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
TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2012
The committee met at 8:05 a.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our committee meeting, the second day of community tours for the Special Committee on Timber Supply. My name is John Rustad. I'm the MLA for Nechako Lakes.
Our Timber Supply Committee has been tasked with going forward and doing consultation and coming up with some potential recommendations for dealing with the mid-term fibre supply across the entire area impacted by the mountain pine beetle crisis.
As most people are aware, the mountain pine beetle epidemic has caused a significant impact on our mid-term fibre supply. That impact is more significant in some areas than others, but across the entire area it will mean a drop of about 20 percent of our fibre supply, or about ten million cubic metres a year, which is fairly significant in terms of the number of mills that that would potentially impact across the overall area.
Our committee has been tasked to go out and to look at any and all options and come forward with some recommendations as to how to try to mitigate that impact in all of the impacted areas or all the most significant impacted areas.
I'd like to start our committee meeting today by introducing all the members of the committee, starting with the member on my far right.
E. Foster: Good morning. I'm Eric Foster. I'm the MLA for Vernon-Monashee.
D. Barnett: Good morning. I'm Donna Barnett, the MLA for 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. My name is Bill Routley, MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
H. Bains: Good morning. Harry Bains, MLA, Surrey-Newton.
J. Rustad (Chair): Along with the MLAs on the committee, we have one of our special advisors with us, Larry Pedersen, former chief forester. There are two special advisors that have been named to the committee to help us with any technical advice and other questions that may come up.
Also here with me today is Kate Ryan-Lloyd. She is the deputy Clerk and Clerk of Committees, travelling with us. At the back of the room is Jacqueline Quesnel, who does some great work for us through this. The Clerk's staff is phenomenal in terms of the work that they do, supporting us.
Also, these meetings are broadcast over the Internet and recorded by Hansard. So we have a Hansard crew that is with us today. Michael Baer is with Hansard, and Monique Goffinet. Hansard does a great job in terms of broadcasting this. I heard some of the people that were listening to our committee meetings yesterday, and it was coming through nice and clear over the Internet. Something that we do as a public committee of the Legislature is that everything is recorded so that people can follow it.
As well, there is a tremendous amount of information that the committee has received over the last number of weeks from the Ministry of Forests. All of that information is available at our website, which is www.leg.bc.ca/timbercommittee. Part of the process of the public input, also, is there is opportunity for people to be able to submit written submissions to the committee at that website, up until July 20.
The process that we have, starting off with these discussions, is that we have a round table discussion with mayor and council, as well as with the regional district within each community we go to. Then we have a second round table, which is with the First Nations leadership within the various areas. Then we go to an opportunity for public input.
Having said all of that, what I'd like to do now is start our community consultation component with the round table with mayor and council. So I'm going to turn it over to you, Luke Strimbold, to introduce the people you're with and to make a presentation.
L. Strimbold: Thank you. I will just start off by introducing Councillor Beach on the far end. If you want to just go around this way, we'll introduce ourselves.
Q. Beach: Quinten Beach, councillor, village of Burns Lake.
B. Miller: I'm Bill Miller. I'm the director for area B, which surrounds the village of Burns Lake. As well, I'm the chair of the regional district of Bulkley-Nechako.
K. Bysouth: Hi, I'm Kaitlin Bysouth. I'm presenting the youth of Burns Lake.
L. Strimbold: First of all, thank you for joining us in Burns Lake. I want to commend you on your leadership and dedication to the province as a whole — travelling through the province.
I think you've got a vigorous schedule over the next few days. Just thank you for coming and allowing us the opportunity to comment on the timber supply process into your decision-making that will happen in the middle of August.
First, we'd like to just start off by having Kaitlin offer the youth perspective on the impacts and the well-being of our community.
K. Bysouth: My name is Kaitlin Bysouth. I have lived in Burns Lake my whole life. I'm here on behalf of the youth in Burns Lake. I am 16 years old, and I'm a daughter of an employee at Babine. I am going into grade 12 in the fall, and I attend the Lakes District Secondary School here in Burns Lake.
My future plans are to go on to medical school. Part of this that has influenced this choice of mine is growing up in a small town. I have enjoyed growing up in a small town, and I want a career choice that provides me the opportunity to choose to live in a small town if I want to. I'd like to mention some things about why growing up in Burns Lake has been such a good experience for me.
First of all, there is the friendly community. There is a true sense of belonging here, and it's like one big family. The people are wonderful, and this tragedy has really strengthened us, our relations, bringing us just that much closer together.
As well, the education here is phenomenal. The teachers are very approachable and very knowledgable about their specific areas. They strive to make the best of our education, and they provide one-on-one help if needed. Also, we have newer facilities. Our school was built about a couple of years ago, and it's deemed one of the nicest ones in the province.
There are many activities to enjoy here in the Lakes District. There's fishing, because of the tons of lakes in the surrounding area. There are sports. We have great, strong hockey teams and active soccer leagues. The field is actually getting renewed right now — the field over there. Don't ask me what it's called. We have cross-country ski trails that we use a lot in this community, and we have world-class mountain-biking trails up on Boer Mountain that have been recognized throughout the province as well as the country.
With this said, all of these positives are made possible by the people. And people are here because of the industries that attracted them. I firmly believe that with one of our industries no longer present, it will be more difficult for these things to exist, and that is a shame. It is a shame because Burns Lake has a lot of potential and so much more opportunity for growth.
Even though not every person in Burns Lake was employed in the forest industry, we are all affected by it in some way. I believe that there are several things we can do to ensure a forest industry for years to come, for generations to come. First of all, the areas we have logged or that have been burned due to forest fires — make sure that we have replanted them to ensure maximum growth.
Secondly, we can do things to make the young trees grow faster. We can fertilize them, for example. As well, we should make sure all the dead pine trees are removed and replaced with new forests. For me, beautiful would be seeing new, healthy, green forests as opposed to dead, decaying, rotten wood littering the ground and potentially having fuel for forest fires. Slave Lake, Alberta, is an example of that. It was destroyed by a forest fire, and I don't want to see that happen to Burns Lake.
As I mentioned earlier, I am going into grade 12 in the coming year, and there's nothing more I'd love but to live here and graduate with my friends that I've known since grade 8, or even as far back as elementary school. That won't happen if my father needs to find another job and we are forced to move. I will have to graduate with a class that I'd have recently come to know. But that's just not the same. I know of many other students who will be placed in the same situation.
So I conclude with this question: what is a community? A community is where people feel the sense of belonging, like one big family. A community is where citizens all come together in time of need, such as the sawmill tragedy, and make something positive out of it.
That is why my friends, my family and myself are here in front of you today, in support of having enough wood to be available to support local mills.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Kaitlin.
L. Strimbold: Thanks, Kaitlin.
I just want to talk briefly about some of the history that we'd been working on before the event of January 20 and then touch on that, and then touch on where we as a municipality, supported by regional district area B, want to see this go in our support for addressing the timber supply.
Our community has been actively working to address the mid-term timber supply over the last several years. The community created the Lakes timber supply advisory group, which consisted of community groups, First Nations, the Burns Lake Native Development Corp., local government. It consisted of industry in the forest industry as well as the mill component, including the West Fraser mill.
The committee solicited the public through several consultation processes and through a survey which resulted in the support for relaxing — one example is — the visual-quality objectives — those constraints.
The committee also worked hard at finding solutions which would address the mid-term timber supply issue, keeping in mind that we don't want to put any other mills at risk in neighbouring communities. We believe that each of the mills along the Highway 16 Corridor plays a key role in the regional forest economy.
Another model that we've started to develop in our community is the…. You know, we're a forest-farming community. We understand that logging and reforestation is part of a cycle that makes our community strong. Kaitlin mentioned that — about going in. It's part of the life cycle of our community and having a green forest.
We work hard to make sure that Burns Lake has a viable economy, environment and social well-being. In saying that, I want to emphasize the importance of local input into the decision-making. We're the ones who live here and spend the most time here, so we hope that we have the strongest voice when a decision process is in place. I think that's part of us being here this morning and you willing to listen to us — to what we have to say.
Now, how did we get to this day? We expected it to happen a few years down the road — to get to the consultation process and addressing the timber supply. So all of this has come into play because of the incident that happened on January 20, a day I think that none of us will forget and a day that impacted our community very immensely.
I don't think anyone can be prepared for what happened on January 20. It was a devastating event that resulted in 19 injured. Two lives were lost, and our largest employer was gone. People had to wake up Monday morning and not really know what they were prepared to face for the rest of their lives.
I read an article shortly after that that said the loss of Babine Forest Products is like Victoria losing its government employees. That just puts it in perspective. This is a key impact to our community as a result of the fire.
Since that day we've been working together as a community — together and with all orders of government — to provide hope and stability to our community. We are pleased how well the MLAs across the province have been working with us and commend government for their support. We now have a few projects on the go that will help create employment and will provide the strength in our community through this difficult time.
We have also had a commitment from government to ensure that a mill can be rebuilt. We want to emphasize that this is important to us in reassuring hope in our community. Since the night of January 20 we've all stood together to provide hope for one another.
I've been in contact with our social services, because some of them can't be here today. I just wanted to touch on a few comments they had. We're facing some serious challenges in our community as a result of the Babine fire and the loss of the main employer. We're seeing an increase in domestic violence, the blood-alcohol levels. Requests for mental services have gone up by 50 percent, and the suicide ideation.
We're also about to lose some key tangible services in our community that help stabilize high-risk families. The Babine Breakfast is finished at the end of June, the food bank is reducing its pickup days starting in summer, and the school breakfast and lunch programs will no longer be available once school is out. These are services that help hold the vulnerable families together, so these are all things that come into play in a decision-making time.
I'd like to take a moment also to talk about the different cultural ways that families support each other in our community. We often see in our First Nation community that one individual works at the mill, but they don't only support their immediate family; they support their extended family.
If an individual's parents aren't working, they have an uncle or an aunt that might work at the mill who provides them some clothing and food. When they lose their job, it's not only their family that's impacted; it's a broad range of family and their extended family. The impact for our community…. When we have 43 percent employment at Babine was First Nations — 103 employees — that's a large impact on our community — not to have employment.
Now I'd like to just go over some of the points that you have in front of you around the timber supply. These were developed with the timber supply advisory group, and our council, the village of Burns Lake council, has endorsed area B supports for the regional district.
We believe that Lakes District timber is for Lakes District mills, making sure that resources are committed to a community. We believe that the Lakes timber supply area has consistently supported communities and neighbouring TSAs. It's now time to reciprocate that support by supporting Lakes District timber for Lakes District mills.
We believe that the rebuild of Babine Forest Products promotes healthy competition and a robust regional forest economy. It is vital in the forest economy to have a third-party entity. You know, after January 20 log prices dropped $8 to $10 a cubic metre in the neighbouring communities, which is a significant impact for the logging community.
We believe that the rebuild of Babine Forest Products with new technology will be a safer and more efficient sawmill that will be a model for all wood manufacturing facilities, especially those dealing with the mountain pine beetle wood.
We believe that the strength of the north is defined by the strength of each community. We want every community to be prosperous, and the rebuild of Babine Forest Products is the key to success of our region.
We believe that the Burns Lake Community Forest is a strong entity in our community and that it can manage the forest effectively and support the rebuild of Babine Forest Products. We support legislative changes that eliminate all provincial constraints on the community forest, which will then be managed by the community forest management plan that is in place.
We support the initiatives that the First Nations are pursuing to secure new long-term tenure agreements.
We believe that the local sawmill is key to the innovation and development of a viable bioenergy industry, and we have an opportunity here to be innovative in our community, with the effects of mountain pine beetle and the biomass that's in our forest.
We currently have two pellet plants, one of which has the capacity to be the largest in the world, so we just need to make sure that we have a sawmill there that can support those industries. As we've learnt through our consultation with FPInnovations and with our First Nations, we do need a sawmill to support the bioenergy industry.
We believe that converting to land-based tenures will be key to the effective management of the future of our forests. We support borrowing minimal timber from our future as long as there is a method that increases the reforestation program, such as fertilization and intense replanting.
We would consider supporting modest adjustments to non-timber values that do not jeopardize the high-quality stewardship on the land. We believe that rebalancing our timber and non-timber values to ensure we recognize the impacts of all industries in our community will promote well-rounded tourism, recreation and forest-based opportunities.
This is recognizing that our key industry and our main economic driver is forestry, so we need to make a decision that is based on that. We support the other industries, and we believe that they can still be effective. We look at our mountain bike park and our snowmobile club and our Omineca Ski Club, which are all based on recreation that occurs in the forest themselves. So those are key things that we understand and we promote.
We believe that the initiatives undertaken in the Lakes TSA can be used as a pilot to mitigate the impacts of declining timber in other beetle-impacted TSAs. So you know, we are faced with immediate challenges in the Lakes and have come up with some solutions, and I think we can come up with some solutions to mitigate some of the impacts as we move forward.
I just wanted to mention that village council will be working on a submission to submit to your committee, and we look forward to handing that off to you for your pleasure.
I just want to return back to the importance of a mill in our community. Just recently, we had the reconciliation ceremony held at the mill site. The CEO, Steve Zika, made an apology, and the workers and family accepted the apology. It was a very emotional and moving day. One of the wives of the workers that lost their life got up and accepted the apology on behalf of her family.
I think this signifies our community tie to Babine Forest Products. When something happens like that and we stand together and offer our forgiveness, it signifies how important it is to our community. It's not something…. We still have frustration and anger because that's part of our grieving process, but we take that next step of accepting it because we realize how important it is to us as well beings in our community.
Our community is strong, but the thing that is holding us together is the hope — the hope that we have to see a mill rebuilt. One of the mental health counsellors told me recently that you can have starving people in your community, but as long as they have hope, they will hold on. People are strong and hold onto hope.
We can't afford to lose hope in our community, so please work with us. Take the information you receive today into consideration, and please help us by providing hope to our community.
I know Dr. Miller had a comment to make as well.
B. Miller: I would also like to thank you for this opportunity to present our case to you. I think the work that you do is incredibly important to all of our communities across our region, as this issue is not just single to Burns Lake.
I'd just like to say that the regional district, the board, is putting together a brief, as well, which we will present to you prior to the 20th. But as Mayor Strimbold indicated and as director of area B, we fully support what the council and the timber supply group have put forward. It is incredibly important to our area and our region to make sure that there is a viable, economically sustainable fibre facility rebuilt here.
I think if you consider these points well and gather as much information as possible…. And remember that we are the people that are the stewards of the land here. We are faced with looking at that out our back door every day, so we tend to make very good decisions when it comes down to that. Thank you again for your time.
L. Strimbold: That's our portion.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you.
Quinten, would you like to add anything?
Q. Beach: No, I think the mayor covered everything.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Well, we have some time for questions and answers.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation. Just a couple of questions on point 9, the land-based tenure. That can mean a few different things. What, specifically, is the community considering? What sort of land-based tenure would work best for the community?
L. Strimbold: I'll add a couple of comments. Part of our vision here is things like the community forest. It's a model that works well for us. I know the community of the south side, area E…. If he were here, he would also mention the idea of getting a community forest over on the south side as a land-based tenure.
B. Miller: Yeah. Actually, that would have been my comment as well: that the director from area E is working together with community members to put together a proposal for a community forest. As well, we have others outside our region. I know in Fraser Lake — and the mayor is here today — they're very interested in a community forest.
I think one of the key reasons that we've looked at area-based tenures — and we've discussed it outside of this room, lots — is the fact that it does promote a more sustainable and a better management regime as far as forest management goes. I think it has got a bit of a feedback loop. We're looking at any form of area-based tenure. I think that movement towards that has significant benefits to forest health.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. And the community forest you presently have. What's the cut for that presently?
L. Strimbold: Quinten, you're probably better to answer that one than me.
Q. Beach: That's my other volunteer job, president of the community forest. I think currently it's a little over 200, but it's going to be reduced down to approximately a hundred for the long term.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): That's a fair…. And what size are you thinking would be an appropriate area-based tenure that the community could control, which would be reasonable for what you…?
B. Miller: If you asked me that, I would say the whole district, but that's only my personal opinion. I just feel that area-based tenure has some significant advantages. I realize that that's not realistic. But we're thinking that any of the new tenures, if we move towards that, and there's…. We are not naive. We realize there are some restrictions there.
But any form of tenure, like the new woodland licences that the First Nations have…. If there's an opportunity to move them into an area base, again, I think it's a better management strategy for overall forest health.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): And to be clear, you're talking about community controlled rather than…. I mean, very often these will be company controlled. But you're talking about a combination of First Nations and community and basically tying it to the community and allowing some flexibility in how it's managed so that the community can make decisions for itself in terms of….
L. Strimbold: That's right. Currently we have a community forest board which consists of three members of the public and three First Nations representatives, so it's a 50-50 representation which encompasses the values of our community. I think when deciding the amount of fibre, we've always got to take into consideration the other industry and other players at the table. But we're more than interested to work with you, and I think that will be part of our submission that we put in. It will focus around the community forest.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. We've got quite a speakers list, starting with Ben.
B. Stewart: Thanks for the presentation from Kaitlin, Luke, Bill and Quinten. This is the first time I've been back to Burns Lake since this incident happened, and I think all of us are feeling, I guess, the pain that you are probably feeling. But more so, we're here to try to find solutions to some of the issues that obviously weren't as acute as now. We're faced with a rebuilding situation. I can only imagine….
I just did a mathematical calculation. There were about 240 employees at Babine. Is that about right? I guess what I'm trying to…. One of the things that obviously is impacted is all of the other people that were employed by Babine, whether it's the services that are provided to the mill and all the ancillary services. I don't know what the size of the impact is in terms of how many other employees would be affected by this, so I'd like to just have that kind of number. I know the community, the population, is roughly around 2,100 or 2,200 people.
The second thing is…. I know that timeliness on this is important. Obviously, we would have liked to have been able to have the answer as soon as Pat Bell and John and others were up here right after the disaster. But I guess those people's jobs are in the balance. I'm talking about the total group within the community.
The timeliness of when the decision needs to be made so that people that have those other businesses hang in there while a new mill is being reconstructed and the people that have taken employment in other communities on an interim basis to keep their families going, etc…. So I'm wondering about those two questions.
L. Strimbold: Well, I know later today you'll have someone from the chamber that will represent the business impact and what they're doing to mitigate it and how it has impacted the business community. But I think our numbers were around 500 jobs, indirectly and directly. So 500 people it affected employment for, which is a significant amount of employment for our community.
B. Stewart: What about the timeliness in terms of…? I mean, I'm sure that the answer is not coming soon enough for most people in Burns Lake. But knowing the committee is expected to report out…. We've been given, I think, a pretty demanding schedule to have an answer back, a report, to the minister by August 15. I'm just wondering: can you put it in perspective?
L. Strimbold: Well, I guess what it really comes down to is the hope thing. It's the idea that we need to be able to have some reassurance in our community, especially for a mill to be rebuilt. The later it is, the later construction starts. If you look at an 18-month construction period and you look at our seasons that we have here…. You have eight to ten months of a winter season that construction can't happen or is very minimal.
So the timing of it…. If we look at the end of summer type of thing, the end of August, then cleanup of the site will happen and things will start to initiate. Over the winter the planning will take place, and then construction starts in the fall, which then, in turn, provides people the confirmation that a mill is coming back to our community.
For those people who have invested their lives and their business into the forest industry…. We often talk that the investment that the loggers and contractors have made is close to the investment of a sawmill. So that investment is out there waiting to see what happens to the mill before they start making decisions of either letting things go or moving on to new opportunities.
B. Stewart: I guess just one last question is: what is the tax to the community of Burns Lake? What's the percentage of your total tax roll that Babine represented?
L. Strimbold: It actually wasn't in the municipal tax base. Burns Lake Native Development Corp. is a 10 percent owner, so Burns Lake band would receive some of the revenue from it. The village doesn't. It's the residents and the businesses that are affected.
This year we went with a zero percent tax increase as a result and have adjusted our budget immensely to get there.
B. Routley: Again, thank you for your presentation. Kaitlin, I just wanted to thank you for your courage in coming here today and your presentation, giving us the youth perspective and the ideas of fertilizing and dealing with some of the dead pine that needs to be replanted. Thank you for that.
To the mayor: you had a couple of suggestions. I assume the VQOs that you talked about…. I'm aware that currently under legislation there is some ability to harvest in those areas. I'm not clear. You mentioned a committee that was struck locally to look at various options, and you even mentioned some legislative hurdles. Could you…?
Did that committee come to some conclusions? Did they have…? Is there a document with a list of recommendations? Could you tell me a little bit more about that committee, that process and how many recommendations they came to? Is there anything other than VQOs that they are recommending?
L. Strimbold: I know there is some documentation that the committee has. Part of it is the surveys that were completed by the community around the opportunities or some of the challenges we face in the community.
Around visual-quality objectives, it's kind of taking into consideration that we're the people that live here. If we can have the opportunity to be a part of that decision process around visual-quality constraints…. Also recognizing that to address the needs…. It's addressed from a community level.
B. Routley: Thank you.
The other is…. I was a bit taken aback by the statement that government has given some kind of commitment to the community. I think you used the phrase that you had a commitment from government that the mill could be rebuilt. Could you tell me a little bit more about that?
L. Strimbold: Sure. I think as part of their response in all areas of aspects…. We worked hard with government on many different opportunities to develop the hope in the community. I think part of it was looking at the opportunity in our Lakes TSA and then looking at the opportunity to have a mill rebuilt.
That's part of reassuring a community to provide the hope that we need to stand together. As we all recognize, it's our largest employer. Understanding that government wants to work to get to that position — right? I think it's a collective thing. The local communities will work with the provincial government to get to a decision where we can have some timber available.
B. Miller: Actually, if I could add one thing, too, to what the mayor said about the timber supply committee. There was actually a presentation that we did to the chief forester prior to the timber supply review that was done for the Lakes District. It outlined a number of different potential mitigation processes, because that was one of the…. The key thrust of the committee, of course, was to look at this very issue prior to the explosion at the mill. There was a presentation done to the chief forester, and it did involve some legislative changes.
Some of them were in directions to the chief forester in his review process. One that comes to the top of my mind is the utilization standards and the hectare requirement for what they actually put into the THLB. It was dropping the…. I think our suggestion at the time was around 100 cubic metres per hectare.
Those are some of the things. But there was definitely a document produced.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you for that.
E. Foster: Thanks for the submissions. Having been the mayor of a small mill town prior to being an MLA and having watched a couple of our major mills close over the years, I know exactly where you're coming from on this one, and I feel for you. Ours were closed. We didn't have a catastrophic event like you did, but the mills were still closed, so I certainly understand.
I want to get back to two comments. One, I'll do first. Your Worship, you mentioned some of the social service…. Notwithstanding that obviously the school lunches are going to stop when the school shuts down. But some of your other social service initiatives that you said are being cut back on — could you elaborate on those a little? That's something that we should probably be taking into consideration immediately.
L. Strimbold: Well, I think part of it for us is our capacity in the community. We've noticed a real…. You know, people are getting tired. We've had the same volunteers helping at the breakfasts that we have, helping at the food bank, that are helping with dinners, if there are dinners. I think part of it is that some people are getting tired — to be able to help put the man-hours into things like the food bank and the breakfast as well. I think that's part of it. These are….
We look at the breakfast. I know our MLA has attended and can probably share some other stories with you as well. That was a time…. When you go there, it is the workers and their families that come together. They sit across from each other and have breakfast and spend about a couple of hours together conversing on how things are going, who's getting jobs and how they're doing it, and how they can get a job. You also have the people in the kitchen that are feeling a part of the team that's helping rebuild this community. I think it all plays into effect when those kinds of things are starting to wrap up or slow down.
E. Foster: Okay. Thank you. The other question I had was on your comment about managing your community forest and enlarging that land base and volume if possible. How far would you like to see the legislation changed, right…? I mean, there are reasons why there is an overall management of community forests. It's not completely held at the community level, although you do certainly have, as holder of the licence, quite a bit of latitude as to what you can do. What do you see changing? I know Bill alluded to that too. Just other than the sort of the general, "We'd like to be controlling it," where do you see that going?
L. Strimbold: I think part of it is the idea that it is a local management system. It is managed by the local First Nations and community members — recognizing that and recognizing that for a community forest it's kind of tied to the community. So having that opportunity to have the influence on the management plan.
There are things like the visual-quality objectives in the community forest that the community forest can look after. We look at recreation that occurs within the community forest. They have a management plan to make sure that the recreation can continue to take place, so that it's not jeopardizing it through changes in the forest management.
I will re-emphasize that we are submitting a submission that will have a little more detail around it for you folks to look over.
E. Foster: Excellent. Thanks.
J. Rustad (Chair): We have just a few minutes left and two more questions.
H. Bains: Thank you, Mr. Mayor and councillors, for the presentation, and a special thanks to Kaitlin. If adults can make the right decision, I'm sure if youth come forward, they will pay special attention, I hope. So thank you very much for coming.
In my personal life I have sat across from many families who went through exactly the same thing that your families are going through in this community. I could see the pain in their eyes, and I can see the pain in this community — what they feel and what they're going through.
You talk about 240 jobs in a community of 2,100. For us from the Lower Mainland, I think to really put it in perspective, it means that if one Monday morning we woke up and were told that 150,000 jobs are gone in the Lower Mainland, this province would come to a standstill. That's the effect. And when you look at the indirect jobs, you're talking about, like, 300,000 jobs lost in the Lower Mainland. That's the effect that your community is going through.
I can see this because too often we see 240 jobs. It's 240 jobs — right? But for this community that's a huge loss. I think the challenge that this community is facing and your neighbouring communities are facing, where we have been, is because of the pine beetle epidemic and the cut that will be affected by the post–pine beetle era.
In your own area it's going down to about 500,000, if the numbers are correct. They could be bumped up by a bit, and with all the suggestions that you're putting forward in order to keep our forests sustainable, whether it's in Morice Lake or Prince George, all of them are going through the same thing.
I think the question is: how do you make the right decision? That's what the committee is supposed to do. Considering the pain that your community is going through, considering what we are facing as a province in this area because of the mountain pine beetle, considering whatever decision we make, it will be viewed across the world where our customers are. How do we defend our decisions, considering what we have?
How do you suggest that…? How do we convince your neighbouring communities, who are basically saying, "Well, if this mill is rebuilt, something else is going to go down or something else is at risk," and you said you don't want to see that happen. That's the dilemma. How do you answer that?
L. Strimbold: I guess part of it, re-emphasizing the importance of another mill for an economical sense along the region…. The other part is addressing things in our TSA. Mitigation opportunities in our TSA can also be addressed in other TSAs. That's where we say the Lakes TSA can potentially be a pilot or a model that we test some of these mitigation plans and projects to alleviate some timber.
It's also remembering that things like the land resource management plan were in place prior to the mountain pine beetle. There were things set in place back then that did not take into consideration that the mountain pine beetle was coming into effect. So there are changes within that. I know there's a group that's going to talk about it more specifically later, so I'll leave that to them.
But there are things that we can do within our TSA that we really believe will not have a dramatic impact on the other communities.
J. Rustad (Chair): And we've got just a minute or two, Donna.
D. Barnett: I'd just like to thank you all for coming today. I know it's tough. We all knew this day was coming, with the pine beetle. You've all been working on this. I live in the heart and soul of pine beetle and have been very involved.
It's unfortunate that your incident happened, and that was sincerely a tragedy. But I commend you for your positive attitude. We all know that when there's a challenge, if you have a positive attitude, you can have a good outcome.
The concern that I have, of course, is with the land use plan. You say we're going to get a presentation later on today regarding the opportunities within taking a look at that land use plan, so I look forward to that.
I do have one question with your services, as MLA Foster brought up. Have services been cut by the ministry dealing with women's issues and with the issues facing you more and more with alcohol abuse and family issues? Have you had cuts in your services?
L. Strimbold: No, but there's been no increase in assistance. I guess that's a response.
D. Barnett: What I hear you saying is that you need some assistance.
L. Strimbold: There is an opportunity. Absolutely.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Well, thank you very much for your presentation.
Kaitlin, you did a fantastic job of representing the youth. Thank you for that.
Luke, Bill and Quinten, thank you again for taking some time with the committee. We look forward to your written submission.
Next we have the First Nations group from the community.
Okay, we're a couple of minutes behind.
First of all, welcome. It's great to see you all here today. Thank you for taking your time, and thank you for the written submission. I will make sure that all of our members receive a copy of that.
I will turn it over, I guess, to you, Chief Gerow, if you'd like to start. Perhaps, let everybody introduce themselves, and then we can carry on.
A. Gerow: Good morning, hon. Rustad, and thank you. I'm Chief Gerow, Burns Lake Band, and president and CEO, Burns Lake Native Development Corp.
First off, I'd like to welcome you to the traditional territory of the Burns Lake Band. I do have a brief presentation, and we'll start with introductions to my right.
D. George: Dan George, councillor, Burns Lake Band also.
R. Peters: Richard Peters, chief, Cheslatta.
M. Robertson: Mike Robertson, policy adviser with Cheslatta Carrier Nation.
W. Adam: Wilf Adam, chief, Lake Babine.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thanks for the welcome to your traditional territory.
A. Gerow: Thank you, John.
The package that we have has just been handed out to you.
What I'd like to say first and foremost is: today I'm wearing pink. The reason I'm wearing pink is in support of women's fight against breast cancer. I also wear pink in support of freedom of choice by individuals, and I also wear pink in support of anti-bullying processes that happen throughout our province, our country, within schools and elsewhere.
First Nations people are often seen, they're seldom heard, and they're never listened to unless it's before a provincial court, federal court or legislative committee of this nature. Burns Lake Native Development Corp. is made up of six First Nations bands within the Lakes District: Lake Babine Nation, Wet'suwet'en First Nation, the Nee Tahi Buhn Band, Skin Tyee First Nation, Cheslatta Carrier Nation and the Burns Lake Band.
The BLNDC was established in 1974. It presently owns just under 11 percent of Babine Forest Products. We also maintain one seat on the board of directors for Babine Forest Products.
The Burns Lake timber supply area annual allowable cut today is set at 2 million cubic metres. At present there are 900,000 cubic metres that have been issued in various licences throughout the Burns Lake TSA. The majority of those licences are short term. Hampton Affiliates has maintained that in order to rebuild the sawmill at Babine Forest Products, they require approximately 1 million cubic metres annually.
The six First Nations, with the support of the village of Burns Lake, the regional district and others, have proposed to the Ministry of Forests to direct-award a forest licence to the six First Nations for the balance of the unallocated volume of 1.1 million cubic metres for at least 20 years. That would secure the wood fibre supply for Hampton for them to be able to make a decision to rebuild the sawmill.
The United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which was passed in 2006…. All six First Nations traditional territories span the boundaries and beyond the Burns Lake timber supply area. Article 28 of the United Nations declaration states the following:
"Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.
"Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress."
If you look at page 4 of the handout that I've provided you, you'll see on the left-hand side of the column the annual allowable cut for the Burns Lake timber supply area. If operating today, the ministry conceivably could issue licences equivalent to two million cubic metres annually. This is even before the thought of going into either an old-growth management area or even a visual-quality objective. This two million annual allowable cut was set taking those constraints in mind and didn't impact any of those areas.
The blue line that you see on the graph indicates the sawlog quality within the Burns Lake TSA. It's expected that that's going to drop within the next five to seven years from two million cubic metres to roughly 500,000 cubic metres. The strategy that the six First Nations, along with the village of Burns Lake and regional district, have put together through a variety of means is an opportunity to increase that annual allowable cut from 500,000 — as it will drop to — to approximately one million cubic metres, utilizing a variety of options — two of which include the land use constraints.
The one land use constraint, specifically, represents the old-growth management forest. That particular policy in legislation was established when we had live healthy forests throughout the Lakes District and throughout the province of B.C. Today those forests are dead. Those particular areas — old-growth management forests and visual-quality objectives — face the same threat of wildfire because of the trees dying from the mountain pine beetle.
The objectives of the strategy that we came forward with for the Burns Lake TSA are to look at opportunities for reducing the visual-quality objective policy and the old-growth management areas while maintaining the intent of both of those policies, primarily to be able to obtain the fibre that is at high risk of wildfire. We don't want to see Burns Lake end up like Slave Lake — or our neighbouring communities.
The one million and two million cubic metres that you see in your graph there, on the left-hand side on the bottom, represents years — five, ten, 15, 20 and 25 years. The two million cubic metres that I've talked about prior to that…. The sawlog quality is expected to drop to about 500,000 within the next five to seven years. There is still at least 1½ million cubic metres of biomass fibre that is available.
That biomass fibre can be used through a direct-award licence to the six First Nations to be able to engage in alternative industries such as wood pallet, biodiesel, swamp mat industry or even hydroelectric generation. We also, with respect to the six First Nations, look for an opportunity to begin engaging in lands, as outlined under the United Nations declaration, to be able to begin building plantations that would support the ongoing need for fibre for the biomass industry.
We're deeply concerned about the time that this is taking away from Hampton Affiliates to be able to make their decision to rebuild the sawmill. As you know, in the northern interior of B.C. the window of construction is short. Any delays that are incurred before we're able to hear a decision not only push this back to, for example, the middle of August; they push us back potentially another year or year and a half in order for construction to begin.
I look forward to hearing your report in August. Just in closing, had the province come to make a decision with respect to working with the six First Nations within the February to date timeline, Burns Lake would be a different place today. Burns Lake would have not only Hampton with a decision to rebuild the sawmill but the First Nations beginning the process to work with industry to create alternative revenue-generating sources such as the biomass industry.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Albert. Would anybody else like to add some comments?
W. Adam: Chief Wilf Adam, Lake Babine Nation. My points are going to be blunt and to the point.
Before I do that, I would like to let you know who I represent. I represent 2,400 members of the Lake Babine Nation, and over 1,000 of them live here in the Burns Lake area. We have a huge territory, and the Lakes timber supply is just one of the areas within our territory. There's the Morice and the Bulkley.
You know, we had 66 of our members working at Babine Forest when the mill exploded on January 20. All of these 66 workers lost their jobs. A lot of them were at the end of their careers. They spent 25, 30 years at the plant, and the prospect of them getting another job is challenging — to put it mildly.
When the mill blew up on January 20, it was very chaotic in this small town of ours. I really want to commend the people at the hospital and the first responders that went to the site. It was chaotic at the hospital. Our hall was right behind the hospital. We opened it right after. You know, we opened our doors. We used it as a command centre and for the employees to come in and their families to come in. To this day it's still open to the employees. We have weekly breakfasts for all the employees, not just Lake Babine members but all the employees of Babine Forest Products.
We are still doing this because we believe in this town. We believe in contributing to the economy of this town. If you look at…. Other than Prince George, where has a community our size gone through a devastation like this? For Lake Babine, our unemployment is high enough as it is, and to lose the employment of 66 of our members is quite devastating.
What I want to tell the committee here is to get on with the process of rebuilding the mill. There's enough timber supply to meet the needs. There are enough processes that are in place to make that decision. I wish this decision was made earlier. Because it became a political football, it's just kind of like it's punted down the road. What is happening is that you're punting the people of Burns Lake down the road, which is wrong. I think that this decision needs to happen.
The five communities around Burns Lake that are objecting to what's happening here have never gone through what we've gone through, and to listen to them and give them time is wrong. Every time I think about it, it really angers me that we have to sit here and bite our tongues and let things move at a snail's pace, like what is happening right now.
Yes, some of the employees did get jobs elsewhere, but there are employees that still need counselling service. I invite you guys to sit with the employees. Breakfast is happening tomorrow morning at our hall. Listen to the workers. You will see and you will find that what has happened here is such an event that just to get a job elsewhere….
I know some of the employees did get jobs, but they couldn't handle it. Once they hear a loud sound, or something like that, it just…. Things come back. I'll give you an example. When it happened in Prince George in April, it just brought everything back to the forefront.
I appreciate the committee going around, but I think, to me, the decision has to be made quickly, not just standing back and making it into a political football. The lives of the community of Burns Lake reside on what happens. So I implore all of you to bring that message back. I sat with the Premier and with some of the ministers and said the same bloody thing. I think it's time we really start moving ahead, making sure that the plant is rebuilt back in Burns Lake. That's all I have to say. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Chief Wilf.
Chief Peters, would you like to say a few words?
R. Peters: Good morning. I represent 230 members that reside 30 miles south of here. Our community is another 80 kilometres south of here. Our traditional territories span the Ootsa Lake reservoir. We had a sawmill on the south side and due to the low rates in the lumber industry, our sawmill was disbanded.
We have survived and have banded together to support the six First Nations in the local area to get an accomplishment done that relates to everyone in the community. And I mean everyone. It's not only the six nations; it's also the community of Burns Lake. So we totally support the idea of banding together to get something right, something that's rightfully in our areas.
I have stood back and watched our community. Our community struggles with new adventures of getting jobs elsewhere, in the same instance that you lose your industry. We had our industry there for quite some years and have disbanded. Now our community gets jobs here and gets jobs there. It's tough. So we look at the support of the six nations, getting the right to have industry back here and have it supporting the whole community as one. I support all the local six nations on their endeavour to get that timber right.
Chief Wilf Adam mentioned time constraints. Time constraints have a big value. It values your family staying home where they rightfully belong, close to you, so that they don't have to move elsewhere to go find jobs. Everybody has families. I know each one of you guys have families. We also have families, and we'd like them to stay here. Managing that time constraint can identify that. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Chief Peters.
Councillor George, would you like to say some words?
D. George: Good morning. I'm Dan George, a councillor of Burns Lake Band. I'm also an alternate director for the BLNDC. Over the years BLNDC was 10 percent owner of Babine Forest Products, and the previous owners and stuff…. I don't know what types of contracts they've had in there, but we've never ever received any dividends. So all the profits go out of Burns Lake. I'd like to see a lot better contract with whoever rebuilds the mill and maybe a bigger ownership, where the money could come back to the community instead of going to the state.
First Nations are stewards of the land. We're here to stay. We can't just sell our homes on the reserve and then move. We're connected to the land here. We're part of the community. We are the community.
I've been a logger. Pretty well everybody in northern B.C. has been a logger once or twice in their lifetime. My dad gave me a power saw when I was 13 years old, and I logged in the bush until I was about 30 and moved on to other things. I worked for Ministry of Forests for ten years, also, here in Lakes District.
If Babine's not rebuilt, I don't think we'll need a new hospital, because this place will be pretty desolate. So we need a new mill, and I hope you can act on it. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much.
Mike, would you like to add anything?
M. Roberston: Thank you, John. My name is Mike Robertson from the Cheslatta Carrier Nation. As Richard said, we're located south of Burns Lake, about 30 kilometres. We have to use an inland ferry to get to our community, but we're very closely tied historically and economically to the Burns Lake region and the Lakes District as a whole.
The Cheslatta and the other five First Nations have long been involved in different processes locally here to help diversify the economy. As members of BLNDC, we're also shareholders in Babine Forest Products.
We have worked on two separate proposals for the B.C. Hydro call for energy. We have, on the books, a 30-megawatt power plant that would utilize the mountain pine beetle waste, establish a plant here in Burns Lake and create a lot of jobs, both from the harvesting to the operations of the plant to silviculture and stand tending.
Both proposals didn’t make the cut. You know, when we're looking at industry in the Lakes District, we have to look at the utility infrastructure as well, and the transportation infrastructure. Our utility infrastructure, B.C. Hydro, has a deficient gap in our grid system. We can't accept 30 megawatts of power from a co-gen plant.
On the south side we're right in the heart of mountain pine beetle, where it started. We've had several opportunities fail because our grid system doesn't have the capacity to either feed new industry on the south side or to accept power created from a bioenergy system. That has to be dealt with. That is a crisis in our current situation or in planning for our future.
The concept of a primary breakdown plant is important in the overall management of the forest industry, but it's becoming a less-than-primary source. A primary breakdown plant is important, but in consideration of the integrity of the standing timber — and we speak from years and years of experience — a primary breakdown plant would be secondary in the whole mix of things.
We have to concentrate on biomass opportunities. We have infrastructure west of town. The BLNDC owns a plant that could be converted into a mat production facility to produce mats for the oil and gas industry, creating substantial employment opportunities — again, harvesting, manufacture, trucking, stand tending and silviculture — so attention has to be given to the opportunities that we have on the table.
It's also crucial that First Nations hold current and future licences so we can utilize every single bit of that tree, not just concentrate on the sawlogs. For every tree that goes through a breakdown plant there are two or three that are left in the bush and burned. That is power. That is the economic driver of the future that's going up in smoke. We have to utilize that.
On a related venture, the Cheslatta Carrier Nation is proposing to build the water release facility at the Kenney dam, a project that was long promoted by this government. They have now backed away from their commitment to build that. The Cheslatta Carrier Nation has secured partners, and now we're standing up with a proposal, saying: "We will build it." What's lacking here is the call from the government.
Now we have a collection of representatives of all parties at this table. We need attention given from all parties here to direct B.C. Hydro to sit down with us and negotiate and finalize energy purchase agreements that can allow us to build the Kenney dam release facility that would allow us to further our biomass opportunities. We have the fibre to do this, the biomass. We have the financing to build it, but we don't have any will or direction from the government to direct B.C. Hydro to make this thing work.
If we're looking at the future here, now's the time to put full attention to our deficiencies in our infrastructure here, and that's our critical B.C. Hydro limitations. How can we continue to expand and grow when we're working on 1950s electricity?
We call on this committee to bring attention to this issue and direct B.C. Hydro to engage the six First Nations — the old Ditni Yoh project — and negotiate a fair and equitable energy purchase agreement.
The same goes with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation project on the Kenney Dam. The only way that will be viable, the only way that would become an important part of our economic future is if B.C. Hydro is directed by government to negotiate an energy purchase agreement.
So when we talk timber supply, it's involved in this whole cycle of our economic future and stability here. We can't say how important it is for attention to be given to our projects and proposals. It's not just one forest company that's getting all the attention here. We've got to look at the big picture. Again, First Nations have to hold the tenure and be able to work with partners, like Babine Forest Products, like the energy, the biomass, the matting industry.
We can do it. We make a profit, and the profit stays in the community. It doesn't go offshore. It doesn't go off-site. It doesn't go out of the province. So let's fully utilize our wounded land base here and allow the harvesting to occur, allow us to hold the licence and allow us to get the land healthy again — and the economy.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Mike.
At this time I'd like open it up to members for questions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation. I know that the province committed resources to the community, that you've had work done within the community. One of the questions that we had as committee members is: did we have all of the information from that group? Just to understand the processes that are going on. And here I'm presuming that there is more information to come.
One of the things I need to reconcile is in terms of the opportunities around the cut. The information that we were provided by the ministry talks about various options that get you up to a figure closer to 600,000 cubic metres. Yet the figure that we're talking about here is 1.1 million cubic metres. So it's clear that either I've misunderstood the information we have or we need more information.
I guess the question I have for you is…. I know the community has said that it supports the efforts and that you're working together on this. That's point 7 in the community presentation. It's clear that there is work that's been done. I feel we have part of it. Is more of that information coming? Do I fully understand the work that's been done through the province to date, that you've reached a point where you can put really concrete information in front of the committee that we don't already have? Or am I missing something in terms of what I see?
Like I say, I'm looking at getting up to 600,000 here, and the figure that's being talked about is 1.1 million cubic metres, which is a significant disparity. Maybe you could help us understand that disparity.
J. Rustad (Chair): Chief Gerow, just before you answer that….
I think in part of the presentations and information that was given to us, the going up to 600,000 is the mitigation from the various constraints on the land base. The additional volumes come from the low-volume stands, fertilization and other types of presentations that we had to our committee which, combined, can bring us up to about 1.1 million if we were aggressive in being able to do everything. Those are obviously decisions that the committee is going to have to make in terms of our recommendations.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. All right. Maybe that's an explanation….
J. Rustad (Chair): Yeah. That was part of the various constraints and things that were presented to us throughout the presentations.
A. Gerow: Hon. Macdonald, there are two aspects to keep in mind with respect to the request. The 1.1 million is what's presently unallocated in the current timber supply volume for the Burns Lake TSA. In that 1.1 million, there's roughly 30 percent that may make sawlog quality value.
All the chiefs have agreed that the sawlog volume would be maintained here in Burns Lake for a plant that's rebuilt, the balance of which, the other side of the equation, is the biomass fibre. We recognize that there's going to be a drop in the sawlog quality, but the biomass fibre is two million cubic metres, if not more, throughout the Lakes district. It's that added biomass that's above the sawlog quality.
What's been presented to the First Nations is an opportunity for a 300,000 cubic metre licence to go towards sawlog volume. With the previous Ditni Yoh project, there was a commitment for 400,000 cubic metres to go towards a biomass licence for the Ditni Yoh hydroelectric generating project. We've received confirmation that there is 300,000 immediately available to begin a process for biomass industry, and we're arm wrestling for the other 100,000 cubic metres to what was originally promised, 400,000.
Drawback to that particular offering is that the wood fibre that's available for biomass is on the south side of Francois Lake, and it becomes difficult to equitably bring that fibre to Burns Lake to a processing plant.
So the key thing is that there's the sawlog volume and then the biomass volume. Our proposal is to maintain the two million annual allowable cut and allow increasing volume for the biomass, because in excess of 80 percent of the mountain pine beetle forest is dead, as you probably witnessed as you drove here today.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay, thank you.
M. Robertson: We have fear that the Forestry Innovation report…. Part of this process was that the government contracted, on our behalf, the Forestry Innovation group to do some studies on the feasibility of the biomass component, and we basically reject that report made by the consultants.
I don't think we had enough input in that or respect or credibility for what we were trying to do. A lot of numbers used in that report were third-party numbers from back east, from Alberta. I mean, we went through two of these processes. We spent substantial resources. We tabled viable proposals. We wouldn't have tabled something if it wasn't economically viable.
The Forestry Innovation people basically laughed at the concept of the biomass industry, so we have fears of that report having some standing with your committee in making an assessment. We're saying: "Listen to us. Believe in us. We know what we're talking about."
We don't need some consultant coming in from the outside saying that we can't do this. We know we can. So be careful of that report. Again, we don't have any faith in that thing going any further than the wastebasket.
B. Stewart: Thanks very much — appreciate the presentation.
Chief Wilf, you've mentioned the population in your band. I'm wondering: in the six nations that are represented by the BLNDC, what's the population of the bands in total? This annual allowable cut that we're trying to get to and find the necessary tools to be able to see the mill rebuilt here — what's the impact in terms of that population? You mentioned 66 directly employed at that, and I guess I'm just kind of thinking about in the forests, etc.
Councillor George, you mentioned that you grew up with a chainsaw in your hands, and I see you've got all your digits. At least, I think you do. Knowing that that's…. The only thing about it is that I know that….
I'm just wondering about the impact on the local area. Obviously the development corporation is formed around many of the other economic opportunities, but this one is fairly significant.
W. Adam: I just want to say a point about depopulation. All the jobs that are held or done within the Burns Lake area — the wages don't leave the community. About 90 to 95 percent stays within this community. I know that many of our employees spend their money here, so that's a huge impact, whereas other places, people spend a lot of their money elsewhere. I just want to make a point — that the wages that we earn in this town stay in this town.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. I have one question that I'd like to ask. The community forest in here, in the area, is an area base that sets up some support and allows for some management decisions. I know that Lake Babine Nation, in partnership with Granisle, have a small community forest as well. The Cheslatta Carrier Nation is looking for a community forest. Do you have a community forest…?
M. Robertson: We have a 50,000 metre long-term, 25-year community forest.
J. Rustad (Chair): So those are all area-based. I know there is the ask in terms of a tenure for LBN. There are many other tenures on the land base that are renewable tenures, and some, of course, that are not renewable tenures. The question I have is around the area base and how you sort of look at those.
Obviously, all of these operating areas are within your traditional territories in one fashion or another. If there was to be a move away from the volume base towards area-based tenures for the licensees as well as something that could be set up for the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation, is that something that you would support in terms of how we would manage on the land base? What are your thoughts or concerns that may come up with doing that type of a thing?
A. Gerow: The area-based form of licence would allow us a lot more flexibility within the timber supply area to be able to look at volumes closer to a production facility, which would allow us a better economic opportunity to be able to engage in those.
As time goes on and we need to go further within the Burns Lake timber supply area for fibre, it also allows us to begin the opportunity to rebuild the forests closer to us and look at opportunities, as I mentioned earlier, with respect to possibility of plantations — of hybrid aspen, for example — to be able to begin supplying the bio industry.
The six First Nations locally are working or are in the process of talking with five different industries within the Lakes District. Every one of those five industries deals with biomass — fibre in one aspect or another — or other alternative sources of fuel. We believe the strength in the community is going to be in the biomass as the sawlog quality continues to diminish.
W. Adam: Just a point that when we're talking about timber supply, it has to be based on fair market value. I think just to give some timber licence or whatever to one particular group…. I think it's important to let you know that our support is to have the mill rebuilt in Burns Lake, but it has to be on a fair market value basis.
J. Rustad (Chair): That makes sense.
M. Robertson: There are about 3,500 to close to 4,000 constituents of all six bands represented, and then an element of non-status, and there are other people. So it's substantial population in the south side and Burns Lake and Lakes District area.
B. Routley: Thank you for your presentation. I guess the nub of what I would want to say is that while I'm incredibly moved by the fact that six First Nations have gotten together, and the huge level of community support for a plan, the one troubling thing that certainly sticks with me and, I'm sure, with other communities is…. I once travelled to Europe to defend B.C.'s forest practices against what was an attack — back in the days of the war in the woods. There were huge attacks on our markets, our ability to sell forest products.
I come out of a mill myself. I worked at the Youbou mill on Vancouver Island. I've sat across the table from literally thousands of forest workers that have lost their jobs. I've been through bankruptcies of mills and logging operations. I've seen a lot of tragedy.
Getting back to your plan, I really believe that there is some huge merit in exploring a whole bunch of options, given the support that's there. But I don't think the only option should be looking at a plan that could potentially put at risk our standing in the international markets, certainly with international environmental groups. While I was a sawmill and forest worker representative, I understood the importance to our industry and to the markets to have the land use plans that were developed that set apart special and unique zones.
I agree that there are some…. You know, I understood from the briefing that we got that there are opportunities within visual-quality areas. But just the other day…. As a former negotiator, I'm struck by the fact that we were to the west of here and basically hearing from community representatives that there were roughly three million cubic metres. I think his name was Steve Osborn. It's on the public record. He said that they'd lost ten sawmills, and they have 3 million cubic metres available in the Hazelton area, some of which is in First Nations…. There are over 300,000 cubic metres in First Nations' hands.
So I just wondered if other options had been explored. I believe this has the makings of something that would be terrifically good news, but I think there needs to be some more work on — and this is just my own personal view — not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. The idea of changing legislation and threatening our markets concerns me, but the idea of putting together a plan and cobbling together some solutions to find fibre…. At least some of the fibre that you have is, certainly, viable. It's going to be ongoing, and it's here.
It's the additional — you know, scraping together fibre by…. Maybe you're right. Harvesting dead pine is different than having trees that were set aside for other uses, and that should be looked at.
Have you at all looked at the opportunity of this huge timber supply that is…? I'm told that they're actually transporting logs five hours from here. They're transporting logs five hours in the other direction for log export. There's wood there that could be coming and connecting to your community. It's First Nations, and obviously, if you could get together and form some kind of a larger mandate, it would be terrific news for all British Columbians.
I was once to Sweden, and I sat with a third-generation Swedish sawmill owner that said when they tore down the old mill…. They had 100 employees in the Linck mill, and they were only going to require out of the hundred about 25 employees.
They put as a mandate: how do we generate 100 jobs? So they built not only a Linck mill; they built a laminated beam centre. They built a finger joiner. They built a dry kiln, and they were even more profitable. My point is that they ended up becoming even more profitable.
I think you have some wonderful ideas. You've talked about pellet plants, you know, other options. I just think that there is some really good work done here. I guess what I'm trying to say is: are any of those other options or ideas that I'm suggesting worth exploring? Or do you disagree with me in total that it doesn't matter what the international markets think or environmental groups might think of us destroying all of the environmental set-asides? That's, by the way, what we have heard from other communities in large part. It has been, "Don't mess with our land use plans," and that component of all of the qualities that are seen by international environmental groups and certifying bodies that, by the way, could affect you here too.
You don't want to destroy your ability to market your products. I think you want to enhance it.
M. Robertson: Yes, we have been frustrated, as a lot of people are, especially small-scale. When forest licences are issued to a primary breakdown plant, their focus is on a sawlog. The rest of it goes up in smoke. This is what frustrates ourselves and a lot of people.
When we have an area-based tenure, we want to utilize the full fibre resource on that licence, not just the little component of sawlogs — pile up the rest and burn it. All of these initiatives that we're talking about can work, from the primary plants down to the biofuel to the secondary manufacturing to the matting industry. There is so much fibre that is wasted. That in itself is an embarrassment.
We have implored you guys as representatives in Victoria to change the Forest Act, which can allow for secondary access to that waste. That is a crime, seeing that stuff going up in smoke every year when we could be putting people to work utilizing that — creating power, creating jobs. That is an embarrassment in itself in the international community to see how wasteful we are when it's not necessary.
It needs legislated changes. You folks are the representatives of us. You have the power to make those changes so we can implement our ideas.
A. Gerow: Just two comments, and thank you for the question. With respect to the fibre supply, the strategy that we've been able to pull together focuses only on the Burns Lake timber supply area. There are five neighbouring mayors who've written letters to the provincial government strongly opposing any new activity within the Burns Lake TSA.
If we were to venture to Hazelton or outside our TSA, that's only going to further fuel the anger within those communities, because they'll feel that threat of loss of fibre from their area.
In the Burns Lake area, which was the heart of the mountain pine beetle infestation, our area was opened up, and millions of cubic metres of wood fibre left this area in an effort to stem the tide of the mountain pine beetle. There was a promise that was made by the government that the Burns Lake timber supply area would be reciprocated for the amount of fibre that left this area to other, neighbouring sawmills.
Now we're in a position where, you know, the forest in our area is dead. With respect to the international community and the environmental agencies, they have a voice. They have a say, naturally. Those policies that were set in place with respect to the Forest Act were developed and implemented when we had a healthy, live forest. The forest today is much different. It's dead here.
Those forest policies that were enacted to protect healthy, green forests don't stand up to the needs of the community to rebuild our forests. There's a huge cloud of despair that's over the community of Burns Lake. That cloud of despair is waiting for a decision to be made. When that decision is made, I'm hoping the sun will be able to come out.
In the First Nations communities there's a wall that surrounds each of the reserves that is as real as the wall that separated East and West Germany. The only way we as First Nations people can begin tearing down that wall is through economic development and education, because we're going to be the ones that are still here when everything is said and done.
W. Adam: Basically, I just want to reiterate Chief Gerow's comment. You know, we're dealing with the Lakes District timber supply area. We helped the situation with what happened in the past with pine beetle. Other plants from other areas helped themselves with the timber. Like I said in my comments, there is still enough timber to go around within this Lakes District timber supply area. I think the decision should be made with that context in mind.
I think, also….You know, when I hear about environmentalists…. Don't get me on that. I don't like talking about tree huggers or anybody like that. I just want to stay within our own area here. I think the other plants outside the Lakes timber supply have enough fibre, but if their operations were basically the same after January 20, if they add in the shifts and stuff like that, they're taking away some of our timber supply. If they're just maintained at the area they were before January 20, it will work.
J. Rustad (Chair): We're just about out of time. I've got one quick question, and then I'm going to go to Harry for our last question.
After the incident happened…. Obviously, we've met many times and had a number of discussions. One of the things that you had raised was to look at all options. You raised a question about whether we should consider looking at parks, particularly the north end of Tweedsmuir and other areas. That isn't something that the committee has put on the list in terms of options to look at, but I thought I'd give you an opportunity perhaps to speak about that, if you'd like.
A. Gerow: Sure. In all of our meetings with the six First Nations, the village of Burns Lake and the regional district, we…. In the strategy that we've put forward, we've never looked at engaging in the parks.
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry. I just wanted to clarify from a letter that you had sent earlier as an opportunity that we had discussed, but I do know that you had further discussions beyond that, so I just wanted that clarity around that. Thank you.
H. Bains: A couple of points. One, Chief Gerow, you said when pine beetle hit this area the promise was made to reciprocate the fibre that is left by the government. Maybe if you could explore who made that…. Is that on a piece of paper, or was that just made as a comment by somebody?
The second point. I'm going back to what Bill has said. I understand the different nations have their, as you put it, walls around their areas. But there is some other wood that is brought to our attention that may be available. I mean, there is…. What is actually leaving our ports ends up thousands of miles from our shores and comes back as finished product, which leaves from this general area — whether that wood has been explored, too, to be kept here, whether that is utilized, whether it economically can be kept here.
Also, working with other nations. Yesterday we heard that there may be 300,000 cubic metres available in one of the nations, which is sitting there unallocated, but it's there. So whether all those areas…. I think it was the Kispiox Nation. That's what they mentioned; about 300,000 cubic metres may be available out there.
I think the idea is to work with each other, looking at all those different options — you know, the wood that is being exported, whether that is economically viable to be kept here. So all those options. Have those been looked at, and is there a committee looking at any of that area as well?
A. Gerow: The other options that I can say we've looked at is we've talked to a company that is looking at aspen for an alternative type of industry. The company that we have met with is Aspenware, who makes wooden eating utensils — knives, forks and spoons — and looking at an opportunity of utilizing aspen to create bowls and plates for that particular industry. So that's an example of another entity of opportunity that we've looked at.
With respect to who actually made that particular comment about the reciprocating, we'll have to do some research on that to find out how that came about. I'm not sure if anyone else at the table here may have heard.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay. With that, I just need to clarify something, Harry. There is no wood from this specific or general area that is being transported out off of our shores. Just as a comment you made…. There is no wood in this general area that is being transported. However, we can have that discussion on line.
Chief Peters, last word?
R. Peters: In respect to Bill's comments, you were saying that different industry partners and a partnership relationship in allocation of timber and the six nations working out some kind of a deal or arrangement with bringing numbers up to a standard of people that are displaced in Babine's devastation….
We are looking at opportunity, and different partners have approached us on just that avenue. It is going to…. If we look at the mill rebuild, it will come down. The numbers will come down to about one-third. There are other industry partners that play a part in there to bring that job revenue back up.
As to the percentage of First Nations that are represented in that industry, I think that it will play a vital role. As you see in the six nations banding together, the drive is there. There will be job revenue cause in with the job allocation on whatever timber resources we get. Hopefully it's what we're after, because we strive to make Burns Lake a better place to live.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. I want to thank you very much for your time and presenting to us.
At this time I'm going to suggest a six-minute recess. We're going to reconvene at ten o'clock to start the public input sessions.
Once again, thank you very much.
We stand recessed.
The committee recessed from 9:53 a.m. to 10:11 a.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good morning, everyone. We've got a lot of presenters that would like to give us their opinions and thoughts, so we want to make sure that we're fair to everybody and give them the appropriate time to be able to share their comments to our committee.
At this stage we're going to go straight into the community input portion of our consultation. I'm going to ask Chris Paulson if he could come up to the mike, please. Is Chris here?
Chris, the process in the community consultation component of our discussions is 15 minutes that you have available. You can use that any way you want, if you want to do that. Or if you want to just give a shorter presentation and have time for questions and answers, that's fine as well. I won't delay any further. Over to you, Chris.
C. Paulson: Okay, I'll try for about ten minutes and then, yeah, if you guys have any questions….
I'm just out of the bush. I have a tree-planting crew working right now. But I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to come and speak. When you're out in the bush all the time, it's hard to get anything down on paper. So I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.
My name is Chris Paulson. A little bit of background. I guess I started tail-sawing when I was 14 on a two-man sawmill for my uncle. I had to ride my motorcycle to work every day after school to do that. In '83 I had my first contract, a cone-picking contract. I started planting just before I graduated in '84, a line skidderman in blowdown areas up in the Maxan area; site prep for years all up in the Mackenzie district for Babine Forest Products.
Our family obtained two woodlots around 1988. I started my first proprietorship, Tree to Tree Contracting, around the same time, a little after that. It became a corporation a while ago now. I've just got a partnership with that. In 1992 I went into university, women's studies at UNBC, and skied on the national cross-country ski team for a time. So I spent a lot of time in the forests — actually, all over the world, because all the cross-country ski areas are usually staged in the forest.
Actually, that gave me a big interest in the forest. I can't remember where it was. I was waiting for a flight. I think it was in Germany, and I was getting bored sitting in the hotel. So I went for a run in a forest that was in the middle of the city, and it was a strange experience because it was surrounded by everything. But all the wild animals were domesticated. There was one species of bird that looked like a starling type. You'd go up, and you could poke it a little bit, and it kind of flew away. I think it was waiting for something to eat.
Then there were some deer that were almost like packs of dogs running around. They'd come up and talk to you. It didn't really feel like a wild space that you were in. It was a neat forest — right? You were running around. I got completely lost and just about missed my flight. But that sort of started a real thing about wild spaces and forests.
When you talk about the environmental movements in Europe and how we're trying to please them…. They don't have any wild animals anymore, and they don't have any forests. It's all manicured, and it's not a wild space, to me, anymore.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the visuals. They just seem really bizarre to me. I think some of the last speakers touched on the fact that…. Again, I'm a layperson, so I don't have a lot of technical background. But some of my RPF friends showed me — I think it was in the old LRMP document where a lot of these regulations and things came out of — there was a little line that said: "Yeah, this is how we're going to do all of this sustainably and stuff, but if there's an outbreak of mountain pine beetle, none of this may apply."
I'm sure somebody back here would know where we could find that link. The Burns Lake Community Forest sent me the link once. But it actually states that in the old….
A Voice: LRMP.
C. Paulson: Thank you.
Again, you don't want to just throw the whole thing out. But with a visual, and we have…. I liked the chief forester's idea of preserving 20 percent of the dead mountain pine beetle for critters. Of course, that's a provincial number — right? You may keep more in some areas that are valuable for wildlife, around urban structures. With the woodlots, area-based tenures, you may reduce that number, but provincially you want to keep 20 percent. I think that's a pretty good number. It's something we can work with for all values.
Wildlife corridors. I was talking about something, asking a question that was pretty obvious, and somebody came up with the old saying: "Well, does a bear shit in the woods?" I thought about this. I wish I had a slide presentation here. I tried to take a picture of it one time. Out on the block road there were these piles about every 25 metres, almost to the…. I paced them out. There were these big piles of bear scat on the road.
I can't remember a time actually seeing, in all the years I've been on clearcuts, bear scat on the clearcut. They seem to be on the roads. So these wildlife corridors seem to be roads — the human trails that we're making in the forest. I think clearcuts and all these things, just like a fire, become wildlife corridors.
With the mountain pine beetle, we're having a hard time to maintain wildlife corridors that we, as humans, think are wildlife corridors, because they change anyway. Wildlife, as opportunists, take the corridors that are handed them, whether it be from a wildfire or a logging road or a clearcut.
What else did I want to talk to? Oh, old-growth management areas. I'm not sure, in my lay understanding…. Maybe we'd call it traditional environmental knowledge. I don't know if I'm old enough to say that or not. But the old-growth management, I think, would be valuable only insofar as it would be to First Nations, because I think a lot of the old-growth areas that are left that are dead have a lot of evidence of the First Nations activities. So I think, in that regard, that would be the only reason to really focus on those areas to get the archaeological assessments done. Again, you could work those into your 20 percent that the chief forester handed us before.
Parks. I don't know if that's on the table or not, but I'm looking at parks as some high ideal — that we can't touch it because we're human and that's a wild space and we shouldn't do that.
But I think, as humans, we need to put ourselves back into the wild space. We're in a forest right here. There's forest all around us. I think our human trails that we've put in…. If we use those parks, if we put our human trails in there, the wildlife is going to use them. We're going to have more access for recreational values in those areas. We can clean up those areas.
The Burns Lake Community Forest has done an excellent job, really. In conjunction with the firefighters, they cut up the dead pine for firewood for people, for camping and recreation.
If we can't enter those areas, if we can't do anything in those areas, we're operating on some higher ideal that we're not part of nature anymore and we're not wild. If we don't use them, if we don't put ourselves back into them, we're going to lose them. They'll become something else if we don't use them.
It's just like the Arctic. We're trying to stage a presence in the Arctic because there's nobody up there. Other countries want to get in there, and someone else will take over the sovereignty of the areas if we don't use them. If we don't stay…. Keep them wild space by using them.
Again, the timber value. Again, the sawlog. What we're trying to do is reduce carbon. Right from the big international…. Everyone in the world agrees that we need to reduce greenhouse gases, so what better thing to do than to build our houses out of something natural. We'll keep ourselves in wild space, natural. I live in a log cabin, built out of the forest in the forest. The trees are all growing up around it.
Again, I guess I come from more of a reality-based side. Right now I've got 12 planters out there. I've spent a lot of years in clearcuts. I had a heavy heart at the beginning because of all the political, the international environmental organizations saying that clearcuts were bad. So I had a heavy heart.
What are we doing? I became a tree planter first because I thought there was no way I could cut down trees. Since then, I've put myself back into the forest again, and it's become more okay. My heart stopped bleeding because I was…. But we have to manage for all the values.
That's it. I'll stop. Any questions?
J. Rustad (Chair): Actually, I think you've used up the time you have, but I want to thank you.
C. Paulson: Oh, okay. That was 15?
J. Rustad (Chair): It was just about 15, yes. Thank you very much, Chris, for your presentation.
Our next presenter will be Ron Zayac with the chamber of commerce.
On over to you anytime.
R. Zayac: All right. Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you all today. My name is Ron Zayac. I'm the owner of Tech North Solutions, an IT company operating locally. I am currently a director and vice-president of the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce. I've been an executive member of the Burns Lake Rotary Club and also, wearing the hat of the chamber of commerce, a member of the economic development and tourism working groups and part of the community transition framework team.
I'm a local, but I choose to be a local. My wife and I have travelled around the world. We've been educated and worked in other parts of the province. We have a pretty good understanding of how things basically work. We chose to move back to this community about eight years ago for a lot of reasons. We chose to raise a family in a great community with a great big heart.
Obviously, others probably have spoken about the response to the disaster. The town was devastated. There's been a pretty good government response. There's been a lot of really good-news announcements — like our hospital and the arena project, downtown revitalization, the highways and various other things.
The jobs strategy — getting the workers back to work, where possible — has had some pretty good impacts. The social support is obviously helping folks as well. The community, as you can see and as you'll see later this afternoon, is pretty united around what we want to see with respect to a potential rebuild of the sawmill.
Right now we're here because the timber supply question is a political hot potato, and it's a really, really hard question. I come from a bit of a forestry background as well.
There's lots of stuff that people are going to talk about today around timber allocation from the TSA that goes elsewhere. There are the obvious big impacts of the mountain pine beetle. There are rule changes, historically, around appurtenancy and whatnot.
Then, also, what really colours this whole question are the Competition Bureau findings from 2004 which forced the sale to Hampton of Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products. I want to talk a little bit about that.
Basically, a lot of fibre has flowed outside of the TSA to other types of plants. Chris and others are going to speak about non-timber resources constraining the land base, and there might be some opportunities there. But what I want to talk about, other than the business aspects, is the competition issue.
Just a bit of history. In 2004 the Competition Bureau made their announcement. They made that decision for very good reasons. Without the forced sale of Babine Forest Products to another region employer, we effectively would have a duopoly between Canfor and West Fraser. It was felt that that would have a negative impact on the market for timber in the region, and that would impact forestry workers and contractors, private land owners who sold timber, folks who purchased timber sales from the province, etc.
We've seen the act of what a duopoly could actually do overnight. And this is hearsay. But overnight the price of timber basically dropped, after the Babine Forest Products disaster.
Removing Hampton from being a regional player will permanently alter that competitive landscape. Regardless of what you guys are going to do, you're going to carve up some kind of a pie. So keeping a strong regional player in the timber game, I think, is a pretty important thing.
What I would like you to consider is looking at timber supply as a regional thing. It's not just the Lakes TSA we're talking about. Really, the mountain pine beetle epidemic impacted a lot of things. We have a bit of a result of that, with the disaster. There are lots of opportunities to change up how the rules….
People have talked about the non-timber objectives that potentially can change. I think that in the big picture that's a pretty small component. I think looking more creatively at things, changing up the rules around what stands are actually considered inside the timber supply analysis — to lessen the minimum harvest age, to look at minimum stand characteristics and other types of things — will actually add more fibre into the overall basket that might be considered.
That's really what we're trying to look for here. With the mountain pine beetle, where can we actually find additional fibre — change the rules, change the flows — so that people can make a political decision and give Hampton and others access to more fibre over the long term so that we can justify the rebuilding of a sawmill?
There are lots of timber allocation options. Some people are worried about just giving Hampton a million cubic metres or even half a million cubic metres, given that over the long term the overall timber flows, according to the timber supply analysis, are going change, are going to decrease. But there are other creative ways that you guys can come to the table with this stuff — specifically, looking at area-based tenures, looking at existing area-based tenures like the community forests and whatnot. Checks and balances can be basically put in place by using the existing tenure system or changing things up and looking at some other opportunities.
The next part that I want to talk about is, basically, from the chamber perspective, what the impacts to local businesses have been. Obviously, everyone has been dramatically impacted. Lots of businesses have laid off staff. Businesses have decreased wages. A lot of businesses have seen decreases in revenue and in sales and, obviously, in profits.
We need to look at long-term solutions, obviously. Economic development and diversification is a long-term thing. We also need to look at some short-term options so that we can do things.
You may think that tourism is an option. That's one thing, obviously, that we're looking at. But we're in a pretty remote place in the province. We don't have access to population. We have a transitory tourist corridor that some folks go by, but it's not going to provide those huge community-sustaining jobs that an industrial player will.
We've seen things like housing prices hit. I won't get into some personal stories. We're running out of time. There has been already an impact on the housing market. There's an impact on the various businesses operating locally, and you're probably going to ask me how much of an impact.
That's one of the challenges that we've had, partially with the government responses. We don't know, because no one has actually…. Even though we've been asking for support, no one has actually got in there and canvassed the businesses, other than very casually that we've been able to do ourselves. So we could always use some help there.
The big lesson around economic diversification that the economic diversification group has…. One of the big lessons that came out of that process was that we're competing with the whole wide world — not just the province but the whole wide world — to attract new businesses to our community. But it's much better to expand and diversify existing businesses, and we have an existing business in Babine Forest Products.
We just need to make the conditions available so that that plant can be rebuilt and that mill can thrive again and our community can thrive again. It's better to do that than hope for new opportunities. It's going to be great when new opportunities come, but we have something that we can hang our hat on now if we just get things built.
You might consider looking at other situations where communities have experienced major job loss. You could look at a Mackenzie or a Tumbler Ridge. The big difference between us and them: they still had the physical infrastructure of those plants and mines. So when the economic conditions changed, then those plants reopened and the economies of the communities changed. Our plant is gone.
You look at Squamish. They've totally reinvented themselves as ecotourism. Well yeah, they've got two million people in their backyard and the U.S.-Canada border real close, and the Olympics probably helped a little bit too.
Even the Lakeland explosion in Prince George — very eerily similar. But Prince George — 70,000 people, a lot of different employers, a lot of other opportunities. It's going to be a much lower impact on that community than it is on our small community.
Basically, the message here is: time is of the essence. People are leaving all the time. If we take too long making these decisions and quibbling over things, it's going to kill us. Listening to the foot-draggers in other communities is going to slow things down. We're six months in. The clock is ticking. The shelf life of the mountain pine beetle–killed timber — that's not slowing down either. It's time for some tough decisions. We need to reduce the uncertainty of businesses and families. So we need some decisions made relatively quickly.
The way that I look at things is: as an individual, as a business owner, I can buy insurance to help mitigate risk — risk of accident, risk of the thing that usually isn't going to happen. A community can't buy insurance. That's what our governments' jobs are. They are our insurance.
I ask you to consider that when you look creatively at the timber supply question, because the rebuilding of that plant is a critical component of the viability and the long-term sustainability of our community. We can hang our hat on some type of an industrial player locally. Rebuilding our plant will help us build a new future.
Babine has been a key component of our community's past. Help make it a component of our community's future, please. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Ron. We've got time for one question.
D. Barnett: I just have one question. You talked about the impact on the small businesses in Burns Lake. You mentioned needing assistance so you could get a business analysis done as to the actual numbers and the layoffs, etc. Do you need assistance to do that, or is there capacity here to get that done?
R. Zayac: I would say that we would need assistance to have that done. We could tell a much better, more compelling story if we actually had some data that we could hang our hat on.
D. Barnett: Okay. Do you have a card?
R. Zayac: I do.
D. Barnett: Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Ron, thank you very much for your presentation and for the timing.
Our next presenters will be Robert and Rosanne Murray. Welcome, and over to you.
Robert Murray: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and panel. We've done a public hearing presentation that we've handed to the folks back there. It will highlight the roles that we played in the mountain pine beetle, leading up to date. To start off with, welcome to all members of the committee.
Introduction. My name is Bob Murray. I'm now retired. I spent 35 years in the Ministry of Forests, 25 years of those in the Nadina forest district and ten years as district manager. I was born and raised in Burns Lake, and now I'm living on the family farm my grandpa first settled in 1919.
Rosanne Murray: Hello. My name is Rosanne Murray. Welcome to the committee here. We know John Rustad — he's our MLA — and also Donna Barnett. I recognize her from Local Government Day.
I was with the regional district for seven years as area B, Burns Lake rural, director, and I got to know a lot of the issues and the local communities through my involvement in local government. I was elected chair for three of those years.
I was also appointed to the community advisory committee for Roger Harris when he was Minister of State for Forestry Operations. I'll talk about that a little later, because that's where we first thought up the idea of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.
I've been an active volunteer all my life, for well over 40 years, which actually is quite an accomplishment, considering I'm only 39. [Laughter.]
Good. You all believed it.
Robert Murray: What we thought we'd do for this group, understanding the beetle and having lived it, is looking back — a bit of brief history. For the Lakes TSA, the epidemic was first discovered in Tweedsmuir Park, Sand Cabin Bay. That's south of us here.
Early attempts started with controlled burns in 1995 to 1997. Those controlled burns were with participation of the Ministry of Forests, Parks and, actually, the federal government. Single-tree removal, snip-and-skid to keep the endemic levels, was also underway.
In 1998 the first large infestation in the park, affecting 200,000 cubic metres into the Tetachuck area. In 1999 the estimates were 900,000 cubic metres.
The meeting commenced in 1999 with the mayors, councillors, regional districts and public. At that point we were very aware of the issues relative to the mountain pine beetle and wanted to make sure the local politicians and the communities knew exactly what was happening and the treatments that were being done to control it.
In 2000 infestation numbers were at 4.4 million, and the timber supply review was requested. In 2000, as a result of the epidemic increase of the volume, many discussion papers were undertaken. A timber management discussion paper was done, a bark beetle spread discussion paper, an infrastructure discussion paper. South Ootsa mountain pine beetle transportation discussion paper was completed. An LRMP strategies and objectives discussion paper was completed. A tenure operations opportunity discussion paper was completed, and the silviculture obligations discussion paper was completed.
In 2001 the infected volume was estimated at ten million to 11 million cubic metres. The beetle predictive model was developed. Infrastructure becomes a major concern. A small example was the Francois Lake ferry. Forest traffic increased so much that the normal wait for the ferry crossings was two or more hours.
The local community prepared a report — it's called The World Separated by Two Miles — in order to bring government's attention to the critical need for a larger-capacity ferry as well as to show how the ferry was a critical link in returning stumps to royalties and other benefits to the province of British Columbia.
In 2002 infected volumes were estimated at 21 million cubic metres. The district commissioned a business plan for mountain pine beetle in the Lakes forest district, to be completed by the Sterling Wood Group in Victoria as well as the Keefes Landing Road business improvements completed by the Ministry of Transportation.
These two reports were critical in the success of obtaining the most complex public-private partnership for infrastructure improvements in the province. They included First Nations; Ministry of Transportation; Forest Service; private industry; federal government, which was DIA and TNO.
In 2003 infected volumes were now 32 million. You can see how this is escalating. Cheslatta Forest Products mill was established at Ootsa Lake, through the partnership with the Cheslatta Carrier Nation, local shareholders and Carrier Lumber. The federal government made an announcement of the mountain pine beetle initiative program, committing $1 billion in funding. We haven't seen that yet. We'll talk a little bit more about that later.
In 2004 the infected volume was approximately 40 million to 49 million cubic metres in the Lakes TSA and 4.5 million to six million cubic metres in the Morice TSA. A revised prediction model was completed so that we can turn around and model the spread of the mountain pine beetle. The Morice TSA is to the west of us. It took from 1998 to 2004 for the beetle to back up through the park, working westward against the prevailing winds, to actually start impacting the Morice TSA.
In 2005 the timber supply review, TSR, was requested in the Morice forest district as well as an infrastructure study. Unique management tools were developed. One of them was the community salvage licences. The objective of this licence was to have a group of trained and teamed "light hand on the land" operators that could remove infested timber as a treatment for the achievement of specific goals — i.e., safety, reduced damage to existing infrastructure, reduced fire hazard, etc. — and to operate in a cost-effective and self-efficient manner.
During the period of 1992 to 1997, I was the co-chair of the Lakes land and resource management plan. The table was aware of the epidemic and built some flexibility into the plan. Unfortunately, the plan vastly underestimated the magnitude of the epidemic, and the flexibility was not enough to allow industry to address the landscape-planning issues that occurred.
At the same time, we implemented a parallel process with the hereditary Wet'suwet'en Treaty Office within the house territories to Lakes TSAs and conducted traditional use mapping with other bands and developed the Lakes archaeological resource project.
On to you.
Rosanne Murray: We're not trying to bore you with the history here, put you to sleep or anything, but we're trying to show very clearly that we've been living and dealing with the beetle thing and coming up with unique solutions for quite a few years now, actually. We hope that you stay engaged here for a second, because I'm going to do a little bit more history.
A little bit of the political story. First of all, where is the federal government? In 2003 they committed the $1 billion to help us. We made the case as local government leaders that this was worse than the ice storm impact or the Atlantic cod fishery and that we definitely needed some attention in the west. So far we haven't seen a good deal of it, probably around $800 million of that. We're wondering where that has gone.
We're wondering where the provincial government is in its mountain pine beetle action plan. In 2005 to 2010 two of the top seven goals that were identified were all about community sustainability and the economy in local communities. We're wondering what has been done to help meet that objective.
We're especially wondering where the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition is in the neighbouring communities. Len Fox, mayor of Vanderhoof at the time; Rick Gibson, who was mayor of Williams Lake at the time; and myself were part of Roger Harris's committee and got together at a break at one time, because we'd been the full morning just discussing numbers and impacts of falldown.
We could foresee that the communities and mills were going to have to start doing something, and we preferred — rather than start a community-to-community war, basically, in our part of the province — that there would be a better way forward if we worked together. Letting one community fail was much akin to letting one of the corners of your house fall and expecting the rest of your house to stand. We foresaw one of the major tasks of the OBAC to be developing strategies to help communities transition either to other economies or to other forestry models.
What we're wondering today is: what happened? Where did that go? One of our recommendations is that instead of supporting OBAC, maybe there's a better way to support local communities through regional districts or villages so that you can get more public debate locally and more accountability with those tax dollars. Right now we don't even know who to ask about OBAC and its goals.
The other part is: where is industry? More than anyone, they understood the magnitude of the falldown. Why haven't we seen smaller, more efficient mills or diversification right now? Where did all those years of profits from uplifts actually go to?
This is a little bit of the history so that we don't repeat some of the mistakes we've made in the past.
Robert Murray: To continue here, we have recommendations. We have 14 of them. As the Lakes TSA has the unfortunate distinction of being the first impacted throughout the course of this disaster, we have paved the way in finding solutions for the province for 15 years. We have tried, first, to bring the problem on to the provincial stage. We've dealt with infrastructure issues, hauling differentials, community salvage logging, uplift plans, comparative cruising, beetle prediction models — just to name a few.
Now we're asking for the following, in order for our community and, indeed, the province to survive:
(1) Immediate action. Time is the enemy. Support Bob Clark and the Burns Lake recommendations as they're being presented.
(2) Area-based licences to support the local mill. Economic sustainability as a priority will be a benefit for the entire province.
(3) Implement strategies — i.e., community salvage licences — as a treatment to reduce and mitigate negative impacts to special management areas.
(4) Unallocated volume in the Lakes TSA to be directed to local First Nations with a commitment for this volume to support local processing plants.
(5) Funding be made available for the village of Burns Lake, area B, the regional district, the local First Nations for economic diversification.
(6) Develop and deliver a communication plan to educate the public on mountain pine beetle infestation impacts on economics, wildlife, hydrology, fire, soils and ecological values, with the main focus being that the doing-nothing approach is not an option. This stuff is out there. It's falling down. It's going to cause a problem.
(7) Determine the shelf life of the infested stands through a re-inventory as it pertains to the manufacturing products of sawlogs into bioenergy pellets and the various biofuel opportunities. Quantify the sawlog and biomass in cubic metres and tonnes for investors' consideration and respective interests.
(8) Secure funding to facilitate research at the northern university, UNBC, and the College of New Caledonia to work with First Nations to examine the impacts on First Nations of sustenance traditionally used as a result of the infestation. Our work with First Nations and the stuff that we've done — there's definitely going to be impact with what's occurring out there.
(9) With First Nations, develop a plan to implement various treatments acceptable to them on their traditional territories that will mitigate these impacts.
(10) With the federal funding, establish a scientific and applied research centre in conjunction with UNBC and CNC, with the objective of developing strategies for the mid-term and long-term stand development within the central Interior. We have, basically, everything from 100 Mile to Smithers with all the lodgepole pine dying, and age class 3 to age class 8 going down pretty well at the same time. What is that going to look like in the future, and how are we going to set the stands up that makes it work for us?
(11) Federal funding support for UNBC on the research of bioproducts and bioeconomy. This would include such products as biofuels, plant-derived pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, etc. We need more research, because there's going to be a lot of biomass out there that isn't going to be utilized.
(12) Continue to work with communities on protection plans, to develop fire management plans and mitigation activities to reduce wildfire risks on impacted communities.
(13) Develop a communication plan with the general public to outline the risks and impacts to the forest that will not be addressed by some mitigation strategy. Identify the social impacts and economic, fire and environmental costs that would occur as a result, and what costs those will be to British Columbians. That's including taking a look at parks.
(14) Research on the carbon sink and carbon release of infected stands as a result of the implementation of various strategies from logging to reforestation to the leave-alone strategy, with a goal to develop a report showing pros and cons of each strategy.
I'll let you go to the conclusion.
Rosanne Murray: One of them that we thought of on the way over…. We live on the south side — right? — so we come on the ferry. That's usually where we do all our business — on the ferry ride.
One of the things we forgot…. One of my volunteer activities is as a board member on the Burns Lake Community Forest, and one of the things that we've totally overlooked is: why aren't we adding more volume to the community forest? We were the first community forest in the province. We're the largest community forest. I think we've done an awful darn good job here in the Lakes District. That's one of the things we were going to talk about later.
In the conclusion, very briefly, we were wondering why it takes a mill explosion to give this problem some attention when we're been working with this challenge and asking for help for so many years. We don't want to just find a solution for our town's mill. I think we can be a model for the rest of the province.
We want long-term solutions. We see it as a critical task, helping Burns Lake. It's not if but when we will collapse without that — right? I mean, we just don't have the impetus locally to find other diversification efforts as quickly as we need them. Our town is bleeding out.
We see this epidemic not as a disaster but as an opportunity to lead the way and find new ways of doing business and managing our resources. We need solutions today. Time is definitely of the essence. We, as the stewards of our land and resources, owe it to our kids and future generations to act today for their best interests. It's a critical task that requires the attention of every person, community, industry and both levels of government. We would like to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Just a little quote from John F. Kennedy, who said: "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction."
Thank you very much for your attention. We sure hope that you guys have great deliberations, because we've been deliberating this for quite a while, and like…
Robert Murray: Like about 15 years.
Rosanne Murray: …the one clip art there that my son did. He's really tired of those discussions. He doesn't want to hear them anymore, but anyways, we still….
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation. I'm sure the committee members would have a lot of questions they would like to ask. Unfortunately, we've run out of the 15 minutes of time.
Robert Murray: We can't read that fast.
J. Rustad (Chair): We very much appreciate the presentation information you brought forward.
Robert Murray: We're available for any committee member that wishes to have a discussion with us regarding some of this stuff.
J. Rustad (Chair): Our next presenter is Miles Fuller.
Miles, over to you. Thanks.
M. Fuller: Good. Thanks for the opportunity to come here. My name's Miles Fuller. I've been a resident of the Lakes District here for almost 40 years. I won't use near as many words as the last guys. I'll leave space here open for questions. But let me warn you right off the bat. I've never been known as being politically correct nor discreet. So I'll continue.
Anyway, I was co-chair of the Lakes District LRMP. Bob was my co-chair. We were both the chairmen.
The old-growth management areas and the visual quality areas. When we set those up and actually had consensus on them — of course, consensus means that everybody at the table agrees — those were thriving, living ecosystems, and they're not now. I consider it almost blasphemy that they have been maintained as these things.
My simple comment to most people is: "What about fire hazard do you not understand?" I have lots of property, and I have several houses around this area. A couple of them are right up against old-growth management areas, and I have a backyard full of dead pine that's slowly falling down and building up ladder fuels. It is a huge risk to my property —okay?
The second thing I will talk about is that I have also been president of the Lakes District Woodlot Association of the B.C. federation of woodlots, the provincial organization. This is a subject very dear to my heart, and it's been brought up a couple of times, by Luke and by Ron Zayac. There's a competitive log market — okay?
With the loss of Hampton, like you say, the day after the fire the log prices in our area dropped $8 to $10 a cubic metre. They had just gone up. We had had very low prices for purchased wood, basically about the price of logging and hauling them. They'd started up last year, and it was mainly because Hampton had come in and started buying up some timber sales and pushing the price up. I actually had woodlot licensees from Smithers phone me and say: "Thank Hampton. We didn't sell to them, but we got $10 a metre more."
Now across the north, say from Fraser Lake to Smithers or Hazelton, we will not have a competitive log market if Hampton does not come back. There are approximately 300 woodlot licensees, I would guess a half a dozen community forests, all kinds of First Nations forest tenures and, of course, BCTS, which sells about a million cubic metres a year in this area.
If we do not have a competitive log market, none of those tenures will have any profit in them at all. There will be no way that they can return any money to our local communities at all.
There, I'll leave it at that. Those are my two subjects that are dear to my heart.
J. Rustad (Chair): Miles, you've left us lots of time for questions, so maybe…
M. Fuller: I know. I did that on purpose.
J. Rustad (Chair): …we'll ask you all the questions that we were going to ask the previous presenters.
M. Fuller: I kind of figured that.
J. Rustad (Chair): Looking to committee members for questions.
B. Routley: Again, thank you for your presentation. You talked about the old-growth stands. What percentage of the stands that were set aside for that use are dead and dying? Do you know or have any idea or a best guess?
M. Fuller: Bill, I can't give you a number right off the top of my head. I'm sure there are people here in the room that could, but I mean, the Lakes District was 60 to 70 percent pine, so I'm guessing that at least 60 to 70 percent of those old-growth management areas are pine. That's just the best answer I can give you.
B. Routley: A follow-up question to that. We've heard from ranchers about the impact on hydrology, and obviously their water has become a real issue in some areas where they've harvested too much. Even though it's dead and dying pine, it results in concerns for water supply. I wondered about your views on the impacts of water. And obviously, I'm very interested in any views you could share with this committee on the other land use set-asides, particularly the….
I'm sure you'd be familiar with the reason that a lot of those set-asides were done was to meet the requirements of basically the international markets as well as deal with the war in the woods that we were going through.
I was part of the CORE process, dealt with all of that, and in fact defended forest workers that, sadly, lost their jobs in the Victoria water district, which had been logging on a 200-year rotation plan. Unfortunately, due to environmental pressures, that was by way of the dodo bird and there's no longer any harvesting going on in that area.
Back to this conundrum. Obviously, what you're raising is a very real point about the fire hazards. That definitely needs to be looked at. But without some kind of better understanding of how much of the old growth is currently set aside, it could potentially lead to fire hazard.
I guess, would your view be that in looking at old-growth stands it should be only the dead pine that we even consider?
M. Fuller: That's the obvious conclusion right off the bat. I mean, we simply have to look at all these areas. If it's spruce and it's 50 percent blown down, we should probably look at that too. We simply have to go and analyze these areas piece by piece and figure out what to do with each one of them. That would be my recommendation on that — okay?
As far as the international marketplace goes, and our public, we're selling more and more now to Asia. And I've got to remind you: they still chase whales down and kill them over there. So exactly what we do on the ground here may not be as big an issue with our markets that we have now and our developing markets as it was in the past.
J. Rustad (Chair): The world has changed.
Thank you for that.
D. Barnett: Thank you for your presentation. It was very heartwarming to hear good, down-to-earth comments.
What is your opinion of area-based tenures? How would you feel if woodlots were changed into area-based tenures?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Woodlots are area-based.
D. Barnett: Well, they are, but…. No, that's right.
M. Fuller: I would firebomb somewhere if woodlots were changed to volume-based tenures. I would firebomb somewhere — okay? I'm a firm believer in area-based tenures. The simple fact is that they provide certainty.
I mean, basically, here we've had a war in the woods almost, because they've issued NRFLs, non-replaceable forest licences that are allowed to overlap on volume-based tenures. There've been people laying out this block and guys following around, taking down that ribbon, hanging up different coloured ribbon, trying to get it secured for someone else.
An area-based tenure would eliminate all of that. An area-based tenure also allows the licensee to invest in that area and reap the returns from that investment, just simply like a woodlot. If we do work on our woodlots and we do a bunch of fertilization and the actual growth increases, we're allowed to take advantage of that AAC uplift. That is the same with any area-based tenure.
I believe it would be a really good base for a mill like Hampton to come up here and stay here and allow the competitive log market to continue in the way it has been in the last year here. I really like area-based tenures.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): All of the presentations have been very interesting. It's too bad we didn't have more questions, but I'll ask you.
Presumably, the community, long before the tragedy, was going through a discussion. As has been pointed out, the fibre issue is not a new one. I know we've spent a lot of time looking at fibre and trying to identify where more fibre is coming in. When Golden went through a transition, which we did in the mid-'90s, we had lost our plywood mill, and then it came back, but it came back doing a different product and went after a different profile.
I guess the question for you is: have you looked at different products? Have you looked at what could be done to meet or to come closer to the profile that seems to be available? Has any of that community discussion taken place, or has it been mainly focused just on the obvious crisis around fibre?
M. Fuller: Well, Norm, to start with, you called this right on the nose. This is an issue that has been building for quite a number of years. The fire at Babine simply brought it to a head much sooner and in a much more pointed manner than how I actually figured it was going to unfold.
There has been a lot of talk on what to do besides lumber, if that's what you're talking about here. I've been working very hard at bringing a company named Aspenware, which uses aspen and makes the utensils out of it, to Burns Lake.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Yeah, we know them. Amazing.
M. Fuller: Yeah, we're working quite hard on it now. I've been involved with them. I've been working with NDI to come up with the funding to bring that plant to Burns Lake.
If anything, I'll say this community has brought us together in ways that I really wouldn't have believed possible, say, a year ago. A lot of the focus has been on that sort of thing. I think there are some real good ideas here.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. Last question to Eric.
E. Foster: Thank you, Miles. I certainly share your concern about the competitive…. As a woodlot holder living in an area that went from five or six mills down to one buyer, it makes a big difference.
The other quick comment I'll make is that Aspenware is in my riding right now. I hope we can get the aspen logged here and processed into veneer and then send it back down there. We'll make the cutlery.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I don't think that's the plan.
E. Foster: That would be a good plan. We'd both prosper by that.
Back to the area-based tenure — I certainly, as far as woodlots go, share that. It's a difficult transition to go from what is traditionally a volume-based tenure in the larger scale. Certainly, community forests — and even, to some degree, tree farm licences, definitely woodlots — have been very successful at that area-based tenure.
How do you, as somebody who has worked in it, see us moving in that direction? It's a difficult jump to go from the massive-volume style we have. I'm talking about just this one mill, for example, but at a million cubic metres a year, it's a big chunk of timber.
M. Fuller: Yup. Okay. My honest opinion on it is that if you go to an area-based tenure, any sawmill that you give one to should have enough volume in their area-based tenure for one shift. If they want to put a second shift on and make more money, then they have to either buy wood or do the work on their area-based tenure to bring the productivity up to where they can more volume off of it.
E. Foster: Excellent. Never heard that before. Thank you.
D. Barnett: Never heard that before. Good one.
E. Foster: Great. I appreciate that.
M. Fuller: The woodlots are fairly well organized around the province. We might give you the same message.
E. Foster: Oh, I know. I've paid my dues.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay, Miles. Just one last…. Actually, no, that's good. We've run out of time. I've got to follow my own rules, but thank you very much.
M. Fuller: One quick statement: you guys have got an incredibly tough job here to do. I would not want to be in your footsteps. It's going to be a tough decision to make here. Just remember that in your hands…. When you make this decision here, you've got the fate of about 300 small businesses, called woodlots, and several community forests and a lot of First Nations tenures that are resting in your hands.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Miles.
Our next presenters are Roger Harris and Chris Doyle with AltaGas. Roger and Chris, over to you.
R. Harris: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to follow on Miles' comments. Not only do I think you have a difficult job, but I also think this is a great opportunity. I want to thank all of you for opening this process up so that we actually have a chance to come and talk about something that for all of us is pretty dear to the heart, especially those of us that live in the north.
For those of you that know, my home is the home where there are no longer any sawmills. The whole issue around how you manage decadent stands is so critically important.
I'd suggest that one of the pieces we're just going to talk about today is really to support the first presentation you had in the morning from the First Nations leadership group that really talks about the value of local ownership and the value of making sure that as you decide what you're going to do with tenures, that putting them in the hands of those folks who have the greatest interest in the areas that they live — in this case, the First Nations groups located in the Burns Lake area — is one of the ways that you actually give people the tools to create sustainability.
Within that context of their presentation, we want to talk a little bit about the biomass component of that, because decadent stands have such a unique challenge. I'd suggest that if you look to the northwest, it provides you with a great example of what happens when stands go from 60 percent sawlog to 80 percent pulp and what that does to the cost of harvesting.
If you don't actually change your direction on forest policy to actually change what the primary breakdown is and what the focus is, you actually run the risk of maybe losing all of your sawmills at the end of the day.
For Chris and myself, what we've been involved in, and what I want to talk about, is a bit of the power component of this. I think the value to using biomass for the generation of electricity — how that actually becomes a tool — really goes a long way to speaking to a lot of the issues that each of the individuals up here spoke about. They talked about local employment.
One of the wonderful things about using biomass for power generation is that it does start to alienate you from a lot of the market conditions. Electricity isn't affected by the currency exchange. It's not affected by competitive pressures. It's not something that people can duplicate. It doesn't have the commodity swings in it. It's very predictable. It provides predictable employment for your harvest sector because you know on a regular basis — as an example, on a long-term Hydro contract — what the volume of fibre is you're going to need every year. Your harvest sector knows exactly what it needs to do to go out each year. The manufacturing side knows what it does.
Chief Gerow spoke about the south side, where there are stands over there that are economically isolated, because just the sheer cost of getting that fibre out doesn't work. Well, by putting in place the right kind of formulas that allow for electricity to be a viable market, you actually unleash some of these stands that still do contain sawlogs and other timber profiles that can be used in other applications, which actually brings more of that fibre into the marketplace, where, quite frankly, you'll see it just isolated today.
If you look up Highway 37 there are some tremendous examples of wood that's just completely isolated. There's no economic model to move it out, and it doesn't move, and we don't get the reforestation that you need down on the land base that actually starts to do what I think all of us are trying to do here, and that is improve the forest health.
Maybe just because we are on a tight timeline, we will be providing you with a much more detailed report that looks at this, which we'll get to you over the course of your hearings. But I thought maybe just to give you a sense of what a power facility looks like in terms of the characteristics of it, Chris here is going to walk through an example of just what a 25-meg plant could look like and what it does in the community.
Maybe I'll turn it over to you, Chris, for that.
C. Doyle: Thank you for allowing me to speak with you here today. My name is Chris Doyle. I'm the divisional vice-president for business development, power, for AltaGas.
As Roger pointed out, the summary I'm going to provide to you is based on what I would be terming a medium-sized biomass power plant. For those of you who don't know, AltaGas has interest in two biomass facilities that burn a total of approximately 800,000 tonnes a year, solely for the purpose of generating electricity.
If we're looking at a 25-megawatt power plant, the capital cost involved is approximately $125 million. These plants are designed for a 40-year life, which again, as Roger pointed out, tends to insulate it from the vagaries of the commodity market.
We're looking at approximately an annual payroll of $2 million to $3 million. Where biomass facilities differ from, say, natural gas plants: everything that goes forward to fuel tends to stay local. A 25-megawatt plant would probably contribute about $15 million a year in harvesting costs. That's for approximately 250,000 tonnes equivalent of green fibre.
One of the things that has been worked on, has been discussed, is that there are alternatives to wood chips, to green fibre, that can be incorporated into a biomass facility. That is to reduce the overall cost of fibre as well as to expand the range at which a biomass facility can economically operate. That is through the chipping of alternative fuels such as railroad ties and others, as landfill diversion from woody biomass that is currently being disposed of in landfills.
We've had discussions with CN as a possible supplier of railroad ties that would be chipped and used in the facilities, such as this biomass one we're discussing. They're looking at supplying approximately 750,000 railroad ties a year for the next 20 to 25 years. Again, this helps provide stable biomass pricing, which allows the plant to expand its range to currently lesser-economic stands.
In addition to this, one of the things that happens with a biomass facility — and this is based, again, on our experience — is it tends to create a smaller market where you have individuals that are looking at small-scale community deliveries. Those of you who work in the line clearing or understand line clearing…. These are essentially smaller trucks or smaller chipping facilities. Now we provide them, again, with an opportunity that does not involve adding to the environmental issues from deposits in landfills.
As I already pointed out in the railroad ties, one of the other additional things…. There are significant environmental benefits, as well, to a biomass facility. One is, in addition to the silviculture benefits that are created, fly ash from such a facility generally can be used as land spraying. It's basically a fertilizer that can be used for crops as well as for reforestation efforts.
The other is that bottom ash is generally used for a landfill cover. Again, because of its ability to fertilize, it does help the natural recovery of landfills. There are important considerations as this provides significant offsets in the overall fibre acquisition costs, which allow the projects to be able to develop and extend the economic reach of accessing fibre as well as potential areas previously economically isolated due to the harvesting costs of the fibre to the market.
A project of this size, at only 25 megawatts…. The scale of them is so small that the small premium that may be required to make these projects economically viable has little or no effect on the overall price across the province. Projects such as this can provide significant opportunities to the province itself.
You're looking at approximately $4 million in taxes paid to the province, based on the funds that would be made available for the purchase of fuel, as well as another estimated $5 million. If we're looking at a facility that provides approximately 250,000 tonnes a year of wood, you're probably going to generate in the vicinity of 20 million board feet, which, just as a rule of thumb, would provide approximately $5 million a year in taxes towards the province.
Part of this also is that a facility of this design would allow the silviculture costs to help be covered by the ratepayers, again reducing the burden on the province.
R. Harris: Maybe just to sum it up, because I know we're at the end of our time. I'm certainly of the view — and a number of people, as I think you heard this morning — that the opportunity that electricity generation provides is significant, especially when you're looking at forests that have the decadent stands that we're now seeing, certainly, in Burns Lake and, in fact, in other regions of the province.
I think one of the real advantages of this is that you can actually tie into the EPA agreement the ability for reforestation. So you start to move that obligation off of the province and onto the ratepayer to some degree. But also what it really does is puts in place a business model that ensures that that reforestation will always happen, which quite frankly, isn't always the case today.
The barrier to this is just the need to…. We're hoping that within your recommendations…. As you heard from Mike Robertson and some of the other leaders this morning, one of the things that is critical to this is the ability for the community to access an electrical purchase agreement.
I would certainly be encouraged if, within your recommendations as you move forward, you do instruct the government to request that B.C. Hydro does work with these communities that have gone through this process and failed twice. Quite frankly, I don't think they have the patience to do it again.
Actually put in place the tools that mandate that B.C. Hydro does work with the intent that at the end of the day, there will be an EPA that allows for what I'd suggest is the diversification of the industry, stabilizes the employment, brings new industry and investment into the community and really does what a lot of people talk about here in terms of allowing people to stay home and work.
Thank you very much for your time.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. We've got time for a couple of questions. I just want to confirm. EPA is electricity purchase agreement — right?
R. Harris: Yes, that's correct.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Just to understand, then. The last two times the proposal was accepted by B.C. Hydro, they've turned it down based on how big a margin of…? Is it a substantial margin?
R. Harris: I don't have the details. In the call process you just usually find out who wins. That's normally how it works. The call process, as it's laid out today, obviously didn't allow the community to be successful on either of the first two occasions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): And there's a range of terms. Do I understand that you would need a 40-year term for the EPA? That's what you would expect, to make this viable?
R. Harris: Most EPAs are long term. They're usually 30-, 35-year types of contracts anyway. That's pretty standard in EPA.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I've heard 25 to 40 years. But do you think 40 years is essentially what you would need? You have pretty clear ideas, probably, to make this work in terms of your price threshold and how long you need it.
R. Harris: No, I think the…. Chris's comment is that the plant is built with a 40-year life, but the EPA doesn't necessarily have to be 40 years. The IPP contract could be a lesser amount, depending on what the economics are. I think that's what you're getting at — the economic life of the project.
C. Doyle: As with any contract, the longer the term, the better rates are able to be acceptable, from an economic perspective. There have been contracts, more on the Hydro side, that have gone on as long as 60, but the design life of a biomass facility is 40 years. Obviously, there would be a preference to match contract tenure with project life, but that's not something we were going to discuss today.
We're just simply talking about: if I build a plant, if AltaGas builds a plant, it's designed for 40 years.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. And the presumption is that this ties into fibre supply, as well, for a B mill. Is that right — that this could answer a couple of problems?
R. Harris: I think it answers a lot of problems. You'll do as you…. You have the ability to look at stands today that won't be moved because just the cost of moving the log from A to B and turning it into something doesn't work.
You can actually, by creating a steady revenue stream through the generation of power, get into stands that are now isolated, which still within them have timber that could be used for other things. It could be used for lumber, could be used for wood pellets or some other application. So it actually unlocks a fibre basket that, quite frankly, is isolated today.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. Just one last question really quickly. In terms of fibre, I mean, going forward this is a fibre that you have the source for, and it's not a fibre supply that you're in competition with other users for, presumably. Is that part of what has been looked at?
R. Harris: I think there is always competition for fibre. I think the unique piece of what Chris talked about that makes this…. It does a couple of things. One, it lowers the overall fibre costs so that from a Hydro perspective the rates can be more competitive.
On the other side, it creates the ability to extend the reach of what a plant is. The use of alternate fuels — whether it's railroad ties as a source of fibre, whether it's landfill, which actually creates an economic solution for environmental problems for most regional districts — is a way that you can offset this.
The other one which I think is really critical is the use of small-scale mom-and-pop operations that actually can generate chips themselves and bring them in and have a facility that actually facilitates that. You go into some of the marketplaces where biomass plants are, and that becomes quite a popular business opportunity for one- and two-man operations.
C. Doyle: Just as a quick aside. Our facilities right now have an average of 80 fuel suppliers. So they go from the mills to the mom-and-pops.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you for that. I'm going to allow one more question, even though we're past time. So if we can keep it short questions or answers.
A Voice: Actually, we're good. They just answered a question on that.
J. Rustad (Chair): Perfect. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Our next presenter is Gordon McFee, with the Lakes District Cattlemen's Association.
Gordon, over to you.
G. McFee: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and panel, all. First of all, I'm not speaking on behalf of the Lakes District Cattlemen; I'm speaking as a cattleman. I've been working in the Lakes District for 50-plus years. I was past chairman of the Lakes District Cattlemen and also chairman of the regional district for 25 years, and I was with the ComFor board for some years, plus others. But anyway, it's not about me.
I'm speaking now about trying to have our mill rebuilt. In order to have it rebuilt, we have to have the volume for them. Now, in 1974 we had a native band go in business with the mill here. This is one of the first in the province, and I think it has stood our area in good stead. It's an example for the rest of the area. I'll speak about that a little more later.
This is why we need the mill: it employs the native people as well as the white, and the native people aren't the types to move from one place to another, from town to town, to get work. If we don't build the mill, the governments, federal or provincial, will be supporting them in one way or the other or will have to subsidize them. We have to make sure we provide for all.
Now, people will say that if you give to Burns Lake, you have to give to the other areas; you have to make it the same. I don't believe that, because Burns Lake is different. First of all, we have a large native population compared to the total population. The percentage is high.
Secondly, I'm not trying to downplay the disaster at Lakeland Mills, but the effect on the city of Prince George is very minimal compared to the effect of our mill being burned. Our effect is total disaster. It's 100 percent. There it would probably be somewhere like 0.1 percent of the total business in the town.
Some years ago, about ten years ago, the outside mills were invited in to help reduce our volume of dead pine. Just a few years later it seemed that the mills were given the forest tenure that was allotted to this mill. For some reason or other, after working here for a little while, they were given the area. So now it's time, I think, that we claw this back.
You say that this is going to take guts, and it's going to take fortitude, but in order to have enough volume here…. I'm sure there's enough volume for the mill here plus all the other mills along Highway 16. The amount we would claw back would be a small percentage of their total cut, but it would be a big percentage of what Babine would have.
This wasn't something they originally had. I think their forefathers did a good job of dividing up the forest tenure, and in the last few years it has been whittled away. There wasn't any public hearing or any task force that did it. It was just done, and I feel that was a complete mistake.
Also, I attended all of the visual-quality meetings here in Burns Lake, and when the report came out, I was quite surprised. It said that there was only one resort that was in favour of adjusting the visual quality. Well, I took three letters in myself. I had them delivered. I have witnesses here that…. And I have letters with me today that were delivered to the task force.
So it makes me very suspicious of the entire report because that is an erroneous fact. There were at least the three. I phoned. I didn't tell them what to say. I just asked them to give us a report on how they felt about the visual quality and how their clients, especially European clients, felt about it. And all of them said that they'd rather see a green forest growing new trees than dead trees.
I have no way of knowing the results of the survey that they took. At each meeting they had a little survey of how you felt about it. I have no way of knowing. I wasn't privy to those figures, but it makes me suspect that the whole report has erred on the side, bias, of the author.
If we take back some of this timber, I don't think there'll be one empty house extra in Houston, and I don't think there'll be an empty house in Fraser Lake. But if we don't take it back, there are going to be a lot of empty houses in Burns Lake. It affects us 100 percent. The business people need it, the native people need it, and we need it.
I'm a woodlot owner, and I'm talking about biomass. Our woodlot's about 25 miles from town. It's too far to transport. It costs you an extra $5 a cubic metre to transport it. So if we don't have the mill here, we can't even sell our sawlogs without losing a great deal of money through transportation. When we're talking about air quality and stuff…. The trucks have to take it further. We do need the mill for other reasons.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Gordon. I'm going to look for questions from members. I'm going to start off with one quick question, though, for you.
As a cattleman, you must obviously have cattle out on the range as well as on your farm. How have the mountain pine beetle–dead trees impacted your cattle's ability to move around on the range? Or have you seen any impact on that at this particular point?
G. McFee: It's pretty near impossible in lots of cases for them to get where they traditionally went, so they make new trails. We are continually cutting out the dead trees for trails and for the fence lines. It is affecting the range, no doubt, but I don't know what we can do about it, really, because of the distance of transporting that fibre. Even if we get biomass plants, we're still going to be limited for some years on that. So it's a real problem.
B. Stewart: Thank you, Gordon. I just wanted to ask a little bit more about the fact that…. We've heard about the problems with where harvesting of pine beetle wood in rangeland areas has affected the flow of water. No doubt it has been affected by the whole epidemic.
The question I have is: as a rancher, and when it can be harvested economically, etc. — I guess really two questions — how is it affecting your rangeland, and what can we do or recommend to mitigate it, from what you can see, until it get reforested?
G. McFee: Well, yes. "Until it gets reforested" is the key, because that tree is dead. It doesn't matter whether we log it or not; it isn't taking up any water. So the best thing to do is replant, and you can't replant if you can't remove the trees to start with. So we have to have a market for them. Someone was just saying that you can log an area and you've got sawlogs and the dead pine, and that's true. But we have to have a mill close enough that we can transport those logs.
J. Rustad (Chair): Any other questions from members?
Gordon, thank you very much for taking your time and presenting to us here today at the committee.
Our next presentation will be from Hampton Mills — Steve Zika and Richard Vossen.
We've set aside a couple of spots here for you guys to be able to do a joint presentation, so I will turn it over to you. Welcome to the committee.
S. Zika: Thank you. Appreciate that, John.
Good morning, and thank you for coming to Burns Lake. I'm Steve Zika, the CEO of Hampton Lumber, which is the majority owner of the Babine and Decker Lake sawmills. With all the talk about Babine, sometimes we forget that we have a viable sawmill here at Decker Lake, as well, that employs about 75 people. Our partner in these mills is the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation, as you've heard.
You've heard from the mayor, First Nations and other concerned citizens this morning about the devastating effects that the Babine mill closure has had on the Burns Lake community. While the pine beetle effects have been and will be felt by many communities, it is an immediate problem here in Burns Lake, not one that we can wait for a solution. We have a need for speed, as every month we are delayed causes further financial losses for our company, our employees and the community.
Hampton is prepared to invest in Burns Lake beyond what is covered by our insurance, but the longer we wait for the answer on timber supply, the bigger our financial challenges become. Our competitors know this, and they believe they just have to bog the process down to eliminate competition from Burns Lake.
One thing I did want to address. Since we have owned the mill in late 2006, we have not pulled one dollar out to send back to the States. In fact, since we bought the ownership position from West Fraser, we have invested well over $10 million in this facility. In a very, very difficult — as most people know — probably the most difficult lumber market we've ever experienced, we haven't run. We haven't closed the mill, as a lot of mills, unfortunately, have closed in the province. So we are long-term players and want to be here.
The government previously forced West Fraser to divest its sawmills in the Lakes District because of its size and dominance in order to create competition. If the Babine sawmill is not rebuilt, then West Fraser and Canfor, the two largest sawmilling companies in North America, will control most of the logging and sawmilling along Highway 16. A joint venture between a family-owned company like Hampton and First Nations is a much better answer for the province.
As shown on the second page of our handout that we've distributed, neighbouring sawmills and communities outside the Lakes District have already benefited, with significant volumes of timber being removed from the district. When the epidemic started and the AAC was increased, the community of Burns Lake was promised they would be taken care of when the harvest levels dropped.
Now, I wasn't here during that period, but I've heard it from enough people, both local people and the government people, that I do believe that promise was made. Unfortunately, they didn't get it in writing.
I'm clear it was made because, as part of the process, several mills were given subsidies to take volume out of here, and the local community would have never stood for those kinds of subsidies competing against the Babine mill if they didn't feel comfortable that they were going to get taken care of later.
Instead of that sympathy now, our competitors have worked up their local politicians by insisting they will be harmed by a solution for Burns Lake.
Our plan involves finding a solution for Babine and Burns Lake that allows us to reinvest in a new mill and harvest the local timber sustainably, that does not harm the environment or negatively affect neighbouring communities. Our plan will not cause any sawmills to close along Highway 16. The first part of our plan involves how much timber can sustainably be harvested from the Lakes District.
I'm going to turn it over now to Richard Vossen, our woods manager at Babine, for his comments and then come back and summarize.
R. Vossen: Thank you, Steve, and thank you to the committee for letting me speak this morning. Before I get into the discussion around timber supply, I'll just give you a little bit of background about myself. I've worked for Babine for 21 years. I've lived most of my life in Burns Lake. I've raised a family here. It has been a great place to live here.
You heard from Kaitlin Bysouth this morning, a youth of the community, about what a great place this is. I'm passionate about Burns Lake. I'm passionate about Babine. I believe in a sustainable forest industry, and I do understand the effects of the tragedy of January 20 on the community of Burns Lake.
A couple of things here. There was a question on what the impact on jobs was this morning, the direct and indirect jobs — our best calculations. Prior to the fire we had 535 employees directly and indirectly that were affected. That's logging, road construction, consulting, forestry, silviculture and direct mill employees, as well as all the other businesses in the community that were affected.
Again, before I get into the timber supply mitigation options here, I'll just talk about a couple of core values. Steve alluded to them. We believe in good forest stewardship that'll provide enough timber for a Babine rebuild and will sustain Decker Lake. We believe in good forest stewardship that protects environmental values and maintains social and cultural values. To be very clear, by no means are we going to throw the environment under the bus just to make sure that we have timber supply in the Lakes TSA to sustain a rebuild of Babine.
Just to give you a quick record of our environmental record here at Babine, Babine was one of the first companies in the province to be certified. We've had a sustainable forest management plan since 1999. We've done more than just the bare basic on the land base. Since certification we haven't had any events that have caused major environmental damage or non-compliance.
In September 2011 we had a Forest Practices Board audit. The summary of the audit concluded that our silviculture practices were considered exceptional. Overall, they considered Babine as one of the best forest management companies that they have audited since the inception of the board. We were noted for good wildlife tree retention, management of wildlife qualities and a number of other key environmental factors.
Okay, let's talk about timber supply. That's why we're here today. If you turn to graph 3…. Unfortunately, the folks behind us here don't have a copy of it, but I'll try to go through it as best as I can.
The Lakes TSA AAC can be maintained at a million cubic metres in the short and the mid-term. When you hear the doom and gloom that once the dead pine is gone, we need to go down to 500,000 cubic metres, as that's the base case, that assumes there are no changes to current practices. It assumes that legislation doesn't change, no continual improvement. We really do believe that there are options out there, that we can improve that mid-term timber supply and ensure we have enough fibre in this TSA.
To ensure that we have enough fibre, we've hired an independent consultant that will do our own timber supply analysis for the TSA. We do question some of the numbers of the chief forester. We'd like to verify them, and we'd like to see where the differences are.
We also want to do analysis on where we can run different scenarios and see how those scenarios will impact our mid-term timber supply. This report is going to be due here early in July and will be presented to you, to the committee, for review. It'll give you an option to look at the ministry, the timber supply analysis they've done and an analysis done by an independent consultant.
I mentioned to you the base case. It's conservative, without question. There are a number of things that we can do to increase that timber supply. One, we can harvest low-volume stands. We can reduce the minimum harvest volume to 100 cubic metres per hectare, and we can increase timber supply by 50 percent in the mid-term. That's 250,000 cubic metres that would add to the timber supply piece, and it would take the mid-term timber supply to 750,000 cubic metres.
That doesn't impact any land use planning. It's just a matter of doing the analysis differently and having licensees make the commitment that they're going to value and start utilizing these low-volume stands.
The other thing you have to keep in mind: these low-volume stands also provide opportunities for the bioenergy industry. We have an industry that has started here in the community. We have Pinnacle Pellet just to the east of us here.
Another initiative we need to do immediately here is we have a…. I need to back up here for a second. The current AAC has been set by the chief forester as two million cubic metres over the next ten years, to salvage dead pine with the assumption that we'll minimize the amount of harvesting of green fibre. We believe that we need to lower the AAC to a million cubic metres immediately to conserve the green fibre that's being harvested and use this fibre for the mid-term.
Intentions were good, to make sure that we were focusing on pure pine stands. But in reality, we've seen…. Especially in the last year we've had licensees harvesting up to 40 percent non-pine. That is fibre that we can utilize for the short- and the mid-term, so we really do need to reduce that mid-term AAC to a million cubic metres. We can conserve three million cubic metres of green fibre, non-pine, over the next few years.
Another thing we can do to increase the mid-term AAC to get it to where we need it at a million cubic metres is that we can do better utilization of our forests. There have been a number of studies out there that have shown we can increase timber supply anywhere between 5 and 10 percent if we do better utilization on our forest lands. An example: we can go to 15 centimetres stump heights. We can do changes to our diameter at breast height. I do apologize. Some of these acronyms may not be clear to you. But the bottom line is that we need to do better utilization of our forests, and we can do that.
We need to invest more in silviculture programs. For instance, we need to get away from planting pure pine. As a company, we planted a mix of species, and we've gone very heavily to spruce because it provides higher yields over the long term. Licensees in the province have traditionally planted very heavy to pine because they've been trying to get plantations to free-to-grow quicker and get them off the books and hand that liability back to the government.
We believe in planting a mix of species to provide diversity on the landscape and provide a higher yield that will provide more timber in the mid-term. As well, we can see genetic gain from planting seedlings that have used class A seed.
We can do more work around inventories and operational adjustment factors. I won't go into those here in detail, but really, we need to do more work around inventories and especially around inventory on the ground — do ground sampling and get better information on site indexes. Again, if we can improve this, we can increase the yield on the land base.
Okay. I'll talk about land use constraints. We have opportunities here to make some changes to land use constraints while still managing those values out there that we believe are so important to us. For instance, old-growth management areas have a huge potential to add fibre to the mid-term AAC. I'm not saying that we want to get rid of old-growth targets — by no means. Those are important values we need to protect, but it's how we manage those old-growth targets.
For instance, in the Lakes old growth is managed spatially. So it's identified on the land base, whereas in other TSAs it's non-spatial, so it floats around wherever the old growth is. There are some real values to going with a non-spatial OGMA — old-growth management area. For instance, we had the Binta fire here a couple of years ago. It burnt a vast area, and it burnt some very large OGMAs.
Now these OGMAs are stationary on the land. They have limited value for wildlife. They don't have the opportunity to move. If those OGMAs were to float on the landscape, we could move those, maintain old-growth targets and have value for wildlife.
Visuals. I really believe that we've blown this out of proportion here. We're not proposing to remove visual management on the landscape. We're talking about relaxation of visual constraints, not eliminating them.
First off, we need to get a better inventory of our visual resource. I recall that Babine did a study here back in 2000, the enhanced forest management pilot project, and we did a re-inventory of Babine Lake in the scenic landscape. We found that the landscape was 20 percent overestimated. Basically, 20 percent of the landscape wasn't even visible from the lake, but it was considered a part of that landscape.
We need to get a better understanding of that inventory and the impact it has on our timber supply. The current estimates by the ministry on impact of timber supply from visuals is definitely underestimated, and we will confirm that with our own analysis.
Why do we believe this? Well, relaxing visual constraints, we can harvest dead pine longer and conserve non-pine species, and you have to keep in mind that within our visual landscapes we have our best growing sites.
Other things we can do. We can eliminate cutblock adjacencies, secondary stand structure and a number of other things. Fertilization. You heard about that. We need to do that. That can put another 81,000 cubic metres into the mid-term TSA — as well as other investments. We really do need more provincial investment in the land base, and we need to get the federal government to come up with some money as well.
Okay. I'm going on here. I'm going to cut her a little a short here, and I'm going to hand it back to Steve. But you know what? In summary, we feel comfortable that we can maintain a mid-term AAC of a million cubic metres in the Lakes TSA, and we can maintain a facility here that provides the jobs and keeps this community sustainable.
S. Zika: Thank you, Richard.
We believe that the Lakes district can sustainably operate at an annual sawlog harvest level of a million cubic metres indefinitely. We're not coming up with a plan that gives us just enough to pay for the mill in ten or 20 years. People like Richard and our foresters care about the land. They want the land for their family members as well. So we're proposing that million metres can be sustainable short-term, mid-term and long-term.
However, let's be clear. If we keep allowing neighbouring sawmills to take green timber out in the short term to feed the third shifts of their megamills, they will be using the green timber we need for our mid-term timber supply. These stands they're cutting may be pine-leading, but as Richard said, recent harvests by these competitors…. Some of the timber — about 30 percent — is green timber. That's our mid-term timber supply that's being taken out.
We're asking for our annual licence of 450,000 metres to be converted to an area-based licence north of Highway 16, where we have the road systems, logging infrastructure and tug and barge operations to feed Babine and Decker Lake. The remaining annual harvest should be allocated to BLNDC or First Nations with restrictions that the logs be delivered to Lakes District mills at fair market value.
In summary, we offer a long-term solution to the timber supply and employment crisis in Burns Lake that can be implemented quickly. We are engineering a new Babine sawmill that would be built on First Nations land that will be approximately two-thirds the size of the former sawmill, yet provide many family-wage jobs.
There have been some questions about: "Why don't you just build a little small mill?" Well, in the world of sawmilling, size does matter in terms of economies of scale. You can have some small mills, but they're very niche-oriented. The markets are small, and you don't employ many people. Decker Lake is one of those that we do a pretty good job. We have niches. It's so small that some of the decking we make, we can't even really add a second shift without affecting the market.
But if we want to compete in the global commodity market, which you have to do when you're competing against Houston that makes 500 million board feet or Fraser Lake that makes 400 million feet, you can't build a teeny little mill and get those economies of scale. So the mill that we're engineering and what we're asking for in terms of the million metres is enough for both Decker Lake and Babine, and we can build a mill that's competitive. It'll be state of the art with ventilation systems and everything to make sure that our workers are safe.
We're not being greedy or trying to cause any other sawmills to close. Our harvest prescription will not harm the environment, and it only partially relies on some modest entrance into visual and old-growth set-asides that today are a fire hazard.
I'd also like to comment on some questions about the environmental…. Our company sells wood to Home Depot, Lowe's. We sell a lot of wood to China and Asia as well. So those people are very concerned about the environment. That's why all of our lands are certified, and we wouldn't be prescribing this plan if we thought it was going to have a terrible effect on the environment or have any effects on our markets. I mean, we just couldn't handle that.
We aren't going to be in business if all of a sudden we're creating an unsustainable solution that has a bad environmental effect. Everybody's got cameras. Everybody's got pictures these days. If you're not a good steward of the land, you are going to have trouble selling your lumber. So we're not proposing that.
Again, the annual harvest level will only be two-thirds of the pre-beetle harvest level here in the Lakes, which I think is a fair target for all of the northern districts.
Please give Burns Lake a future and provide Babine and Decker Lake with a sustainable timber supply. We need an answer by the end of August to make a multi-million-dollar commitment to machinery and perform the site prep that's necessary as the weather allows. With that timeline we can construct the sawmill during 2013 and start up the mill in early 2014.
As Richard mentioned, we are doing some additional analysis on the landscape. We will forward that to the committee so they have a chance to evaluate that. We would appreciate an opportunity to visit with the committee again in July, after that material is there, so that we can have a more detailed discussion. I know the critical nature is: how much can the land support? What is reasonable?
The first question is: how big is the pie in the Lakes District? Then maybe the more difficult one is how you are fair and allocate that across the north.
Thank you again for your time today. We'll be happy to answer some questions. I think also, as you exit the building today, you'll see the importance of a new mill to the community yourselves.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation. There are a number of questions from members.
H. Bains: Thank you very much for the presentation. Just for my own education here so that when we are discussing this issue later on, we have that information. The question I have in my mind is…. Perhaps you could advise this committee: what was your timber supply arrangement prior to the fire? Why do you want to have that changed in order to make a commitment to rebuild, either by way of having a timber licence — you know, whatever arrangement you are looking for — or area-based licensing?
S. Zika: Currently, we have a licence today, the Babine and Decker Lake mills, for 450,000 metres. It's not an area-based licence, though. Like somebody described previously, it is somewhat of a war out there trying to get your permits and ribbons in place and everything else. I think, as people have expressed before, an area-based licence makes a lot more sense. You just do things. There's more flexibility. It is a better answer for the forest and for the people trying to make these investments.
In terms of the future, we're not asking for any more volume for the company than we currently get. What we're saying is: let's take the Lakes District here and allocate the rest of the timber to the First Nations or community through various licences that would be directed into these mills. We're not asking for more for the company than we currently have today.
A question I heard today, which is probably in some of your minds, is: "Well, what would you have done if the mill hadn't burned down? Where were you going to get your timber before?" We had previously been working with the government on a variety of solutions. We talked about amalgamating the TSAs. Certainly, there's greener fibre out west. We think there is some underutilized fibre in certain parts.
But we are where we are now. In order to try and come up with a simple solution that doesn't cause a war back and forth, and we're stealing somebody's fibre out west, and we're stealing somebody's fibre to the east, we said it makes more sense to have the timber going to mills where you've got the transportation systems and can be competitive.
There is fibre way out west and way up north that isn't allocated yet. But if somebody said the freight to get it back to Burns Lake would be very significant…. We could do it physically, but if we're trying to compete in a world against other parts of the province that are hauling their logs from 40 kilometres, and we've got to haul them from seven hours away, we aren't going to be competitive. Our log cost is going to be too high no matter what they do to the stumpage system.
So if you wanted to take everybody and try and make it fair for everybody, and everybody is getting a portion of their logs from far away…. It's doable, but it's very complicated. There are just so many issues that are going to be, and people fighting for so much close fibre, that I think….
That's where we came back with our solution that we think it's easier to implement on the ground, because as we mentioned before, we need an answer quick. If we were going to wait to find the solution in Quesnel or everywhere else in the province, we could be here for a long time.
H. Bains: Just to follow up. My information here is that within this TSA between 2006 and 2010 only 67 percent of the AAC was harvested. So there is about 33 percent…. You know, the answer I normally get as to why that is the case is that it's not economically viable to harvest and reach out to that timber.
Have you looked at that — whether that can be somehow made economically viable for your use?
S. Zika: Clearly, the biomass could be part of the answer. The reason some of that is not economical is either that it's too far away or there's too much dead timber in there. The logging costs of going through and picking out just the sawlogs is too high in the current market, with plummeting lumber prices. If there was a biomass facility, for example, beyond Pinnacle….
We have a relationship with Pinnacle right now, but if there was an additional facility down, say, farther south or somewhere else in Burns Lake that could use that biomass, then it becomes more economical to pull out the 20 percent that's still sawlogs. Then they can use the biomass, and they may be viable.
In the past five years that capacity hasn't been there, and we were operating our mills at normal capacity. We weren't going to build a brand-new mill, and I don't think anybody else was. That's kind of why you didn't see some of that capacity being used.
Also, as I said before, this has been the worst downturn in the lumber market. There were times during 2007-2008 where every stick we made, we lost more money. We were cutting back hours, we were on work-share, and things like that. There just wasn't the opportunity. Nobody wanted to buy the lumber out there, I can guarantee, in the United States.
B. Stewart: Richard, first, your presentation was great in trying to get to how you build the plan as to getting to the fibre that you need. On the old growth, or OGMA, you talked about the current measurement being spatially measured and then an alternative. Could you go back over that and explain how that difference…? I understand that when the fires go through, a stand that was supposed to be preserved as old growth is now gone. Really, I don't understand quite how we should be looking at this.
R. Vossen: It's a little bit of a complex subject. We have targets for old growth within the TSA, and they vary per landscape unit. For all intents and purposes, it's around 9 or 10 percent. They are identified on the ground where these OGMAs are for old-growth management.
Other TSAs have taken a little different approach, where they are non-spatial. They float around the landscape. As a stand meets the characteristics of old growth, it now meets the inventory that you need for old growth. If it was destroyed through fire or harvesting, another stand will replace it. You will make sure that you will always have the percentage that you're looking for on a land base.
As a result, if you do your timber supply analysis, you can follow your harvest scenarios. You can capture some of that fibre. You haven't locked up those old-growth areas in perpetuity. You can borrow some fibre from them but also have the old-growth target in different areas.
You get the best of both worlds. You can harvest fibre. You can capture some of that fibre. As well, you can have your old-growth targets and meet those values for wildlife.
Does that help answer your question? It's a tough one to get your mind around.
B. Stewart: I think I understand that. That's fine, thanks.
B. Routley: I have a few questions here. I see that you had 535 jobs, roughly, between the mill and direct and indirect jobs. What would be your future estimation of the number of jobs? I heard someone suggest earlier that it was either a third less or that a different number would be the result of a new mill — whatever the investment is. I wondered about that.
S. Zika: I'll go ahead and take a shot at that. Again, we have numerous options on the drawing board in terms of the engineering. We've hired several engineers to help us with the drawings, trying to find state of the art and what makes sense.
The ultimate answer is that it depends on how much timber supply we have. We have several options. We have a one-line mill. We have a two-line mill drawn up. Like I said, if you get to below a certain point, it just becomes unviable.
If you use the approximation of two-thirds size of the old mill, I would tell you that the jobs would be slightly less than two-thirds, just because of some of the state-of-the-art things. The old mill, which was built in '75, had four chop saws — okay? New mills today have one person running four chop saws.
I want to be honest that even though the mill is going to be two-thirds the size, it may not be quite two-thirds of the jobs. There is still going to be a significant amount of family-wage jobs in the mill, but I can't tell you an exact number. It depends, ultimately, on how much timber consumption we can count on.
R. Vossen: Maybe I can just add to that a little bit, the part about the indirect jobs — the logging jobs, road maintenance, trucking jobs, forestry, silviculture. Those jobs are still going to be the same. They may decrease just due to technological changes, but the reality is that they're going to be somewhat similar. It's going to be based on the amount of fibre that the mill uses and the amount of cut that the mill has allocated to it.
B. Routley: Being an old bargainer, I like to pose these kinds of questions, and I want to be clear that this is just thinking outside of the box. I'm not suggesting to the community or anybody else that I've got any mind made up or whatever, but I like to ask probing questions to find out kind of where the truth lies, so to speak.
Being an old bargainer, I'm also aware of the strategy of asking for the sun, moon and the stars and then clawing back from there. So the company has said that they need a million cubic metres to invest in the new mill. I guess my question would be: what if it was half that?
If this committee goes away and studies the options, and if it looks too hard to change existing legislation, I'm sure that there…. I know that there are some things that you can do with fertilization. Certainly, other options are available to do to find fibre within the current legislation, for example.
If — as a result of looking at the impacts that are there — we used our best efforts to find timber supply, but it didn't exactly meet your number, how comfortable would you be with us living within the existing legislation and doing what we could to supply fibre? I guess that's my question.
S. Zika: Well, I wouldn't be very comfortable with just, you know: "Status quo. Do the best you can." I do think there are changes that need to be necessary to give us that assurance. Otherwise, we would have already said, "We're here, and we're starting to rebuild," and everything else. We do need some security.
The Decker Lake mill runs one shift. It takes about 180,000 metres a year. Beyond that, you could probably go down to about 700,000 metres for a new mill and still be competitive. So 700,000 plus that 180,000 — 880,000. We're not saying that, again, the mill needs to have 900,000 or a million metres ourselves, but we have to know that there's going to be enough harvest out there that we can compete for or buy that allows us, because there's….
You know, a new mill is somewhere from $60 million to $80 million. It's very significant, and we can't use the insurance for a biomass plant. It's a replacement cost type of insurance. That's all we know as well — sawmills. We don't know biomass. We're willing to support the biomass industry.
So again, it's going to depend. It's a risk-management decision. I'm sure at the end of August or August 15 that you guys are going to do your best. You're going to have a report, but it's still going to take legislation, likely.
So how comfortable are we, as a company, going to be on those assurances and what we see? The closer to a million metres…. I mean, we think a million metres is doable, and that should be the answer. If it gets dramatically lower than that, it becomes a harder process. So I can't give you a black-and-white answer, but our position is that there's no reason not to do a million metres.
B. Routley: Who are you certified by? Which of the certified groups, because there's FSC, SFI…?
R. Vossen: We're SFI.
B. Routley: SFI certified — okay.
R. Vossen: We have been ISO 14001 and CSA, and most recently we made the switch to SFI.
B. Routley: Have you talked to SFI about your plans, and are they on side or supportive? Could they send this committee a letter saying that they…?
R. Vossen: They are on board, and that's a good idea. We haven't gone as far as getting them to send you a letter.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Okay.
R. Vossen: I just want to add one point to Bill here. Bill, there are approximately 8 million cubic metres that are being consumed in mills from Vanderhoof to Smithers. The smallest sawmill is at about 700,000 cubic metres — a modern mill. We're not looking for the sky here. We're looking for…. It's a modest amount, and we're looking to keep a community alive.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay. We appreciate that. We have two other questions, although we're out of time. I think we are going to have an opportunity in July, sometime during that week of July 9, for Hampton to be able to do a presentation to the committee with those new numbers. So perhaps we could save those questions for that time, and we look forward to the presentation that you'll make at that point. Thank you very much for your presentation.
Now, I'm going to have to apologize to the group that's here. We are going to take a five-minute recess. I need to make sure that my members can keep up their strength for the pace that we're doing, so we're going to take five minutes to go and grab some food and come back. Then we're going to come back into the next presentations.
So we'll stand recessed for five minutes.
The committee recessed from 12:01 p.m. to 12:15 p.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Our next presenter, and I apologize if I've pronounced the name wrong…. Is it Gunter Hoehne?
G. Hoehne: That's right.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay, got it right. Gunter, over to you.
G. Hoehne: Hon. committee members, I'm glad I'm not sitting in your spot. When I look at the long days you have to put in and all of the information, listening to this morning, that you have to assimilate and come to some kind of a decision on, I'm glad I'm not there.
Anyway, my name is Gunter Hoehne. I've lived in the Burns Lake area for 36 years, and 22 of that I actually worked for the Ministry of Forests in a number of different capacities. I was lucky enough to have Bob Murray as my boss. He was one of the best bosses I've ever had.
Because of my background, I've been asked by a number of local residents to provide input into the MLA Special Committee on Timber Supply — and specific to the importance of non-timber values. What I mean by the non-timber values are things like the recreation values, watershed values, fish and wildlife habitat, and ecosystem health. All of those things I'm referring to are specific to the Lakes District and not any place else.
Over the past few months there have been several articles in local papers hinting at a number of ways to find enough annual timber volume to rebuild a sawmill at the Babine mill site. I think building a high-tech mill specific to the kinds of timber profiles that are available over the next 15 to 20 years would be great for our community.
When I looked at past timber supply analyses done for the TSA — and I was involved in doing quite a few of them — I had trouble envisioning where additional wood would come from.
The reality is that 75 percent of our land base was pine. Basically, the mature component of that is dead — as well as quite a bit of the immature. It will take 50 years of reduced cut, basically, to recover from that deficit. That's my understanding of analyses that have been done in the past.
It did occur to me that additional volume might be found from forest lands that were netted out of the allowable cut calculations because of low volume or poor growth. If these areas are considered, there might actually be some extra volume out there. Local paper articles also suggested looking at relaxing objectives for non-timber values to get more wood. The articles noted non-timber values as constraints to timber.
After reading these articles, I started to fear that important non-timber values could be seriously degraded. I even ended up writing several letters to the editor trying to clarify some misleading and bogus statements that were made about non-timber values. I never dreamed that these important values would even be open for discussion.
Your committee already knows that the Lakes has gone through a lengthy multi-stakeholder process, which included industry, local government and consultation with all First Nations in the district to come up with a social contract as to how these non-timber values should be managed.
This process was extremely complicated and took years to complete. I believe there was four years for the multi-stakeholder groups to reach some kind of an agreement and an additional three years of winding through the government approval process, which ended in the year 2000.
The benefits were: consensus between multi-stakeholder groups, long-term sustainability and a plan that achieved industry certification requirements. To me, it just seems like the current process is trying to steamroll and dilute this very important and still relevant work. I hope not. From what I have listened to this morning, I don't think that's the case.
What I would like to speak to is some of the non-timber values that seem to be downplayed in these media articles — specifically, ungulate ranges, recreation areas and ecosystem health. Compromising these values, I believe, is not likely to give a big timber gain compared to the risk of degrading these values.
Anyway, as far as ungulate ranges go in the Lakes area…. I should note that these areas are not established as ungulate ranges, meaning that they're not legal, but they do provide management direction. They have been followed, as far as I know, when I was working for the Ministry of Forests in the past.
Deer winter range. These are generally on or near steep, south-facing slopes, providing easy access to grazing in the winter. The best ones are windblown slopes where there's not much snow cover, with adjoining forest that provides hiding and thermal cover for their survival during the cruelest of winters.
Not in every winter are these areas needed. If you have milder winters, the deer don't use them as much. But during the really hard winters, there are areas where there's low snow depth and where they can easily get at their food and surrounding cover. Degrading deer winter range will not provide much additional timber volume.
Caribou. This is primarily a travel corridor in the south of the TSA adjacent to Tweedsmuir Park, between winter range in the Entiako and summer range in north Tweedsmuir Park. Caribou are being trapped, and corridor objectives could change — and they've changed in the past — as more science-based information becomes available.
Unharvested pine in these zones is dead and falling over. The area is probably too remote for a lot of economic recovery, except that maybe local bioenergy might have some success there. But it does require a ferry, and it is fairly remote.
Goat. There are very small areas adjacent to steep-sided canyons. The one that comes to mind is Foxy Creek. The forest cover on top of these slopes provides hiding and thermal cover. Degrading goat habitat will not gain much timber volume.
Moose. The most important areas are basically hiding and thermal cover, adjacent to low- or very low-elevation wetlands. There's not a large area and, therefore, not an issue to timber supply. Moose generally benefit from an increase in browse resulting from logging, anyway.
Recreation. In the Lakes we have back-country lakes. Of the well over a thousand lakes in the TSA, a small number, only ten, are selected to provide a walk-in wilderness experience with no motorized access. Objectives are restrictive to harvesting, but the impact on timber supply was minimized by many other overlapping values, so within these areas you would also have OGMAs, important riparian areas, wildlife corridors and some of the more important visual areas all overlapped in one zone, basically minimizing timber impact by trying to get as many of these values into one area as possible.
Recreation areas. There are 16 areas that have been selected within the district that exhibit significant recreation values. They include Nez Lake, China Nose, Kager-Star Lakes, Burns Lake South, Boo Mountain–Fish Lakes, Augier Lava Dome, Eagle Creek Opal Beds, Nourse-Allin-Maxan Trail, Tchesinkut Lake, East Knox Lake, Guyishton Lake, Takysie Lake, Cheslatta Lake North, Moose Lake, Uncha-Binta-Knapp Lakes, Taltapin Lake–Pinkut Lakes. The impact on timber supply again is minimized by a lot of other overlapping values. Salvage opportunities for dead pine that are available in some cases would improve these areas for recreation but are unlikely to supply a lot of extra timber for the mid-term.
On visuals, my understanding is that these objectives have already been relaxed. My personal opinion comes next. Like I say, I'm representing other people up here, but these are my personal thoughts. Portions of many of these visual areas might benefit from careful logging, leaving patches of wind-firm, green standing trees and replanting the areas. This would bring them to green-up sooner and provide for long-term timber supply.
I don't believe that further relaxation will significantly increase timber supply. If it does, and if there is an overlap with other values, further community discussion concerning more relaxation should occur.
Ecosystem health. This topic covers a wide range of stuff and is, in my own mind, one of the most important topics and may pose the greatest risks to animals, plants, fish and water resources if current objectives to manage and protect these values are degraded. This topic includes things like old-growth management areas, connectivity corridors, wildlife tree patches, riparian areas, species diversity, retention of wild young forest.
I am not an ecologist, and this is not my area of expertise, but I would like to read you an excerpt from the Lakes LRMP. Again, this is an old plan, but I think it's still relevant today.
"An ecosystem approach to resource management recognizes the structural, functional and evolutionary characteristics of the ecosystems which produce the renewable natural resources on which humans depend. An ecosystem being managed for resource use and/or extraction is said to be 'healthy' when it exhibits characteristics — structure and function — similar to those of systems under natural or unmanaged conditions. By maintaining healthy ecosystems, communities are able to derive long-term benefits from the productivity of those ecosystems.
"Biodiversity is defined as the diversity of plants, animals and other living organisms in all their forms and levels of organization. It is an important measure of ecosystem health. Biodiversity enables ecosystems to adapt and remain productive in the face of environmental stress and/or change — disease, fire, climate change. "It includes the diversity of genes and species and ecosystems and the functional and evolutionary processes that link them. Strategic planning emphasizes ecosystem diversity in order to maintain the diversity at the species and genetic levels.
"Ecosystem diversity refers to the number of different habitats available within a particular ecosystem and is directly reflected by species diversity. Human activity tends to split, isolate and eliminate certain types of habitat while expanding others. Conserving ecosystem diversity means maintaining sufficient areas of all naturally occurring habitats…to allow the species that are associated with those habitats to survive."
To relax ecosystem health objectives, when we don't even know if what we are currently doing is adequate, could be risky. The trees, dead or alive, needed to satisfy ecosystem objectives are probably not that many. As I mentioned previously, the stakeholder processes that preceded the Lakes LRMP and the Lakes south and north SRMP approvals tried to overlap or combine as many non-timber values as possible to reduce impact on timber. I think they were fairly successful.
I would respectfully ask that the special committee deliberate with great care and quadruple-check your numbers before making a decision that negatively impacts the important non-timber values mentioned above. Too much is at stake. I'd like to note that First Nations' cultural and spiritual values have been embedded within the above-noted non-timber values. Specific First Nations values and sites are not public information, in order to protect those values, and I think Bob might have referred to some of the inventory — the Lakes archeological inventory — as an example of where that information is.
If the committee is considering low-volume and low-site stands, I would strongly suggest a rigorous monitoring program to make sure these sites are actually harvested and not just used to supplement cutting more in other areas, as this could aggravate the problem with mid-term timber supply. Consider partitioning.
The decision you make today will impact our children's future. Shifting the harvest to the present means less for tomorrow. In essence, we're stealing from our children.
Remember that the inventory is very broad and, in places, not that good or up to date. Computer modelling spits out what you put in. Be very conservative. I guess when I listened to the Babine discussion, they have done some additional inventory information. My understanding is that when companies do this, they probably spend a little bit more time collecting the information, so that would be a good comparison with the government analysis.
My second-to-last point. A quote from the association of B.C. professional foresters, of which I'm a member, retired.
"Members felt that the existing higher-level plans were still relevant due to their long-term view and that the original reasons for forest management constraints still apply. They commented that in their view, changing management requirements would not prevent mill closures. Rather, it will postpone the inevitable falldown in timber supply.
"There was a concern that the consequences of such…management decisions would be worse than the benefits derived from an increase in today's timber supply. Harvesting a wildlife tree patch or old-growth management area now would make it extremely difficult to recreate them in the future. Long-term planning for such forest management objectives is an essential part of the solution."
The final point is that operators from Smithers and Houston came to the Lakes TSA during the beetle epidemic and helped harvest beetle-infested stands. If this meant that less was cut in Morice and the Bulkley, would it also mean that they owe us some volume? If so, this might also help reduce the pressure on non-timber values in the Lakes and support a new mill. There's lots of deadwood out there. Let's reserve a little, especially in appropriate areas.
Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee. If there are any questions….
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. Unfortunately, you've used the 15 minutes available. So thank you very much for your presentation.
Our next presenter is Grant Conlon.
G. Conlon: Good afternoon, everyone. I guess, being one of the later presenters, a lot of the points that I was going to bring up are already brought up. I'm looking at this from the perspective of a small businessman in the community. I was a logging contractor at one time, a Bill 13 logging contractor.
I just feel that a lot of these…. The fire was just a culmination of some of the things that have happened since 2003. Some of the things: Competition Bureau for sale; West Fraser; the tenure changes regarding appurtenancy, cut control, arbitration; timber reallocation, when the 20 percent was taken back and was given to other stakeholders. All this has affected Hampton's position and has made it tougher for them. I'm not a complete Hampton fan, because I was a contractor for them, so we had our disagreements and stuff.
But the biggest thing that's happened here now is a lack of competition because of this whole process and these series of processes that have happened. There's no competitive log market anymore when you only have two log buyers. I mean, how do you…? It's made BCTS pretty much irrelevant. It's not a true log market system. You've heard it from all the woodlot owners. You can't sell your wood, is what's going on. I don't know what….
A lot of this is beyond your control. It's not in your mandate, these tenure reforms and stuff, but it's got to be part of this whole process, because things have to be readdressed here. It's kind of gone too far one way, is the way I feel now.
It's made the business completely…. The profits are so small that people aren't willing to reinvest in the industry. We have to keep these mid-sized processing operations like Hampton and some of the other ones viable so that there is a bit more of a log market.
A lot of these you've heard from all these RPF people, with numbers. They know a lot more than I, a former logging contractor, know. I mean, shifting area boundaries, changing logging systems, maybe even — here's a radical one — claw wood back from BCTS. Give it back to stakeholders. I mean, if there's no competitive log market, why have BCTS? You know, give it back to the stakeholders.
Intensive silviculture has to be done. Maybe it's done in conjunction with a more selective logging system. Maybe based more like eastern Canada, where they take out the log they need. The way things are now, there isn't the money to do it, and somehow we have to get to that point. I don't know how you do it. That's beyond my capabilities, but…. Federal pine beetle funding — you know, where is that? That's for our silviculture. We've never seen any of that. Is that something that can be accessed?
Tenure changes. Basically, I feel the whole industry has got uncompetitive. There's no log market, there's no…. People just aren't going to reinvest in the industry unless something changes here. I guess that's what Steve Zika is telling you too. It's just not viable.
I've heard this from three or four people, regarding the wood going to Smithers. I was in the BCTS program at that time trying to bid against Smithers guys, and there wasn't a hope that we would…. You know, they were…. We just didn't get the wood. All that wood went west, and here we are now at this point. It has to be evened up somehow.
So I'll leave that with you guys.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Grant.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Well, just that we've heard from a number of people anecdotally about the commitment to come back to a pre–pine beetle position — that there was some sort of commitment. But is it more than anecdotal? Do we have a newspaper article or some statement that sort of says that once the pine beetle is over, there'll be some readjustment? Or is it just something that people…?
G. Conlon: I don't know. I think people just thought there was an understanding there. There was never anything documented, I don't think.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): All right. Then just one other quick question. B.C. Timber Sales — do you have a rough percentage of what that means to the area, how big a proportion…?
G. Conlon: To the Lakes? No, I don't, unfortunately.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. We can find that easily.
G. Conlon: I'm sure one of these…. Even John probably knows the amounts that BCTS has in our area.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): In the Lakes. But we could find it easily.
G. Conlon: Yeah.
J. Rustad (Chair): Actually, we have Josh, I believe, here in the audience. If you could perhaps….
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry — timber sale manager? Sure. Maybe if you could come up to the mike and you could give us a number? And if you could just give your name and title for the record as well.
D. Janning-Stewart: Hello. My name is Debbie Janning-Stewart. I'm the timber sale manager for the Babine business area, so our area covers Smithers, Houston and Burns Lake. Our annual cut for the Lakes TSA is roughly 384,000 cubic metres. That's after the…. We did have a 300,000-cubic-metre uplift, but since the determination, it has gone down. We have lost that uplift.
In Houston it's about, I'm going to say, 376,000 cubic metres, and in Smithers it's 208,000 cubic metres — so roughly about a million cubic metres.
Yeah, we're competitive, so sales go…. As I think it was said earlier, we have people from Hampton Mills who've bought timber in Smithers, Houston. And it goes both ways, so sometimes you see trucks passing each other on the highway — but yes.
J. Rustad (Chair): Good. Okay, thank you very much.
Any other questions? No questions from members.
Okay, Grant, thank you very much for your presentation.
Our next presenter is Cliff Manning.
Afternoon, Cliff, and over to you.
C. Manning: Afternoon, John and group. Thank you very much for allowing us this opportunity to come out and speak to you of this timber supply issue. It's a big one in our community.
Myself, I'm a representative of a number of different areas. Although a member of the Federation of British Columbia Woodlot Associations, I'm a woodlot licensee from Burns Lake. I'm also the British Columbia representative for the Canadian Federation of Woodlot Owners — that's a rather large task — and I wear a number of other hats.
Generally, when it comes down to the timber supply areas, I just want to give perspectives of…. A good chunk of them are my own, and part of them are from the federation, the Federation of British Columbia Woodlot Associations. The federation will be giving a formal presentation at some of the other meetings that you'll have down the road, and I'm just going to give a perspective of what mine is from dealing in this area.
I've been in Burns Lake for over 30 years. I was a consultant for over 18 years in the Burns Lake area, dealing with a variety of issues, whether it be managing with forest licences or woodlot licensees or inventories of TSA volumes. Anyways, my perspective is that I support the periodic review of higher-level plans and the objectives and constraints they impose on the timber-harvesting land base — providing a review is warranted by a catastrophic event, reviews are done in an open and transparent manner, and there is the acceptance that the outcome could result in more, not less, constraints.
I do not support opening up the entire land use plans but feel it should be more productive to review the objective for the group of objectives — like the ungulate winter range, the VQOs, riparian and old-growth management areas.
Old growth. I'd like to hear what your perspective is on what old growth is when it comes to lodgepole pine. Lodgepole pine doesn't live 300, 400 or 500 years. If we can get 160 or 170 years, we're doing really good before it starts to fall down and rot. So in reality, do we have, when it comes to OGMAs, old-growth management areas…? Are they actually DOGMAs, dead old-growth management areas? And how do we allow DOGMAs to stay on the land base and become more of a nightmare? What are we managing — dead trees? Or are we managing for live trees?
There are OGMAs in our timber supply area. They are made up of spruce, and spruce, in some cases…. As I've flown over them in my job, I've found that there are good chunks of blowdown in them, which will lead to spruce bark beetle issues. Now we've got another problem. We've gone from mountain pine beetle to spruce bark beetle. Should we not be looking at how we manage our OGMAs, how we manage them in the field? Maybe we may have to move them around on the land base to look at different approaches to it, not just leaving them on the land and maybe providing an opportunity of where we can manage it.
So if we all step outside right now and look around the valley around our community, we see dead forest. We see a lot of dead forest. Yes, we're lucky enough to be blessed with a community forest and area-based tenure around our community, but the land still has to be managed. Do you want that land to be green, grey or black? Well, it was green. It is now grey. And if we don't do something about it, if we have another 2010 season, it's going to be black, and likely there will be loss of lives and homes.
What are we going to do, and how are we going to manage it? Are we going to manage it with wildfire or prescribed fire on the land base? Are we just going to leave it be, status quo — what we're doing today? Or where are we going? And, really, with this group of people that are behind me, with different people with their views…. We all have our thoughts on how we're going to manage the land base, but we're putting it back to you to help us make that decision, for those landscape-level management plans are going to help direct where our future is going to go.
Area-based tenures, woodlot licences and community forests. We have a number of them in this area. In woodlot licensees…. We have over 72 woodlot licensees. They're in area-based tenure and can play an important role in mitigating mid-term timber supply. If managed and administered properly, area-based tenures can provide higher yields, better management and sustainability on smaller land units. In addition, they afford the tenure holder with the opportunity to be the one to harvest the timber and receive the benefits from approved management and incremental silvicultural practices.
Our woodlot federation has considerable experience with managing area-based tenures, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the subcommittee to build a tenure model with incentives, investment and better management. There should be significantly more woodlots in British Columbia. I'm a strong believer. I've been a licensee for approximately 12 years. And if it wasn't for the mountain pine beetle, of course, we wouldn't all be in the issue that we're in right now. It's a tenure that we all should have and have an opportunity to be involved with, and it's certainly a wonderful one for raising our families with.
In addition to achieving the benefits mentioned, when properly located on landscape, woodlots make more volume available. Woodlots often provide access to timber from areas that might otherwise have been heavily constrained or designated as "no harvesting."
But when we look at the tenures on the land base, we must take into consideration the requirement of free-growing. We need to look at changes in the free-growing rules, especially when it comes to dealing with deciduous species like aspen.
You'll notice that in the Burns Lake area we've got a considerable amount of aspen. When you go around to Vanderhoof and other parts of the Interior, aspen is something that is a fast-growing species and something that will be to our advantage down the road. I understand that in the 1950s lodgepole pine was a garbage species, and at that time we were only seeking Douglas fir and cedar in high-valued stands, so it didn't matter about lodgepole pine. Well, lodgepole pine became a very valuable species.
What is the next species that we'll have? Well, we have a very fast-growing piece of fibre. It's called aspen, and aspen will provide us, I believe, opportunities in the future. Money spent killing aspen could be invested in incremental silviculture, which could help grow more timber on the forest land base.
On to the land base itself of private land. There's an estimated three million hectares of private land in British Columbia, of which 91,000 hectares are tied up in woodlot licences. In addition, there are reserve lands scattered throughout the province.
At a minimum, the province should be working with landowners in the province of British Columbia to do inventories on private forest lands. An inventory would provide information to determine what volume may be available from private forests to help mitigate mid-term timber supply.
As we've heard already, the competitive log markets are very important on the land base for anyone dealing with…. Whether a woodlot licensee, a small business licensee or any type of a tenure holder, we must have competition.
With the loss of Babine Forest Products, we've lost a significant buyer of our wood supply. Just prior to the fire, log prices were starting to creep up around here, to a point where licensees, whether they're small-scale or woodlot people, could actually harvest the timber and be able to reforest it and worry about our silvicultural obligations down the road.
Without Babine, the prices have dropped down to $35, $38 a cubic metre, which some of you may think is a lot of money, but it's not. Yeah, we can go out and harvest dead trees. We might be able to reforest it, which we were obligated as soon as we cut that first tree. But how am I going to pay…? Or how are my fellow licensees going to pay for their free-growing surveys?
You can say: "Well, so what? It's only a survey." Well, it's a requirement under legislation. How are they going to pay for it?
It's a licence that goes on sustainably. It is an area-based tenure. The AAC is based on what we have on the ground.
Last point here. This is my opinion, not necessarily anyone else's in this room. Forest companies — and I don't care if it's Canfor, HFP or any other licensees in the province — should only control enough AAC to totally supply one shift in their mill.
Any additional volume that they need they have to buy from small business people, from woodlot licensees, from private land holders. It creates a healthy, positive small business opportunity in our communities, which drives the province. If we leave it in the control of a few multinationals, they suppress small business, suppress a lot of the opportunities, drive down the prices, and it becomes a dictatorship.
These are my comments.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, Cliff.
Questions from members?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Maybe it's a broader question. We're having a lot of very well informed people, and it feels a bit like the committee is coming in, in the middle of a process. I'm sure you've had community meetings. An awful lot of this stuff you've gone through, and likely you've reached a consensus. We see it in some of the reports, but can we get a sense from you? Did you participate in those community discussions?
I know that Mr. Clark was in here. Is there something that was put together that is more complete than…? We haven't seen Mr. Clark's work yet.
C. Manning: I haven't seen Mr. Clark's work at all. I know he spent quite a while here trying to find a solution to the problems. It'd be nice to hear what his final report will be, for sure. I haven't seen it, no.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): The example from the '90s we had. When Golden went through it, there was a lot of community work done. We had groups come from the outside, such as work coming in. But we did a lot of work, and we figured out a solution that worked and has worked. An awful lot of it was done.
I guess the question I have is to the community. Do we have Mr. Clark's recommendations? Do we have more of a community consensus?
I know we get parts of it. Maybe, as we come to understand more from what we've heard today, we'll get a sense of where the community has arrived. But do we have a clear report that the community has done based around the work that Mr. Clark has done? Or where do we sit? Are we still in a place where we still have an awful lot of work to do with pretty tight time frames?
Do you have that sense, Cliff? Or do others have that sense?
C. Manning: What about Bob Murray?
Robert Murray: I haven't seen any report. Sorry. I think….
J. Rustad (Chair): Bob, I'm going to cut you off for a second because that's not going to be able to make it on record. I apologize for that.
Just to paraphrase, for the people here, what Bob said, I believe….
Actually, Bob, why don't you come to the mike and just add that comment? We're out of time, but if you can just add it, that would be great. First of all, state your name, just for Hansard. They've got to record all of it.
Robert Murray: My name's Bob Murray. The community has been working on this issue, at the end of the day, for many, many years. It's a combination of many individuals bringing this stuff forward, and everybody understands what everybody else is thinking.
Is there a cohesive report relative to the full community saying: "This is our position"? Not exactly, from my perspective. Have we seen Bob Clark's report? I haven't even seen any recommendations from Bob Clark as of yet. I haven't seen that portion of it. So from a community point of view, I haven't seen a report specifically that says that this is a community position paper relative to this whole issue.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So where does that sit, then?
J. Rustad (Chair): I'll tell you what. That's probably a question that shouldn't be asked there. That's a question we can explore at another time.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay.
J. Rustad (Chair): Cliff, I'm sorry. We're out of time, but thank you very much for your presentation.
Our next presenter is Klaus Posselt.
Good afternoon, Klaus. Over to you.
K. Posselt: Good afternoon. My name is Klaus Posselt, for the record.
I was agonizing over what I was going to say today and realized that everything I wrote down here I'm not going to refer to, simply because I think those coming before me have done an excellent job of bringing across most of the points that I had in mind to bring to the table today.
What I will do, actually — and, again, it wasn't what I was going to do — is give you a background of where I come from, because I believe that here, probably in the near and a little bit further out future, maybe I might be of help. I may be able to answer some questions, with the experience and background that I have, which I wouldn't be able to bring across here in this short period of time anyhow.
My background. I was born in a large city — Berlin, Germany. I grew up part of my life and got part of my education in Germany. German actually is a word for "the people of the forest." We've always had a keen interest in forests. Germans still are forest people. They'll grow a forest wherever they can and have any kind of room left over.
Coming to Canada, we spent a couple of years in the Lower Mainland, and then my family decided to go to the other extreme, which is move out to the very extremes, almost, of where there is livable space within the Lakes District, which is at the very end of Cheslatta Road.
They decided to ranch. The ranch turned out to be, ultimately — financially, anyhow — a failure. Nonetheless, I was exposed to forestry and realized that the only way I was going to stay here was to get involved in forestry. It wouldn't be in ranching.
I think I understand the difficulties of remoteness, the difficulties of being far away from market, the difficulties of slow-growing crops in the northern environment. I've lived here in the north now for 41 years. I graduated from grade 12, and from there I furthered my education through either correspondence or just a keen interest.
What I've done since — when the farm was a failure, anyhow — was decided to borrow a chainsaw and more or less start hand-falling. I hadn't intended to stay in the forest industry, really. I was going to go back to school. But I'm still here — by default, I guess.
I do like the forest, and I do like things growing and being out in the landscape. I've taken a keen interest too. I always look at what's happening in that landscape. Why are the trees growing the way they're growing? Why are they falling over? Why are they thin, and why are they long and slender and not this way or that way?
In the meantime, I've slowly grown my one-man business to almost a hundred people strong. My harvest logs are either from myself — from fibre that I purchased or NRFL'd — or from managing NRFL licences in this area for a forest company or an evergreen contract in Houston and on Vancouver Island. So I think I have a fairly broad perspective.
My start was in B.C. Timber Sales. That was the first and, really, the only opportunity to get access to fibre as an individual in just "the best bid wins." My business has grown on competition and competition alone. Anything I've ever gotten, any kind of wood, has had to make a best business case. If I had losses, I had to make more gains somewhere else to offset them. That's just the reality.
I'm a firm believer in B.C. Timber Sales. At the relatively early age of, I think, 26 or 27, in 1986 I obtained a woodlot, because I had already bought a piece of land that was near and dear to me, even though there was no home on it. I maintained the forest on that and still have a forest on that. I lost a lot, too, in the pine beetle event because it devalued that forest. That was supposed to be my retirement.
Anyhow, in the meantime, in the last years…. I'm one of those bad boys that shipped a lot of wood out of this district to the other mills — probably a million and a half cubic metres of NRFL volume timber sales. Actually, it's probably more. With the timber sales, it's more like two million metres or better. It wasn't because I liked the other mills. It was just the way the competition worked out. They were willing to pay the price, and that's the only way I could purchase the wood — if I beat somebody else out with having the highest price.
In the NRFLs, of course, we had to manage, and to some degree, the pine beetle event was our friend in this downturn. It devalued, reduced the stumpage. It allowed that fibre to move at a much lower price in other areas. We actually managed to stay busy through the downturn because we had fibre that could be brought to a mill at $35 rather than…. I remember times when I delivered wood to mills at $120, and the stumpage was $100.
I'm going to try to get to the point here as quick as I can. I probably don't have a lot of time. Anyhow, what I've also done in order to manage all this wood and look at timber sales and work my businesses…. I've always had a keen interest in flying, but that's a big part of what I do. I fly over the landscape. I flew and took inventories, even digital, by camera, of the progression of the beetle where it started to turn red. I still have a lot of pictures taken that I took in a very systematic way.
Over the last ten years I've studied how the beetle advanced and what's happened and what's happening now. I've been quite optimistic in the fact that it isn't going to be as bad as we feared it would be, because the red really stood out over the green, whereas the grey trees don't stand out over the green trees. We see the green trees much more readily now than we did when we had a lot of red attack.
Again, I kept a keen interest in this business and said: "We have to find a solution for the grey wood." With that interest, I decided that there wasn't anything being done here. I listened to a lot of companies coming through. They promised to set up mills and deal with the dead fibre, the grey fibre, and that went on for two or three years.
I was made offers that I would be harvesting for them and what I could harvest for. And I said: "Well, there's a minimum cost of getting this wood to market." I basically strained my brain over that, significantly, trying to meet the challenge and give them a price of what it would cost to bring this dead fibre and the pine beetle–kill to market.
Ultimately, it looked like nobody was going to build a plant, so I decided to take it upon myself to build a pellet plant — albeit a small one, because that's all the resources I had. There were some promises in the form of receiving licences a number of years ago which added to my confidence that that was the right investment to make.
I suffered a worse setback through the fact that I bought a lot of equipment, paid for it and never got it. So my plant is basically not what it was meant to be or was expected to be. That has significantly handicapped my business, but that's a business decision I made. I'm not looking for a handout. I'll make the best of it.
What I've done is…. I didn't expect…. I believe you've got a handout, if I'm not mistaken. It's something I put together quickly. It's unfinished. It wasn't actually meant for today, but I decided, after listening to all the other presenters, and they made all the points that I was going to make, that maybe I'll just quickly throw an unfinished project out here and put it before you.
Those behind me, of course, don't have it in front of them, but basically, it's how to get the biomass to market in about as simple a version I can make it in. I don't think I'll have time to explain it. If you have some questions around it, I believe I've also handed out some business cards. I'm not trying to promote Tahtsa Timber or any particular company. All it is, is to have a quick name, a phone number and a contact. If you have any questions around that, I'd be more than happy to explain my math and my logic behind it.
I think, rather than running the risk of repeating myself, if you have any questions right now, I'll be glad to take them.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. Any questions?
I've got one for you, Klaus. In going through this…. You and I have had a number of discussions over time about this. So maybe just the diagram that you have here, in terms of distance…. If I understand this correctly, what you're showing is what is feasible under current prices and how far out you can go to access and what the price differentials are to go out farther. Is that what this is about?
K. Posselt: That's correct. What I've tried to do…. The first point I'm trying to make is that right now we have a pellet plant, my small pellet plant, but we have a very large pellet plant — probably B.C.'s largest pellet plant — that has been built very quickly to rise to the challenge of taking advantage of residual fibre. It's primarily fed by residuals from sawmills, and with the loss of Hampton, of course, it's been compromised.
A year ago I sat down with Pinnacle after I realized I wasn't going to be able to take on the volume of fibre that's out there. We've come to an agreement that I'd probably be better suited to be a supplier of fibre, which I originally always wanted to do, and get the fibre off the landscape and be able to bring it to a plant in an economical way.
There are limitations, but so far we have a pellet plant, and it is consuming bush fibre. It's coming out of my yard. We supplied bush fibre this winter, a significant amount, at a rate of ten loads a day from the more close-in areas, wood that Tahtsa Timber, my company, has set up for deliveries to a pellet plant. It's all fibre that was destined to be burnt.
I've made several appeals and stated my opinion, I think, throughout the community in various ways that we should not burn these brush piles. These brush piles…. I'll add to it. The average brush pile — the area it covers represents about 1,000 to 1,500 years, if not 2,000 years of fibre growth. At current sawlog prices, biomass has at least half the value of a sawlog. So you're throwing away somewhere between 750 to 1,000 years' worth of value, so to speak, by burning a brush pile. For whatever risk it is, it's already been gathered, brought up, densified, so to speak, and congregated into a small area. It's not taking up a lot of growth potential.
What I'm saying…. And I knew I'd run out of time. I always do. The $140…. I'm just taking a number, rough and dirty, delivered to a port. Those are going to be export dollars on an ODt basis, flowing backwards, so to speak, from the port, through the rail line, back into this community. A significant chunk of that will be money that comes from distant customers. There are probably at least a dozen countries that are competing for these pellets.
I just came from the bioenergy conference, and they expect that to grow exponentially into the coming years. It's currently all happening without a penny of subsidy.
J. Rustad (Chair): I'm sorry. I've got to cut you off time-wise, but I just want one other point of clarity. You've got some numbers up here. You're talking about one cent per kilowatt. I'm assuming that's per kilowatt hour — kWh?
K. Posselt: Yeah. I'm trying to equate electricity or energy value of any given amount of wood into pennies, dollars and pricing for ODt.
J. Rustad (Chair): I just wanted to have that clarified so that people, when they're reading this, would….
K. Posselt: Like I said, it's an unfinished project. It's a sketch I did on graph paper from where I was hoping somebody could make a nice, colourful presentation. So it's….
J. Rustad (Chair): If you have some time before July 20 and you want to submit something in addition to this, we have until July 20 to be able to do that.
K. Posselt: Okay. If anybody has a question, you've got my card. Feel free to call me anytime.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thanks very much, Klaus.
The next presenter will be the College of New Caledonia — Joan and Cathy.
J. Ragsdale: We want to begin by recognizing the traditional territories of the six First Nations that CNC, Lakes District serves.
My name is Joan Ragsdale, and I am a longtime resident of Burns Lake, meaning that I'm born and raised here. I'm also the regional director of the CNC Lakes District Campus.
C. Ashurst: And I am Cathy Ashurst. I, too, am a long-term resident of the Lakes District. I wasn't born and raised here, but I have lived here longer than Joan, and I'm the associate regional director for the campus.
J. Ragsdale: CNC really recognizes the critical need to explore fibre options available to the region and appreciates the opportunity very much to present to the committee today. Given our region's dependency on fibre, we strongly encourage the committee to explore all options available.
One factor that needs to be considered when determining fibre supply for this region is the link between fibre supply and the optimal health of the Burns Lake and surrounding communities. Cathy and I are not fibre experts. So we're going to be focusing more on some of the social considerations that we feel need to be considered.
Never has this been made more clear since the events of January 20. These events had a profound impact and a significant cost for many in our communities. Before the explosion, resource-based jobs represented over 50 percent of our labour force. A significant portion of these jobs were directly and indirectly linked to Babine Forest Products. We know that the impact of the loss of these jobs, not to mention the personal impacts, has been quite significant across the whole community and the region.
For example, a survey of 52 of the First Nations workers who lost their jobs revealed that 69 percent of those were actually living on reserve. These individuals are very unlikely to move and are very highly committed to their communities. For 63 percent, this was the only source of income for their families. It's very important to consider that this isn't income only just for their immediate families but for the extended families as well. Many of these individuals have not found work.
As we know, the health of the Burns Lake economy is directly linked to its fibre supply. Since the explosion, families using the food bank have increased by 261 percent. This has all occurred since January. Our food bank is running out of money and is scrambling for volunteers. At a recent advisory committee, which is a broad cross-section of our community, we were informed that the rates of domestic violence have increased by 200 percent since January.
Counselling and advising services here at this campus alone are up by 34 percent, and the CNC family support workers report a significant increase in the demand for their services. In addition to education and training, this campus provides extensive support services for our community. Therefore, we are feeling firsthand the social impacts of these events. To put this in perspective for you, last year we provided 6,834 enrolments in support service areas here at the campus.
Dependency on resource-based income in this region is 263 percent higher than the provincial average. What you might not be as familiar with are some of the regional social demographics, which situations like these exaggerate. For instance, the rate of children in care in our region is 144 percent higher than the provincial average. Family income is 23 percent lower than the provincial average, and people aged 25 to 50 without high school completion are 32 percent higher than the provincial average.
What we do know is that a vibrant and sustainable economy is crucial to our community's health. Another factor to consider is that decline in fibre looks to be most acute for the Lakes District region.
The data in the mid-term timber supply mitigation considerations — that's a mouthful — indicates that the Lakes District region will be the hardest hit in the corridor. If you look at mid-term supplies compared to pre-uplift supplies, Lakes District will experience a 200 percent decline. This is compared to Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George, which vary between 97 and 42 percent declines.
One very strong benefit of a sustainable fibre allocation to the Lakes District is the strength and consistency of the First Nations communities in this region. The Lakes District has one of the largest and most vibrant aboriginal populations along the Highway 16 corridor from Prince George to Smithers. For example, Lake Babine Nation is the third-largest nation in the province, and 32 percent of the district's population is of aboriginal ancestry. It's the home for six First Nations communities.
To put this in perspective, the aboriginal population in the Lakes District is 57 percent larger than the aboriginal population of Houston, Telkwa and Smithers combined.
First Nations bring stability to the workforce. Many train and stay in their home communities, and I think this is a very important factor to consider. We understand that employment opportunities for aboriginal peoples is a priority for this government, so ensuring a sustainable timber supply in the Lakes District will help the government meet that mandate, and it also supports the entire community.
The B.C. jobs plan outlines that a key to any economic development or sustainability is a skilled workforce. In Burns Lake the community college has a long history and is well situated to provide education and support services that meet local industry and community needs. In fact, CNC, Lakes is one of the larger trainers in the north. Last year we provided over 300,000 hours of training to this region alone. Hence, the infrastructure and the skill sets are in place here should a sustainable fibre source be allocated to this region.
This campus provides 1.5 times the training that Northwest Community College, Smithers offers. It has a strong history of working well with industry and the local First Nations, and it's very well positioned to take on any skill set training that may be required.
If a sustained tenure is allocated, CNC, Lakes District would also be very keen to explore applied research options that may exist with creative and long-term solutions. Genetic research and impartial long-term data collection are some examples. Another may be exploring the role of education to fibre options, their link to social values and how this impacts timber or fibre decisions.
There are many compelling reasons to allocate a sustainable fibre source to this region, and I'm sure you've heard many of them today. We believe that community health, a sustainable aboriginal population and a well-positioned community college are points the committee needs to consider in their decision-making.
We really appreciate this opportunity and want to recognize the strong leadership shown by the village, the regional district, the local First Nations, and industry, as well as our MLA, in finding solutions that meet the needs of this region.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. Any questions from members?
E. Foster: Thank you very much for the presentation. To your comments on the impact on your social networks, have you looked to the provincial government for assistance in delivering those services, and how have you made out with that?
J. Ragsdale: Yes, we have been. There are a number of task forces available, and one of the task forces is focusing on social issues. They're looking at prioritizing gaps. At this point we haven't been all that successful in finding long-term funding to support those social services needed.
D. Barnett: Thank you very much for your presentation. Have you noticed any difference in the interest in the courses at your college since the fire — statistics going up or down or looking for new courses, etc.?
J. Ragsdale: Yes, we certainly have. There has been a significant increase. I think we've written five or six additional proposals and put on additional programing as well. There were significant increases in the trades and technical programming that we had offered for the spring. We're anticipating that to continue into the fall. At the moment we're looking at about 200 individuals who have identified further training needed to find work.
C. Ashurst: What we don't have available to us is funding.
D. Barnett: If I could just ask another question here. So you've put together five or six new proposals, but you haven't received the funding for those proposals, or are these others?
J. Ragsdale: We were actually successful on four of those, and they've been implemented, and the programs are all completed. So that's good news.
D. Barnett: That's very good news.
J. Ragsdale: But further education of clients depends on the funding.
H. Bains: Thank you for the presentation. My question will be along the line that the mill is burnt down, and it has had its effect on people. People are making decisions until a bigger decision is made here.
Have you done any study? What will be the impact on the college itself in the event that no solution is found as is being looked at around here for the future of the mill? The population moves, although you said mostly First Nations stay on the reserves, and they don't move. I get that, but I think there still would be some impact by way of people moving and looking for new jobs and new opportunity, moving to a different community. What will be the impact on the college itself?
J. Ragsdale: I think there would be two impacts. One, in our social service areas, as we've seen so far, those disturbing statistics we know will increase. It's just a direct correlation in terms of work and no work and things that happen as a result. Secondly, I think there will be an increase in the demands for education. The more that we can provide those closer to home, the better it will be for whatever economy is in the region, for sure. I think those are the two answers.
In terms of numbers, we have done some surveys, and even if the mill is rebuilt, we are anticipating that the skill set involved will change. So we're looking at programs that would directly meet that need as well.
C. Ashurst: Were you asking if the population declines, what impact will that have on the college?
H. Bains: Right.
J. Ragsdale: It's a direct correlation.
C. Ashurst: It's similar to any other community service, of course, except one of the things about this campus that's a bit different is the social service side of the campus. We have many services that are not traditional in a college. As Joan mentioned earlier, the access for those services will increase. We will see a significant, I think, increase in the needs for family supports and supports to children.
J. Rustad (Chair): I want to say thank you very much for your presentation and for taking some time to share with the committee the work that you're doing.
Our next presenters are from the steelworkers association — Frank Everitt and Brian O'Rourke. I'm assuming that should be the steelworkers union.
F. Everitt: That's all right. Thank you, Chair Rustad, for providing us with the opportunity to speak with you and your committee today. I am Frank Everitt, and I'm the president of Local 1-424 of the United Steelworkers. With me today is Brian O'Rourke, the financial secretary for our organization.
The work of the committee, in coming to Burns Lake, is critical for the forest industry. It's critical because of the crisis that we have within the industry. The effects of the crisis have resulted in thousands of job losses and have damaged the entire provincial economy. More than ever the voices of forest workers in the community are necessary to be heard.
There is no doubt that the mountain pine beetle infestation creates a falldown in the timber supply over the coming decades. However, a comprehensive approach designed to extract from our land base the maximum value of the beetle-ravaged communities, coupled with a strategic silviculture investment to rebuild the decimated forest, can significantly mitigate the economic threat to our communities. We need to take immediate steps to secure the future of employment in the industry and our communities.
We have a duty to rebuild the mill in Burns Lake. Even though the beetle has impacted the timber supply, the situation is not as bad as it seems. The uplift in the annual allowable cut coincides with a decline in the demand for lumber in the United States. Residential home-building construction in the States has dropped significantly. The actual harvest levels are far below the annual allowable cut for the province.
Since the move to increase the B.C. interior allowable cut harvest of dead pine and dying timber was implemented in 2000, the maximum allowable cut levels have never been achieved.
I'll turn it over to you.
B. O'Rourke: Basically, in fact, the rate of those years to harvest was well below the prelift AAC. In 2009 the interior harvest was only 51 percent of the AAC, and in '01 that level was 75 percent. While some of that timber is in fact pine that is or will soon become unmerchantable, a significant amount is spruce and other species unaffected by the beetle epidemic.
With respect to Burns Lake, for instance, while much of the Lakes timber supply area is pine, only about 45 percent of the timber in the Morice TSA consists of pine. The problem is that years of poor management, lack of reforestation and neglect of timber inventories means the government itself does not really know how much timber is out there. We urgently need reliable inventory on that back.
Steelworkers believe that if the government is really serious about helping resource-based communities get through the coming falldown, then it should restore the links between timber harvesting and wood products manufacturing severed by amendments to the Forest Act in 2004. In our view, ensuring that timber creates local jobs in the communities must be a top priority. To that end, we would support relaxation of timber supply constraints for the purpose of local employment generation.
We also urge steps to improve reforestation and forest inventories and to develop a silviculture program to improve growth, yields and timber quality, moves which would both create jobs now and enhance the quality and quantity for the future.
So before I hand it back over to Frank here, there are a couple of things. I go off script a little bit here every now and again. Like to Bill's point, sometimes I get on a little bit of a rant.
It's pretty detrimental, you know. From this community here…. We have members not only in Burns Lake. Our local union spreads from Smithers to Fort Nelson, basically, and down to Quesnel, so we've got a large, large contingency of members out there. We've seen mill after mill close in the areas with nothing happening.
Here in Burns Lake you've got Hampton Lumber — who you've heard from; Steve's presentation — willing to invest somewhere between $60 million to $80 million back in Burns Lake. That's going to be coupled in conjunction with the six First Nations bands. Rather than see a mill shut its doors, walk away — however, still keep control of their timber supply, still make profits and throw people out of work…. I think that's damned shameful.
Here we've got something. Sure, we've got a little bit of allowable cut. What they're asking for I don't think is unsustainable. I think it's viable.
You heard one of the presentations talk about all the lakes in the area. I lived up in this area for 18 years, in Houston. I visited most of those lakes he talked about. I can't picture it now, out in the boat looking at all these dead trees. You had a visual aspect. We need to do something about visual. There are so many ways, I think, that we can achieve to give this company, this community back what they need.
Driving here today, I saw the signs. "Don't let it be a ghost town." This is basically a one-resource community. If this mill does not survive, what's real estate going to be worth in this town? Sure, people have got to go away and look for work. But money they had put aside in investment in their houses, properties; they'll be lucky if they get half back. We don't want to see that. We don't want to see Burns Lake turning into a ghost town. We want to see it up and running and being viable.
So I think that with the presentations here, and I'm sure with some good work from the committee here, recommendations should come back forward that Hampton and this community need what's been asked for in these presentations.
I'll turn it back over to Frank.
F. Everitt: I think Brian covered it off very well. We fully know that there are politics everywhere you guys go. There are also politics everywhere that we trip around as well. Some of your committee…. Chairman Rustad had mentioned the issue of environmental stewardship that we might run into a problem with. I would be so bold as to say that I don't think that's a big issue. I think you've had presenters that have already said that to you as well.
Sometimes we have within the forest industry some turf wars, where they want to look after their hide and they don't really care about the other hide down the road.
The story is out here in front of you as well today, where you have had the West Frasers and the Canfors and others — Newpro and the like — taking care of the timber out of this area when it was suited and directed by the government because of the pine beetle.
Now we have another situation that is even as critical as that with the rebuild of the mill. Surely to God this committee can look at it and say: "Never mind the politics. There is a stronger issue here, and that is the issue to rebuild the mill to give this community an opportunity to go forward and to have the strength and the benefit of having an employer like Hampton go forward and have their mill." You've got, as Brian has said, the energy and the willingness. We're looking for the committee to come forward and find the timber within their grasp.
The visual quality that everybody keeps talking about. I said this to a meeting in Prince George, and I'll probably get an opportunity to do it again. There isn't a lot of visual quality with a dead pine. What there is visual quality about is an enhanced silviculture in a planting of trees along the highways that we drive up and down — so that there is green growing there. It helps the oxygen. It does all of the good things that we keep talking about — the carbon.
I would encourage the committee to come back with a recommendation that says: "There is enough timber to meet the requirements of a rebuild in this community."
Thank you very much for coming here. I hope that you continue to get that message everywhere you go. I know there are people who always say — again, I want to draw your attention back to it: "Do not take anything from my neighbourhood, but now it's time to give back something to this neighbourhood."
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much. We have got time for one question.
F. Everitt: No you don't.
J. Rustad (Chair): No we don't? Okay, we don't have time for one question. That's good to hear.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I have a quick question. Thank you very much for this. I guess I come back to Mr. Clark's work. I know that what we're getting…. This is the eleventh hour — right? — that we're coming in. There has to have been work done. I'm sure that it would involve Steelworkers. Like I say, I go back to my experience with IWA in Golden, where they were central to those discussions. Can we look for a plan that is in place from Mr. Clark's work? He was here early on. Is that something you're familiar with or aware of?
F. Everitt: I am not familiar with the plan, Norm. I haven't seen anything from Bob. I was here initially right after tragedy, and so was Brian. We spent some time talking with Minister Bell and Mr. Rustad and Bob. Then his crew grew a bit from there. We haven't had a lot of dialogue in between that time, but I look forward to the report. We will certainly speak freely about that report. If we think that it's got merit, we'll push that merit. If it hasn't, we'll try and fill in the gaps where it hasn't.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much for your presentation.
So that brings to an end our public presentations. We have one person who has requested for the open mike. Although, I am going to, because of the rally that is going on outside…. We are out of the scheduled time.
To Greg Farney from Strive Energy, I'm just wondering if it's possible that you could consider giving us a presentation in one of our other communities or, perhaps, giving us a written presentation before the deadline of July 20. I hope you don't mind that….
J. Rustad (Chair): The community has arranged something for us, and so we had scheduled to be at 1:30. We're trying to wrap up right on our time. I apologize for that. Like I say, there will be opportunities, either in another community or through a written presentation, to be able to present the information to the committee.
With that, I'd like to thank everybody for coming out and for attending our committee meeting here in Burns Lake. We're off to Fraser Lake this afternoon. We'll continue on down the Highway 16 Corridor. We'll be meeting again in community meetings the week of July 2. We'll be meeting again the week of July 9 and wrapping things up. Once again, written submissions can be submitted to the committee by July 20.
With that, I move the committee adjourn.
The committee adjourned at 1:30 p.m.
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