do? I think what you need to be looking at is outside the box — not another mill.
I think you need to take something like all these bioenergy concerns and maybe put the money and efforts into a bioenergy project of some sort where you could take the excess fibre. To think that maybe the Smithers mill, at the odd time, can't use their excess fibre and is putting it on rail to get it to Burns Lake to put in the beehive burner is pretty concerning.
I appreciate that bioenergy today doesn't give the return to justify it. But maybe taking our overproduction of timber on a short term isn't justified either. Fifteen years from now, a bioenergy plant may be producing what B.C. Hydro would pay. It would also support the industry in what we're doing.
In your opening comments you made, that the impact is minimal in the Bulkley region…. Well, it's a little bit like the mayor and his cake. It might appear to be minimal, but if you take a profit-operating mill and you take away from it — or you spread the pie or steal from the cake — all of a sudden it's non-profitable, and you've got to be really cautious of what you do. That's not just with the operation of the mill, but it's in your entire land plan. I'll leave it for Councillor Brienesse to go from there.
I think we've got good things going. We've got a fantastic company in Smithers. That industry is just the backbone, one of the key backbones, to what's brought the railroad and made our community here. You need to understand that and appreciate it.
P. Brienesse: Thank you, Charlie. I'll try not to repeat what everybody else has said, but I'll pick up on Charlie's last point there. It was actually something Ben was mentioning when I was talking with him when he first arrived here. He was talking about the great diversity that he notices in Smithers' economy compared to many other communities in the north.
Compared to a lot of communities, we have a great diversity in our economy here, but a lot of that depends on our large economic drivers. The local sawmill and forestry are certainly one of those drivers. It helps sustain the local businesses. The tourism operators and all of those things all work hand in hand. If you take out one part of a diverse economy, you lose some of that diversity, which brings everybody else down.
I think it's important that when we're talking about this, we also think of all the other factors in our community that could possibly be affected by the choices you make. In particular, I think of the visual corridors and some of those sorts of things. There are a lot of tourism operators in our community, and it's a large part of our diversity. They rely on that as well. That's something that really hasn't been mentioned, and I think it is important to note. But they all work hand in hand.
I was a little concerned to hear that there has been quite a bit of talk that our particular area isn't impacted as much by this, in particular because we haven't been as much impacted by the beetle kill in our close geographic area. In our discussions with the mill, though, we are a net importer of sawlogs here.
A lot of our timber supply actually comes from outside of our direct region. They'll go very far, actually, to find sawlogs at a competitive price. It's been stated, and it's important to say, that it needs to be an open and competitive process for those sawlogs.
If we look at some of what's potentially been proposed — basically, increasing an allowable cut and actually guaranteeing access to logs for a new sawmill — that really puts the industry in a difficult position, where you have somebody with a guaranteed access and you have other people who are competing on an open marketplace.
When their supply is dwindling, their costs are going to go up. You look at a brand-new, high-efficiency facility with a guaranteed supply competing with those companies, and that's something of serious concern. It's throwing an imbalance into the marketplace or the status quo.
That's something else. In discussions here with our local industry, if we kept things sort of without implementing any of these changes — as a scenario, for instance — and kept things as a status quo, they're completely confident in their ability to operate the two shifts that we currently have.
If we change up some of those things — for instance, increase the amount of timber that's being utilized — it starts to put their operation in jeopardy as to where they get those logs and what happens to the number of shifts that are on and, in general, their economic viability as an operation.
It's kind of been mentioned before that there's a real risk here that we might be boosting up one community or one area at the risk of negatively affecting everyone else. We have a lot of mills that are struggling to survive as opposed to a smaller number of mills that are doing well or okay. I think that's very important.
Somebody touched on the idea — I believe it was Councillor Northrup — about how perhaps there's something that can be done with the timber other than just a mill, other than just sawlogs. That's where the real competition is for timber — in sawlogs — but there is a great amount of fibre out there that is underutilized. Actually, from what I understand, people have difficulty finding a market for that that's economically viable to get rid of it.
One other thing that I think I wanted to mention that hasn't been mentioned so far is that there is a bit of concern that I have with some of the ideas, in particular, where we may be counting our chickens before they're hatched, so to speak, in that we're looking at ways we can drastically increase growth through fertilization or different ideas like that — taking that timber and utilizing it now with the idea that there will be a future benefit. That's a pretty serious concern. That's kind of gambling, in a way. That's the way I look at it. Gambling — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
What we're looking at right now is sort of a gradual decline in our timber supply and things going along fairly smoothly, whereas if we look at doing that, we run the potential of basically hitting a cliff where the gamble hasn't paid off and all of a sudden we're in a real crisis — where timber supply hasn't increased, but we've already used up all of our longer-term timber now.
In particular, some of the things that we don't even…. Or I certainly hadn't thought about, until we had a meeting with industry, the fact that sometimes we have these trees which are….
They were showing us some cuts — and it would be really interesting if you had a chance to go down to the mill and take a look and see them — with quite tight growth rings, really small growth, and they showed what happens if you give a release to that. It makes a very complicated profile to utilize as a sawlog. So although you may be increasing the growth and you may be increasing the supply, is that a quality log or not, in terms of sawlog capacity?
I think everything else that I wanted to touch on has actually been touched on by everybody else, so I'll turn it over to Councillor Goodacre.
B. Goodacre: Thank you, Phil.
Obviously, you've received the concerns that our council and our community have. I'm looking through the brochure here, and there's a question that did come to mind.
"The special committee shall specifically consider: recommendations that…increase timber supply, including direction on the potential scope of changes to land use objectives, rates of cut…." That's been covered, but one, perhaps by way of a question…. The conversion of volume-based, area-based tenures. As you've heard, our mill is bringing sawlogs from outside of our basic timber supply area.
I'm just curious to know if the panel is aware of moves afoot to adjust to area-based tenure, and what's the current thinking of government on that question?
J. Rustad (Chair): Sure, and I may call upon our special adviser to have a few comments about that, but area-based tenure is something that has been talked about in the industry for about 40 years. There have been numerous attempts over that period of time to try to move from the current system, where the majority of the volume is available in what's called a volume-based tenure.
So the question that comes to us is: where you have some operators that have been very good…. West Fraser, which owns PIR here, is an example and has a tree farm licence down at Quesnel. They tend to plant higher densities. They tend to manage a little bit different, and the yields they can get off of the land base are increased.
So the question is: is that something that can ultimately help to meet our mid-term fibre supply down the road, if we were to look at a traditional operating area and convert it over? That's one of the questions that the committee has been asked to look at. There is no decision, of course, by the committee at this point. We're going to do a lot through the public hearings components and have some discussions, but there is no position that the committee has on that at this particular point.
B. Goodacre: Thank you very much, John. The way you characterize it — those are the same questions they were asking 17 years ago. Yes, indeed.
Back to you, Taylor, if you want to do some wrap-up.
T. Bachrach: Sorry. I'm not quite sure what the format is here, if we just kind of keep running through our points until we run out of time or….
J. Rustad (Chair): No. I think….
T. Bachrach: Politicians can talk quite a bit.
J. Rustad (Chair): Mayor Bachrach, that's your option. If you'd like, I'm sure there are some committee members that might have a few questions. We can have a little bit of a dialogue to go with that. It's up to you. If you feel that you want us to be able have more of that sort of back-and-forth, then that's what we'll try to do.
T. Bachrach: Okay. Councillor Northrup has one more point, and then maybe I'll wrap up.
C. Northrup: You know, the other point…. When we were introducing earlier, the question was asked: how important is forestry to our local economy?
One thing that West Fraser, Pacific Inland Resources, did share with us the other day was that from January to May of 2012 their contribution to our economy was $44½ million. When you impact that or adjust it, you can ruin a community our size so quickly. So as you're making your decisions, appreciate that and understand that. It's huge.
It's a huge investment on behalf of the company, but that's just a huge input into the success of what allows our Bulkley Valley to grow as strong as it is with our small, diversified individual areas. I think that the key to the success of the Bulkley Valley is that stability of the major industries to allow all those types of small cottage industries to bloom around it. That's what's happening in the Bulkley Valley, along with our aesthetics.
I wanted to just add that figure and make sure it was clear in your mind how big an impact and how important the forest industry is from just the one operation here in Smithers.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you for that. I'll look to members for questions.
Just before we go to that, one comment we had before this started. You mentioned that in such a short time frame…. We have until July 20 for written submissions. That's from anyone in the public, but certainly for the community as well. I want to encourage you to be able to put some additional thoughts together in terms of a written submission to us.
I'd like you to maybe think about one question while you're going through that submission. I very much respect what Councillor Northrup just said around the importance of the forest industry. Would what you're encouraging the committee to do be different if your mill wasn't available — if something happened and it went down, whether for economic reasons or others? Just something to think about when you do the submissions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): To begin with, I think we were remiss at the beginning for not introducing Doug Donaldson, who's the MLA for the area. He's here. It's always nice to see Doug.
First, thank you very much for the presentation. Listening to it, it almost sounds like you're more worried about us making a problem worse than finding active solutions. I take that. I think that unintended consequences, if we do something that's not properly thought through, can be huge. I mean, I think most of us here, or many of us, come from towns that are dependent on forestry. We know how important it is.
You've laid out the scenarios. You've laid out the issues that are problematic. If we were to continue along the same track…. What I'm hearing from you is that you see the opportunities and the potential here in Smithers around forestry to be positive. You're feeling good about the future going forward.
T. Bachrach: Well, I would offer that I think it's actually a very challenging future for a number of economic reasons as well as environmental reasons. We're here today because of an infestation that was caused by changes in the environment, by climate change. I don't believe it's going to be the last such infestation, so I would really like to emphasize the need to keep long-term resilience as our ultimate objective.
We need to ensure that whatever choices we make, our communities and our resources are able to withstand further such perturbations, because all likelihood is that we're going to see additional challenges such as the mountain pine beetle in our future. I don't think there is anyone in the forest industry who would argue with the fact that functioning ecosystems are sort of the bottom line, that we need to ascertain what the basic requirements of the ecosystem are to function and then structure our socioeconomic requirements within that so that we ensure a long-term future for the resource.
I think there's a real question out there as to how we're doing in that regard. There was a big focus when we were doing the land use plans on what was going to be required to ensure long-term sustainability, but as I pointed to earlier, I think there are some real gaps in our knowledge. There's a question of whether the impact of the pine beetle and the impact of harvesting are going to be having some very serious implications, especially in light of ongoing climate change.
So I agree that forestry is going to a huge part of our future, and there are a lot of opportunities there. But it's going to be very challenging, and we need to think very carefully about any changes that we make.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Just a quick follow-up on that. In Public Accounts — I think it was just last week — the chief forester was responding to the Auditor General and talked about climate change. As a community, is that something that is regularly talked about and modelled, or is it just evident that this is something that really has to be thought through as you go forward? How does that fit into your community planning?
T. Bachrach: The highest-level planning document that we have in Smithers is our official community plan. In that official community plan there's an entire section dedicated to mitigating and adapting to climate change. So as far as the policy side of things goes, it's very much acknowledged as one of the big challenges that we have as we move forward.
Like in any community, there are a range of perspectives in terms of the importance of it. But talking to people in the research community, this is very much something that we need to be holding in mind when we make management decisions — how those decisions are going to be affected by potential future changes in the climate.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thanks for that.
H. Bains: Thank you for the presentation, again. There was mention by, I think, a couple of you that we are the net importers of logs. When you're speaking about that, is that the entire Bulkley Valley timber supply area, or is it just for the Smithers area? What are you talking about when you say that it's a net importer, and where do they come from — those logs — if you know?
T. Bachrach: I'm still learning about the various aspects of the local forest economics. My understanding is that for the local sawmill, in order…. They have an annual throughput of around a million cubic metres, I believe.
Some Voices: Eight hundred and fifty-two.
T. Bachrach: So 852,000 cubic metres — is that right? Anyway, a large portion of that comes from outside the timber supply area currently.
A Voice: That's the whole TSA.
J. Rustad (Chair): Maybe I could just add to that. I might be wrong with this, but my understanding in talk of West Fraser is that they go to the west to bring some wood into this area. They also go to the east. They bring wood….
The same company, of course, has a mill here, a mill in Houston and a mill in Fraser Lake. So they move trees around, various components, but as far west as out to the Lakes and as far east, I think, out towards…. It's not all the way out to Terrace, but it's out whatever that unit is that's short of Terrace. So that's where the wood comes from, goes around.
P. Brienesse: A lot of that is driven by economics as well. In particular, you know, when there was a huge surplus of pine — because the beetle kill was so much more in the Burns Lake area, and they couldn't possibly utilize all the timber that was there before it started to lose its value — they were going that way. Depending on the economics, they sometimes go west.
That number that was quoted is actually, as well as the whole Bulkley Valley TSA…. I believe what West Fraser has is about half of that as their volume.
H. Bains: I think, just to follow up, this Bulkley Valley timber supply area…. The paper that I am being presented with says that there currently are 852,000 cubic metres in that area. You said that the one local mill used about a million?
T. Bachrach: The notes that I have are that the sawmill currently consumes 980,000 cubic metres of sawlog quality volume per year and that 40 percent of that is sourced from a replaceable tenure of forest licence. So that's substantially…. There's a substantial amount of that volume that comes from outside. I do know that West Fraser is going to be making, I believe, a written submission. I don't want our interpretation of the facts and figures to conflict with theirs, so I would save….
H. Bains: Save some questions for them, then?
T. Bachrach: Absolutely, thank you.
D. Barnett: Thank you very much for your presentation. I know that the pine beetle coalition, OBAC…. You've been working very closely with them. I really believe that there has been a great benefit of knowledge through this organization. Hopefully, you will continue to do the good work that you're doing. I have one question. Your community forest….
Do you feel that community forests are a great benefit to both the communities that are involved in them and the environment, and how do you think that we can improve on community forests?
T. Bachrach: One of the ways we could improve on them is by expanding them. I think they're a fantastic model. It's something that our council and our community forests have been working with the province to encourage them to help us find more area for our community forest.
I really firmly believe that decisions that are made locally, as close to the resource as possible, are usually better management decisions. I think our community forest has been doing an excellent job in the community, not only of managing some challenging areas that are very close to our community, but also in terms of putting revenue aside, putting aside some of the profits from the operation to support important initiatives in our community.
I believe they have a legacy fund that they're currently working to build up so that when the uplift in harvesting for the mountain pine beetle tails off, they will have this fund that will enable them to continue with their community grant program, which provides a significant amount of money to community organizations and delivers a lot of good here in Smithers and the Bulkley Valley.
D. Barnett: Just one more question on that. Are you working with industry with your community forest? Basically, where do you send your supply of logs to? Do they stay here locally?
T. Bachrach: Absolutely. My understanding is that the majority of the wood from the community forest is currently being sold to PIR, to the local sawmill. I could be corrected on that.
P. Brienesse: I know that PIR does work closely with them. Some of the logs do go to other operators as well. It's still part a competitive process, but there's certainly an advantage in being so close.
One other thing to note about the community forest that's unique compared to a lot of other models is that it is an area-based tenure. Whatever they do to improve that supply, they directly benefit from, whereas when you look at a volume-based tenure system, they replant to kind of a free-growing stage, and then it's left at that point. So there is no economic reason or no benefit for that volume-based tender to do anything that would increase the production of those trees.
In discussion with industry that's more closely managing the growth of the trees — not a plantation model but something along those…. Actually, in their opinion, it doesn't necessarily deal with the short term, mid-term, but looking forward actually provides the most benefit in terms of growth of timber supply. And the community forest model is something that does that. They actively are managing that resource.
J. Rustad (Chair): A good example of area-based. Thank you.
C. Northrup: If could, I just wanted to add a couple of comments to that.
You know, one thing that does impact a community forest…. It was pointed out to us by the local mill, and it kind of goes back to MLA Bains's question. The Bulkley Valley timber supply, when the community forest was given 30,000 cubic metres, was reduced to the industry by that amount. And we appreciate that government….
Because of the pine beetle situation that's currently happening, I believe it's been increased to 90,000. That didn't affect the Bulkley timber supply area, because it's dealing with the pine wood. So they've been given an advance. Those things have made a difference in our community forest. And it was supported by government.
But last year we had our community forest, along with the recipients of the grants from the profits, and we had our community — and when I say "our community," it's the whole Buckley community — received…. I want to say $110,000 — it may have been higher than that — to our community groups that needed funding.
That funding and profit, out of the success of that community forest, reflects back to the taxpayers and maybe even the provincial government for grants and needs, etc., where they can rely on the community forest providing them funding. That's going right back into our community directly, and that's a huge accomplishment. Our community forest group and the volunteers we have operating and running that have been really successful. So it's important. It's key to us. And our industry, locally, has really supported it.
J. Rustad (Chair): There are two more questions from members, but I'm going to cut this off as, in fairness to other communities, we've set a half-hour aside for the community discussion. We've gone 45 minutes because we know our next group isn't going to be there, but we've got to be a little careful. If you can do questions, perhaps, during a brief recess that we're about to take, that would be good.
One last quick question that I had to community forests: when did you guys receive your community forest?
A Voice: …five years ago.
J. Rustad (Chair): About five, six…. Okay. I'm just wondering because….
J. Rustad (Chair): So it's part of the expansion….
J. Pojar: First, the community forest is run by the Forest Service. In other words, there was a forest…. The community forest also includes the cross-country ski trails. It's….
J. Rustad (Chair): Hold on, Jim. I can't ask for that because you're not part of a mike and we can't get you part of that. I can't ask for a lengthy explanation on it, but I do appreciate the background about how it's that component.
Like I say, I'm glad to see…. That was one of the goals that we had, to expand community forests around, so I'm glad that has been successful.
With that, thank you very much for your presentation, for spending some time with us, and I look forward to your written submission by July 20.
Just before recess I want to make a quick note to people in the audience. For those that are going to be presenting, please go to the desk and make sure that you check in with the desk so that we've got a list of who's registered.
Then, also, for anybody else who might be interested, we're going to try to have some open-mike time if we can, or fill in some spots if some other people aren't here, since it seems to have some great interest today with the number of people here.
My apologies to Doug Donaldson for not introducing him earlier. Sorry about that, Doug.
T. Bachrach: Just in answer to your question, it says that January 1, 2007, Wetzin'Kwa Community Forest Corp. was awarded a community forest agreement.
J. Rustad (Chair): Great. Okay.
With that, the committee will stand recessed until 11:30, or we might try to come back just a little bit earlier than that depending on people.
The committee recessed from 10:37 a.m. to 11:26 a.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good morning, everyone. We will call the committee back to order. We're going to a period now for public input.
Since most people, if not everyone, were here before, I won't give you the opening spiel. As part of that, I think we should save that and go straight to give as much time as we can to the presenters.
Our first presenter is Jim Pojar.
The process that we're doing through this is 15 minutes of time. It's up to you how you want to use that as a presentation to the committee. Then, if we have some time, there'll be a little bit of question-and-answer as well.
J. Pojar: Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you. The day after Father's Day and not that long after Mother's Day, no doubt thoughts of intergenerational equity and concern for posterity are foremost in your minds. I empathize with the challenge you are facing, partly because it's mostly not your fault.
Climate change is involved, and the pine beetle…. But it's not entirely the beetle's fault either. The timber supply challenge is in part a consequence of decades of ill-advised and at times reckless management and chronic overcutting.
Even 30 years ago it was common knowledge, at least in forestry circles…. By the way, I should say that I am an ecologist and a forester, and I worked from 1978 to 2003 for the B.C. Forest Service here in Smithers. Over the years I've done fieldwork throughout B.C.
Even 30 years ago it was common knowledge that there was 160 percent — something like that — overcapacity in sawmills along Highway 16. Not a whole lot was done about addressing that overcapacity. In fact, some of these mills would have, or already have, closed even without the beetle — for example, Carnaby.
Mayor Bachrach identified the inappropriate framing of one of the issues facing the committee. That is calling provision of goods and services other than wood a "constraint." That probably isn't your view, but whoever framed your briefing documents…. It was done unwisely.
Key values and elements of resource management in addition to timber production should be framed as goals, not constraints. Way back in 1994 Jack Ward Thomas, the U.S. Forest Service chief at the time, said that if biodiversity protection is a principal goal, then we need to "state it as an objective for management and not a constraint."
I have a question: what happened to the conservation uplift? Recall that in the early 2000s, once it was realized that control of the beetle epidemic was impossible in the hardest-hit areas, the emphasis shifted to salvage logging.
To help the salvage effort, the government, in the mid-2000s, increased the allowable annual cuts by 80 percent in the three most severely affected TSAs — timber supply areas — and some additional increases elsewhere, like in what's now called the Nadina forest district. The increased AACs prompted increased concerns about non-timber resources such as water, wildlife and biodiversity.
To address those concerns, the so-called timber uplift — the AAC increase — was to be accompanied by a conservation uplift in the form of increased retention of mature forest structure in harvested areas. In fact, in aid of the conservation uplift, the chief forester, in 2005, issued a document called Guidance on Landscape- and Stand-Level Structural Retention in Large-Scale Mountain Pine Beetle Salvage Operations, which you can find on the Net. This guidance isn't legally binding, but it explains how the chief forester expected the conservation uplift to be applied.
At the landscape level, the guidance was that collaborative, multi-stakeholder, long-term landscape-level planning is the best option for managing increased retention. One could say that that's what we need now — collaborative, multi-stakeholder, long-term landscape-level planning. Of course, it's a little late for that now. This committee doesn't have time to do that, and the road show is not what he was talking about.
Mayor Bachrach also mentioned the social contract. In my opinion, the LRMPs and the other land use plans, like the one on the Cariboo-Chilcotin, conferred social licence to log extensively without setting aside much formal protected area. In a lot of these TSAs we're talking about, there's about 6 percent parks and other formal protected areas.
Other designations — like visual quality objectives and old-growth management areas, riparian areas, wildlife tree patches, ungulate winter range, forest ecosystem networks and so forth — were supposed to take care of the non-timber forest values. It's worth pointing out that many of these do not contain much merchantable timber. In fact, they were often deliberately designed around guts and feathers, in terms of timber. That was kind of the Faustian bargain made during those negotiations.
There is quite a list of at-risk resource values and key issues that could be further jeopardized by whatever comes out of this committee — water, hydrology; riparian management areas; wildlife, in terms of ungulate winter range; caribou — mountain and northern caribou; old-growth forests; biodiversity; visual quality; recreation; secondary stand structure. The models project all of those values to decline with logging in reserves or in wildlife movement corridors, that sort of designation. If that increases, the models project these values to decline, and some of them will probably flatline.
There is also a risk to government and industry of losing sustainable forest management certification and a risk of tarnishing or losing B.C.'s international forestry reputation, depending on the practices we pursue. That may not, to some people, be such a big deal anymore, because: does China really care?
Ideally, I think a lot of the decisions should be made by foresters. Nonetheless, ultimately, if some of the so-called mitigation options are implemented, the decisions to do so probably will have to be political.
That's because, it appears to me, it would be difficult for a professional forester to square some of the actions with the actions contemplated with the Foresters Act, which says that the primary duty of a forester is to serve and protect the public interest and to uphold the public interest respecting the practice of professional forestry, and to square it with the profession's code of ethics — for example, if approval of a timber supply mitigation plan conflicted with the provisions of a government-approved land use plan.
I'm just saying that that could be an issue with professional foresters. I also wonder how much time the mitigation options will buy. Is it a few years, a few months? I'm sympathetic to the plight of places like Burns Lake and Terrace, but…. I thought of an analogy. If forestry is a patient deathly sick with kidney disease, some of what is contemplated is like selling one of your lungs to pay for a few months of dialysis.
Thinking like an ecological economist contemplating this from decades of experience in B.C. forestry…. When I consider the natural capital of the province, which mostly belongs to the people of B.C. because it's on Crown land…. Some 94 percent of the province is Crown land, belongs to the public.
The natural capital of the province has been and continues to be invested in unsustainable timber harvesting, in my opinion. By natural capital, I mean B.C.'s forests, grasslands, lakes and rivers, our capital assets that provide vital goods such as clean water, food, forage, timber, life-support services, recreational opportunities, and so forth.
The public has kind of accepted or bought into this investment, been persuaded along several lines of argument. Like, they will be told: "Well, we'll temporarily defer a sensitive or controversial area from harvest." But then that area won't be taken out of the timber-harvesting land base on the assumption, unspoken often, that the timber will eventually be removed. That's how it's regarded — as something that we will get sooner than later.
We've seen hollow pronouncements like: "We don't do that anymore." Well, maybe 15 years ago that was true but not now. Unreasonably small OAFs — that stands for operational adjustment factors, which were integrated into timber supply analyses to kind of estimate the anticipated losses due to insects and disease. It was a really small number over the years.
The swollen allowable annual cuts were also justified by a crutch borrowed from economists. That is that there's kind of a virtual increase in timber supply because of technological innovations and improvements. So even though the wood is actually diminishing, more of it can be used because of more efficient mills, which is true. The mills have really become more efficient.
But then there's closer utilization, which could be true, unless you're high-grading red cedar or whole logs for export; expanding operability lines up slopes and into difficult terrain; smaller piece size; shorter rotations; all that sort of stuff. The technological fix is invoked to increase AACs.
Then, also boosting the rate of cut based on purported future gains from intensive management — the so-called allowable cut effect. So log more now in anticipation of greater future production, which, in my opinion, the evidence does not support.
Of course, it also requires long-term commitment from both industry and government, and the record is not good on that. Ultimately, the suitable wood supply runs out. The pyramid scheme collapses. What I am reminded of, thinking as an ecological economist, is a vast Ponzi scheme.
I've got a couple of recommendations. Remove the option of logging and forest reserves. This collaborative multi-stakeholder, long-term landscape-level planning should be undertaken.
Get communities more involved, which is what you're trying to do and which Mayor Bachrach mentioned.
I would say: pay attention to what Bill Bourgeois and Bob Simpson have been saying.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much.
We've got two minutes. Any questions from members? Seeing no questions….
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Just really quickly…. The experience you have with intensive silviculture — what specifically would you point to as being…?
J. Pojar: Fertilization isn't going to cut it.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay.
J. Pojar: But density management — you can get some real gains. Yup.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay. Thanks very much.
One thing, if you've got an opportunity for a written submission, that would be great. Just with regards to the fertilization comment, it would be great if you could perhaps look at what's happened in Sweden in terms of fertilization and some of the differences, to give us some clarification on that. That would be great.
J. Pojar: Okay. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Our next presenter is Rimas Zitkauskas. I hope I've got that right.
R. Zitkauskas: You did better than I did the first time. Thank you for your courage.
I'm a councillor with the village of Telkwa. I also sit on the OBAC board on behalf of our village. I have the honour of being part of the executive this year on the OBAC board.
The village of Telkwa fully supports the work and the recommendations to address the downturn in our timber supply in our region that OBAC has been doing. I would like to underline that this is not a presentation on behalf of OBAC but one community member's perspective on the work and how it applies to our views on providing a solution to this crisis.
I believe you received OBAC's perspective on mid-term timber supply. I'd like to draw your attention to item 4, where it says, "It was recognized early that communities would be affected differently depending upon the diversity of their economy"; item 5, "The OBAC was created to provide a regional response to the social and economic consequences of timber supply impacts"; and item 9, where it states: "A diverse forest sector that builds upon the sustainable use and regeneration of forests and continues to manage the forest resource for all forest values, including ecological and cultural well-being…."
I would like to confirm that the forestry industry has played a major role in the health of Telkwa. I believe that it has a role to continue to play a major cornerstone role in our economy here in the Bulkley Valley.
But we fully endorse OBAC's perspective that in order for our communities to be resilient and to be able to provide the jobs, the revenue for our municipal, regional and provincial economies, we need to explore all of the other industry sectors that by either design or default are present here in the Bulkley Valley.
Tourism attraction and retention and the agricultural sector are all potentials of increased jobs and revenues, not only to our local communities but revenues to the province to make up the shortfall that, despite any recommendations or decisions of this panel, will decrease.
I would urge you to consider that when deciding on how you are going to allocate the use of our forests, you remember that they have an impact on these other industry sectors. For instance, the protection of riparian areas directly affects our watershed. The health of our watershed directly affects the agricultural potential and agricultural activities of our region over here. It depends on whether we'll be able to develop and grow them.
The wildlife corridors and the viewscapes over here directly affect our tourism potential. We have people who come to this valley who are totally amazed at the beauty of this valley.
Telkwa has just had the honour of receiving a silver award from RidersWest for the most scenic ATV recreational area in the province by its readers. We cannot jeopardize that. The attraction of this community is based on the beauty of its surroundings.
We hear that rural communities are suffering from a loss in population, that rural communities are suffering from a loss of employment opportunities. The communities of the Bulkley Valley are bucking that trend.
From 1986 to 2009, Telkwa grew at 2 percent greater than the provincial average. The provincial average population grew by 54 percent; Telkwa grew by 56 percent. Smithers, I believe, grew by 25 percent. Regional district A, which surrounds our communities, grew by a similar amount, I believe, even while the employment within the forestry sector was diminishing due to investments and efficiencies. We have to ask the question: why is that?
It is because, I believe, of the great opportunities and diversity of our economy here in the Bulkley Valley — a strong tourism attraction, a strong support for local food production and agriculture.
I can go on and on about the potential of our region. I think the work of OBAC…. I encourage you if you haven't done so to please read the strategies. I will also encourage you to visit the village of Telkwa site, where you will find our recently completed integrated community sustainability plan that speaks to the importance of the resource sector in the sustainability of our community but also speaks to the additional values that have made our community strong and that have made our communities an attractive place for new residents to come and support our economies.
I think, in addition to the work that OBAC has done in developing the strategies, the second most important thing that it has accomplished is that it has started a dialogue and a conversation amongst the regional communities and the residents of our region about where we want to go and what our potential is.
I believe we've also engaged the provincial government and started that conversation. The perspective and the perception that our region's only value to this province is in the forestry sector or in the mining or in the oil and gas sector is not a valid perspective. We have to change that.
We can contribute a lot more to the provincial economy than just forest and resource extraction, but we have to support all of those elements that help us do that and diversify away from so that we can be resilient — as Mayor Bachrach said — to future challenges that our resource sector will be facing.
In closing, let me just leave you with a bit of a vision or a bit of a potential of what I mean by the non-timber value of our forests and our natural surroundings. Just north of us is a region called the Spatsizi Plateau. The grandeur and the ecological variety of that region are on a world-class scale, equivalent to the Serengeti. The potential to develop that as an ecotourism destination can attract hundreds of thousands of visitors. That would be a benefit not only to our local economies but to the First Nations that live there.
If we do that, we have to do it in a well-managed, well-thought-out manner, but there is potential for that. Other countries have valued the non-timber or the non-resource value of their ecological systems, such as Costa Rica, whose great success on ecotourism has changed that country's economy.
In closing, please do not get tunnel vision. The challenge that we are facing here is the creation and the maintenance of jobs and revenue for our communities and our province. But let's not ignore the other vast potential that we have and focus solely on a quick fix to the forestry sector.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Rimas. We've got time for a few questions, although I want to start just by saying an apology to Telkwa. We should have extended an invitation as a committee to arrange a specific time, as opposed to just through the process. That was an oversight, and I apologize for that.
I'm looking to the members for questions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): You talked about resilience for a community, and you talked about a number of things, but you pointed out diversification within the economy. What are some of the other elements for resilience within a community that you want the committee to think about? What are some of the other things that you think about as you go forward, planning for your community?
R. Zitkauskas: Social services and education. It's a bit…. I don't mean any disrespect to our provincial government, but I always wonder why we invested $17 million into a new community college here in the Bulkley Valley yet cut its operational budget. We need to encourage…. We have the opportunity here to develop research and educational opportunities that are unique to our region.
I appreciate the work that UBC does, for instance, in developing new construction methods to make net zero buildings, or even buildings that produce energy and feed back to the grid. Those models might work in a temperate climate but don't readily translate into regions that have more variance in their extremes. But if we could fund our educational institutions here to develop, for instance, construction methods that meet the more extreme variances in climate, those outcomes, if they're valid here in our climate, will definitely be valid in a more temperate climate.
Those are some of the opportunities that I see because of our geographical location and our climate location. Social services and education are key components, and the strategy speaks to that. We have a strategy in OBAC that addresses that.
B. Routley: I notice that you're talking about the community planning that's already going on with your group, OBAC. I'm assuming your message to the community…. I just want to make sure I'm not mistaken. I'm hearing you say that that group is already underway and has a comprehensive plan, and so you'd rather us not tinker with that. Is that what you're saying, or do you see other opportunities that I might be missing?
R. Zitkauskas: OBAC was created, I believe, in 2006, if not 2007, as one of the last of three beetle action coalitions mandated by the province. The work that we've been doing has been communicated to the provincial government on an ongoing basis over the years.
We have developed strategies. There are 254 recommended action items. The government is aware of those action items and, from what I understand, is in full support of ours.
I would not presume that the organization would want to supplant the work that you're doing. We're just saying that it is a valuable and a very comprehensive resource that you should consider. We have a forestry strategy specific to the work that you're doing over here.
As mentioned, I believe that if the end-game here is to protect the viability of our communities, to protect the jobs — not only in our region but in the province — and to protect the revenues of our various government levels, we cannot solely focus on solutions, especially short-term solutions, for the forestry industry.
Part of that solution, if those are the outcomes or the end-game, is support and development of all the other sectors that can, with proper support and engagement of all levels of government, move us forward into more resilient, strong, effective and sustainable communities.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Rimas. We are out of time. Thank you very much for your presentation.
R. Zitkauskas: Thank you for the opportunity, and I wish you luck in your work.
J. Rustad (Chair): Our next presenter is Bob Mitchell. Bob, over to you.
B. Mitchell: Thank you for letting me speak. I've been thinking about this since I retired three years ago and what was then an attempt to continue with TSRs. I was a practising professional forester with the Ministry of Forests in northwest B.C. for 33 years, from 1977 to 2009. I was a part of three Bulkley TSRs, one Cassiar TSR and one Kispiox TSR.
In the early '70s lodgepole pine was considered a weed species to be eliminated. It had minimum stumpage, and in its place young forests or more desirable white spruce and interior Douglas fir were grown.
In the late '70s, using new Forest Act legislation, timber supply areas with sawmill focal points were formed throughout the province so that the annual allowable cut could be determined centrally around the mills. Timber sale harvesting licences were replaced by forest licences, making it the responsibility of licensees to replace young forests. Government gave the licensee a credit to stumpage for this.
In the '80s the chief forester began setting annual allowable cuts based on timber supply reviews for each TSA, including pine, because it had become more valuable. Often the timber supply review indicated an abundance of slow-growing old forests, some young forests and very little middle-aged forests.
Later, in the '80s and early '90s, the Minister of Forests sent a memo to the chief forester instructing to maintain the current AAC for as long as possible to maintain jobs and social values while still maintaining sustainability. Maintaining this AAC at high levels resulted in speeding up the removal of the old forests. As a result, timber supply deficits called falldowns were forecast in many TSAs.
The mills expanded or maintained their production capacity to meet the AAC set by the chief forester. species, spacing young forests so they would grow faster and be ready for harvest at a younger age.
In the '80s and early '90s there were significant funds. FRDA by government allowed the chief's plan, but in the late '90s the funds dried up because of other priorities. The funds were never replaced. The result was that AACs were maintained at a high level to remove old growth, knowing that if the young forests were not ready to fill the gap then the AAC would need to be reduced in the mid-term. It would mean shutting down or scaling back the mills as a result.
Then came the mountain pine beetle in the late '90s and 2000s. As we all know, the pine beetle infestation has had tremendous negative impact on old-growth, lodgepole pine forests — the very forests that were needed to maintain the AACs set in the '80s and '90s by the chief forester.
The chief forester responded by uplifting the AACs even further to log beetle-killed pine. The mills followed suit and expanded their capacity to meet the demand. Consequently, in many TSAs the mid-term falldown projected by the chief forester back in the '80s is being reached far earlier than expected. The new young forests are nowhere near ready to replace them. Even some of the young pine forests that were spaced to grow faster had been killed by the beetles. The mills expanded to harvest the uplift. That was their response.
In the '80s and early '90s many foresters in government recommended alternatives to clearcutting. A method of cutting was proposed that would maintain middle-aged trees in many of the stands — this is back in the '80s and '90s — a method that would have had these stands reach cutting age much earlier. In many areas their recommendation fell on deaf ears. It was too expensive to force loggers to modify their methods, and it would have reduced stumpage to government.
Also in the '80s and '90s tenure holders were allowed to cut the best stands of spruce and Douglas fir, even some that were just old enough to harvest, and leave the more decadent old stands behind, particularly hemlock and fir. They were allowed because of the current economic climate to waste trees, perfectly good for lower-quality lumber, pulp and fibre. I was once told by a logger when I asked him why he was only taking the best, he said: "When I'm done logging here, what is left will be the best." I was appalled.
The result, which was projected back in the '80s, is that licensees will have to reduce their cut and mills will either have to shut down or scale back or reconfigure to take less desirable trees. A combination of high AACs in the '80s and '90s and the most recent AAC uplift have resulted in unsustainable harvest, mill capacity and employment.
So what are the choices? Do we maintain our harvest of old forests until they're just all gone? Or do we significantly reduce harvest to sustainable levels — whatever that is — and force mill shutdowns and unemployment?
We must not rebuild old-style mills that can't use the available timber and fibre supply. We must not continue to rob harvest from future generations. We must not continue to clearcut. We must not continue to take and take and take without giving back.
We must grow robust biodiverse forests — forests that are more resistant to climate change, disease and pest. We must maintain protected areas set aside for biodiversity and our future. We must utilize more of the fibre from the forest. We must value forests for their real worth, not just for lumber and paper. Old growth has value. Biodiversity has value.
What is their value and how do we maintain it? We must determine community effects of harvesting the forest. We can't just look at the timber that goes through the mills as the effect of harvesting. We must look at the whole picture. What are the cumulative effects of harvesting in the forest on everyone, on our society? We are part of the ecosystem.
We must adjust the harvest and milling capacity downwards and live within our means and more rigorously pursue value-added forest products. It's the only way to my knowledge to maintain employment with reduced harvests. We must enact legislation that makes licensees responsible for growing stands to maturity. We can't continue to manage only to free-growing.
We must set higher values on young forests when they are proposed for non-forest uses. Back in the '80s and '90s they were issuing licence to cuts, and the timber had no value according to the licence to cut to make agricultural land. Only recently has the value been enacted, but it's minimal. It's absolutely minimal. So if they're converting the forest to something else, there's no value in the forest.
We must allow continuous funding by extending budget forecast to a rotation age of 80 years rather than the current five-year forecasts. That's a tough one, because everybody budgets on five years or four years in an election. It's a very difficult thing.
But the forests are special. They need some kind of continuous money, continuous flow of inputs into the resource, if we're the managers. If we let the licensees manage, then it would be up to them.
And we must hire more staff in government to manage these most important resources. We've been cutting back for so long now. We called it reorganization, but in fact it was just reducing the forest service, which was the manager on the land — reducing their capabilities.
Important consideration. Before I conclude, if you do decide to include timber supply from protected areas, old-growth areas, core ecosystems or other timber supplies, remember that the best quality and timber nearest the mill will be taken first. If these new areas are close to the mills or have good-quality timber, they will be harvested first. Currently there is no control within existing volume licences that requires utilization of poor-quality and farther-away timber first. Economics, lower costs and maintaining jobs will be used as a justification for harvesting the best first.
Conclusion. We, as a province, have got ourselves into this situation. We need to take responsibility for it. Please ensure your recommendations don't burden future generations even further. Our forests are our great resource, but we need to better manage them if we expect them to continue as such. Thank you for listening.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Bob. There is time for some questions from members.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Now, I realize this isn't necessarily the area of expertise, but you did mention value-added. I just wondered, for this area, can you point to examples of value-added that we have in the area, or is this something that you feel there are barriers to?
B. Mitchell: Well, there was a mill…. Kyahwood Forest Products, in Moricetown, was doing value-added, and I'm not sure how active it is right now, but it was doing fairly well at one time.
There is a fibreboard plant here that's using sawdust fibres from the local mills to produce particleboard. So there are two right now. I think there could be more.
The problem is marketing and getting out there and getting China or whoever to accept something that they would like to produce and sell back to us.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I know Bill was going to ask about sawdust, like some of the residue from the mill. Where does that go?
B. Mitchell: Some of the sawdust goes to the local thing…. They don't beehive burn…. West Fraser could explain it better, but they are using some of the materials left over for their power generation as well.
J. Rustad (Chair): Likely they use it for their thermal needs and their dry kilns and those sorts of things.
H. Bains: I just want to ask a bit more on the value-added side of it. How do you actually define that? Is that defined solely by a different product that we are making from the same wood, or are you suggesting that the measurement should be how many jobs are being created with a unit of wood available?
B. Mitchell: My opinion is that there has to be more of a sort of the material that comes in, some kind of sort and being able to designate the best use for that lumber. There are people here in the Bulkley Valley who wanted to build log homes, but they can't get the logs. They can't get the logs from the licensees because they need them, and they need the better-quality logs.
I think that somehow you have to sort the material, get it at its best use. After that, there will be industry probably starting up to make…. Well, there'd be existing industry that uses what they can use. Then there'll be some products there that can be made into other products that aren't existing. So there will be new value-added plants that come along.
J. Rustad (Chair): Bill, one last question.
B. Routley: I think you mentioned other value-added opportunities. I wondered if you had any suggestions in terms of what…. You know, obviously, the concern of this committee is primarily focused on timber supply, but underneath all of that is jobs — right? The alternative…. I haven't heard a lot of recommendations specifically on what we could do to increase jobs or value-added.
I wondered if you had, either in forests…. Should we be doing more work on stand density? How would we add value to the forest or add value to communities in terms of creating new employment? For example, what you just said about people that can't get log supply. I've heard that in other cases too — a value-added manufacturer claiming that they can't get the right log to the right operation.
B. Mitchell: Well, there are a couple of things, I guess. One of the things that we did in the Bulkley TSA was to space and prune pine. A lot of it is dead now. We were trying to add value, because we heard the old adage from France, where the king of France wanted masts. He said to his forester: "Go out and make me masts for my tall ships." A hundred years later he says, "The masts are ready," but by that time they weren't using timber any more. So that's one concern.
It's really difficult. I've spent a lot of time trying to grow trees around here because I wanted different values, improved values, by spacing and pruning, and mountain pine beetle wasn't receptive to that.
I think as long as you have the supply controlled by the mills that are producing what we called "spaghetti," and it's efficient and can be sold elsewhere for a fairly good price…. As long as it's controlled by that, people who want to make doors and windows don't really have the opportunity to get into the market. It's less and less opportunity, even with BCTS that started a number of years ago. They aren't providing products either. They're selling it on the open market.
If you had a sort in the area, and you said, "You've got this much timber, and this quality and this quality," then you could start to apportion it more effectively for people who wanted to create jobs and create economic opportunities.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Bob. We're out of time. I really appreciate your submission.
Our next speaker is Jim Davidson.
Jim, over to you any time you're ready.
J. Davidson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, members of the committee. I really appreciate you coming here to our communities and, most of all, the real task you've been assigned. It really is a major task.
Quick decisions by politicians have resulted in the fact that there isn't manufacturing of forest products west of Smithers — no sawmills, no pulp mills. Maybe a mill might come back into Terrace, but there is not — not that they intended that.
This is why I've come — because of the crisis. There's a crisis for Burns Lake, but that Premier saw what they thought was a need for timber in Prince George. B.C. Rail was opened. The Sustut timber that might have been a solution to your problem was gone.
Your recommendation is to increase timber supply. I would like to suggest to you that the answer might be utilization of the timber supply.
West of us is a lot of timber, but at the moment what is being logged is logged for export. The problem is that timber supply is not suitable for just sawmilling, for logging manufacture. The resource is too expensive to extract without utilizing the whole resource. So simply logging for sawmills that don't exist or for export would seem to be the only alternative. I think that's where, unfortunately, you've been given a huge task. I don't think that just looking at timber supply itself will solve it.
Now, the other thing I would like to say to you is…. Again, it deals with Burns Lake. In the 1950s most of us worked in the forest industry. I've lived here all my life. I've been involved from the get-go. In the 1950s I worked for Saunders from Decker Lake up at Smithers Landing. Farther up the lake, at the very north end of Babine Lake, was Mercury.
In fact, Babine Lake was supplying the timber for Burns Lake. Up and down the lake — from the south end, which naturally fit into Burns Lake, to the middle, which Houston considers its, to the north end, which I'm sure the Bulkley Valley considers its — there was timber going to Burns Lake.
What I'm saying to you is that I don't think TSAs — in other words, it says theoretically, that this timber belongs to this area — are necessarily the answer you're looking for. I think that we need to find a way to utilize the timber that we have, and indeed, we still do have timber. But if when you say "timber," we are simply talking about sawlogs for mills in Burns Lake, you're not going to find an answer.
I'm not being negative. I'm trying to urge you to say that you've been given a huge problem. The problem isn't finding so many truckloads of logs for Burns Lake. That's really not the problem. The problem is to utilize the forests that we have and preserve for the future.
I'm not an expert. I only know what I've seen. I think we can do it. There is timber out there. We can continue to harvest, but I don't think we can simply concentrate on sawlogs as the future for the forests of British Columbia. I simply think that we cannot do that. The economics of harvest….
I ran a mill. There was a day, when we ran those mills, when we burned the slabs and we burned the sawdust or we piled it up. It's rotting out there yet. The day came when we had to close those mills and go into the towns because the chips could go for money, and you couldn't afford to log or run sawmills without getting the money that was available in those waste products — slabs, wood burned. The Bulkley Valley had 50 smokes in the wintertime that were slab fires burning. We stopped doing that. We said: "Well, we can't keep doing this."
All I'm trying to say is that we can't keep logging without utilizing the wood that is in our forests.
I appreciate you coming. You've heard from other people. You know how important the forest industry is. You've heard how a sustainable industry is the most important thing we can do for our people — jobs that last, industry that can be built on other little businesses springing up. It builds community, it builds an economy, and it builds prosperity.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Jim.
Questions from members.
B. Routley: You said something about the fact that more and more wood is being exported and that all of the mills have gone. Can you give me an idea of the scope of that? Like how many mills used to be in the region now no longer exist? Is the wood being exported because it's closer to a market, or would it be economically viable for any of that wood to find its way, for example, to Burns Lake?
J. Davidson: First, to deal with the why's of it, the wood is being exported because of the value of that wood. I'm not talking about utilizing the forests. I'm talking about the value of that wood that will allow the loggers in that area to have employment. The only reason for exporting that wood is to create employment.
Sawmills. The most important one was the sawmill at Carnaby, which was shut down. The Carnaby mill was built specifically for a certain type of log. The Carnaby mill could not handle coast timber. In other words, coast timber is bigger. So the Carnaby mill was the first victim of the Sustut timber going to Prince George.
It's really the economics of the logging that say if you can take these ones out and you can ship them there for that price, then somebody can work. But the sawmills or the millers can't afford to do it. You can get it from X to the salt chuck and move it cheaper to China than you can to Prince George, I assure you.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): We'll explore this a little bit more. Again, I don't know the degree of expertise you have, but obviously one of the things that would be of interest is to the west of here. If there is fibre, the economics of it is pretty crucial. You've talked about the size of the forest. Is it the type of fibre that's available or…?
J. Davidson: Yeah. I was mayor for a number of years. I was on council. I've been involved. Because of what happened with the Sustut timber — it went by rail — there was no crossing built at the Skeena. In other words, the timber that lay east never became accessible to the west. If there would have been a bridge, it would have brought…. The Carnaby mill was built specifically for a certain type of log, an Interior log. They were highly mechanized. It was very, very efficient, but just for a certain kind of log. That's the way it went out.
Do I have any other…? No, I'm not an expert. Actually, if you want to know what I know, I'm a farmer and ex-politician — and probably a better ex-politician than I was as a politician.
J. Rustad (Chair): That's one thing about forestry. Forestry, or farmers, too — they just have a much, much longer crop rotation period.
J. Davidson: I realize that. You have to be as innovative too.
J. Rustad (Chair): Yes. Jim, thank you very much for your presentation.
Committee members, I'm going to look to you for some advice here. There is some food here available for us for lunch. I don't want to have our committee members starve through the afternoon. Unfortunately, we do not have a time for a break, in terms of that, until 2:30 or three o'clock this afternoon, so what I'm going to suggest is perhaps a five-minute recess to get some food and then come back. If our presenters don't mind, we'll listen and perhaps try to have lunch. Is that okay with members?
In that case, we're going to take a quick five-minute recess. Our next presenter will be Dave Mayer.
The committee recessed from 12:27 p.m. to 12:35 p.m.
J. Rustad (Chair): Welcome, everybody, from that brief recess. Our next presenter is Dave Mayer. Dave, over to you any time you're ready.
D. Mayer: My name is Dave Mayer. I'm a registered professional forester. I've lived and worked in this area for 36 years. I've worked my entire career in the private sector with industry, from large, fully integrated forest companies to, more recently, the value-added and secondary remanufacturing industry. Now I'm sort of semi-retired, and I just do the odd consulting job here and there.
I believe the most important and first priority that you, as a committee, need to be focusing on is ensuring that B.C.'s forests are sustainable and that all the measures, practices and legislation are in place for ensuring that our forests are ecological and can maintain their ecological and economic value, values that are important to B.C.
A hundred years from now the health and welfare of our communities of Smithers, Houston and Burns Lake will be dependent upon our commitment today to sustainably managing these forests.
I've only been allocated 15 minutes, and I'd love to spend the whole afternoon talking to you about how I feel and some recommendations I have. I'm going to focus my time talking about some points and recommendations, I'll try to kind of gloss over some of the rationale I have for that, but I can address that in some of the questions you might have later.
There has been a lot of conversation across this province recently about relaxing or even omitting some of the land use constraints and the areas that have been tied up in protected areas, habitat areas, special places that are important to maintain the sustainability, both ecologically and economically, for our province.
The thought, of course, is that by freeing up some of this area, this land base, we'll be able to contribute to the mid-term timber supply annual level cut contribution.
Before you even consider that, there still remain in this province thousands of hectares of forest land that are part of the working forest and that aren't tied up in these corridors, and protected areas that still need to be reforested. Now, they may show on the books that they're reforested, but there are ways of determining their contribution and if their yield is meeting the prescriptions that have been set for them. That needs to be looked into.
There is also a lot of idle forest land out there that, again, is contributing to the annual allowable cut that represents dead pine stands, basically. These pine stands are not growing. They're not yielding any contribution to the annual allowable cut. These stands, if they're part of the working forest and are within that annual cut calculation, have to be rehabilitated, have to be planted, have to be brought back into production.
I guess what I'm saying is that before any consideration whatsoever is given towards reducing any of these protected areas, efforts have to be taken to determine the state of our working forests through inventory work, visiting these sites. There are still stands out there that were supposed to have been allocated and harvested that are still idle and that aren't allocated and harvested. They need to be harvested and rehabilitated and brought back into production.
I recommend this to the committee that they determine the total area of this opportunity that this represents and consider sustainably managing these areas and making sure they're a part of the forest land base prior to any consideration of relaxing land use constraints.
The committee's terms of reference are recommendations that could increase the mid-term timber supply. I was a little bit puzzled by that, and we've heard through some of the speakers already that this is an action or a prescription, not necessarily an outcome. What the focus really should be on is stable jobs, healthy forests and healthy communities. We should be looking at what we do with our forests in trying to gain as many jobs as we can in the working forests that are allocated for harvesting.
I've summarized…. There have been some questions on value-added, and I'm going to address some of that because I've spent part of my career working in that area.
This province has a world-class commodity lumber sector — world-class. There are very few sectors in the world that can compete with the efficiencies, the productivity, the mill net values and the return on capital that our mills can produce, but they're producing two-inch structural commodity products. Sadly, this province lags far, far behind on the world stage in secondary remanufacturing and value-added production.
Back ten years ago, when I was spending some time researching this…. Even back then the commodity lumber sector in North America was growing at somewhere between 1 and 2 percent annually. Well, since then we know what happened in 2008. Our housing starts in North America have shrunk from 2,000 starts per year to 500. We've lost considerable ground in the primary industry in our forest sector, yet the value-added sector continues to grow today.
Even ten years ago, when the primary sector was growing at 1 to 2 percent, in the secondary and remanufacturing sector the markets were growing between 8 and 10 percent annually. We still, after ten years of trying to put some focus on that, have not grown that industry.
Non-commodity products such as rough-sawn timbers, decking, boards, fascia, trim, fencing, mouldings, panelling, industrial lumber and pallets continue to grow annually today in North America — all in face of, like I said, our primary sector losing 50 percent of its market share in North America.
Ask yourself: does this province really need another two-inch commodity lumber sector increase in sawmill capacity, in two-inch stock? I sympathize with the troubles in Burns Lake, but do we really need another sawmill? Do we really need to increase our sawmill capacity in B.C.?
What we do need is a deliberate, intentional focus to do more with less timber, to generate more jobs per cubic metre and more value per cubic metre by growing a value-added industry in this province.
You do that by four things that I've identified: (1) establishing policy and legislation that supports value-added and secondary remanufacturing like Kyahwood down the road, which is struggling; (2) providing access to sufficient and suitable raw material supplies that include both logs and lumber; (3) providing access to customers and markets beyond the local market and in the world market; and finally (4) providing access to suitable financing for startup or expansion capital.
We should be putting as much focus on growing and diversifying our forest sector as we have recently on growing our markets in China. If we were to put that same energy into growing a secondary and remanufacturing sector, we should be able to diversify our economy.
There was a question asked earlier about the timber supply out west. It's been recognized for a long time that the rotten balsam-hemlock stands aren't really that suitable for two-inch commodity products. What are the Chinese doing with it? How come they want it? How come it's cheaper to haul it to China than to Prince George? What are they doing with stuff?
Well, go see. They're turning the poorest wood supply we have in the entire province into doors, panelling, you name it. They're turning it into something of value. I mean, it has a lot do with the fact that they're working in an atmosphere of low wages and not very capital-intensive programming. Still, they're doing something with that.
Then look at the opportunity, perhaps, we could have with our highest-value products. The highest-value products we have, the highest-value timber we have…. We're still turning it into commodity lumber products instead of gaining two or three times the amount of jobs per cubic metre that we'd have doing something else.
You're probably going to hear a lot…. I wanted to sort of focus on something different, because there's going to be a lot of discussion about the opportunity to increase our mid-term timber supply. It's really simply inputs — either more land into the calculation or greater yield per hectare into the calculation to increase the cut.
Really, what I think we should be focusing on are jobs and value. Get more jobs and a higher mill net by producing higher-value products in this province. We can still have a primary sector. In fact, we need a primary sector to provide the input stock for secondary remanufacturing. There's no reason why we can't have both.
There are many places you'll travel in the world where their primary sector and their secondary sector are all integrated. They're integrated into manufacturing networks that work beside each other. We're not doing that in this province.
A lot of these recommendations, interestingly enough, I made ten years ago to the Mountain Pine Beetle Task Force in 2001. John Wilson headed that up from the Cariboo area. We still have not done anything with the secondary remanufacturing and value-added sector in this province. To me, that's going to be an important part of the solution — trying to do more with less timber.
J. Rustad (Chair): David, you've got about a minute left.
D. Mayer: I'm done. Thanks.
E. Foster: Thanks, Dave. Quickly, how do we get there? I mean, we all know, anybody that's ever been in the industry, that everybody is chasing fibre. Those that have it don't want to give it up. Those that don't have it want it. What would your suggestion be? How do we make that transition easier?
D. Mayer: Well, it's not going to be very popular in some places. Basically, the trees belong to the people in this province, and efforts should be taken to get more value out of those trees.
That means that if you're fortunate enough to have an annual allowable cut and a licence, maybe a percentage of your cut has to go to secondary remanufacturing if you're going to maintain that licence in good standing. Maybe that's part of the obligation of the licence. Maybe the licensees have to give up some of that timber or create their own network within their corporation to manufacture it into value-added products. That's one answer.
I identified four things, and they are all important — to keep them together. There have been lots of reports written over the last ten or 15 years on how to grow the value-added sector.
J. Rustad (Chair): Can you just wrap up? We're out of time. I'm sorry about that.
D. Mayer: Sure. Well, to answer your question, they need material — okay? They need a market. They need assistance. Just like initially in the '60s — when pulp mills, sawmills, got started — that timber was basically handed to the companies to be able to justify the investment in pulp mills and sawmills. They have to have access to material and raw material.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Dave. I look forward to a written submission, if you have one, as well.
Our next presenter is Sybille Haeussler. I'm sorry. I kind of slaughtered the name. Did I get it close?
S. Haeussler: Yes. Thank you very much to the committee for coming to Smithers and for the opportunity to speak. I'm going to be…. My name is Sybille Haeussler. I'm a professional forester and a research scientist. My area of specialization is forest ecology. I'm an adjunct prof at UNBC, and I work locally with the Bulkley Valley Research Centre.
I'm going to speak specifically about my work over the last three years in climate change. I've had the privilege of being the research coordinator for B.C.'s Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council. What that is, is a partnership that was established in 2008 between the then Ministry of Forests and Range and UBC and UNBC to address how climate change would affect B.C.'s forest ecosystems and how we could adapt our forest and range management framework to those anticipated effects.
The council was awarded $5½ million to study this problem, and it invested in a very diverse program of research, from very technical issues related to how the climate will change and how that affects tree growth, to broader social-sciences questions about how to support resilient communities and communities in transition.
The research results were just delivered at a conference last week, and I spent the weekend driving home. My job is to synthesize the research and submit a final report in September. However, I was strongly encouraged to come and speak to you today. I'm not the representative of the council. The council is essentially rolled over into the new chief forester's Forest Stewardship Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and trying to move those things forward.
I have to say that those involved in the Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council were surprised, disappointed, shocked not to see climate change mentioned in either the terms of reference or the discussion paper. It was nice to see it brought up by earlier speakers here.
The FFESC — I'm going to say that; that's the Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council — was set up by the former chief forester, Jim Snetsinger, to inform his initiative on future forest ecosystems, and I'm very pleased to see that both he and the previous chief, Larry Pedersen — who's also demonstrated strong understanding and awareness of the grave importance of climate change to our future forests — will be advising the committee.
We had 25 research projects. Two were Canada-wide. Nine were provincewide, and nine projects specifically addressed the central Interior area that is related to your project. The draft synthesis has been prepared, and I'll see to it that the committee receives the most up-to-date version, along with a brief summary of how it relates to mid-term timber supply, by your July 20 deadline, although the final version isn't going to be ready until September.
Your discussion paper poses five questions. I'm going to briefly address the first question: "What values and principles should guide the evaluation and decision-making regarding potential actions to mitigate the timber supply impacts?" Then I'll focus most of my remarks on the fourth question, which is: "What cautions and advice do you have for this committee in considering whether and how to mitigate mid-term timber supply?"
In terms of values, one of the issues that came up repeatedly through the council's work and at our conference was the conflict between short-term demands versus long-term sustainability. You've heard that repeatedly. Our priority is long-term sustainability in looking forward and trying to figure out ways that we can maintain the values that forests supply to societies over the long term.
As a professional forester, the first thing in my code of ethics is: "To advocate and practice good stewardship of forest land based on sound ecological principles to sustain its ability to provide those values that have been assigned by society." The definition of "sustainability" is that the actions we take today should not compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy forest and environmental values equivalent to those that we benefit from today.
Under our Forest and Range Practices Act, we've identified 11 values that must be maintained. I'm just going to quickly run through them, because they keep coming up: biodiversity, cultural heritage, fish and riparian, forage and associated plant communities, recreation, unique resource features, soils, timber, visual quality, water and wildlife.
Several people have noted — and I wanted to note too — that in the process they're described as "constraints to timber supply." These are important values that our forests supply, and we need to ensure that they supply them over the long term. The Future Forest Ecosystems Scientific Council and the researchers working for it are dedicated to try to do that.
One thing that is noted is that the ability of forests to store carbon in their soils and vegetation and to contribute to the regulation of climate is not a value that's listed in our Forest Act, but it is an extremely important value, and the science is beginning to show it.
There is a lot of science around carbon. It's not completely settled, but just to really simplify: healthy forests in healthy ecosystems store carbon. They take up carbon, and they contribute to climate stability. Degraded forests in degraded ecosystems release carbon into the atmosphere, and they contribute to climate instability. There's a lot of variation around that, but that's the nuts and bolts of it.
Another important value I'd like to note is that B.C. is, at a political level, a member of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, and they have declared that consideration of climate change and climate variability must be integrated into all aspects of sustainable forest management. This is an important political commitment by British Columbia as a leading and very important contributor to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. Some of our research was done on their behalf.
That's the end on values. I'm now going to move to that question about advice. We know a lot more about climate change in the last few years than we knew a few years ago. Science tends to be a slow process in producing results at the time scales that politicians need them, but we're working very hard to deliver results to policy-makers.
B.C.'s climate is warming. B.C.'s climate has changed significantly since the records began to be collected in the early 1900s. Most of that warming has taken place in the winter and has involved generally milder temperatures rather than extremely hot temperatures. We have generally seen an increase in precipitation. Those kinds of trends are projected to continue into the future, but there's a lot of variability around that and a lot of uncertainty around that.
It is also projected that we're going to see more extremes of climate, and extremes of climate can be hotter, drier weather; colder, wetter weather; colder, drier weather; and so on; and a lot more in terms of storms. There's also climate variability that takes place on shorter-term cycles — things like the El Niño effect, the Pacific decadal oscillation.
We're just really beginning to get a handle on how that affects forests, but it has a very important impact. Those kinds of impacts are projected to become greater over the future decades as climate becomes less stable.
What that translates to in terms of ecosystems is that ecosystems become more unstable. They're under a lot of stress, and the stress ripples out and affects a lot of processes and organisms. In the short term what we expect to see is an increase in a variety of disturbances. This is obviously going to affect the mid-term timber supply.
We've seen that already in terms of not only the mountain pine beetle outbreak but also other insect outbreaks across the province. You just have to look around at your forests and you'll see that a lot of that is happening now. Some of that is due to short-term variability in climate. Some of that is due to thresholds that have been crossed in terms of the general warming happening.
Fire is another major area of disturbance. Many areas of the province are projected to have very much an increase in fires as the fire season gets longer, as snowpacks decline and as the higher temperatures lead to a greater amount of evaporation, leading to more drought.
Other areas of disturbance that are also important are things like landslides and floods. You as politicians are well aware of what's going on around the province in that regard and will continue.
The ecosystems are going to continue to be stressed. The values that I listed off, those 11 values plus my additional ones…. We're going to be challenged to sustain those over the long term. We're challenged now. We're going to be more challenged in the future. How are we going to cope with these challenges? That was one of the major focuses of the research of the scientific council.
There are some key messages that come out. I haven't had the time to get them in a really nicely structured format for you. They're bouncing around in my head more so than nicely laid out on paper. Many of the issues were brought up by other speakers, not only in the context of climate change but just in the context of good forest management.
First of all, we are simply not doing enough monitoring in inventory. We don't know what's out there. We don't know how to adapt to climate, how to respond. That affects the mid-term timber supply, and that affects what kinds of practices we need to be doing for long-term sustainability.
We need more diverse forest practices at all scales. We've tended to simplify our forest practices. We've tended to set up systems that encourage low-cost silvicultural options at the expense of long-term diversifying our ecosystems and giving us more options into the future.
As ecosystems become more stressed, people…. Our systems in British Columbia are wonderful on the scale of the globe. They're tremendously resilient. They have the ability to recover — up to a point. When the stresses become too great, people need to play a much bigger role in active stewardship.
B.C. has one of the world's best networks of provenance trials. These are trials that study how trees adapted to the climate in one region would grow in another region. This knowledge is being used to guide seed transfer — where do we plant trees where the seed comes from other areas? — but that's not going to provide more timber in the mid-term.
What these studies do show is that if we have a projected climate increase of somewhere in the range of 2 to 4 degrees, trees from the local area are going to suffer, even though 2 to 4 degrees does not sound like a whole lot.
Those trees may not be getting their winter chilling. They may be getting a variety of stresses that they're not adapted to, and we know from experiments that they perform poorly. They may not just up and die. They may become more vulnerable to insects, disease. They may have a lot of frost problems. They may just grow in poor form. They simply don't grow as well as trees that are well adapted to the climate. So stewardship is going to play a really important role in making sure that our forests continue to grow vigorously.
One of the issues that came up over and over again is that in order to provide for all the values that our forests provide, well beyond timber, we have to shift from sector-by-sector management to a broader integrated focus on resource management. That process is already underway through the restructuring of the Forests Ministry into the FLNRO Ministry, but it needs to go beyond that.
The real direction that is coming out of the science work is towards full-cost accounting for the full range of environmental, social and economic values provided by forests. For example, currently we do not have a structure that allows us to value the production of water from forests. We've got timber values. We do look to some extent at habitat supply analysis for wildlife, but we don't have an integrated framework that allows us to account for the value of those other things such as water production.
Also, we don't have a framework that allows us to make the trade-offs to decide what the priority is to manage in that area. We just basically assume that when there are trees, the priority is to use those trees to produce timber. We don't have a system in place that allows us to trade off those values.
Many speakers spoke about the need for integrated, multisectoral land use planning and so on, or strategic planning that allows us to assign those values because we're going to have to make tough decisions. Are we going…?
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry. I just want to say a minute, if you can wrap it up.
S. Haeussler: Yep.
That's the single most important thing. We know that our communities are resilient. A lot of work was done by the Research Council, talking to communities. The communities are adapting, but they have all demonstrated a need to be more empowered at the local level to get involved in innovative ways to do integrated resource management — new water boards and other examples; community forests, of course, being one example — and finding financial ways.
There's a lot more that could be said. I didn't quite get to some of the points, but we will give you something in writing, and I'd be happy to answer questions.
J. Rustad (Chair): I appreciate that very much. Unfortunately, we don't have time for questions, but I very much look forward to your presentation to our committee before July 20. Thank you very much for your time here today.
Our next speaker is Dave Daust.
Dave, you weren't here earlier, I don't think. Just as a reminder, each presenter has 15 minutes to give a presentation, and you decide how you want to use the time — whether you want question-and-answer or to be able to use it as part of your presentation. So with that, over to you.
D. Daust: Thanks very much for this opportunity to make this presentation. I appreciate that.
I will be kind of continuing with the theme that I heard Sybille talking about. The title of my presentation is "It's a Bigger Problem than You Think, and More Harvesting is Just Going to Make it Worse." So we're again talking about climate change.
First, I'd like to introduce myself and then go through your questions that you had in your discussion paper. I'm a forestry consultant — forester, master's degree. I've specialized in strategic land use planning and timber supply analysis, that sort of thing. I also have a connection to the Nadina forest district. I have a woodlot there, and I have a house there where I lived full-time for about a decade. Now we also have a house in Telkwa. So I know what it looks like out there.
I'll start by going through your discussion paper questions, and I believe the first question was on values and principles. This is an area that I'm quite interested in, being involved in land use planning. Some of the principles I would advocate would be ones that you're probably already aware of but I think are worth restating. They're public lands so we should be looking at public values.
In particular, I want to remind you that we have put a lot of money and community members' time into developing land and resource management plans, so let's not forget about the direction in those plans.
Times have changed. The plans should indeed be updated, and these public consultations that you're holding are part of that update, but I don't know if they're adequate.
Other principles, of course. Sustainability. Let's not forget about the future. Best available information. That's commonly thrown about, but in particular, what I'd like to see is the transparent decision-making where we know what the information is, what the values are, and we're very clear that we're going to make this trade-off. We've decided to focus on economics or tourism or conservation. That's ideally what would come out of our principle decision-making approach.
Who should decide? Well, I think all parties affected by land use change should decide. So that makes it more than just a timber-and-jobs issue because changing practices on the land base affect all the non-timber values as well. So people in the areas affected, such as First Nations and other communities, I believe should have the largest say.
Then, for some of the issues you've brought forth, I think the broader B.C. public needs to be consulted — like the issue of tenure. I think that's a broader issue than just the affected TSAs. And, of course, a reminder to deal with future generations.
The meat of my talk now, I guess, is getting on to climate change. I've just been involved in a project addressing climate change in the Nadina forest district. We've been focusing on how to adapt to climate change.
The main message here is that mountain pine beetles and reduced timber supply are a symptom of this larger problem. We have to watch the band-aid solutions because they have the potential to make things worse.
As Sybille mentioned, we're expecting, in the Nadina, warmer temperatures and increased precipitation in the western mountains and possibly some increased drought on the eastern side of the Nadina in the low-elevation SBS. These are going to have some consequences for timber supply. In particular, there is going to be a lot more variability in natural disturbance, some of which we won't be able to salvage. So we have to expect a more variable timber supply.
While it's very difficult to make an accurate prediction, it doesn't look like timber supply is going to be increasing. There is a benefit to climate change in terms of timber production in that we have longer growing seasons and more carbon dioxide in the air, which promotes growth. The flip side of that is that the climate is changing in a way that trees aren't adapted to. The trees are under stress. They're more susceptible to insects and disease. At the same time, the warmer temperatures favour insect and disease populations.
Yes, we've already had mountain pine beetle. That reduced a lot of the host, but we haven't had our spruce beetle yet, and we haven't had our bark beetle. We don't know if and when they're going to come, exactly, but these are the types of things that happen with climate change. We already have a high risk with Dothistroma, which is a disease of younger stands. There are more that we don't know about — when they're going to take off.
In addition to effects on timber, there are effects on biodiversity. Basically, the habitat of the species is changing. The climate is changing. The species aren't adapted to live there. With the increased disturbance, we're losing, in particular, old forest habitat. Even without logging, we're going to really see a decrease in old forest habitat due to disturbance, and we're going to see more invasive species. So recovering from disturbance is going to be more difficult.
Hydrology — changes in the rainfall, increased precipitation, increased rain-on-snow events. That's going to probably cause more damage to infrastructure, and it's also going to pose risk to our fisheries. These are the types of issues related to climate change that we need to be thinking about with a longer-term perspective.
The second point I want to make related to specific information for the Nadina is that existing conservation measures are already at a minimum. Basically, there is 10 percent of the land base, or about that, set aside for old-growth management and so forth, whereas the best available information tells us that that's probably a high-risk situation across that landscape. The plans that are very ecologically oriented — such as coastal British Columbia, the boreal forest agreement, the Everglades, Yellowstone — keep like 50 percent of their land base untouched.
That's a different emphasis, but 10 percent is already pushing high risk. That's for a stable climate. Now that we have climate change, we want to have greater connectivity of mature and old forest habitats to allow migration of species. We want to have more old forests so that we have a bit of a buffer against natural disturbance. Basically, the cumulative effects of climate change and harvesting non-timber zones are pushing us away from resilience and sustainability.
For the Lakes District, I think, harvesting the constrained areas bumps the mid-term timber supply up from 25 percent of the current level to 32 percent of the current level.
The point I want to make here is that if we…. It's uncertain. But to the extent that we've damaged the resilience of the system, that 25 percent may not be going up to 32. It may be going down to 20. So there's a risk there that needs to be thought about.
The final point about information for the Nadina is that I just did an analysis for a similar type of ecosystem in this area — the Babine River watershed — looking at harvesting of beetle-killed stands, which is on your last page. Basically, the conclusion of that study is that for non-timber values, harvesting has more of a negative impact than any level of beetle disturbance. I don't think there is any argument that harvesting is improving those values.
Finally, that brings me to the cautions and advice section. I have five here, I guess.
Please don't respond in a crisis-response mode. That approach goes against the basic principles of good decision-making, which I outlined at the beginning, and typically leads to worse solutions. People have looked at fires and salvage harvesting in natural systems, and that's the conclusion that the studies have come to.
Also, they provide an excuse to further specific interests. Unless there's a real hard look at the principles or the values that the public have set or articulated and those are kept in mind, it's easy to go off track.
I'd like to emphasize the need to maintain diversity and resilience, both ecologically and economically. We want to retain ecological resistance to reduce the chance of future losses of both timber and non-timber values. What clearcut harvesting does, if we do it everywhere, is reduce stand-level diversity, which creates these large tracts of same-aged, similar species that are susceptible to a large outbreak of disease.
Similarly, for economic diversity and resilience, increasing dependency on one industry actually reduces our diversity in a community, and it sets the community up for a bigger crash, potentially. We have more jobs, more people dependent on the forest industry, and we already know that the timber supply was designed to fall down. It's just happening sooner and a little bit lower.
Finally, I guess, we're going to have to get used to dealing with change and uncertainty, because in the future our forests are going to be a less reliable source of fibre than they have been. Because of that, I think it's important that communities should have a real say in the decision-making process. They are going to be directly affected. We already have a good start, with the existing land and resource management plans, about the direction communities want to go in.
Finally, to sum it all up, my take-home message is: if you increase harvest levels by reducing land allocated to non-timber values, you will reduce both ecological and economic resilience potentially, bringing negative impacts to ecosystems and communities, particularly in the light of climate change.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Dave.
Committee members, we have time for one question.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Well, it just reinforces some of the uncertainty around where we go, going forward. What you hear repeatedly is to just be very thoughtful in terms of any changes that we're considering. There's the risk of doing, as you've said, more damage than good in some of the things that we've put forward. That's essentially your take-away message.
D. Daust: Right. I guess the other part of that message is that because of the potential for damage, it's very important to have a meaningful engagement with the community, because they're the ones who will suffer or benefit the most.
J. Rustad (Chair): Dave, thank you very much for your presentation — much appreciated — and also for the written information you provided us.
Our next presenter is Anne Hetherington. Anne, thank you very much for your time today, presenting to us. It's over to you.
A. Hetherington: Thank you. My name is Anne Hetherington, and I'm speaking today as a resident of the Bulkley-Nechako regional district. I have worked in forestry and in wildlife for 40 years, and I started on the ground, pulling choker cable for a small, family-owned logging business. I just want to be clear that I'm speaking just as a private individual here.
I am addressing all the questions in the discussion paper, but I would like to focus on three messages for your consideration. The first is the value of land use management plans, the LRMPs. The second is the importance of forest health and resiliency through diversity. The third is the role of collaborative local solutions.
For the LRMPs, the decision-making values and principles are already in the LRMPs, and they got there through much taxpayer cost, effort, negotiation, science, and volunteer, industry and professional time. The LRMPs did consider short- and long-term balances and changing conditions, including the mountain pine beetle. Of course, they have to be updated and aware of changing situations.
The old-growth management areas, visual quality areas, ecosystem networks and other special management zones were carefully chosen to have the least timber and the most other values. They are often in difficult-to-get-to places, small, and some have had roads and bridges removed. So it's not an easy fix to just open up those and expect a lot of timber to come out.
The LRMPs gave direction for both clearcuts and for alternative silviculture such as partial cutting, so we already have the ability to go into forest stands for mountain pine beetle fire hazard risk. Working with researchers, we can harvest selectively, where suitable, and still leave most of those other values.
LRMPs and public implementation committees are key to linking principles and planning with local, practical solutions on the ground. They are part of the solution, and they need to be supported. For example, our Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board monitors developing issues through selective referrals and by facilitating Crown land issues such as recreational-use strategies. It's not without its challenges, but we're very lucky to have them.
The caution I have here is that the social and environmental components being considered for rebalancing should not be described as timber constraints. They are essential parts of a functioning forest. The advice is to use the LRMPs to improve, perhaps, the placement or treatment of stands to better meet those objectives.
The second part is forest health. A lot has already been said, but I'd like to add that I worked in New Brunswick and Quebec in the 1970s when they were trying to find solutions for the spruce budworm epidemic. It's very similar to what we're dealing with, with the mountain pine beetle here now.
They spent millions of dollars on pesticides and searching for options. After all of that, they still had a crisis of timber and jobs. They eventually got together in a big symposium, and they reviewed everything they'd done. They concluded that the key turning point was when they changed…. They actually had a small, diverse economy, including sawlogs, and they changed to large monocultures, and they lost most of their biodiversity.
The result of that — and this is going back to the '70s, where they were then looking back — was that they had created a limitless food supply for insects, but they had limited the natural insectivores — woodpeckers, shrews, warblers, vireos, spiders — that work full time on insect control.
It was also harder for them to change the industry at that time and to find options after they had lost the diversity of the natural mixed Acadian forest. So the caution here is: please don't simplify the forest — the forest type and structure. It will create worse problems in the future.
The other part of the advice is that when rebalancing important environmental, social and economic considerations, I think the key is to use local science-based decision-making and to make better use of advanced silvicultural activities for harvest and for maintaining stand-level structure and important features wherever possible. We have many case studies in this valley and in the region. I know we can do it.
The third part is local solutions. We have a wealth of knowledge and skills in our communities and in our region, and with crisis also comes opportunity. We need the chance to work collaboratively at local levels to find the best treatments for a wide range of forest types. We have decades of research and adaptive management examples here that we can learn from in our demonstration forests and in the working forest.
You also asked for some local information. I think we're very lucky here. We have a number of unique organizations. We have the Wetzin'Kwa Community Forest. It is harvesting in high-recreation-use areas and scenic areas, and it's making a very good effort for both timber and other values. I know that in Burns Lake and other communities they have similar forests.
We have the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board. These are volunteers working to help with operational implementation of the LRMP and to help them be accountable for maintaining the intent of public values and principles to the best extent possible. It's a unique public participation model developed by Irving Fox of UBC. He's a late local member of the valley here.
We have the Bulkley Valley centre for research and management. It evolved here after the government reduction to research staff and projects. It adds diversity to jobs here by bringing in funding for research and attracting a wide network of skilled people.
We also have UNBC in the northern region and Northwest Community College. These partner on many projects involving sustainable northern communities and resources.
We also have a wealth of operational foresters, biologists, and on-the-ground loggers with experience and lots of ideas.
I would like to bring this down to the ground level and finish by telling you Archie's story. This is Archie Strimbold of Burns Lake. I met Archie about 20 years ago in Burns Lake.
He was a patriarch of a longtime logging family, and he was near retirement. He had a vision of a time when small, specialized local loggers would be working in and around sensitive ecosystems and special management areas. They would be doing highly sophisticated stand-tending and be stewards of all values.
He thought that they could focus on the special management areas and leave the large clearcut areas to the large industries. He told me that he had invested $600,000 of his own money in a small, low-impact machine because he believed that in the future there would be a need to log some of these places much more carefully. That's over half a million dollars 20 years ago, so that was his foresight.
The demonstration forest he was working in had mixed species and was multi-aged. It also had mountain pine beetle, and it was totally surrounded by an old burn and young forest. When the operator had finished, there was a pile of pole-sized timber that had been stacked by the road, but you could hardly tell where the logging had been done unless somebody showed you where the stumps were.
This stand remained a structurally complex, natural-looking stand providing valuable functions for wildlife habitat, visuals, water, fish and wildlife. Archie said his son could come back 20 years later and do it all over again. That was his mid-term supply.
There are other examples. There are different people, different machines and different reasons. Archie's no longer with us, but his son and his grandson are. Luke Strimbold, 21, is now Burns Lake mayor, and he probably wasn't even born when I met Archie.
In summary, I've described the things that, as a member of the public, I think are most important for decision-makers to know: the importance of keeping and using the LRMPs to connect people and to work with local options, the importance of a healthy and diverse forest, and some of our local resources and inspiring people.
My concluding cautions and advice are that the risk of sweeping changes made by elected representatives is that they may restrict good, local problem-solving on the ground. What would be very helpful is support, particularly when administrative-type problems or policy problems come up, to help work through those. I really want my community to have the options of working together. We need to learn from the past and harvest smarter for the long term, and not just more.
Thank you very much for the opportunity of speaking today.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. We've got time for a question.
E. Foster: Just two quick things. One of the comments that you made, and several other people have made, talks about some of the protected areas being a constraint on timber supply — which, in fact, they are. That's not necessarily a bad thing either. It's just…. Staff were asked to identify them, and they were identified. So that wasn't a recommendation by staff or anything. There is timber there — okay? So just for clarification.
To your comment about the spruce budworm. I'm in B.C. because I was working in Cape Breton, and the spruce budworm ate it. But there are a lot of similarities and a lot we can learn from what when on in New Brunswick, especially New Brunswick from the '50s right through till, certainly, the late '70s when the timber was gone. So I appreciate that, and it is something that we should take a good look at.
B. Routley: Well, I certainly heard loud and clear your message on the land use plans and about updating them. Maybe you could give me some information as to the last…. How old is the current land use plan that you're referring to? Has there been any effort to try to get government to update it?
In terms of the logging that you mentioned that was more selective, I know I've seen a small Cypress machine used to do what was called cable-yarding, where they took out only 50 percent of the stand and did a beautiful job of it. You didn't mention the kind of equipment. Do you know what kind of equipment it was that he was using?
A. Hetherington: I do. I was just trying to keep it less technical. It was a small Swedish harvester feller-buncher, and it was articulated and pulled a small loading device behind it. It also had a covered cab. The operator was trained as a wildlife habitat technician and a logger. So with the covered cab, he was able to meet workman's compensation. He was able to go in using existing roads, and because it was articulated, he was able to weave in and out over a whole system.
Depending on where the best commercial viability was, he could adjust which logs he was using and go up, cut them, turn it around, load it onto the small trolley and then come out. It was a great little machine, but I've seen large industry do it with large feller-bunchers by reaching into intermediate zones. Actually, we used to have a very vibrant horse-logging industry here too. It was another tool. So there are a lot of tools out there that can be used.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Anne, and thank you very much for your presentation.
Our next presenter is Josette Wier. I appreciate the written submission. Over to you.
J. Wier: I was informed of this three or four days ago, so it has been rushed.
I will start with a question to this committee, because trying to figure out what it's all about…. My witness confirmation says that this committee is to examine and make recommendations to address the loss of mid-term timber supply in the central Interior — so a recommendation to address the loss of mid-term timber supply. When I looked at the website, it says: "Following the consultation, the committee will issue a report recommending ways in which the mid-term timber supply in the central Interior can be increased."
So it looks like…. Is it a done deal that it's going to be increased?
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you for the question. I can respond to that. Once we have gone through the public consultation process and we have all the input, the committee members will sit down and start deliberations. Anything and everything is on the table in terms of the discussion, and it could be that the committee members decide not to recommend anything.
J. Wier: So will you kindly change what it says on the website, because it says "can be increased." It doesn't say "can" or "cannot" be increased.
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry. The terms of reference to our committee are to look at the opportunities to increase the mid-term fibre supply. Those are the terms that were given to us from the Legislative Assembly. We can't change that.
J. Wier: I will address question No. 3: what specific information about your local area. It has been three days that I have been digging in my files, because it has been since 2000 — 12 years of my life — that I am bringing the message of poisoned legacy from MSMA, an arsenic pesticide that was used by the Minister of Forests, unfortunately.
Poisoned legacy is a very strong term, but it has been so foolishly used and abused that we don't even know how many trees there are in B.C. that have been poisoned. It could be anything from 500,000 to 700,000. It has been mismanaged. It has been avoided.
Actually, I made a presentation…. This reminds me, and I'm very tense about it, of the beetle task force in 2006 in Smithers. The newly elected MLA, Dennis MacKay, Liberal, was part of it, and he was shaking hands and patting backs of all his buddies, large men from the logging industry. He completely ignored me. I was the only woman in the room, and he didn't even report my presentation on MSMA, and here I was, six years ago, saying: "Hey, we've got a problem. We've left poisoned trees scattered all over B.C."
So we don't even know the number of them, and we don't even know what risk they inflict. But what I want to remind you is that Minister of Forests permits were applied for, for application in a remote and inoperable area, and I hold the Ministry of Forests to that. It was not supposed to be logged. Those were areas away from sight that were not going to be accessed.
I've spent a lot of my time fighting this through the Environmental Appeal Board and judicial review and so on. I've lost, and I've won and whatever. The reality of today is that we have this toxic legacy — mishandled, mismanaged, obliterated, forgotten by the Ministry of Forests. I see that Jim Snetsinger is an adviser to this task force, and I'm very troubled by it because he's directly responsible for it.
What happened is the Ministry of Forests in 2007…. I don't know what happened, but they started this big multi-stakeholder meeting in Smithers. We all decided, including me — they even invited me — that because the Canada Wildlife Service had identified that this poison legacy is killing the woodpeckers…. The woodpecker is the natural predator of the beetle, so it's really a nightmare story.
After the publication of Environment Canada identifying the negative effect of MSMA on woodpeckers and other birds and likely small mammals and so on, it was decided that those trees should not be cut. So if you want to extend operable area, I think you have a problem. You have to look very seriously at…. This is a permit that allows to poison trees away from operation.
The Ministry of Forests even issued — bizarre enough; it was supposed to be inoperable — quietly, very bizarre policies that said that those trees should be left standing, and it's up to the stakeholder to deal with them. What kind of policy is that?
So as it stands, I squarely say that I've been basically blackmailed by the Ministry of Forests. My last communication was with Pat Bell. The Ministry of Forests had quietly commissioned a human health risk assessment of the effect of those trees on people using the forest. They retained, unbeknownst to me, without any consultation….
They were consulting me on MSMA, but they didn't mention whatsoever that they hired my expert, who was a chemistry professor at UBC. He was my expert at the Environmental Appeal Board. He's the one that actually told me: "Oh yes, Josette, you should be very concerned about MSMA. There's new evidence that shows it's way more toxic than ever thought before."
He testified on my behalf at the environment, under oath. I sent a transcript to Pat Bell, saying the lawyer for the Ministry of Forests asked him: "Are you an expert on human health effects?" He said no. "Are you an expert on ecological environmental effects?" He said no. He's a lab chemist. He's our best Canadian authority on the chemistry of arsenic, and that's where it stops.
It wasn't very good for me, because I wanted him to elaborate, but anyway. He testified under oath. Six years later the Ministry of Forests hires him to do a human health risk assessment. I was flabbergasted. When I mentioned it to Pat Bell and sent the transcript of what Dr. Cullen had testified — that he was not qualified — the Minister of Forests said: "We're satisfied with the qualifications of the experts." So they completely lost my faith.
Not only that. The report is really, really bad, and I asked that it be discarded. I wrote — it's in the evidence that I sent this morning — eight pages that Pat Bell completely brushed away. There is a mathematical error which is still on the website. You can look at it yourself: 0.1 times 7,500 equals 450. I mentioned it. I showed the page where it is written. I showed the equation. And the response of Pat Bell: "My staff went over the numbers, and they are satisfied they are correct." So bad faith.
So I ask that the conclusion of the report made by unqualified people, peer review…. I mean, it's all detailed in my letter that I attached to this presentation. Basically, they blackmailed me. Impossible to go back to the Ministry of Forests — impossible.
The human health risks are still valid. It's valid for not only the people using the forest, but it's valid for the loggers, the people who handle the wood. If this wood is going to go to China or Japan for export, it's dangerous for the people to use this wood, for whatever. It's dangerous to make pellets with wood full of arsenic.
I want to bring to your attention that, as I said, 12 years ago we created pockets of toxic trees which were supposed to be GPS-identified and so on. All the people who have worked on that are still working for the Ministry of Forests. We don't know where those trees are; we don't know how many there are. We don't know. It's absolutely…. They left us…. "Legacy" doesn't describe the mindlessness of what took place.
This should give Jim Snetsinger, who, as a district forest manager, a regional manager, a chief forester, was instrumental in pushing this and blackmailing me, completely…. I cannot get any answer from the Ministry of Forests about this issue, so I make it public, as I've always done.
I will close with this quote from a Persian poet called Rumi, from the eighth or ninth century. "Outside of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." It's time to repair.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Josette. Questions?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I apologize. I mean, I've never heard anything about this at all. Just so that I understand, what you're basically saying is that as we consider areas where there may be other trees, we need to consider that there are areas that have been left aside because there are trees that have been treated.
I guess the question, having not had the chance to read this, is: what was the treatment intended to do? What was it dealing with? And was it only in this area that it was used as an experiment?
J. Wier: No. It's all over B.C., and the two districts that were most hit were the Kamloops forest district near Merritt and the Morice forest district. I don't know. It's been rearranged, reshuffled. I haven't kept up with the reshuffling of the boundaries. But those are the two areas, the trees, where they would take an axe and cut a portion of the bark. They would have a squeeze bottle and inject the arsenic in the scar, in the open area of the bark.
I had big trouble with Canfor because they were burning the bark, and this bark is full of arsenic. The burned arsenic becomes a volatile gas. It's very good. In those days we had beehive burners. I had a big fight. The Ministry of Forests wouldn't do anything; the Ministry of Environment wouldn't do anything. I had to go through ISO certification to stop Canfor, to do that.
They were not supposed to be cut. They were cut. There was no monitoring of it. And only through ISO certification was I able to get something moving. I don't know if it's been monitored since then.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): And just to understand further, what was the intention of the treatment? What was it dealing with? What were the issues?
J. Wier: It was supposed to prevent the spread of the mountain pine beetle, but it was already too late. Also, it was not efficient. As Environment Canada found, you would have to inject the tree all at once, today, because when they fly off, you have to catch them at the same time. It's impossible to do individual trees in large numbers like that.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay.
J. Wier: And the beetles are resistant to arsenic. I mean, they survived.
J. Rustad (Chair): Just one more minute, Harry.
H. Bains: What's the time frame? When did they actually do that?
J. Wier: Well, it started probably in the mid-90s. It was about 450 kilos a year of elemental arsenic, and in 2000 — this is what caught my attention — they upped it and wanted a permit for 3,000 kilos for the Morice forest district only. So this is what started this whole battle.
So I really insist that what is on the website, this public health risk assessment, is invalid, because my concerns haven't been addressed. It hasn't been reviewed by people who had knowledge of it.
The Centre for Disease Control doesn't have a clue. I talked to them. They're considered to be a peer review. They're not a peer review. They don't know the difference between organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic. It's really specialized. I really insist that to tell people that it's safe is incorrect.
And I haven't had an answer to my questions. If you tell me that 0.1 times 7,500 equals 450 and you verify that, I don't trust the person who verified it.
J. Rustad (Chair): Josette, thank you very much for your presentation. We're out of time, unfortunately, for any other questions, but I understand that you've given us a written submission, as well, for all members, and we'll make sure that they receive that.
Our next presenter is Steve Osborn. My apologies. We're running a few minutes behind, but not too bad. Steve, over to you.
S. Osborn: Thanks for the opportunity to make a presentation to the committee. My name is Steve Osborn. I'm a registered professional forester. I'm here representing the Skeena-Nass Center for Innovation in Resource Economics, which is a non-profit organization that's building knowledge and promoting innovations to support a resilient and sustainable natural resource economy in northwest B.C.
SNCIRE serves a region that has endured numerous booms and busts over the years. The Smithers-Houston area has not seen the same levels of ups and downs, not as badly as the Hazeltons, Terrace, Kitimat and Prince Rupert communities, but this area around here is economically and socially interconnected to the rest of northwest B.C. and, therefore, within the area of interest for SNCIRE, as we call our organization.
West of Smithers the forest industry collapsed about a decade ago. We lost ten sawmills and two pulp mills. There's currently a boom in energy and mineral developments, but northwest B.C. stakeholders in the communities are still seeing the forest resources as holding economic potential for long-term sustainability. Like the committee, SNCIRE is looking outside the box. We're looking for solutions for revitalizing the forest-based economy, and we think we might have a few insights and possibly some opportunities for the committee to consider.
One insight is that we have learned that a sole reliance on traditional lumber and pulp commodities is not going to provide the resilience needed for the long term. We're exploring emerging bioenergy markets and new technologies, as well as high-value niche markets. For that area, economic viability is going to be coming from a mix of traditional and new products that, together, captures the full value of the forest resource.
Opportunity-wise, there's roughly three million cubic metres of allowable annual cut that's not currently committed to any particular mill. We have exports, but even with that, not all of the wood is being logged. There's a lot of opportunity there. Challenges, yes, but it's just like other challenges with looking at changing objectives, changing plans, changing other things. So if you're looking for volume, technically, it's there.
Speaking as a professional forester, as well as the organization, we welcome the committee's mandate to revisit land use objectives and tenures. The current tenure system and long-term plans have served us well, but the framework wasn't designed to address the big changes that have occurred in the last ten to 15 years. The pine beetle infestation is the biggest noticeable one, but also there's the greater awareness of the First Nations rights and title. We're talking ten or 15 years ago when the last plans were being done. There've been huge changes and improvements in awareness of First Nations rights and title.
The economic challenges and changes that have happened in that area in that time have been huge. Before that it was rare, actually unheard of, to my knowledge, that any forest company, a company with tenure — none…. You couldn't go bankrupt. If you had tenure, you couldn't go bankrupt. But as we know, that's changed in that period of time. Then we've got climate change and the prospect of future shocks coming from that.
So it's time to revisit our tenures. It's time to revisit our plans. But I'm sure you realize, and you're no doubt hearing and will be hearing for the rest of your meetings, that there is no quick fix. There is no quick fix that's going to provide you with a significant short-term volume without appearing to put other values at risk.
We're recommending that the members of the committee promote a renewal of our strategic plans and tenure system with full collaboration of the regional communities, First Nations and industry.
When I looked at the discussion paper, it was asking for specific input. One of them was values and principles. Well, the biggest principle is public involvement and First Nations consultation — and engagement as well as the consultation. That process would allow you to define the values and how this should be managed in this new era.
How to make the decisions is being asked in the discussion paper. Strategic plans. They worked. Locally, especially, they worked very, very well, and they sure could use some renewing to handle these new circumstances.
The discussion paper asked for information about our area. One item or bit of information is that the diversity of the forests in northwest B.C., like from this area and further west, has…. There is a lot of diversity, and that provides some resilience. It provided resilience to the beetle infestations and may be able to provide some support for the short- and mid-term volume sought by existing mills. That fibre mix also has a great opportunity to support bioenergy and other emerging markets. By starting there, maybe those lessons could be moved further east.
The other thing to know about our area is that the people of the northwest are capable, knowledgable and competent. They are capable of revisiting and updating our strategic plans if given the mandate to do so, if given the support to do so. The government should not be afraid to open up the planning process and start again.
Cautions were asked for in the discussion paper, and the caution is that, again, the quick fix — be cautious of that. The impending timber supply issue is not a new problem. We have known that it's coming, and we have time to react to it. There are a lot of new opportunities coming, and we should allow those fixes to happen.
If you're just looking for short-term volume, we've got it. It's over there. It's in the Terrace and Hazelton areas. Now come and get it. It's not that simple — right? You know it's not that simple. But opening up the planning process is one way to approach it.
How to be involved? How do we want to be involved? Well, you create the process and support the process, and we'll be there.
That's my presentation.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Thank you very much, Steve — much appreciated.
Questions from members.
H. Bains: I'd just like if you could explore a bit more about this 3 million cubic metres that is sitting there — come and get it. At the end of the day, if you really think about it, that's what is demanded of the committee: to find some wood and timber supply. You say it's there. You also said there are some issues about getting it. Is it economics? Is it…?
S. Osborn: It's economics, and then the economics exasperated by if you're going further afield and trying to take that volume all the way over. However, we know that the timber supply is all interactive. What goes on in Prince George affects Burns Lake which affects Houston which affects Smithers. It's all back and forth. There may be some opportunities to move things around, but right now….
What we've learned is that straight lumber…. If you're just turning lumber into chips, it's not economic to log. It's more challenging terrain. There is a lot of rot in the wood — a lot of good value too. But the economics are tighter in that area.
We're looking at other options and trying to get more value out of the forest. Who knows? Maybe if we're successful, you might be able to move that wood farther afield.
H. Bains: If it cannot be economically harvested for our local use, is it being exported because now you can get a higher value, higher price for it, so it's being exported? Is it?
S. Osborn: Some is. I think 35 percent is allowed to be exported, and not nearly that much is being exported.
There are challenges. You can't just log without having a market for all the parts in the forest. You can't just take out a little bit of it, so we're looking for different kinds of solutions. It's definitely economic, but it's not like it's totally uneconomic in the area.
We'd be willing to talk more about different opportunities, possibilities of moving the wood, but that would add to the economic challenge — getting the wood farther.
But my biggest point is: the volume is there. Well, just because you can find volume by changing some factors, it doesn't mean that it's really usable.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I just have a question. A number of speakers have talked about the fact that the planning work that was done some time in the past has been kept going to a certain extent. How active has the ongoing local participation and management been? Is it something that's very vibrant and includes all stakeholders, or is it sort of hanging in there but needs…? How would you characterize it?
S. Osborn: I think it varies from area to area. The interest that's been there is high, but we haven't reopened the conversation.
Right now it's a plan based on lumber, being lumber-centric, producing lumber only. Maybe there are ways to do things differently so that, like Anne was saying earlier, we could go into some of the closer, more sensitive areas if you did it a certain way.
I'm not aware of any real discussions on reopening discussions. It's mostly on: is the existing plan being followed? It's limited to that kind of level.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): What's your sense of the ability of a community to make local decision-making? Is that something that…? I mean, it seems like an incredibly engaged community, just from what's gone on today, with a lot of expertise, as always, that would sit in one of these communities. Are there the tools there for communities to make these sorts of decisions, do you feel? Or is that one of the areas that…?
S. Osborn: I'm not sure if you've heard of the recreation access management plan process that's happening. It's happening locally, initiated by the general community, by volunteers, and endorsed by government, or at least acknowledged by government, but it hasn't been initiated by government. So that is one example.
If you actually supported it, there could be more done. In the Terrace and Hazeltons areas there is a lot of interest. People would like to get engaged. But again, there's not the forum for it.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. The background we have in Golden, of course, is that we did have forestry support. I think we started the recreational process perhaps earlier. So we had Ministry of Forests support. It has been as effective as you can have with conflicting values on the land base, but I think everybody would say that it worked well because locals were able to sit down and work through. We, especially in the early stages, had a lot of provincial support in terms of that work.
I guess you could apply it to all sorts of issues that you're dealing with —right? Not just recreation but all….
S. Osborn: Exactly. In fact, SNCIRE is working on an initiative called regional collaboration, and we're trying to find a framework for greater regional collaboration on many things. Really, the old timber supply areas are chunked down, but the real economic and social area is wider than that.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Much broader, yeah.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thanks very much, Steve. One more quick question — Ben.
B. Stewart: Thanks, Steve. I guess you mentioned the fact that there is timber supply in your area. I kind of still think of that as outside of this timber supply area that we're specifically talking about. What is the barrier that has prevented people in the Nass-Terrace area from finding a way to utilize that timber, being that it exists there? What is the single biggest obstacle to putting that into use?
S. Osborn: I think the biggest one was that we had an integrated system that collapsed. Skeena Cellulose was the backbone of the whole process. When it collapsed, now you don't have a pulp mill that's able to take the low-end volumes, and then that sort of started a cascade.
Once it all collapsed, the sawmills didn't have any place for the low-end, so they went under. Once you have that full collapse, it's really hard to rebuild it again. There's really not an incentive. It's sort of a little bit like — I hate to say it — maybe the Burns Lake situation, where you've got a change that's happened. Is it really worthwhile rebuilding it again, or should you start with something fresh?
Unfortunately, we spent a lot of time in the Terrace-Hazeltons area trying to recapture what was already there. Instead, we've finally gotten to the stage now where we're starting from zero, and we're able to look at anything and everything, including art and guitar tops and whatever it takes.
J. Rustad (Chair): Steve, thank you very much for your presentation. It's much appreciated — taking the time for our committee.
Our next presenter is Len Vanderstar.
L. Vanderstar: Everybody still awake?
J. Rustad (Chair): Enough caffeine in the morning keeps us going.
L. Vanderstar: Harry, I'd love to address your question to Steve a little bit at the end of the presentation as well.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay, Len. Over to you.
L. Vanderstar: Thank you so much, John. My name is Len Vanderstar. I've been a resident of the Bulkley Valley since 1989, so I've been here around 23 years. I have a degree in forestry. I'm a registered professional forester, a registered professional biologist, and I also have a degree in education.
I'm very familiar with the physical geography, the geomorphology, the communities and the people and cultures of northwest B.C. — right from Prince George to Yukon to the Queen Charlotte Islands. I'm a founding member of a number of non-government organizations, such as the Skeena Round Table for Sustainable Development, when it started up; Friends of Wild Salmon, which you've all heard of; Outdoor Recreation Alliance; Summits of Canada; and Child Focus Africa — to name a few.
I really appreciate and thank the committee members — I know as MLAs you're very busy — in taking the time to come out here and, hopefully, enjoy the Bulkley Valley for whatever sun we may have this June. I know you're very busy, and I do appreciate the diligence and the time and expense for you to be here today and listen to some of the constituents. So thank you for that.
Specific to the committee's feedback consideration, I will speak about the values and principles that should guide evaluation and decision-making, focusing on achieving economic, social and environmental sustainability. So due to other time, I'm not going to address some of the other questions that you may be asking.
Strategic land use plans — what we call land resource management plans — and most recently, some of the more completed ones, SRMPS, which we call sustainable resource management plans, provide the long-term social choice direction for sustainability of all our natural resources, inclusive of timber, mineral, water, fish and wildlife, botanical forest products, sometimes air quality, and intrinsic values such as solitude and visual quality.
Higher-level plans, as we call these, are still relevant due to their long-term view, and the original reasons for timber management constraints still apply. We have monitoring committees in place — publicly driven, most of them — and they still follow these plans. They still have monthly meetings, like here in the Bulkley Valley. These plans are still valid, and they're long term.
A mid-term timber supply exercise is always welcomed. Why I'm here in front of you today, though, is that the direction or the initiative of why this was taken was actually disconcerting to me. Reducing and eliminating so-called constraints to timber supply — and I use the word constraints because it is a timber-biased word, but anyway — will in fact further reduce — and you've heard this term before — the resiliency of our forests, not enhance it.
Ecosystem resiliency is the key to a healthy, sustainable environment and, in turn, drives a healthy northern economy. The factors that have contributed to this widespread mountain pine beetle infestation have largely been due to climate change, as you heard from Sybille and Steve, and — in combination with an aging, mature pine forest, largely — to years or decades of fire suppression. An epidemic of mountain pine beetle may only be the tip of the iceberg. We've got to keep that in mind.
We're not just looking at pine beetle. We have fir bark beetle. We've got spruce bark beetle. You see in the Okanagan that we've got ponderosa pine bark beetle. We have budworm that's starting to show up — okay? We have rust diseases that can take off and potentially an epidemic of root diseases.
This is just an indication of what may be happening and coming soon. We have to be aware of that. And that doesn't even include the fact that our newly established pine stands, in a few decades from now, may have a second wave of pine beetle attack. That'll really throw timber supply out.
So let's move away from looking at the symptom of the problem and begin to seriously focus on the causes. In other words, the approach that we need to take here should be a diagnostic one and not a reactionary one. Taking the approach to log more to offset the inevitable timber supply falldown will only further stress the forest ecosystem and further erode its resiliency. It is a loss of resiliency that has led to the mountain pine beetle infestation and what is yet to potentially come.
What I'm reading that is potentially being proposed is akin to giving a smoker yet another cigarette who's dying of lung cancer. It may appease the individual in the short term, but it doesn't do anything for the person in the medium or long term.
It is only through wise forest stewardship and effectively addressing the climate change challenge that we are going to make our forests more resilient. Without this resiliency, there is no hope for a prosperous and healthy forest sector — period. This forest sector is dependent on a healthy forest ecosystem.
Our protection forests, whether they are fully or partially protected from timber extraction, are imperative to building forest resiliency at the landscape level.
Now, if we're truly serious about mid-term timber supply…. I can draw on the works from Dave Coates and Phil Burton. In their literature — I don't know if they made a presentation or not — they're focusing on how we can maintain a lot of the understorey and up-and-coming green wood, the conifers that are not associated with these pine salvage operations.
We need to maintain landscape connectivity through the forest matrix and along riparian corridors. We have a term for that. We call them ecosystem networks, and they are in place in the Morice, in the Lakes, in the Bulkley, in Cranberry and the Nass TSAs right now. The reason for that, too, is…. Don't forget about the hydrology associated with more clearcutting.
We have enough papers — I went through a stack of them — that show that we're at the verge and already experiencing implications due to spring freshets and hydrological cycles. We have to be very careful what we do out there. If we're going to do anything more, we'd better put a higher emphasis on riparian and hydrological considerations that more clearcutting will bring.
We need to retain as much understorey as possible when salvaging dead pines. We also have to get away from targeting some of the green wood stands or green wood that's pocketed with these attacked pines. Sometimes we get some of the green wood, and it's cheap blended stumpage, and we just clearcut the whole works — pine and non-affected spruce or fir with it. So we should be focusing — if we're going to do some more salvage — as much as possible just on salvaging the pine.
We need to ensure that we have an adequate retention of a balance of what we call seral stages — in other words, age classes — inclusive of old growth that reflects a near-natural distribution across the landscape, as well as forest stand structure retention that will contribute to maintaining a healthy predator-prey relationship.
Now, if you look at anything…. If you go to the Caribbean, Africa, South America and you look at those family plots when they do agriculture, you'll see that they've got a diversity of natural species in their forests. Looking at Del Monte and those big pesticide banana plantations, they don't use any pesticide. What they've got is a structured, functional forest with little agriculture plots in it.
What that does is it maintains your predatory insects that keep your pest insects down — okay? The more we move into monospecies or monoculture crop production — as we are now so dependent on in our agriculture sector — we have to spray like crazy. So we're working against nature.
Our resiliency is based on the diversification, and it saves us money. Who's our pest control out there right now? If I want to find mountain pine beetle, do you know what I do? I walk in the forest, and I listen to woodpeckers. They take me to them. But how do you manage woodpecker habitat? Not by clearcutting or cutting more forest down.
One other point here is that Jim Snetsinger, our chief forester, at the time during the initial crisis around our mountain pine beetle infestation or epidemic, decided to make use out of the pine that's legitimate, as much as possible. As a result, he increased the allowable annual cut in the area that was infested. It was uplifted, and new tenures were issued.
Of course, the milling capacity increases — right? He did acknowledge that tree retention and increased maintenance of stand structure had to occur for legitimate reasons to ensure some moderate level of mid-term timber supply availability and to minimize degradation of forest health. We all accepted that — okay? That was for the interim. We knew the falldown would still occur.
What is currently being proposed is the exact opposite. It's almost like shooting yourself in the foot.
One key fundamental reason why the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals has encouraged its membership to make presentations in front of this special parliamentary committee is simply one key message. We cannot support unsustainable forest management practices.
The principle of sustainability is one of long term. Yes, we can meet current needs but not at the expense of compromising future needs. Yes, there will be and continue to be some short-term challenges. But addressing these challenges should not erode but should preserve the future forest and its ecosystems.
So whatever the committee comes up with in terms of recommendations, it should not come at the expense of the environment. That's the recommendation that I can make: not at the expense of the environment.
We heard a lot about the three-legged stool. You heard about the economy, the environment and the social. That's an incorrect representation of the functionality of our societies on the planet. It's actually a one-legged stool. It's the environment — okay? The environment is the leg that drives the social and economic components that are the basis of our society. We know that.
Now, I just want at the end here to talk a little bit of what Steve had talked about, about this wood supply. If you look in the Hazeltons, the Kispiox forest district, up into the Nass, even going into the Iskut-Stikine-Cassiar and in the Kalum, and not so much activity in the North Coast, what we're seeing there is that all the wood that's being felled right now is going to ships in Stewart and Prince Rupert. Whether it's being exported overseas or down to Vancouver, I'm not too sure what the proportion is. We're getting next to nothing for that wood. It's selling for, pretty well, 25 cents a cubic metre. We're getting no returns for it.
If you go to Terrace, you should take a look at the sort yards there. There are trees this big, huge trees, and that's it — their exact size. What happened to the rest of the wood? It's not tapered. They're squared off at the ends. The rest of that wood is lying out in the bush.
There is no pulp market there, with Eurocan down in Kitimat and New Skeena Forest Products with their pulp mill down in Prince Rupert. There's no market for the pulp, so it's stacked and it's left out there to rot for years. This has been going on for a decade now.
At best, there's an eight-inch minimum top standard for utilization now, which is quite liberal, and some of that wood might find its way down here. Most of that's been wasted as well. So we've got a lot of merchantable wood.
I'm a fan, of course, of woody debris from a biological perspective. I've seen an awful lot of wood being wasted up there that could be, somehow, rerouted so that we could figure the economics around that to help out other jurisdictions. We have the wood. It's just a matter of how we're using it.
That's basically all I want to take up your time with and maybe open the floor to some questions. Thank you very much.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Len. We've got one or two minutes for questions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So I'm just curious. What government body or who is doing the work to try to figure out the economics of that? Because you're not the first that suggested that there's an awful lot of potential that's there. The puzzle often is: what are the economics? Who's working on what the possibilities are? Who's driving that?
L. Vanderstar: That's a very good question. Well, to be frank about it, because of the loss of the mills, sawmills and pulp mills, just to keep the few loggers employed, that helps a little bit. There has very much been a very sympathetic administration around the appraisal system.
I can talk a little bit about what I call a green swindle around that, but it's actually abused. If we do waste and residue surveys — and there's sometimes a blind eye to that — it's only one-time stumpage. So at the most, you're paying 50 cents to maybe $5 a cubic metre, including the waste — all right? So there's no incentive.
A lot of practitioners, foresters themselves, are very concerned around what we consider questionable forest practices as a result of what this export out of region is doing. But a lot of us are not…. We're fearful of speaking out because there are implications. You could get restructured out of the organization and everything else. You know what it's like.
It's not so much…. I'm not too sure, Norm, about how we're looking at that. All I know is that it's quite a substantial amount of sympathetic administration in keeping what we've got left running. But it's at the expense of other things.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Can I just, really quickly, ask a second question? It's completely different. It's not tied to the issue we just talked about.
Earlier on we heard from somebody who went on an issue to a certification board. We know certification is important. Very often we're hearing foresters saying that if you consider some of these options, then you're going against what we would consider professional standards — right?
How does that, in your experience, tie in to certification? Presumably, certification bodies like Forest Professionals have a set standard that needs to be met. So in your view, where does certification fit into…?
L. Vanderstar: Well, there are at least three different standards of certification. There's the Canadian standard. There are different ones — right? Some have certain benchmarks or parameters that are different from others. I'm not involved in the wood certification side, but they could be called into question.
I think if we look at better utilization domestically of our wood in British Columbia, instead of seeing China picking up a lot of these logs on a wholesale basis…. I think a lot of that wood should be rerouted. We really need to look at this issue more strategically as a provincial issue in sourcing our mills in British Columbia, first and foremost.
Yes, economics are a bit of a problem. Some of these mills can't compete with some of the export. But the companies are making good money. You see what they're getting paid by cubic metre when they load it on the ship as opposed to what they're paying the Crown right now.
But yes…. It's not a direct answer to your question, but I think this is a bigger piece of the pie. We have to look at the whole thing about looking at our wood flow and our utilization in British Columbia as a whole, because the wood is still there. It's just a matter of how we prioritize its use and where it's going.
J. Rustad (Chair): Len, thank you very much for your presentation — much appreciated.
The next presentation will be done by Nikki Skuce.
N. Skuce: Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Nikki Skuce, and I work with ForestEthics advocacy, more on the energy side of things. So I defer to my colleagues more on the forestry solution side of things. I also served on the board of the Wetzin'Kwa Community Forest here in Smithers for a full three-year term and am a resident here in the Bulkley Valley. I appreciate this opportunity to speak.
Opening up reserves and visual corridors for logging to fill timber supply shortfalls will have a long-term effect on the environment without a long-term benefit to communities. While the action might extend the life of a mill for a relatively short time, it would undermine for the better part of a century or more the benefits these areas were set aside for — whether for tourism, habitat, soil retention or water flow regulation.
Undermining these social, environmental and other non-timber values decreases community resilience and quality of life for very little economic gain. In fact, the reserves are already deficient, which is why it doesn't add up to that much commercial timber.
Someone spoke to me earlier. We'd just learned the results of the elections in Greece, and Greece is being asked to undergo severe austerity measures because they overspent economically. Yet we haven't accepted the fact that we've overspent our environmental capital, and we should, too, go through our own austerity measures.
The discussion paper options and ideas to increase timber supply in current reserves gives no indication whether decisions on this will be based on science or politics, and it raises many questions and concerns. Will there be an ecological impact analysis on these proposed changes? How will we meet our land use and ecological objectives that will be undermined by their sort of short-term harvesting? Will there be any accounting for the impact on tourism, on recreation, on water quality? How will opening up these areas impact land use plans these constraints are nestled in?
As others have already mentioned, it took a long time to agree on the LRMPs and to set up the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board. The suggested changes seem to undermine the decades of scientific input and public process that went into these LRMPs in establishing these reserves. Changes would set an alarming precedent with respect to other provincial commitments to lasting legal protection for environmental values following land use planning processes. While I've heard throughout the discussions of the day that we need to potentially breathe life back into these LRMPs, they shouldn't be ignored.
We need long-term strategies. We knew in 2000 that we would be facing this issue when we decided to increase the logging from the mountain pine beetle. Yet we haven't planned for it, just as we continually talk about the need to diversify these single-industry resource-based towns, yet we continually don't. We regularly talk about the need for value-added versus low-grade high-volume 2-by-4s and raw log exports, and yet we don't develop the policies or the incentives to get there. So we need to stop looking for these short-term band-aid solutions.
This discussion to graze small forest reserves and areas left for other values for very short economic and job gains does little to move us forward on any front. How are we going to have a forest industry in 20, 50 or 100 years? How does this overlap with our climate change and ecological priorities and values? As the international panel on climate change and climate experts suggest, we would be better off increasing our forest protection to meet climate change objectives and improve our resilience and adaptability.
A number of people have spoken here throughout the day about this need to use multigenerational planning for multiple values. This initiative, in our opinion, is short-term thinking. We'd recommend that the province not move forward with opening up reserves and visual corridors for logging or increasing the mid-term timber supply but instead look into some of these longer-term plans for sustainable development and climate change adaptability.
Also, in the short term put more efforts into supporting communities, like Burns Lake, and try to find ways for diversification and finding sustainable economic development options.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Nikki. I'll look to members for any questions. Not seeing any, Nikki, thank you very much for your presentation.
That brings to a conclusion our list of people presenting to the committee. There is an opportunity for some open mike. If there's somebody who would like to add a brief comment, I'd ask you to perhaps step forward now.
D. Stevens: It seems like a long time since 8:30, Mr. Rustad. I don't envy you your schedule.
J. Rustad (Chair): These are going to be very long days.
Dave, if you could just introduce yourself. We give five minutes for the open-mike process.
D. Stevens: I'll leave it to you to put the time limit on it.
My name is Dave Stevens. I live here in Smithers, and I've lived here for 26 years. I have some concerns about the prospect of implementing some of the terms of reference of the committee — in particular, the anticipated increase in the annual cut. I think it would be a bad idea. I'm a conservationist. I make no apology for it. As far as I'm concerned, every year that tree is standing there is a good year for that tree, and I don't care what colour it is.
There are so many competing non-fibre forest values that I think it would be disproportionate to proceed with a consideration of increased cut in the face of the already existing uncertainties and the fairly likely adverse outcomes.
In my 26 years here, the progress of logging and sawmilling in the Bulkley Valley has been largely the progressive and systematic extermination of small operators. They're not there anymore. We could take a little half-hour drive around town and look at all the old mills.
It's always the same story. They can't get the wood. So a consideration of an increase in fibre availability would always, in my mind, involve answering the question: available to whom? Shoving more and more wood faster and faster….
There are such mills, as West Fraser's here, or in Canfor's in Houston. It doesn't build community stability. It may do something for the shareholders, or it may not, depending on their dust control mechanisms. You know yourself, John, what happened at Burns Lake. Putting more wood through isn't necessarily a great solution.
I see that among the terms of reference in the brochure that's being handed out at the front desk here is considerations for competitive electricity rates. I think it's extremely unlikely that anything that can be done by this committee will have much effect that way. I suppose it's a reference to bioenergy and making sure that wood is available for bioenergy producers.
B.C. Hydro, as a regulated utility and a Crown corporation, takes its policy direction from cabinet, and it has always done so. This is just a normal matter of operation.
I've had some interesting exchanges with a fellow named Erik Andersen, who is an energy economist who has a lot to say about Hydro. He tells me that the key ratio to watch is the capital employed per unit of energy produced. That ratio has been worsening a great deal in recent years, and if, for example, Site C went ahead, it would get a lot worse again.
The crunch is going to come. Financial reality is going to bat last, no matter what. The scale of the problem that way is so large that really, bioenergy just isn't going to be a factor. It may in fact be possible to make some opportunities for entrepreneurs to make a living, to employ local people and to put wood that would otherwise be wasted to some arguably productive use increasing global energy consumption. I don't know. Looks like a complicated situation to me. I can see that there could be some community benefits. I don't know. Tough sell, I think.
Land use planning here has been referred to by many of the previous speakers in terms of the LRMP. Now, the LRMP here was one of the first in the province. The one at the Morice that I was personally involved in was one of the last. Of course, if we had it to do over, we'd do it differently. Well, we now know.
The LRMP was a project taken on by the community resources board. I'm a member of that board now. I don't speak for the board in what I say here, although what I say has been informed by the various discussions the board has had. To some extent, you know, the social licence for forestry to operate here has come about in terms of a large consensus from a bottom-up process that took place during the formation of the LRMP. We've now had implementation, monitoring, and we can see some of the results — some good, some bad and some indifferent.
If large changes are to be introduced — and an increased cut would be a very large change — I strongly recommend that the committee, the Legislature as a whole and cabinet, as necessary, should take into account the fact that this consensus was established from the bottom up, and it should be re-established in that way too. I think respecting the community's wishes and the obvious support you've heard today for that kind of land use planning process should be put into use on the ground by being a bottom-up process.
The community resources board still exists, still has a strong interest in the matter. We're currently trying to complete the recreational access portion of that plan. The province, by the way, has helped us out with that, so thanks a lot. There's more help to be given too.
So maybe that hits the high points.
J. Rustad (Chair): That's hit the five-minute mark. Perfect. Well done, Dave. Thank you very much.
That does conclude our presentation and our public input session.
First of all, I want to thank everybody for coming out and for participating in this process and for giving us your feedback. I found it very informative, and I'm sure my other committee members did as well.
The committee will stand adjourned now until 4 p.m., at which point we will start again in Houston. Once again, thank you very much.
The committee adjourned at 2:34 p.m.
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