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
FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2012
The committee met at 4:30 p.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our committee meeting of the Special Committee on Timber Supply. My name is John Rustad. I'm the MLA for Nechako Lakes.
I'd like to start off with introductions of our committee members, starting on my left here.
B. Routley: Good afternoon. My name is Bill Routley, MLA for the Cowichan Valley.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Good afternoon. My name is Norm Macdonald. I'm the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke.
B. Stewart: Good afternoon. I'm Ben Stewart, MLA for Westside-Kelowna.
E. Foster: Good afternoon. I'm Eric Foster. I'm the MLA for Vernon-Monashee.
D. Barnett: Good afternoon. I'm Donna Barnett. I'm the MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.
J. Rustad (Chair): Along with us today we have our two special advisers that were appointed to the committee, Jim Snetsinger and Larry Pedersen, both former chief foresters for the province of British Columbia. We also have with us Susan Sourial, who is our Committee Clerk. At the back we have Jacqueline Quesnel. If anybody is doing a presentation today or would like to consider some time for some open mike, please make sure you check in with Jacqueline.
Everything that this committee does is recorded by Hansard. It's broadcast live on the Internet and also goes into part of the history of the province. The two people we have here from Hansard today are Michael Baer and Jean Medland. The proceedings that we have today, like I say, are also recorded on the Internet, and it's available on our website, which is www.leg.bc.ca/timbercommittee.
This is the second time we've been able to come back to Prince George, so it's great to have another opportunity to be able to receive some input.
The committee was originally struck in May and has a mandate to look at the mid-term fibre supply and the challenges that have been created by the mountain pine beetle epidemic to see if there are some things that could be done to mitigate some of those challenges.
The committee spent some time in late May doing a bunch of background work. We have been doing public tours, starting a couple of weeks ago. We started in Smithers and went through Highway 16 from Smithers through to Valemount, including Fort St. James and Mackenzie. This week we did a field tour on Wednesday. Yesterday we were in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake. Today, this morning, we were in Quesnel, and of course we are in Prince George here this evening.
Next week we are doing three days of provincial meetings from provincial organizations on the ninth, tenth and 11th. Then on the 12th we are in Merritt and Kamloops.
People have until July 20 to be able to also submit written submissions to our committee, whether that's through the Internet or through regular mail. Once again they can go to our committee website to have details around how that process goes forward.
With that I'd like to invite Chief Dominic Frederick, as well as Lowell Johnson, to come up and do our initial presentation which is with the Lheidli T'enneh.
D. Frederick: Thank you, John and the MLAs. My name is Dominic Frederick. I'm chief councillor for Lheidli T'enneh. I'll be doing the presentation in terms of the mid-term timber supply and our input from Lheidli T'enneh.
On behalf of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation band, I am pleased to be able to present our thoughts and concerns for your committee consideration. The Lheidli T'enneh band is a community and, like other communities, seeks a measure of economic sustainability.
It strives to do this by, among other endeavours, being an active participant in the local forest industry and holds timber licence in this regard within the Prince George timber supply area, including the community forest licence in the Prince George area.
The band also holds a 50 percent interest in an active logging company that harvests over half a million cubic metres of timber a year. It is the band's position that it should hold its licence only within its traditional territories and respect the territories of other bands.
The traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh people encompasses much of or all the area around Prince George and the eastern portion of the Prince George timber supply area, as depicted on the following map.
The band is concerned about the effects of forestry management decisions made and applied to forest resources within its traditional territory. The band seeks to protect its traditional rights but at the same time balance its desire to be involved in the forest industry with sound ecological management of the forest resource.
The band's territory represents a significant portion of the land base within the TSA. The land base within the traditional territory could have its own separate and distinct allowable annual cut. In fact, portions of the area did have separate AACs before they were amalgamated into the Prince George timber supply area.
It is difficult for the band to measure the impact of mitigation actions on timber supply, enforce values when the territories are part of the larger Prince George timber supply area. The decisions made that may apply reasonably in areas west of the traditional territory may well have a significant and negative impact on the management off the reserves, off the band's territory, yet the effects may not be seen or felt until after the application of such decisions.
In order to assess and better understand the impacts of any mitigation measures within the territory, the Lheidli T'enneh suggest that there be a partition of the AAC for that portion of the Prince George timber supply area that falls within the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh.
The select committee has asked: how should decisions regarding potential actions to mitigate the timber supply impacts be made and by whom? The Lheidli T'enneh, in addition to having traditional hunting and fishing rights through the whole territory, have comanaged rights and responsibilities for fisheries throughout the Willow and the Bowron watersheds in the Prince George area. We would like to see this expanded to include comanagement for forests not only for the two watersheds above but also throughout the traditional territory.
With respect to any mitigation efforts to offset the decrease of the Prince George timber supply area AAC, such mitigation is, in effect, an increase in the allowable annual cut. We suggest that to the extent that any increase in the AAC is a result of mitigation efforts in the traditional territory, it should flow to the Lheidli T'enneh through area-based tenures, where the Lheidli T'enneh may manage the resource directly.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Dominic.
Lowell, would you like to add anything to that?
L. Johnson: No, it's a short presentation given the time and the impacts. I think the biggest thing, going back to the partition aspect…. It's difficult to really measure or assess the impact within the band's traditional territories in such a large TSA as the Prince George one. As was stated in the submission, there were individual allowable cuts in the different units at one time. They were eventually amalgamated into the Prince George area, so a lot of the detail tends to get lost. Sometimes it's difficult to assess what might be reasonable in one area. How does it impact supply within the band's traditional territory?
I think the other thing is that Lheidli T'enneh is a community, just like Fort St. James or Vanderhoof or Prince George, for that matter. What Chief Dominic has attempted to do over the last number of years is build some sort of economic base that will sustain the band.
He's worked very hard. He's got a certain level, and he's quite concerned — the band is quite concerned — about where it will go when we start to see these decreases in the allowable cut within the TSA. The band now holds timber licences, and its future is somewhat tied to that. The logging contract is a major one. The operation is significant for the band.
So all those things are threatened. Although it's not a major community like a big city, it's a community nonetheless, and the actions within its territory are a serious concern to the band.
D. Barnett: Thank you very much for your presentation. I just have a couple of questions. How big is your community forest licence?
L. Johnson: The allowable cut is 40,000 metres a year.
D. Barnett: Also, how many people does the forest industry employ in your community?
L. Johnson: That will vary. The community itself is 300-plus people. Not everyone is going to be working in the forest industry as such. But we can say that the revenue that the band receives through its logging operations and from the timber licence it holds is substantial, and it provides a foundation for the other thrusts that the band has.
D. Frederick: Okay, well, just to answer your question…. What we wanted to do was have Jackie up here too, because Jackie Brown is part of our committee here and part of our forestry organization.
To answer your question in regards to how many people are employed from our community, there are very few people that are employed from our community. But the projects that we've got into and developed — the Chunzoolh company — and training of people and community members probably run to around seven people, I think, that do silviculture work. We have three or four loggers that work for LTN Contracting.
J. Rustad (Chair): Any other questions from members?
I've got one question. You're involved with the community forest. Do you have a revenue-sharing agreement or a woodlands tenure?
L. Johnson: We have a revenue-sharing agreement. We're working on the tenure arrangement, and I guess we're waiting for ministry decisions as to what flows from them. I'll just say the file is active, and at the present time it rests in the hands of the ministry.
J. Rustad (Chair): Is any of that tied up with the treaty components, or is that separate?
L. Johnson: Yes, it is.
D. Frederick: It is tied into the treaty components. The reason for that is there was so little wood that was offered to our community in regards to the AAC — something like 12,000 cubic metres.
L. Johnson: A small amount was offered through a woodland tenure licence — about 9,000 metres — which really doesn't go too far to sustaining the band's community. We've asked that that volume be pooled with the volume that was set aside within the treaty. So we're waiting for decisions with respect to that.
J. Rustad (Chair): The other component I wanted to ask about…. In the presentation you talked about any potential uplift looking at an area-based tenure as an opportunity. So I assume that the area-based tenure is more of a preference as opposed to a volume-based tenure. And then, what are your thoughts with other licensees in terms of area-based versus volume-based?
L. Johnson: Yes, area-based would be preferred, so long as it's large enough. I mean, the downside of it is that if you have a small area-based licence, you could have it wiped out by, well, mountain pine beetle. So you want to have a big enough size to resist those sorts of natural disasters. Yes, I think we would want it.
The experience that we've had…. We haven't had much experience with the community forest, but that's been positive in terms of growing the cut and that sort of thing. So that part is good.
B. Stewart: Thanks very much for the presentation.
I guess some of the things that we're here to look at are some of the challenges that are faced in timber supply areas throughout the Interior. Some of the suggestions have been looking at areas that are currently…. There are restrictions over top of them. I'm just wondering if you have a comment or an opinion about inside the Prince George TSA — what your opinions are in visual-quality corridors, old-growth management areas and those areas, looking at the idea of any type of access into them or changes.
D. Frederick: You can answer that one, but I will have a comment on that.
L. Johnson: Well, you should go first, then.
D. Frederick: My comment on that is that on that big beetle kill, on managing the forestry within our areas and within our traditional territories, most of the sales belong to industry already. All those sales within our traditional territory have been taken up by industry, by the forest people that own sawmills and the Canfors and whoever.
The areas in there — we don't have much say over that. We probably never did have any say in it from the beginning, in regards to the supply of wood within our area and how it's managed.
L. Johnson: Just to add to that, that really builds on the sort of second theme in our presentation, and that was building on the principle of comanagement that exists now with Fisheries where Lheidli T'enneh are involved in the management of the salmon. They make decisions on how much is to be harvested and whatnot. In a similar vein, the band would like to see a sort of comanagement approach with respect to the timber resources within the traditional territories.
B. Stewart: Let me just ask one more question to follow on with that. How does the band perceive that these major forest companies, the ones that are the two tenure holders in this area, are managing their resource at the present time?
D. Frederick: Well, it's a number of forest companies that own tenures within our traditional territory. It's not only one or two. It's probably about five or six that take up the forestry tenures within our area.
We really don't have a say about that because those licences were in existence before we came in pretty close to the end, within probably the last 20 years, with a very, very small forest licence that was held by the band, which we still hold.
L. Johnson: The band has worked to build a positive relationship with the industry here. It wants to be an active participant, so it has not taken an adversarial approach. It wants to take one that works with industry and works with the ministry to try to find solutions.
But at the same time they want to make sure that their position is well understood, and as Domo says, the band is coming in after the fact, when all the major licences have been awarded and a lot of timber has been removed from the traditional territories. Now they're in a position of building an enterprise within that and so would really like to have more say in what goes on.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Well, thank you for the presentation. With the treaty process, you've talked about comanagement. Is that something that would come in separate from the treaty process, or is that something that is part of the treaty process? Then, also, with what's going on now, what is the level of consultation with cutblocks and different activities?
D. Frederick: Well, the level of consultation with just the cutblocks is enormous in terms of referrals. We don't really have the resources to answer every referral that comes into our office, and if there's environmental stuff that's going on within our territory and we flag that, then that's it. Then we have to pick and choose which referrals we're going to be looking at. The consultation behind that is that we use the Ministry of Forests to head that off. Like I say, we don't have resources for that.
We're building slowly, you know. We're not a big industry. We're a band. We are an aboriginal reservation band. We're not like the city or out at Canfor where they've got all these resources and millions and trillions of dollars that they can take care of everything.
We don't have that. We're very small, you know, and it's hard for us to send people out even if there's an environmental disaster out in the bush or something — somebody running across a creek with their cat or something. We can't afford to send people out every day looking at what they're doing out there.
J. Rustad (Chair): I just had a couple of other things I was sort of wondering about. Many of the First Nations that we've talked to are exploring bioenergy or bioeconomy types of opportunities as well as other partnerships within the forest industry. I'm just wondering whether the Lheidli T'enneh have gone down that avenue and explored any of those types of opportunities.
D. Frederick: Yeah, we did go down that avenue. Like I said, you know, we don't have a lot of money. You've got to have money, before that kind of stuff, to…. You need partners, and you need partners with deep pockets to go down that avenue to make it successful. Unfortunately, we weren't successful.
Besides, nobody has ever come to us and said: "Hey, let's build bioenergy in your territory." But they did it anyways, you know.
L. Johnson: It's access to fibre, John. The cheapest fibre actually is dedicated to the pulp mill for their use, so they get first call. That's why it's very difficult to establish a new plant in this area. Otherwise, you're going to the bush for everything. That's expensive wood.
J. Rustad (Chair): And the other question I have…. I don't know whether it's too technical or not. But I know from my background in the area, your traditional territory covers off both TFL 30 as well as woodlot licences and volume-based. I'm just wondering if you've noticed a difference in the way that they engage with the Lheidli T'enneh on those different types of licences.
D. Frederick: Well, just on TFL 30, there's a lot of…. Not enough background information or proof of information remained that we're supposed to have with TFL 30.
When TFL 30 started there was a proposal put in by the band, by one of our former chiefs, Chief Peter Quaw, and Dr. Zammoto in Victoria, where they accepted the proposal to be a partner with TFL 30 when that started. We have no proof. We have nothing on paper or background information that we can dig up to prove it. It's only words and hearsay that we have on that.
Consultation with TFL 30 is very limited in terms of who holds the licence and whether it's…. Anyway, the consultation on TFL 30 is limited, so we don't have a lot of information on TFL 30. We know where it is, and the last we heard was that the northwestern part was ready to be cut now. But they were in consultation with another northern band for that one.
J. Rustad (Chair): The last question I have is just…. One of the things that we are looking at as possible ways to mitigate mid-term fibre supply is low-volume stands — stands that are currently below what is considered to be economical today. Often those stands can come with a component of non-sawlog, whether that be hardwoods or dead pine or other types of fibre. Do you have any thoughts around what that may look like or what that opportunity could look like?
L. Johnson: Well, in the community forest that we have, it's built around the principle of deciduous trees, so we use those. We have one buyer for those.
I think if you go in and log where you fold that type of timber into the allowable cut, then it's going to be available for all those people who hold licences. I guess my thought would be that it probably should be distributed amongst everyone. Everyone gets the good, and everyone gets the bad — that sort of thing — as opposed to one person or one organization getting all the small timber that you refer to.
J. Rustad (Chair): Right.
D. Frederick: I guess, John, part of the answer for your question is that, like I said earlier, we come in late with developing and trying to build on the resources for the company and for the band in regard to forestry. When we got the community forest licence, it was dead pine and deciduous wood. It wasn't really profitable for us. If we'd had some green timber to put into it, then it would have been sustainable for us and our band.
But the way it sits right now, it's just…. We had a hard time to get the sales for that because we had to deal with the other forest industry companies to give up some sales so that we could operate as a forestry company.
L. Johnson: Just on that initial offer of the forest licence, the community forest was 15,000 metres a year. The allowable cut now sits at 40,000. Long term, it will probably go down to about 25,000, but 25,000 is still an increase over the 15,000. Probably looking at what we will plan to do over the next number of years, they'd like to rebuild it up to the 40,000 level. That shows that within the area-based-tenure concept you can make gains.
J. Rustad (Chair): Yeah, no question. Well, I think that's it for questions. I just want to thank you very much for taking some time and giving us the presentation. If something else comes up or if you want to add anything else to this, make sure you get it to us before the 20th of July.
Okay, we are going to go straight into the next phase of this, which is the community consultation component. Our first presenter is going to be Arnold Bercov with the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada.
A. Bercov: My name is Arnold Bercov. I'm the forest officer for the Pulp, Paper and Woodworkers of Canada. I'm actually from the coast, so a little bit about my background. I'm the forest officer for our national union. We have about 600 members in Prince George. We represent the Castlegar pulp mill and a sawmill in Mackenzie.
Just a little bit on my background. I worked at the Harmac pulp mill. We ended up going bankrupt and starting that mill up. I served for eight years on the Forest Stewardship Council, the last year as co-chair of FSC — so a lot of experience, I think, working with groups and around community forestry.
Just to quickly go on, we're going to do a written presentation, but people that know me know I can do a lot of talking, so I'll try and keep it short. Obviously, when we saw there was even some thinking about going into protected areas and parks…. It causes a lot of angst on the coast because people thought: "Well, gee, if they can get away with it here, could they do it in other areas?"
Certainly in the local I'm from, we're familiar with shutdowns. We lost a lot of sawmills. We lost a pulp mill. We managed to get a lot of it going. If you look at the terms of reference — and I'll try and stick to them as best I can — when you talk about increasing the timber supply…. Certainly, I've been forest officer for about six or eight years in our union, kind of following the pine beetle, pushing the cut up from when they said, "We think it's an economic opportunity," to probably looking at a pretty severe decrease or falldown.
I think to look at saying, "How do we increase the timber supply?" is probably not something anybody in this room, if they put a lot of thought into it, would say that we can do. What I say to our guys, because some of them wonder…. We do work a lot with environmental groups, and I'm proud of our record in that area. It's the old story. If we cut all the trees down, we're done, and if we don't cut any down, we're done. So how do you find that balance?
If you look at what's happening in the Interior with the pine beetle, I think we need to start with long-term solutions. It's easy to say: "What do you do? How do you manage that falldown to mitigate the impacts on the people that I represent, and the communities?" Like I say, I'll talk about it a little bit later when I get down to it, but I'll try and stick to the terms of reference.
The other is to change the land use objectives, the rate of cut and the conversion to a different type of tenure — to area-based tenures. Our union has taken the position that we don't support going into any protected areas, any parks, or cutting down visual corridors. I'll tell you one of the reasons for sure. You know, I'm 62 years old. I've worked in the industry since I was 19. I remember all those battles with environmental groups, and it took me a long time. I had to get hit in the head a few times before I realized that working with environmental groups certainly served us much better.
I'll tell you a quick story. In the mid-'80s at the pulp mill, Greenpeace came and hung a banner: "Dioxins kill." We were all pretty young. "Somebody should shoot those guys." But ultimately, we learned, and we got secondary treatment.
I think to look at increasing that timber supply by moving into areas that are protected areas, visual corridors or parks is something that our union is not interested in. We're certainly interested in maintaining jobs and carrying on. I'm one of the guys that certainly think the forest industry has a bright future. The pine beetle has, for sure, been a tough hit, but there are ways of keeping people in communities. I'm talking about silviculture, putting people to work restoring the forest.
One way of increasing the timber supply, quite frankly, I think, is just getting more out of the wood. I know it's tough with the pine beetle, but they're going to have to look at value-added. As everybody says, "Well, let's do value-added," and I certainly know how difficult that is.
Again, I think the people that live in these communities are probably more willing than a lot of people think to put effort into doing those things. We don't support going into those areas. We don't support changing legislation that would allow for that. We think that's counterproductive.
Moving on to what you people have talked about or what you'd like us to consider. As far as balancing the budget, you've got to spend money to make money sometimes. I certainly learned that from our experience at Harmac, and it changed me in a lot of ways, for sure.
They need to really look at investing in the future, and that means investing in the environment, investing in wildlife corridors, maintaining all those values that people see. Quite frankly, sometimes guys that work in the bush get tunnel vision about their jobs till they get home, and then they want to go out with their family, and they want to do things in the bush. So it has all those other values in it.
You don't think about a piece of land. I think about us sitting on this land now. Somebody wants to mine it. Somebody wants to pave it. Somebody wants it. There's so much demand on value that I think you really have to take all those things into consideration.
I think there are opportunities in these communities, but again, it's going to take leadership from the government because they control 95 percent of the land base — the timber.
As far as moving from the area-based tenures…. I'm not a forester, but certainly, I know we struggled with that at FSC. It's very difficult when you look at certification to go out away from volume-based tenures.
I know I've got to make this quick, but moving into maintaining high environmental standards. Everybody says that. Everybody wants to do it. One thing I will say about our union is we've certainly walked the walk as well as talked the talk — to the detriment of some of my other brothers, at times, in other unions. I always felt the same thing. You're better off in a coalition and get something out of it than fighting, fighting, fighting. I'm pretty proud of that record. I think it's work that we have to continue. Maybe slowing down the cut is the way to go. I just don't see how you can really increase the cut, considering the situation that we're in here. Everybody knows there's going to be a huge falldown, so how do we manage it? I don't have all the answers, but I would certainly be willing to spend more time, if you guys have got a few hours, because I've got what I think are some pretty good ideas.
Then when you talk about community transition, I think it takes a lot of planning and retooling of communities so people don't have to leave. Again, I lived that experience when Harmac went down. The guys all went to the oil patch and made a bunch of money. But you know what? Most of those guys came back when they had the opportunity to do that, because people like to live in the communities that they're familiar with and their families are.
There are all kinds of things that I think that if people put thought into it…. Like I say, silviculture. The jobs may not all be cutting down trees. They may be other stuff like guiding and different things — I don't know — working in fisheries, restoring streams. Those things have to be done.
The other thing that makes you wonder…. I wasn't always, but I'm certainly a big proponent of climate change now. I hope that when they do put the effort into reforestation — and it's got to happen sooner than later; I mean, somebody's got to definitely put their mind to it — it takes into account climate change. Are we going to do the right things? Are we going to plant the right species? I think we need to get on with that. Again, I think that's a good investment from the government. You know, you invest in your house. They own the land.
I understand, more so now than I ever wanted to, about how the forest industry needs to be competitive. Guess what. We own a quarter of Harmac. It certainly wasn't my first choice, but looking back on it, I think it hasn't been that bad for us.
I understand that we need to be competitive. We need fibre. We need all those things. Again, I keep going back to Harmac, because it's my experience. You've got to be part of the community. I won't be the only one, I'm sure, talking about big corporations. Sometimes people don't see that. They'll do what they're allowed to do. I think some of the burden should be put back on these guys that made a ton of dough out of these woods to really start putting back into the community and, like I say, into the bush reforestation.
What can you do about value-added? Well, I think if you put a lot of thought into it, you could do a lot of things. Again, I wish I had a few hours.
I do worry a little bit about the bioenergy sector. It's good to have co-gen plants in conjunction with pulp mills. I remember a few years ago — it's kind of slowed down now with all these IPPs — I worried that they were going to be burning the forest down just to make electricity. I think that is, quite frankly, the lowest-value use of wood, not the highest value. They can make it the highest value because they just jack up your electricity rates — right? I'm here to represent jobs too.
I do worry a little bit about: can you make better use? I know that pine beetle wood is deteriorating, and things are happening. You need a bioenergy sector, but I also think you need to do it in conjunction with a competitive pulp and paper industry. I think that's hugely important.
People talk about the pulp and paper — that it's going away, and digital. Paper is a little bit tougher, for sure, but for pulp mills…. You know, China — I know it's slow right now, but I think there are two million tonnes of tissue capacity. That's what we've done at Harmac. We've tapped into that market, and you know, it won't always be in the doldrums. So there are opportunities for these pulp mills long term, as long as they don't get beat up on the fibre side by the energy sector.
As far as talking about the First Nations issues, I'm certainly no expert in that area. But sitting on that FSC board has taught me one thing — that it's important to work with all the sectors. It's really heartening to see somebody from the First Nations here, and I'm sure you're going to hear a lot more. I think it's important that any falldown — or, if there is talk of moving into certain areas, that the consultation with First Nations is always there, because again, it comes down to the battles…. I mean, I went through all the CORE days. You guys will probably remember that — you know, sitting at the Legislature and somebody putting fertilizer on the lawn trying to get rid of us, but we stayed anyways.
You know, I think I've had a little bit of experience around this issue. Again, I don't live up here, but I just think that to destroy the work that this province has done in the last 20 years with environmental groups is just wrong-headed. For short-term gain, I mean…. We need to have a long-term plan. We need to manage that falldown.
I should shut up. But again, we need help from the government to retrain people. There are all kinds of things we could do, but it just takes a lot of work and a lot of thought. Like I told guys at Harmac when I went down, if you do nothing, you'll get nothing.
Anyhow, I think that's pretty much how our union feels about what's going on here, and I'm glad you guys gave me the opportunity to come in front of you and say what I think.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you, and thanks for the flexibility in terms of moving forward the timing a little bit. I'm glad you were here early because we've got a number of questions.
I just want to start off with one. One thing I didn't say at the beginning is that the overall impact of the pine beetle throughout the area — you know, the area from Smithers-Houston down to 100 Mile House or into the Kamloops-Merritt area — is estimated to be about 10 million cubic metres per year once we get through the pinewood. In some areas that'll happen sooner than in other areas, depending on shelf life and how long they can use the pinewood. That's the equivalent of about eight reasonably sized sawmills.
Over time, if that ends up happening and if we can't find ways to be able to expand the fibre that might be available, how do you think that might end up impacting in terms of the overall supply for the pulp industry?
A. Bercov: Yeah, it worries me in the sense that the cheapest fibre pulp mills get is from residual wood — right? I think pulp mills can survive, and quite frankly, that's been the case on the coast. Don't get me going on the log exports. I don't want to do that, because I know you're not here for that issue. But you know, because there are so few sawmills running there, we are going out and sourcing wood, and it's expensive. We're even talking about actually bidding on some B.C. timber sales at Harmac because we struggle for wood.
So is that where the pulp mills are going to be? I know Canfor…. And I don't want to speak for them. They're talking about putting the company back together. I think they will sort those issues out on the pulp and paper side. If the price is there, then they'll be able to pay more for the wood.
It's a really tough thing for a union because you want everybody to work. I mean, you know, I've lived the closure of Island Phoenix, that Ladysmith sawmill two and a half years…. We got that going. I've seen the struggles. It's horrible. I know I lost my job. We got it going.
Again, you have to face the reality, and the reality is not to go in and move into other areas, but it's really to innovative thinking. The pulp guys are probably…. They may have to be like we do, go out…. I mean, there are very few integrated companies. Canfor is lucky because they will be one of them. Castlegar is not. You know? Castlegar talks about putting in a chipper. Those are things they may have to do — go out and source their wood.
I think, with the co-gens and the things staying near pulp mills, the opportunity to pay for that…. That's the other thing I learned from Harmac. You have to pay for what you do. So I think those opportunities are there.
B. Routley: Thanks, Arnie. You and I go back a long way. I've been through the CORE process too. I just want to say how much I admire the work that you've done in working with your union to save jobs and restore the community effort there in Harmac. Yeah, you've faced a lot of challenges, and good for you.
The challenges that we face now…. It's ironic that I find myself on a committee travelling the province looking at fibre supply shortages. I just left a legislative session where I was standing up talking about the loss of jobs to raw log exports and that kind of thing.
We've seen the growth, the tremendous increase — a fivefold increase — in the export of raw logs from the province of British Columbia. So there is some irony in that we're dealing with job loss. We've seen 70 mills close and 35,000 jobs lost in B.C. in the forest industry, yet we're still having a shortage of fibre.
One of the things in travelling to communities is that we've heard a lot from communities about their concerns on land use changes. And you know, the theme that you've laid out here is a very familiar one that we're hearing at tables, with people saying: "Look, we had the war in the woods, the land use plans."
But we did hear people say that maybe there are opportunities to sit down and that each community should have the right to at least update their land use plan. There are, in some of the VQOs, I discovered…. There was the ability to move some of those VQOs around. And then in some locations, even tourism has supported some issues in there, in dealing with that.
I just wondered: what's your view on individual communities or the regions having the ability to look at their own land use plans? And should those be updated, at least where there's a change in forest health like what has happened with the pine beetle?
A. Bercov: You know, I'm fairly familiar with community forests and community forest licence through the FSC process. I agree that in community forests, they definitely should have the right to make their own decisions to a certain extent.
But ultimately, if a community — and it's pretty far-fetched — said, "Well, we need a whole bunch of money. We can't balance our municipal budget, so if we mow down Stanley Park, we think we can balance the budget tomorrow…." I know that's absurd, but there's a responsibility. I suppose if they didn't accept that responsibility, how far do you go?
It's a funny thing. The other day I was driving through Vancouver and thinking: "Oh, man." I was thinking about this thing up here, and I'd spent some time with Ken Wu. His worry is, of course, that this is going to move around the province. I was thinking: "Man, we could cut Stanley Park down, and Arnie would have a lot of chips for his pulp mill for a year or two."
I know that's being ridiculous, but I think we've all got a responsibility. Hopefully, communities would take that responsibility seriously. They're issued those licences by the Crown if they don't own the land. So they have to submit land use plans, I assume, to the Crown. Do they have rights? Certainly they do, but within reason. Hopefully, that answers what you asked me.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. We've gone over time. We have two other people who would like to ask questions. If we can keep them very brief.
A. Bercov: I'll be as short as I can.
J. Rustad (Chair): And from the questions side too.
B. Stewart: Interesting comments that you make. Obviously, that comes from a lifetime of experience. One of the things that we have heard….
A. Bercov: It's the only good thing about getting old.
B. Stewart: With the constraints on the land use or the lands that we've been talking about, I guess, we've heard some ideas about some principled logging practices such as selective logging in those areas. How do you feel about the support for that type of approach in those constrained areas?
A. Bercov: Yeah, I think there's a whole argument, because when this all started about eight or ten years ago, my thoughts were: "Why don't they slow down? Why are they taking all the healthy spruce and fir?" And I remember reading: "It's an economic opportunity. Build these super mills." At that point, would selective logging probably…?
Now, I remember having a conversation with a biologist. It was when selective logging was a buzzword. Quite frankly, you know — from the limited amount I know; I'm not a forester — I favour smaller cutblocks. When I asked the biologist, I said: "It would be like if you shot everybody over six feet. In a hundred years from now, there'd be nobody over six feet."
The point of what I'm saying is that when you hire helicopters and use selective logging, you tend to take the biggest and the best. I remember asking Rudy: "Does that genetically degrade the forest?" And he said: "You know what? You're probably right."
That was M&B's buzzword: "We're going to do selective logging." But I don't think that's probably the answer in the Interior here anyway. It was probably too late for that, I would think. I'm not a forester, but that would be my….
J. Rustad (Chair): Thanks, Arnold. Unfortunately, we are over time. Thank you very much for your presentation to us here today.
A. Bercov: Yeah, thanks very much. I enjoyed it.
J. Rustad (Chair): Our next presenter will be Floyd Crowley.
F. Crowley: Thank you very much, John.
I just want to tell you guys that I live in Summit Lake, British Columbia, which is about 50 kilometres north of here. I live about 100 metres down the road from his father and uncle's cabin. In the '60s there used to be a lot of parties carrying on there till late into the night, so it started out with….
J. Rustad (Chair): The good news is that I was only born in '63, so I wasn't very old for any of those parties back then.
F. Crowley: No, they went into the '70s as well, I'm sorry. So we've been there for quite a while.
John, what I've done here is I've taken your pamphlet, or what we've printed off the Internet, and on page 2, I've numbered your bullets. I want to speak to your various bullets, the first one being bullet 3 where you talk about changing the flow of timber.
My comment is that when you shift the flow of timber and adjust administrative boundaries, it makes me really, really nervous, because most of the devastation we've seen to the ecosystem over the years has been not so good, but it's been wonderful for the corporations. So I'm not too keen on that.
Bullet 5 on page 2 is the brilliant idea to increase intensive forest management — fertilization and so on. It seems to be one of those pie-in-the-sky kinds of deals. If you recall after the forest fires in the Okanagan a few years back, we had people come in and suggest that we spend a lot of time and effort cleaning up the forest floor and prevent forest fires, but that hasn't worked out so good either.
I have added a bullet 6, which simply says: "Stop shipping raw logs and thousands of jobs overseas."
I've also added a bullet 7: "Rehab, rehab, rehab. Why do we not see more tree planting?"
On page 3, I numbered the bullets there as well. Starting with bullet 2, the decisions should not be made by the corporations, because we've seen the results of that over the years.
Incidentally, I want to tell you that I made a presentation here about 30-some-odd years ago, when the Forest Service was being gutted, to use a blunt term. It was in this very hotel. I mentioned some of these sorts of things that might happen with that sort of thing. I'd like to comment about them a little later on.
Bullet 3, when we talk about our local area. There's a fairly modern sawmill sitting idle at Bear Lake — I think you probably know about that; some of your colleagues may not — which is owned by the Sinclar Group. It used to be the Pas mill, which then became Winton Global. They spent several hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading that mill ten or 15 years ago, and it's sitting idle at the moment. I just wanted to put that into the mix since it was one of the questions that were asked.
There is still a lot of dead pine in the immediate area around Bear Lake and within real easy hauling distance of Bear Lake. It seems to me that it would be an efficient use of that mill, which would supply lumber for the planing mill, which still is owned by Global, which didn't blow up in Prince George — the planing mill didn't — a few months ago.
Bullet 4, cautions and advice. I actually added (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) to that. I will send an electronic version of my presentation to the address here when I get done. As you can see, I've just been feverishly writing notes about this.
On the cautions of that advice, I'd like to say that we consider the guides and outfitters across the province. Even though we're talking about logging, that's a really important part of our ecosystem — the hunters and fishermen and fisherwomen and hikers, skiers and snowshoers across the province. Tourists — you know that a lot of those people come here because of our lakes and forests and streams and so on.
Salmon need the forests to keep their spawning beds usable. I know I've got a few minutes, so I want to tell you about the McGregor River, which is not too far from where we live in Summit Lake. I've been hunting on the McGregor River for about 40-odd years. When we started hunting on the McGregor River, every fall we'd see salmon spawning in some of these lovely spawning beds. We decided that maybe the McGregor River would get diverted into the Peace River system. Of course, you're aware of that. These other guys might not know so much about that.
The loggers were turned loose, basically, from mountaintop to mountaintop on each side of the valley. The last ten or 15 years we haven't seen one salmon. Their nice gravel beds have become mudflats, because when you take the forest away, the sponge that absorbs the runoff disappears. The mud and debris come down, and the salmon have no place to spawn.
In closing, I'd like to say that it blows my mind that we keep talking about supermills. Is this an exercise to get back into the rape-and-pillage mode in our remaining forests with robots, while our workers and citizens sit idly watching the resource that belongs to them vanish before our very eyes?
I made a presentation here 30 years ago, and I closed with the metaphor, when we were talking about the corporations, to the Forest Service, the eyes of the people in the bush…. I said: "Please don't let the foxes manage the chicken coop." Well, if our news reports are accurate, the foxes have been doing pretty well for themselves over the past several years.
I want to close this presentation by using a stronger metaphor. Don't let the lunatics manage the asylum. That would really, really be bad for the ecosystem and for our society as a whole.
J. Rustad (Chair): Floyd, thank you very much.
I'll look for questions from members.
D. Barnett: Thank you very much for your presentation. It was very in-depth. It's nice to see that you're so concerned about the ecosystem and issues like that.
I have a question for you. Would you be in favour of area-based tenures? Do you feel that the land base would then be looked after better?
F. Crowley: Yes.
B. Routley: Could you tell us a bit more about this mill that you said was upgraded? I'm just trying to understand that one a little bit more. Could you elaborate? Is that the same company that was involved in…? That's not the same company in Burns Lake.
F. Crowley: No. It's the same company that owns the mill that blew up here. It didn't used to be. But it was The Pas Lumber, which is a long…. They've been in Canada — what? — a hundred years. It's somewhere around a hundred years that The Pas Lumber…. I think it was an American firm from Minnesota that came up into Manitoba, Saskatchewan, B.C. and some of the northern U.S. states. They operated a pretty successful mill here for years and years.
John won't remember it because he was too young. They had a mill at Kerry Lake and several mills. As a matter of fact, when we were talking about his father and his uncle…. When I first came to this country, they were operating mills. There used to be about 25 or 30 sawmills in the Summit Lake and Bear Lake area. Everybody was making a living. Nobody making a million dollars a year, but everybody making a living.
This mill was built…. This was a modern mill. Maybe you know the actual date. I can't remember it. I'm guessing it was built in the early '80s and then upgraded again in the early '90s, like more modern electronic controls and equipment and so on. There it sits because of either the lack of timber or the inefficiency of the mill compared to the supermills at Houston and the supermills in Quesnel, which whack down the timber by the tonnes and don't have a lot of people working.
To me, the forest is ours, and it should be providing jobs for regular, ordinary people. I'm not a union member, but I'm just saying that the people should be benefiting from the forest that's all around us.
J. Rustad (Chair): Actually, the owners of that mill did a presentation to us. It's the same owners as Lakeland, and that mill, I believe, when it went down about three years ago, went down for economic reasons. Of course, the lumber market was where it was at.
Floyd, thank you very much, and I look forward to your written submissions. It's good to see you again.
Our next presenter is Dennis Loxton. Dennis, did you want a little more time? I know we're moving things up a little bit. We have one other person who is an open-mike presenter that could present before you if you'd like some more time.
D. Loxton: Great. Thank you, John.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. In that case, if we could have Bonnie Hooge.
B. Hooge: I tried to get an appointment but was told there were none, so I really appreciate being squished in here. Thank you.
My name is Bonnie Hooge, and I'm a board of directors member of the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. Association, which represents 27 independently operated back-country lodges across B.C. Our lodges offer a range of activities focusing mainly on skiing in the winter and hiking in snow-free months, all taking place in a near-wilderness environment.
Most of these lodges are located in the Columbia-Kootenay areas of the province, but there are a few in the more central part of the province here, mainly near the communities of Valemount, Prince George and Smithers. We're an active player in the tourism industry and a key reputable player in the wilderness and adventure tourism sectors. All operations hold commercial back-country recreation tenures and contribute revenues to government, so we consider ourselves stakeholders in any forest land use planning.
We were disappointed to see no mention of the tourism sector in this committee's terms of reference. Other than a passing mention in the VQO Resource Value Assessment backgrounder, the tourism industry is not mentioned in any of the background information — this despite the fact that in 2010 tourism generated $6.5 billion in revenues, and nature tourism specifically provided $1.5 billion to our economy and drew nearly a million visitors to B.C.
One of the strategies that the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition mandated pursuing was the goal of further developing the tourism sector to enable the region to position the tourism sector for growth. A couple of the objectives include to provide greater certainty for operators and encourage increased investment, and to mitigate the impacts to tourism resulting from mountain pine beetle infestation and its management.
One of Omineca Beetle Action Coalition's recommendations is to address land and resource information planning and policy issues to increase certainty for tourism operators and potential investors. Included in that recommendation is the goal to implement initiatives to mitigate the impacts of mountain pine beetle and general forest management activities on nature-based tourism, including using as one possible tool the establishment of conservation areas.
So the proposals by the Special Committee on Timber Supply to remove constraints such as OGMAs and VQOs seems to be in contradiction to the recommendations that the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition made to encourage more diverse uses of natural resources in order to add diversity and resilience to our economy. In the Forest and Range Practices Act these timber supply constraints are actually defined as values, and the public's impression over the years was that forestry would be managed along with those other values, not instead of them.
Many members of our association spent a lot of time involved in assorted land use planning processes a decade or so ago. At that time there was a lot of public involvement in determining what values were important and in what places they were particularly important. While it is acknowledged that the land use plans likely need to be updated, this short three-month process is not adequate to address the issues necessary to do a good job of land use planning.
Preservation of management tools, such as visual-quality objectives, old-growth management areas and ungulate winter ranges, creates an environment that enables our lodge association members to offer a high-quality wilderness tourism product that is well regarded worldwide. Relaxing or deleting some of these management tools has the potential to negatively affect non-timber values such as the tourism industry and especially the wilderness tourism industry, which is very sensitive to scenic values.
Many local communities are trying to diversify their economies with tourism and outdoor recreation opportunities, and the loosening of management of these values could affect the viability of existing and future investments in tourism.
In consideration of the questions posed in the discussion paper, the values and principles guiding any potential actions to mitigate the timber supply impacts should focus on a healthy, resilient forest managed in a sustainable manner for a variety of uses valued by all British Columbians. Existing land use plans need to be respected until such time as an in-depth review process can be completed.
Decisions regarding potential actions to mitigate timber supply impacts should be made by a variety of professionals including forest professionals and biologists, and probably not politicians, who may not have long-term forest sustainability as a goal.
The committee should know that the back-country adventure tourism industry relies on sustainable forest management that considers all sectors and users of B.C.'s forest resource. The advice we offer is a caution to restrain from the impulse to fix the forest industry's timber supply issue with a short-term solution that will have significant long-term impacts on not only the forest industry, in terms of future sustainability, but on other sectors as well.
As a stakeholder, the Backcountry Lodges Association expects to be included in any future processes involving land use issues, such as this, that will affect our members.
In closing, the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. Association urges the committee to refrain from focusing on short-term solutions for only the forest industry and to consider a shift away from sector-by-sector management and towards a broader, more integrated approach to resource management which includes a full and thorough cost-benefit analysis of the full range of environmental, social and economic values provided by forests to British Columbians.
We look forward to the opportunity of working with your committee to find solutions to build a stronger and more prosperous forestry and tourism industry in British Columbia.
J. Rustad (Chair): Bonnie, thank you very much. We will allow for some questions.
D. Barnett: Thank you very much for your presentation. I understand that a lot of the issues are viewscapes with the tourism industry, and old-growth management areas and places like that are very sensitive and very important.
The question I have is…. From to time, as you know with the pine beetle, we have to consider the health of the forests. Do you feel that if there was select logging, very select logging, in some of these sensitive areas to protect the health of the forest should there be another infestation…? How would the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. Association feel towards that?
B. Hooge: I believe there are already allowances in the VQO, things for select logging in certain areas. It's kind of just taking out certain amounts, not all of it. Of course, things change, but you know it has to be revisited. It needs to be in consultation with all users of the forest, not just the forest industry.
E. Foster: A couple of things. Believe me, we've consulted over the last few weeks with pretty much everybody that has ever walked in the bush, and that's what this was all about. This wasn't about a conversation with the logging industry. It was about a conversation with everybody. That's why we're out here. We could have done that over the phone. Just so you understand that that's what this is all about.
B. Hooge: The terms of reference didn't really address others.
E. Foster: Okay. Well, but there's an opportunity for everybody to come and make a….
B. Hooge: Yeah, that's why I'm here.
E. Foster: The other thing, too, is just a comment. I don't think we messaged this very well because a lot of people have said what you just said. We're not suggesting that we should be going into old growth. We're not suggesting we should be going to viewscapes. What we're saying is: "Okay, there's timber there. What do you think about that?"
The answer we're getting is pretty much the answer we got from you. We're getting it from the forest professionals. We're getting it from industry. We're getting it from the union. We're getting it from the lodge owners. So a pretty strong message there.
It's important that we hear from local people, because especially things like the viewscapes and so on are strictly a local issue. It doesn't make any difference to somebody who lives in the south whether the side of that hill is cut off, but it makes a whole lot of difference to the people who live there. I just wanted to sort of clear that up. This is about hearing what all of the stakeholders have to say on this.
Just to let you know, the forest industry fed my family for the last 40 years, so I have a huge stake in it. And it'll feed my grandchildren, so I have a very large stake in it.
B. Hooge: Yeah, so do I. My husband was a longtime contractor for The Pas Lumber, Winton Global. We're in the process of trying to diversify as well. Some of these proposals…. It almost feels like we're getting our teeth kicked, kind of. Okay, we try to do something else, and the rules change so that…. It's really difficult to try to move out when the rules keep changing.
I have personal connections with the forest industry as well, and it's kind of like….
E. Foster: I hear you. I just let you know that….
B. Hooge: We're trying to diversify.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I guess it's almost the same thing — less of a question than just to give you comfort. The lunatics that are here running the asylum, I think an earlier person alluded to us as.
We're hearing the same things. We're hearing, as much as anything, that we need to be cautious. I would say there's not a community that we've been to where we haven't been reminded about the need to have decisions grounded in the community — that a lot of work has been done on land use planning and that there's a whole host of interests that need to be considered.
One of the other things that's been encouraging is that we've heard from pulp and paper today and other steelworkers and from licensees that all understand pretty consistently that there's a host of values we need to consider.
I was going to ask questions about certification. As we go forward to market, we have to be thinking of our international reputation. Part of it is how we deal with values, First Nations — all of these things. If that gives you some comfort….
B. Hooge: Oh no. I really appreciate the opportunity to speak and everything like that.
Forest certification is one thing, but B.C.'s tourism reputation is also another big one.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Of course, yeah.
B. Hooge: If we kind of get tarnished with this brush — that we've kind of backslid on a bunch of stuff that we committed to a decade ago — well….
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): "Super, natural B.C." we found out yesterday we're back to.
B. Hooge: Yeah, right. It could take a long time to try to recuperate from that kind of thing.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Yeah. So that's good. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to do this, Bonnie.
J. Rustad (Chair): Bonnie, hold on. You're not getting out quite that fast. I've got another question or two.
B. Stewart: Thanks, Bonnie. I wanted to ask about the feedback that the visitors give the lodge owners about the pine beetle–damaged forest when they come. How do you answer that, and what are your explanations about what's happened?
B. Hooge: My lodge in particular is not in a pine beetle–affected area, but certainly a lot of my American visitors drive through it to get here from Seattle or the Pacific Northwest.
I just explain what's happening. Most of them are pretty well versed in ecological things. It's nature. They're dealing with their catastrophes down in the States as well, so most of them are pretty aware of it. In Colorado and whatnot there are big mountain pine beetle issues as well. So they're aware of it, and they're aware of what's happening here too.
J. Rustad (Chair): One quick question, which is on area-based management. You're aware of the different management models on the land base as you probably, as a lodge owner, have had contact with a number of the licensees as they do planning. What is your opinion on area-based versus volume-based?
B. Hooge: I don't know a lot about the pros and cons, but to me it seems like area-based might be an idea to consider as an incentive for people to put more money into intensive silviculture. Theoretically, they get benefits down the road from any money that they invested. That's my first thought, but I'd like to know more about it first.
J. Rustad (Chair): Sure. There's more information on our website, but if you want to add anything in a written form down the road before July 20, please feel free to. Thank you very much for coming and spending some time.
Our next presenter is Dennis Loxton.
D. Loxton: Mr. Chairman, committee, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for giving me this opportunity. First of all, I'll introduce myself. I'm a silviculture contractor, and I've been at it for about 35 years. My specialty has been tree planting for 17 years. I had 200 tree planters. We were good at it. We got direct awards for years and planted about 50 million trees.
My job in Australia was that I worked in sheep-shearing sheds as a wool classer for about five or six years. What that means is that I ran all over the sheep industry of Australia. The first thing you learn in the sheep industry in Australia is that grass is gold, or feed is gold. If you've got the sheep feed, suddenly you're driving Bentleys and have racing stables and that kind of thing. If it doesn't rain and you haven't got any feed, you're praying for rain and hoping your pickup truck will start.
I've seen years of both examples — guys praying for rain, wishing they had some feed. We'd be shearing sheep that would be dying while they're doing it because they simply didn't have any feed.
Anyway, I went tree planting in Terrace in about 1973, and all this stuff started growing up everywhere. If you come from desert, drought outback Australia where grass is gold and feed is gold and suddenly next thing you can't find your trees because you're in three feet of fireweed and shortly it's six feet of fireweed…. I just couldn't help myself. I said: "My god, look at all this feed."
I suggested that we bring sheep out there, and I was laughed out of the place, and it was hilarious. Eventually I stopped talking about it until later, when I had 200 tree planters. They would say to me: "Well, that plantation in that certain valley, half a million trees didn't make it because of competing vegetation. What a shame. The First Nations won't let us spray, the environmentalists won't let us spray, and we don't know what we're going to do."
I'd say, "What about sheep?" and that would be the biggest joke in the world. Gumboot jokes and Velcro gloves — that was all standard. "Yeah, okay. But you do have a problem here. You're losing plantations, and I do have what I think is the answer." Anyway, it was just hilarious, and nobody wanted to talk about it.
In 1985 an old guy called Bert Smith in 100 Mile House was able to convince the Ministry of Forests to let him do a small experiment to demonstrate that sheep can do well on clearcuts and that they don't eat seedlings. As soon as I heard that, I went to visit him right away, of course, and then I took all the tree-planting contracts around that area so that I could go over and have a beer with the shepherds and say: "Did you see any sheep eat any trees today?" "No, sheep don't eat trees." "Did any bears or wolves come and eat your sheep?" "No, the dogs chase them away."
After about a week of that, I couldn't help myself. I went into the forestry in Williams Lake and said: "Okay, I am offering a service on your environmentally sensitive areas that I will remove the vegetation and make the trees grow, and everybody will love you. First Nations will love you; Greenpeace will love you — everybody."
Anyway, that was just hilarious, and they didn't want to talk about it. So I just continued planting trees, but I kept bugging them. It took them five years before they'd actually give me a contract to put sheep in the bush.
I quit tree planting and turned into a sheep contractor. The first year I got 4,500 sheep, and it worked well. After that I upped it to 6,000 sheep, and I took 6,000 sheep to the out bush for 17 consecutive years. The plantations where we were invited to work were problem vegetation, definitely problem plantations for them, quite often upstream from a sensitive water issue or close to First Nations land, or for whatever reason they were concerned.
We'd come in, eat up all the vegetation, trees would grow, and off we'd go to the next plantation. I had 6,000 sheep moving around B.C., doing this for 17 years, and it works. The sheep do really well. In fact, all of that unbelievable vegetation, particularly on spruce plantations — all of that herbaceous vegetation — is up there in the protein rate with alfalfa. There isn't better feed anywhere in the world. I thought I was onto something that would never stop.
In my career in Australia we dealt with 50,000 sheep. This farmer's got 50,000. This guy's got 60,000. This guy's got 30,000. Going to wool classers school, they would teach you that when you're dealing with a small flock like 10,000, you'd just do this. When you get up to the bigger flocks of 80,000, you just do that. They talk numbers like that: 50,000, 80,000, 100,000 — little guys with 10,000.
That's how we dealt with it for years. I worked in shearing teams that would shear 1,000 a day. We'd say to the girlfriend: "Oh, we're going away for 30 days." That meant we were going to go and shear 30,000 sheep somewhere. Those are the numbers I grew up with.
Anyway, when I tried to tell foresters that this unbelievable potential was there, they just couldn't grasp it. In fact, they didn't really want to grasp it. I used to try to tell them that it would get up to 50,000 and 40,000. They just laughed at me. It was always accompanied with gumboot jokes. That's just how Canadians are.
On the topic of gumboot jokes. The Australian sheep industry had 180 million sheep. Canada had one million sheep. I'd never heard a gumboot joke or a Velcro glove joke until I got to Canada. It turns out that Canadian males have this somehow weird obsession with sheep. So when we were hiring shepherds, of course we avoided male shepherds because of the Canadian male problem and sheep. We only had girl shepherds, local girls, and they were amazing.
The girls would be a tree-planter type — pretty hardcore girls, animal lovers and not afraid to work in the rain. We were able to train local girls to be these amazing shepherds, the idea being that they would be able to use their shepherding wages to go to university and educate themselves. It really worked. Our shepherds went to Bishop's, Princeton, Harvard — all the finest universities in North America. I'm actually convinced that it really helped the shepherds to mature and get worldly, but it also helped them get education.
The biggest sheep farmer in British Columbia has more or less a thousand sheep. He's sustained a large family — well, him and his father — for a hundred years with 1,000 head. The reason they can still survive is that they have alpine range. It means they have summer grazing.
What's wrong with the Canadian sheep industry, why they only have one million sheep, is that they are short of cheap, predator-free summer grazing. When the clearcut grazing thing finally did get started, I just couldn't believe that we had access to this unbelievable resource. What it meant to me was that the industry actually expanded to 50,000 sheep. There were 50,000 sheep grazing B.C. clearcuts per year — each summer 50,000 sheep. It has since declined to the point where there are zero sheep out there right now.
Probably the main reason for that would be herbicide. When licensees or the Ministry of Forests gets a pesticide management plan, that plan gives them the right to choose what tool they want to use. When they advertise for their pesticide management plan, they list all of the tools that they may use, but when they actually get it, all they do is spray with a helicopter. They do a minimal amount of manual brushing, but mainly they come in with a helicopter and spray herbicide.
If you don't like it, you get to fight them in court. If they show up with half a million bucks to pay lawyers, of course they win, and that is the answer. The vegetation problem in British Columbia is being sprayed, and that's all.
I'm not a Canadian. I feel like I can look at Canadians sometimes and say: "What the hell are you people doing?" I'm off the hook, because much as I've been here a long time, I'm still not a Canadian.
One thing I see going on around here is you people have no food. There's no food here. Your food is delivered from Mexico or California up a very shaky road, a very shaky delivery system. Your food delivery and sales are in the hands of just a few people. As far as I'm concerned, in a cold climate, where you're talking 30 and 40 below, it's just irresponsible to have this many people sitting there with no food.
A minor tsunami or earthquake or a few bridges falling in or some minor interruption in the food delivery system could really create a mess for us. I've been trying to tell people this for years. When the trucks don't arrive, the customers go down to the Superstores or any store and clean it out in two to three hours. Then they all go home and load the guns in case the starving hordes come to get their food. That's been demonstrated all over the western world. Anytime the food truck doesn't show up, people panic, so you want to grab all the food.
Anyway, Prince George residents are sitting here with no food, and I am really proud of myself that I was probably the main player in getting sheep ranch management happening and actually creating a local source of food. I think when we're planning the future forest industry of British Columbia, it needs mentioning that somehow we have to feed these people, and right now their situation is shaky at best.
The biggest sheep farmer in B.C. had 1,000. They lived well off it for 100 years, and they're still doing it. So it seems to me that the number of 1,000 sheep per farmer in Canada is a reasonable living for any farmer. Farming around here has gone downhill. There aren't any cows around. There simply isn't any food being produced around here — or minimal food, but basically nothing.
Yet any of these farms, these dinky little farms around Prince George — I used to own one — that can accommodate 1,000 head can provide a living and work for a family and their children and also pay for their kids to go to university, as I've demonstrated. I got 6,000 sheep. I bought 1,000, and I started what people thought was a fairly weird industry, basically renting sheep from Albertans. It turns out the Hutterites had the best sheep. In fact, they had awesome sheep.
In fact, Canada has awesome sheep. People don't realize that because they don't have a lot of sheep. The reason they have such amazing sheep is, firstly, they brought in the best in the first place, and secondly, because of the cost of wintering them, they eat everything that isn't absolutely prime. So the new lambs that they hold back as breeding stock are fantastic. In fact, when Canada hosted the World Sheep Congress way back, they shocked the world in that even though they only had a million sheep, they won everything. Compared with Australia where there are 180 million sheep, that's pretty surprising.
Anyway, it turns out we have everything we need here to have a large sheep industry. The main thing you need is feed, and we have abundant feed. We have a feed problem. We're paying big bucks for helicopters to come and spray it and kill it, we're paying big bucks for lawyers to get the permits, and we're throwing a lot of money at killing feed instead of utilizing it.
I've mentioned that 50,000 sheep…. This industry did get up to 50,000 sheep. Just for the records, 50,000 sheep…. They have 150 percent lamb crop. So 50,000 sheep have 75,000 lambs, and 75,000 lambs at current prices is about 20 million bucks. So there is serious money in sheep.
When I mentioned that I had 1,000…. I've since lost my farm because I lost my contracts and the whole industry actually stopped. My sheep went to slaughter. But what I did with mine is I first went out and bought the very best you could get from the best Hutterite flocks, and then I crossed them with dairy sheep. I thought that was crazy at first, when the Canadian recommended that I cross them with dairy sheep, but it turns out that the most expensive dairy product in the world is sheep cheese.
Anyway, I went to a lot of expense, bred a whole bunch of dairy sheep, kicked them out in the bush and did average weight gain experiments and every possible kind of experiment on them. It turns out that dairy sheep crossed with Canadian sheep excel at clearcut grazing. As far as an industry that has huge potential, there's the sheep industry and the sheep-dairy industry. They can both graze on B.C. clearcuts.
What's wrong with sheep? I'd say the only thing I've seen wrong with them is that we can't outbid herbicide. What that means is that they use herbicide, and so suddenly we're just shit out of luck, which is the case for all of the sheep contractors. They're all basically bankrupt or unemployed or retired or something.
The other thing that's really wrong with that is that the knowledge they had has not been documented. You can't just go and get a pamphlet on how to be a shepherd. It's amazing how much skill a shepherd has to shepherd sheep around B.C. clearcuts. Nobody ever asks shepherds to write down what you do and what the tricks are that you know to manipulate flocks of 1,500 sheep around slash piles and whatever.
The foresters that did know about sheep have generally retired or left the industry or are about to retire, so we're losing all of their knowledge, and the contractors have all pretty well gone. I cannot see anything wrong with sheep. The more you look at it, the more interesting it gets.
For example, I hear foresters talking about shortening the rotation and fertilizing. Well, of course, sheep fertilize, and they spread it evenly all over the clearcut. If you take, say, in Meziadin for instance…. The vegetation is so thick you really cannot walk through it. It represents just tons of fertilizer. This fertilizer really is prime fertilizer. By any measurement, any way you want to measure fertilizer, sheep shit is up there with the best of them. That's a little bonus. It gets evenly distributed all over the block for free.
The other thing is that you put them in a night pen, a night corral on a landing. Of course, they shit on the landing, and it rehabs the landing. When we graze a clearcut we use all of the landings, and we rehab all of them. It's just another bonus that nobody ever mentions.
J. Rustad (Chair): Dennis, if I could interrupt you, we're over the time limit. I really do apologize for chuckling over it. You're very humorous in how you present this. It is actually a very serious issue, and I want to thank you for bringing it forward.
D. Loxton: Sorry. When I get nervous, I get Australian on everybody and start talking sheep-shearer language.
Anyway, I believe that what they did to the sheep industry was just drive us out with low bid. There's a lot of misinformation out there. For instance, the Ministry of Forests in Prince George, if you ask them why they don't use sheep, will say: "Oh, we tried it. It didn't work."
What they really did is get the worst contractor in the business, and he'd just had a total disaster the previous year. The government came in, shut him down and shot 40 of his sheep for cruelty. He's an Albertan. The next thing, I'm bidding against him in Prince George in an area not far from my farm, and they gave it to him. I complained. They gave it to him anyway.
Of course he made a mess, and then the Ministry of Forests in Prince George…. If you say to them, "Why didn't you use sheep?" they'll say: "Oh, we tried it. It didn't work." That kind of misinformation is all throughout this industry.
Anyway, it works, and what I'm expecting to see is this amazing logging industry, which…. We can really move wood in B.C. now. This thing is just some serious machine.
They're going to hit all the spruce blocks. There will be spruce blocks everywhere, which will have a herbaceous problem, and I would like to graze them with sheep.
Anyway, thank you very much for putting up with that.
J. Rustad (Chair): Dennis, thank you very much. I hope you'll consider giving us some of that in a written presentation, as well, with some additional information, particularly around cost structures and competitiveness. Those sorts of things would be great to have. Thank you very much for your presentation.
With that, the committee is going to take a 20-minute recess. We should be back in about 20 minutes or so.
The committee recessed from 6:06 p.m. to 6:40 p.m.
[J. Rustad in the chair.]
J. Rustad (Chair): Good evening, everyone. We'll reconvene the committee. Our next presenter is the regional district of Fraser–Fort George, and Art Kaehn is chair.
Art, I would ask you to introduce the people that you have with you.
A. Kaehn: Thank you, Chair Rustad and members of the special committee. Actually, I'd like them to introduce themselves, if you wouldn't mind, starting with the director on the extreme left.
L. Beckett: My name is Lara Beckett, and I represent the area west of Prince George towards Vanderhoof.
T. Burgess: My name is Terry Burgess. I represent the area from Salmon Valley to the Pine Pass.
K. Dunphy: I'm Kevin Dunphy. I represent the Upper Fraser–Willow River area east of Prince George.
T. McEachen: I'm Terry McEachen, general manager of development services.
A. Kaehn: I want to thank you for this time and this opportunity to present to you this evening on such a lovely day in this skylight ballroom. It's got great memories for me actually. That's when I first became chair. I don't know that it'd be as momentous today.
We have given you a copy of our presentation, so we'll follow it pretty closely. First, we'd like to let you know that our regional district is very diverse, and of course we have some very diverse views. The points that we've come up with are generally accepted by the entire board and the municipalities that are also part of the regional district area.
We'd like to reinforce the comments made by our member municipalities, which I believe you've all heard from earlier in your passage through this area, and provide some additional comments particularly from the more rural areas of the regional district, which will be beneficial to the work of the special committee.
In the discussion paper the special committee has put forward a number of questions for consideration by the owners of the forests of this province. This presentation, as I mentioned earlier, will follow along and provide some answers to those questions.
Firstly, I'd like to just share a little bit — this is in front of you — that this regional district encompasses 52,000 square kilometres. We have seven electoral areas and four municipalities — three smaller ones and, of course, the one we're in here, the city of Prince George.
The area is bounded by the Rocky Mountain range and the Cariboo Mountains to the south and the Nechako Plateau to the west. Our region encompasses three forest biogeoclimatic zones: the sub-boreal spruce, the Engelmann spruce–subalpine fir and the interior cedar–hemlock. We're also in three Forest Service districts.
Question 1 asks what values and principles should guide the evaluation and decision-making regarding potential actions to mitigate timber supply impacts. First, we'd like to say that we'd like to ensure that decision-making is made with accurate and current data and new data sources. We hear that the current data sets are old — outdated as much as 20 years and, I think, in some cases even older. I was part of some of those early inventory crews in the '60s and '70s.
We've experienced a significant climate change related to impacts, and that requires us to look at and understand these relatively new variables and their influences on the local forest ecology today. Outdated data cannot contribute to a complete understanding of the current state of our forest lands, nor allow for meaningful forecasting of mid-term quantity or quality. Climate change effects require us to take a precautionary approach to increasing industrial activities on the land base. Resilient forests will need complex, intact and contiguous ecosystems.
Another issue is wildfire mitigation in settlement areas. We'd like you to consider how future timber-harvesting activity can contribute towards lessening the potential risks of catastrophic wildfire events in the settlement areas. Lots of our communities are surrounded by Crown forest land, and the province has, unfortunately, done little to mitigate the risks of wildfires spreading from Crown land.
This is an opportunity for the province to consider how timber harvesting could occur in these areas, which maintains rural B.C.'s qualities and lessens the risk associated with wildfires. This will require participation by the province in implementing solutions, not just simply providing financial support, which has been appreciated. A few of our communities have benefited from that. But our local governments lack the capacity and expertise to look after the Crown land, and we need the province to take the lead in that.
The other item is that we'd like to see a competitive forest industry that is market-driven. That means avoiding the artificial incentives that will contribute to a harder crash in the future.
Forest companies have worked hard to build brands and markets that reflect strong environmental principles and existing forest management standards. Let's not put this at risk. B.C. wood quality is second to none, due to the natural slow growth of trees. We ask you not to compromise our quality by reducing age, structure and the complexity of these forests.
We'd like you to not sell our future. We want to make sure the decisions that you make don't sacrifice the future for short-term job creation. We'd like you to avoid a more drastic crash for local economies in the future when you make those decisions.
We need to have a more encompassing review and discussion that results in a forest management business plan that considers our future, particularly the local communities. Consider other factors like diversifying the northern economy with tourism, mining, oil and gas, agriculture and, of course, the Asia-Pacific logistics park. Of course, we need a workforce inventory, and we need the ability to accommodate other sectors where workforce capacity has not been identified as a barrier.
Finally, we need more stimulation when it comes to value-added, and we need a reliable supply curve that meets the standing demand of wood that we'll need in the future. Those are thoughts that we have for the first question that you've asked.
I'll move on to the second question about decisions regarding potential actions to mitigate the timber supply impacts to be made and by whom. Ultimately, as stewards of the resource, this decision will rest with the province. There needs to be continued consultation with all British Columbians in general, with First Nations and with local governments, which we represent, specifically in regard to the special committee's recommendations.
In regard to question 3, which is specific information about our area that we'd like the committee to know about and consider…. One thing that's of great interest to us is having an opportunity to participate in forest resource management and being in the business as well. If you want a say, the best way to get an understanding of the business is to be in it.
Community forests within our region have been very successful. We've got community forests in Mackenzie, Prince George, Valemount, McBride as well as Dunster. We're very excited about the work that they've done and the possibilities if they're offered expansion opportunities.
These community forests offer local decision-making based on input from the community, direct input from the community. There are some pretty heated meetings out there in some of our communities around how forests are managed, particularly to the east of us here. Recently with the discussions around expansion of the Prince George community forests, we've really involved the community — in particular, the agricultural community.
It also gives us an opportunity to consider local service providers and the supply needs of local processors. Also, these community forests give us the ability to react and adjust operations in a timely manner that is sensitive not only to world economics but also to our communities.
We don't want you to forget about the land and resource management plans in your deliberations and decisions. There was a lot of work, and this has been brought to our attention — that people logged a lot of time, particularly in the '90s and early 2000s. We don't want that work to be forgotten and put aside in your recommendations.
Of course, organizations like OBAC, Resources North and UNBC are invaluable resources that have done work fostering a sustainable forest. Hopefully, you will involve them and listen closely to any presentation they've made to your committee as well.
As to question 4 — What cautions and advice do you have for this committee in considering whether or how to mitigate timber supply? — we'd like to add these comments. Please do not feel compelled to make rush decisions. Take your time. These forests will be with us for quite some time. It's not an annual hay crop. This is something that's around for 50 or 100 years.
This issue is far too complex, and the information is incomplete, to allow for rational and appropriate decision-making. We believe uplift is not necessarily the solution.
Organizations like OBAC have done some very important work around strengthening community-based economic resiliency. Of course, CCBAC to the south of us has done the same, based on the development of a number of strategies to assist in transition from a high dependence on forest industry to a more diverse economic base. Forestry should remain one of the many pillars of our economic diversity.
If standards affecting visual quality, old-growth forests and habitat protection values are diminished, we will see our public lands in a sorry state. Will we still be able to brand our province as beautiful British Columbia? Please, don't trade off environmental or habitat protection values for increased cut allocations in your considerations.
We would like to see the community forests play a greater role in sustainability of a diversified community-based economy by allowing new operations to be established and allowing existing operations to be expanded. This is our version of a 100-mile diet for local economies in our communities.
Please don't discount the infrastructure value of our forests as water purification and reservoir systems — the air-quality filters, stormwater-retention management systems and carbon sinks. Replacing such systems with man-made systems is costly and in many cases not very effective.
We'd also like to see you reinvest in forest stewardship. Rebuild the Forest Service so that we have those folks on the ground. We need to get back to having people on the ground, in the forest, in and around our local communities so that current and relevant information can be provided for sound management of our forests.
Simply put, as we sum up here, one size does not fit all. We hope you've appreciated that in your travels around the north here and central B.C. The solution that you may find for the west or the extreme north is going to be a lot different in the north central part of British Columbia.
Finally, the last question you asked us — about being engaged. If you were to elevate this process and it would become a royal commission of some sort, we would certainly commit to be part of that process if there was an opportunity. We'd like to thank you for your time and for listening to me. I'm not the greatest speaker in the world. If you have any questions, we are all prepared to answer them.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. I'll turn it over to members for questions. I want to ask one question, though, to start with — your comments about the constraints and the various components of that. From the North Central Local Government Association, there was a motion that came forward looking at trying to relax some of those constraints, which was unanimously supported out of the north and unanimously supported by UBCM. My question is: has your position on that changed?
A. Kaehn: Well, I'm speaking for the regional district of Fraser–Fort George. You're asking me to speak for NCLGA….
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry. I meant: has the regional district of Fraser–Fort George, which was a part of NCLGA that moved this process forward…? Has the position of the regional district changed on that?
A. Kaehn: I would say we were not totally in total agreement in liquidating those VQOs and those protected areas. No, as a regional district we're not.
J. Rustad (Chair): Sorry. The question was not liquidating; the question was whether it was modifying or relaxing.
A. Kaehn: Okay. We're not particularly in favour of that. We have some different topography and terrain out here. It's a bit more challenging than what you might see further north or to the west. So we would be concerned about removing them partially, as you referred to it.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Thank you for the presentation. I really enjoyed it. I take the point on inventory and on rebuilding the Forest Service. I think those are things we are hearing a lot about.
There was one part of it that fascinates me, because it hasn't come up before in one of these presentations. It's just around the opportunities around wildfire mitigation in settlement areas. There has been a lot of money put towards it, but it's a very small percentage of work that actually ends up being done.
Mr. Gray is perhaps a speaker you've heard. Are you familiar with some of the ideas that he has around perimeter forest tenures? I know that John and I have talked about this. I mean, we have to think of something new.
How much thought has the community put into how you would set it up so that you could do the mitigation work that has to be done but make it so that it's not costly and get some benefits out of the fibre? Has there been much discussion?
A. Kaehn: Well, we've suggested that the province should be taking a greater lead in that. I'd like to ask Director Burgess — who has had some personal experience with the current process — how it worked for the community of Bear Lake. He could speak more practically about the matter.
T. Burgess: Well, luckily Minister Bell was the Minister of Forests at the time. But it was like pulling teeth to get the tenure holder to log the trees on his tenure. We could log the trees not on the tenure, but to get the trees…. So we were logging little areas, with big trees surrounding that area.
It's finally, after four years…. People that have travelled north probably have noticed that Bear Lake is like a prairie now, but it was surrounded with pine beetle kill. But it took a long time. It took a term and a half from my office. I've been in nine years, so that's about five years before I managed to get the wildfire program going in Bear Lake. It's finished now.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I just commend…. I know that Mr. Gray…. We have former chief foresters here. I think Mr. Clark is here. I bet you there are people that…. If you were interested in that topic, you could get names of people that have thought it through. The way we are doing it…. I mean, starting in 2003, I think the percentage is like 2 percent, and it's ongoing.
Clearly, what we're doing isn't working, and it's not a matter of throwing more money, because we don't have enough money to throw at it. So we have to figure out a way of doing it differently. I'd be fascinated if you had ideas. Also, I think there are people thinking about it that might provide you with some answers too.
A. Kaehn: Well, I can share a couple of other efforts. With the community where I live, we're fortunate to have a forest company that took care of that and removed that issue for the local community.
With the city of Prince George and the Lheidli T'enneh, we're attempting to expand the community forest. Part of that program is to deal with wildfire mitigation as well. We've looked at different approaches. The Bear Lake one was based on direct funding and some local government funding as well. But we've tried other ideas, as well, to deal with that.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Like I say, thanks for the work.
A. Kaehn: You're welcome.
J. Rustad (Chair): Great. Well, thank you very much for the presentation and for taking some time with us.
Our next presenter will be the Resources North Association.
Welcome, Melanie. Over to you.
M. Karjala: Well, good evening. Thank you, also, to the committee for this opportunity to speak on a very important subject in our region.
I'm Melanie Karjala. I'm the business development strategist for Resources North Association. Resources North is a Prince George–based, non-profit organization with a diverse, member-driven membership, with representation from industry including energy, mining and forestry, as well as local communities including local government, First Nations, research and practitioners. We have a northern B.C. geographic focus.
Our purpose is to support the implementation and advancement of integrated resource management across the natural resource sector. This includes promoting collaborative approaches to resolving natural resource management challenges in the north.
By working on projects within this mandate, our ultimate goal is healthy communities, healthy environments and healthy economies. We are a non-biased organization focused on embedding the principles and best practices of integrated resource management. So with this in mind, we are pleased that an opportunity was made for us to present here today.
First, let me start by saying that while we are driven to champion integrated resource management, which is inherently an approach that is proactive and strategic-level and long-term, we acknowledge that this mid-term timber supply issue will require implementing solutions that balance short-term needs, within the next year or two, with the medium term, which is a few decades from now, and the long term, which is as much as a hundred years and more.
My comments will first address the short-term imperative, and then provide Resources North's perspective on four principles where we see seeds need to be planted now in preparation for the medium and long term.
We believe that in the short term it's prudent and wise to investigate opportunities to adjust appropriate constraints on mid-term timber supply and allow some breathing room for local communities and their industries to adjust or evolve in light of the pending timber shortfall. The focus of the short-term imperative should be to minimize dislocation of human and industry capital and capacity out of the affected timber supply areas.
Redefining some of the constraints should only be to the extent that they do not jeopardize critical environmental values, current or potential markets and/or social licence. Any interim access to additional fibre that's identified could be seen as providing a bridge that allows communities and their industries to continue the ongoing process of redefining local and regional economies.
There are numerous examples over the past decade where mitigating actions have been taken to allow the forest sector and their affected communities to adapt — from finding ways to operate in and optimize the use of poor-quality stands all the way to developing completely new industries.
These regions have been adapting for a while now, and it will not be the same as it was when it comes out the other end of this, nor should we expect it to. Any additional fibre that might be accessed in the short term should present an opportunity for positive change. However, if an effort is not made in some form, communities and industries will lose important momentum.
Let me switch gears a little bit and focus on the medium and long term. As I said, we are advocates for healthy communities, environments and economies through integrated resource management. As you look to solutions or opportunities for the medium and longer term, we are providing four principles and recommendations for your consideration.
I'll start with the first three. We recommend a long-term, landscape-level approach. What we mean by this is that while the short-term imperative is needed in our decision-making, it must eventually feed into a bigger vision and strategy. If this is left unchecked for too long, we may well box ourselves into a future that unintentionally leads us onto an undesirable path. Let's begin to make steps now so that we are ready to take a landscape-level, long-term approach in these timber supply areas very soon after our short-term needs are met.
The second recommendation is a multisector approach. We are asking that you consider the full range of current and potential natural resource development activities — not only forestry but also energy and mining as well.
The third recommendation is to take an ongoing inclusive and transparent local dialogue approach. A local and regional process of decision-making and feedback is needed that is led and coordinated by government, emphasizing collaboration between communities, First Nations, industry and the full range of land users.
These hearings already reflect this principle, so we're off to a good start. However, as a strategy is developed for the short term, the path to adaptable, resilient solutions will only arise from ongoing local and regional leadership. Ongoing dialogue will be the most efficient and nimble way to develop effective solutions in the medium and long term but also remain adaptable to future unanticipated economic, social and natural events that are beyond our control down the road.
Now, RNA believes that the way we can accomplish these first three principles is to restore the value of land use plans. We're not suggesting starting from scratch and entering into a long, expensive, complex land use planning exercise. Rather, we're suggesting effort be expended in restoring the baselines that were created within existing land use plans in many timber supply areas.
Plans are living documents and require maintenance. In many cases the mountain pine beetle has seriously changed the landscape on which the original plans were created. In many areas new industries — for example, bioenergy — were not factored into the trade-off discussion simply because they didn't exist.
As the mitigating strategies on how we use our natural resources will continue to evolve in the short and medium term, the strategies to achieve carefully weighed targets and values will also need to change. The higher-level goals and objectives, however, still provide enduring core values that can be used as a foundation on which to build a future.
There are other tools, also, to assist with this conversation and deliberation. Cumulative effects analysis is emerging in some parts of our province and is becoming a critical process to sort out and get a handle on the overlapping footprints of social, environmental and economic values on our landscapes. This process would benefit from and be more efficient if it used existing land use plans for direction and guidance as well.
Government already has a place to start the conversation about what the right mix is of economic, social and environmental values on the landscape. That is through restoring the value of existing land use plans.
The fourth key principle is to promote and nurture diversification and value-added opportunities within all of our natural resource sectors. While the short-term imperative is lumber-oriented by necessity, the sooner that we think about the land and forest products as more than just 2-by-4s, the sooner we can ease the pressure on the timber supply and the sooner we will be able to achieve healthy economies, environments and communities.
Look for opportunities that remove barriers to innovation, and allow the marketplace to find these solutions. Avoid the temptation of trying to dictate or regulate how this diversification will occur. Seek strategies that nurture this desired outcome.
To wrap up, planting the seed now for a long-term, landscape-level, multisector approach with ongoing inclusive and transparent dialogue and promoting diversified value-added opportunities are the four principles that RNA recommends to the committee in the medium and long term.
In the short term we don't want to turn our backs on local communities and their industries. We need to evaluate those constraints on mid-term timber supply that can be adjusted for an interim period of time that does not jeopardize or seriously impact environmental and social values and maintains social licence but does afford a bit of breathing room for all resource sectors and communities to readjust, realign and evolve.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much, Melanie.
I'll open it up to questions from members.
Melanie, I think you must have done a great job explaining your position. Thank you very much for your presentation and for the information.
Our next presenter is the Northern Bioenergy Partnership.
E. Meiklem: Thanks for having me here, and thanks for returning to Prince George and giving us all an opportunity to speak to you all today.
My name is Elissa Meiklem. I'm the executive director of the Northern Bioenergy Partnership, also known as the NBP. I was to be joined today. Charles Jago, our chair, may join us in a moment.
I'll tell you a little bit about who we are and then do a quick overview. The Northern Bioenergy Partnership is an industry-led coalition of businesses, academic institutions, government and First Nation organizations involved in the bioenergy industry in northern British Columbia.
Our vision is for northern B.C. to be a national leader in a technologically advanced forest-based bioenergy industry. Our mission is to be a catalyst, for that development to become a vibrant, innovative and sustainable forest-based bioenergy industry. Our primary strategic goal is to develop a bioenergy centre of excellence for the province of B.C. by driving the growth of the forest-based bioenergy sector.
We're currently doing a survey, and we hope we're going to be able to get some results in time for the July 20 submission. We're going to do production and capacity in bioenergy, but we're also hoping to get a broader picture of the economic impact of bioenergy in northern B.C., including direct and indirect jobs, revenues and investment. Like I said, we're collecting that data right now, so hopefully, we'll have some interesting information for you to ponder.
We already know that bioenergy is contributing greatly to the forest products sector and the region at large. We're the largest wood pellet–producing region in North America — arguably, the world. Canfor Pulp, for instance, is the largest bioenergy producer in North America.
UNBC is an award-winning leader in green energy, and we have numerous projects and development throughout the north, both large and small.
You've already heard from or will hear from many of our members, including representatives from the traditional forest products sector, the pellet industry, emerging-technology providers and project developers. I'm just going to highlight some of the things that I hear repeated by them through their presentations and some of the concerns and opportunities raised by these different voices.
The number one issue, obviously, is long-term fibre security. No matter what decisions are made regarding opening up of additional sources of fibre, the number one issue for existing mills to plan or reinvest and for new projects and players to come on line is the security of that fibre.
For an incremental fibre increase to be meaningful to current assets, firms need to feel confident that they have at least five to ten years of fibre supply at a relatively known price. For new players that require startup capital, debt financing and off-take agreements, this means closer to 20 years.
Whether we're debating area- or volume-based tenure, access to timber sales or timber trading, additional fibre to market has little capacity for generating investment if it cannot be secured over longer time frames.
One of the needs for securing fibre, whether directly from woodlands or as residuals, as we've heard, is relationships. The fibre interactions in our region are complex. Bioenergy is rarely a stand-alone operation. It's closely tied to our traditional forest products activities of lumber and pulp. Projects are either directly tied to facilities, in the case of heat for lumber drying or co-gen in pulp mills, or depend on the residuals created from the processes, such as pellets.
A strong bioenergy industry requires a strong lumber and pulp industry. In an ideal world the combined products of solid wood or pulp and bioenergy increase utilization and value of the forest resource, improving the bottom line of our traditional players and allowing new businesses to develop.
The development of new bioproducts, for example, could raise the fibre-paying capability of a pulp mill, perhaps making economically marginal stands viable, with sawlogs becoming a side product of the pulp log–driven harvesting operation — a distinct paradigm shift from the sawlog-driven operations we have today. Innovation and growing global demand may also lead to new, high-value solid-wood products, such as cross-laminated timber or other products, utilizing smaller wood and also improving the sawmill business model.
These aren't going to occur in the short term. Perhaps in the next five to ten years we could see the growth of new products and processes, combined with the appropriate energy and carbon policy to make that happen. Twenty years from now we may be witness to a completely different forest industry.
What do we do in the interim? We must ensure that decisions made today will not disrupt opportunities that will exist tomorrow. We need policy that encourages cooperation and strong B2B relationships between the groups that currently exist — not positioning them as competitors for the same resource but encouraging the right fibre to go to the right end use while still securing long-term supply for producers, whether they're primary users of tenure or benefiting from residuals or fibre trading.
Economics will ultimately determine that appropriate end use and encourage companies to find the products that will enable them to pay for the available resource. Strong intercompany relationships can aid in the efficient movement of fibre and greater leveraging of the value chain.
Barriers exist in enabling companies to explore new products and markets, such as infrastructure both in the bush to access fibre and, in the example of pellet manufacturers, port capacity to reach the market.
Technologies are still new, and there's risk of failure. Investing in demonstration plants for a new bioproduct in a pulp mill, for instance, still carries significant marketing capital risk. You've heard from several witnesses on the lack of B.C. Hydro power infrastructure, limiting the development of biomass power.
Information. You've already heard from various witnesses on the need for further inventory analysis and research. I understand the desire to have immediate policy to open up additional fibre supply, but we must also continue to fund research and inquiry to obtain the appropriate data to aid the chief forester in decision-making now and into the future.
We feel that forest products and bioenergy will remain in this region for generations. Realizing the full potential of the resource is still years away. The forest resource will continue to change and evolve as the recovery from the pine beetle begins and will face challenges, both natural and man-made, that are currently unforeseen.
There'll be research and data collection needs that'll be outside the scope of private industry. There must be public support through our current ministries, universities and other research institutions to help support the development of new harvesting methods, intensive forestry practices, technology development and trials to build a lasting industry and forest resource for all.
The wood innovation and design centre could be a catalyst for all aspects of innovation in the forestry industry, including a potential bioenergy deployment centre. But resources must be applied from both public and private sources. We must ensure the resource continues to be there and available for both industrial and non-industrial needs.
There are many lessons to be learned from other regions of the world, and I've heard some examples in some of the witness testimonies. But we must acknowledge that our forests are unique and distinct, and appropriate forest management for our region will continue to have a made-in-Canada and, more importantly, made-in-B.C. solution.
So thank you for your time, and I want to give the opportunity for you guys to ask any questions on bioenergy.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much.
B. Routley: I take note that we've heard from other companies, bioenergy companies and new entrants, that they want access to fibre and long-term commitments. Obviously that also rubs up against the existing players that need residual fibre — like pulp mills or OSB plants, that kind of thing.
You did talk about leaving the door open or the province should find a way to leave the door open to new entrants. But if you, at the same time, are tying up fibre…. That was the other part of your comment — that we also need to have long-term, secure fibre supply commitments. Those two things actually compete with each other.
If a new player came along that was able to provide more jobs per cubic metre, how should the province deal with that? If you've got old systems that are not creating as many jobs per cubic metre…. In fact, one of the presenters talked about huge computerized or mechanized machinery that is creating fewer and fewer jobs. Obviously, the new entrants may create more jobs per cubic metre, and they may not.
Should the province start to think about things like jobs per cubic metre? What is the best value of our fibre? Against all of these competing interests, how do you come to a conclusion on something as enormous as that — on who should get the fibre?
E. Meiklem: I think it's going to be very difficult to judge things on employment per cubic metre because it changes. Companies have to be enabled to change and stay competitive. So to kind of arbitrarily decide that one has more jobs today…. It may not have those same jobs tomorrow. Those systems are difficult to develop.
I think it's challenging. We have developed a system that was completely based on lumber and then the pulp mills received residuals. We now have competitors for those residuals.
Some of these new entrants believe that they can harvest whole logs, but the truth is most of that would be…. Tenure would help them trade — right? So those logs would still be available for sawmilling, for instance. If they are sawlogs, they should go to sawmills and the economics should see that out.
When it comes to the tenure, it is just to enable them to trade those volumes. I don't see that we're doing a lot of that yet with the pulp mills, for instance, with having specific tenure to trade volumes that that would be competing against.
I think a lot of it will make sense economically. I think that there are certain products that should flow. What we need is that tenure has to be stable to secure long-term contracts, and those agreements for flowing the fibre back and forth then also have to be agreed.
So it is complex. It's a system where someone still…. If they're going to need 20 years of fibre supply, they're going to have to have those agreements in writing if they have the tenure or not, whether it's a trade of the sawlogs back and forth or what have you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much.
Dr. Jago, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
E. Foster: We've heard from several presenters over the last short while that we have a fibre shortage, and we shouldn't be introducing more players into the game. But we've also heard from almost every presenter that we need to utilize the fibre we have in a more efficient way.
Having said that, how do you propose that we allocate that? I know you just answered the question somewhat for Bill. More specifically, there's a lot of fibre out there that you could utilize. How do you get it? Even if it's allocated and it's two-bit fibre, how are you going to get it into the mill?
I ask this question because I'd really like to know the answer, because it's one that's driving everybody. You know, if it's there, it's cheap, but you've still got to get it from the bush to your facilities.
E. Meiklem: I think the question is: is it economical fibre? We say it's cheap, or it might be low-grade fibre, but its distance from the mill, its harvesting and getting it in is expensive. We lack a certain amount of infrastructure. We haven't had people doing…. Roadside chipping is still fairly new. There are not a lot of people…. That's capital that has to be spent up-front to kind of ramp up to do some of that work.
When we talk about what is there in inventory, especially in bioenergy, we often talk about stuff in the range of $40 to $60, on the low end. As you start getting over $60, it becomes prohibitive for a lot of bioenergy projects today. A lot of that volume that we see that's available is still going to be $80 or $90 to get it to a mill gate, and that's often too high for the current products that we have.
So the magic bullet we're all looking for is: is there going to be a product or a process that can afford to do this harvesting themselves with the silviculture and all the needs that we have to do on the land base for an economic price?
E. Foster: Okay. Just further to the same thing, you're in the same dilemma that everybody else who's looking for a stick of wood is in. So what we need to come up with…. You know, I'm a big supporter of bioenergy and bioeconomy. We all need to sit down and figure out a way to get that product that's normally being burned to your facilities.
I guess I throw that challenge out to the industry and certainly government at the same time. But we need to come up with a…. If it's infrastructure and if it's better roads and so on, that's kind of our end of it, but we still can't haul the stuff 200 kilometres away.
E. Meiklem: No. And it's that relationship-building — right? — so that different companies can work cooperatively together to get at that fibre, to access the fibre. You know, those are new. Those are different relationships to…. Having different people access fibre on your tenure is contentious for some. It's developing. I think that's changing.
There's a more open environment out there. It's starting to be more open. But I think that's where we have to somehow encourage those B2B relationships where maybe there's a third party who's efficient at getting in there and knows how to get it and to work together on that. It's challenging.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. We just have time for one more.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Well, first, I'd like to congratulate Charles on his work. I was a believer. You can check Hansard. It's amazing work, so congratulations on that. You should probably buy a lottery ticket tonight and keep on your roll.
We talked before. Tremendous work. I think a lot of people see the opportunity with bioenergy. I think when I saw you last time, we talked about the fact that a tremendous amount had been promised in short order. I remember Minister Coleman standing up and telling us we were going to have the equivalent of Site C. It's obviously much more complex than that.
Obviously, there are barriers, and I guess one of them is…. I know the residuals are there, and there's competition for that. But when we go and see the amount of waste, and especially…. We were near Quesnel. We looked, and we were told repeatedly how frustrating it was to see that waste and not really be able to get it in and utilize it in some of the ways that you're talking about.
Now, I guess one way is partnerships, but another way would be the government in some way requiring fibre to come out. And that's simply off the table. That makes other businesses far too complicated.
What sort of discussions are there in terms of how to get the waste out of the woods? Even once we've figured out the overlapping tenures, it's still the economics of it — right? So it ends up being burned. So where are you with trying to figure other tools?
E. Meiklem: I think economics for some current players is starting to enable that to happen. If you already have operations, you can start affording to do that. We're starting to see, I think…. In the next year we expect that public prices are going to remain stable, and demand is increasing. So I think that if you're not having to capitalize a project, your ability to pay to start getting that is better.
I think for new entrants it's more challenging because they obviously have to be paying back their assets, and it's harder for them to have a larger percent at a cost base. So I think that if we look at the pellet industry, on a cost basis they can start paying higher prices that enable removal of that and start building up some of that infrastructure themselves. It remains to be seen for some other products or new entrants. They can't operate with 50 percent of their fibre at their cost of operating, which break even.
I think we're starting to see that. I think there's movement, but like I said, I think there's been just that lack of infrastructure within those firms themselves. I think they're starting to get equipment. We're seeing new entrants.
We've got the group that's now getting involved in hauling chips from the Interior to the coast and doing a lot of on-the-ground chipping. I think we're starting to see other people realizing that there could be business models there for them — maybe those kinds of people who are better prepared to do it and can do it efficiently. Getting some new entrants in there, I think, will help.
We're just…. It's new. It's going to take a couple of years, I think, to figure it out — three to five before we've kind of got a reasonable system for accessing that fibre. Unfortunately, we have to deal with that fibre now. We can't let it sit there roadside for five years.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you very much for the presentation.
I'll also join the congratulations, Dr. Jago, on the work that you've done.
Our next presenter is Carrier Lumber.
Kevin, welcome. Over to you.
K. Bedford: This is not my normal job function. I was asked to come and present to you.
I thought of something as I was coming over here. One day we were reading a book with my kids. They were reading it. It was called Raggedy Ann. They talked about how Raggedy Ann was able to think so well because her head was full of nice, clean, white cotton. I hope that I can present in the same way as Raggedy Ann possibly could.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name's Kevin Bedford, and I'm a second-generation registered professional forester. Some of you may know my father, Dave Bedford. He lives in Lac la Hache and owns and operates a forestry consulting firm there. Some of you may also know my uncle Lorne Bedford. He works as the harvest and silviculture practices manager at the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. If any of you can shorten that name somehow, that would be much appreciated.
I grew up just north of Lac la Hache in the Cariboo. I started working in the industry when I was 11. My father didn't understand the idea of child labour, so I started working with him. I missed Expo 86 to be on a cruising crew when I was working in the Cariboo camp near Likely, B.C.
I graduated from university in 1997 and took a job with West Chilcotin Forest Products in Anahim Lake. I worked there for four years before coming to Prince George to work for Carrier Lumber, where I've been for the last 12 years.
For those of you who are not familiar with Carrier, Carrier is a local, family-owned company. They've been in operation here in Prince George for the last 61 years. The company was started by the late William Kordyban Sr., and the company is now run by his son William Kordyban Jr.
Over the years the company's had many, various forestry-related investments in the communities in northern B.C. They've had operations in Mackenzie. They've had operations out in Anahim Lake, out in the Chilcotin Plateau. They've had operations, most notably, at Cheslatta Forest Products and also in the Robson Valley.
Their head office is here in Prince George. Their investment is in the Prince George community, their family is here in the Prince George community, and certainly, their desire is to continue with that investment in the community here in Prince George.
They currently operate one milling facility here, and they also have a milling facility in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
A couple of points that I'd like to be able to cover with you tonight. The first one really is a thank-you to all of you for taking up the charge that goes along with the mandate that you've been given.
When I worked at West Chilcotin Forest Products…. It's a small community. Some of you have probably been there. It's on the way to Bella Coola, most of the way to it. When I went there, the milling operation there was the heart of the economic stimulus within that community. Literally, the jobs and the stimulus that were created…. The evidence of that was unmistakable within that community. It was all right there.
The young people in the community were finding jobs. In all honesty, there was a lot of hope in the community. I can't say that it was a panacea. It wasn't. There were problems within the community. There's no question that there were, as all communities do have that. But there was hope. There was hope, with that milling operation.
In 2000, when I left, the mountain pine beetle was just starting to get into that area. As it hit that fibre supply…. There was not a whole lot that could be done in that particular area. The fibre supply was about 85 percent overmature pine. So they were in a very rough situation.
In the downturn of 2008, after the fibre had decreased in value, the facility was closed. But in the long term, looking at the fibre supply that's out there, there really isn't a whole lot of hope to be able to reopen that facility. It's a long-term going concern. It may run in small pieces and whatever, but because of the nature of the timber profile there, there just isn't much there.
Last summer I had the opportunity to go back into that community and have a look and meet some of the people. We still know many friends that are there. When you go back into that community and you see the businesses that are closed and the houses that are closed up and the impact that the loss of that facility has had on that community, it's just a dramatic change from what it was when I was there.
So my first point is to really say thank you to you guys for undertaking the mandate that you've got. It's a huge mandate. There's a lot riding on your shoulders. I would just encourage you to really take a hold of that mandate and really try and do the very best that you possibly can for the people. There are so many people that are riding on things that you are doing. So thank you to all of you for taking up that charge.
The second one, and the point that I want to raise as a concept with you…. It's not a concept that I think will solve all the problems, but perhaps it's part of the solution that I'll present to you. That's the idea that…. We believe that part of the solution that we're facing right now, as we face the downturn and as we face the mid-term timber supply issue, is the possibility of allowing each holder of a replaceable forest licence to apply for or convert up to 250,000 metres a year of their annual allowable harvest into an area-based tenure.
Over the last several years I had the opportunity to work as a silviculture forester for Carrier Lumber. The mandate from the company was to manage the forest to quite a high standard. Planting densities were set well above legal minimums, and very often our harvested blocks would achieve free-growing long before the early free-growth date that was actually set — much to the chagrin of the district because it caused lots of amendments.
The owners of Carrier do this really because of the sense of their ownership of the land base that they work on, and 61 years will certainly do that. But that sense of ownership doesn't come from any legal right or incentive they have as a result of the current volume-based forest tenure that they have. To them, really, it's simply important to manage the land base to a high standard. Even though that, in those many words, was never communicated to me as the silviculture forester, that's just something that I came to understand was a priority for them.
But even with that attitude that's there, there certainly could be more done if there was more security of tenure on the land base. That's a real key point. Our current volume-based forest tenure system doesn't provide the incentive to do that form of enhanced forest management for the industry that's really what's beyond what's legally required. There's really very little security that that land base that's being worked on at that point in time will ever be harvested again by the person that's putting that enhanced forest management into it.
Some ideas, certainly as I worked on the land base, have come up over the years in just looking at models and cuts. The things that could be done would be to include additionally higher planning densities, perhaps the rehabilitation of roads to put them back into production, the rehabilitation in our area, perhaps, of intermediate utilization stands that were harvested.
For those of you who are not familiar with that, in times past, mid-'70s, there was a time when forest companies were allowed to go in and harvest spruce out of stands and retain a cover crop — which, in that particular case, was balsam. Some of those stands are not meeting the full potential that they have, so the ability to be able to replace those stands and get them growing again, obviously, would impact the long-term timber supply.
Finally, there's the rehabilitation of non-merchantable pine stands that have been impacted by the mountain pine beetle. Now, from a theoretical standpoint, it's difficult to see how that would work, but it's really easy to see the results of what enhanced forest management can do. All you have to do is look down the road from where we're at to TFL 53 to see how the approach can work on a small land base.
Originally, TFL 53, which is held right now by Dunkley Lumber, was issued in 1989, and the AAC on the TFL was 159,000 metres. By the time the mountain pine beetle hit, the AAC, through their enhanced forest management practices, was raised already to 211,000 metres. Now that the pine beetle has hit, they've gone through — the uplift has been dealt with on that particular TFL — and we're at, really, the post-beetle AAC for that TFL. It still is up at 189,000 cubic metres.
So when you think of the original, you think of what has gone on with the mountain pine beetle, and you think of the actual AAC now. It's 19 percent higher than the original level at the time at which it was issued. There are lots of growing stands within both Quesnel and Prince George that would mirror what is there, actually, in TFL 53. The opportunity that's there is pretty easy to see, and it's a very tangible display of what can be done. It's probably the strongest argument that I can put forward in terms of suggesting to you that security to a licensee through an area-based tenure can have very strong results.
When I think of what we're trying to do in terms of mitigation of the mid-term timber supply issue as a result of the mountain pine beetle, that is probably one of the best examples that I know of. It really shows that by going to a place where we have security of tenure on the land base, it certainly can have a fairly major impact on the long-term cut.
The volume target that I had mentioned. I had mentioned 253,000 a year, and then in an area-based tenure the volume target is also important. Under Bill 28 legislation, where the Crown reallocated the AAC throughout the province and took back some of the volume from the forest licence holders, they realized that in order to provide stability to the licensees, there was a portion of that volume of each of those replaceable licensees that needed to be protected. That was so that those operations that were reliant on that licence volume had that stability going forward. That's a precedent that has already been set, and that determination was in Bill 28. That stability, of course, is still necessary today to be able to maintain those milling operations.
Now, that volume of 250,000 won't meet the entire needs of most milling facilities, but it would form the basis, that underlying basis, for their long-term stability. As well, these areas could potentially see an increase in the AAC in the foreseeable future, just following the example that I have just put forward.
The other thing that the proposed volume target does is provide…. It intentionally does that. It does not alienate the entire land base in area-based tenures. In the past there has been, obviously, some resistance to the concept of area-based tenures, and in the future there are going to be lots of pressures for volume, particularly with First Nations, I believe.
I don't think that in all reality we can possibly hope to move to a strictly area-based system, so the concept of this is not to change the entire system. The concept of this is to provide those area-based tenures in those smaller parcels, if you will, across the land base, and it will give you an incremental gain towards AAC as they're managed in that way.
Personally, I don't know that we actually have a…. Given the nature of the First Nations issue, I don't know that we're going to be able to move holistically to an area-based tenure. I just don't think that's very realistic.
It also points to the thing that one size is not going to fit all in this sort of a scenario. Every TSA is going to be different. You're going to find some where that may work and some where it probably won't. I believe that it does fundamentally give you the opportunity to be able to increase the AAC on some of those areas.
One other final note, and that note is really on First Nations. I believe in the current place where we are at with First Nations that in order for any solution to work, they're going to have to be aware, and they're going to have to have some sort of a vested interest in whatever solutions are formulated in order for them to be able to succeed. What form that takes really is going to have to be formulated by somebody that's smarter than me. That's a big part of the whole puzzle that goes along with that.
It may be something like enhanced revenue-sharing; I'm not sure. Whether it involves tenures that are offered to the First Nations as a part of the treaty process is difficult to say. The challenge, of course, is not to alienate all of the available land base. The push-back on that would be so great from the First Nations that I don't think it would have the opportunity to be able to succeed, and we're certainly looking for the opportunity to be able to succeed here.
Really, in closing, I wish you all very great wisdom in trying to figure out the solutions to the challenge that is set before you and the mandate that you've been given. I do thank you all very, very much for taking on the challenge that's been given to you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Looking for questions from members.
E. Foster: Thank you very much, Kevin, for that presentation. I'll refer back to one of our earlier presenters today. He likened giving large licence holders more control of the land to allowing the lunatics to run the asylum. Having said that, there has been a great flavour to look at area-based management. This is kind of a unique hybrid approach to it that I think merits a lot of look.
There are obviously some challenges getting from where we are to even a small area-based management system, but I think it's something that really needs to be examined. The smaller volumes that you're talking about could certainly be examined in the short term.
When we talked about this, there was always the challenge of who gets what. That's the difficulty. I think we can make that a little easier by your suggestion of keeping the volumes down on that. I think that's the challenge, because it has to kind of go across the board if we're going to go that way. If not, if maybe you go to one or two licensees and start it that way…. I don't how you would do that. I look to our two past chief foresters to maybe give us a little insight into that.
I appreciate your comments on it, because I think it is maybe an opportunity. We've talked about this at the committee over dinner — just maybe some sort of a hybrid model that might work, that would give some surety to the licence holder that the investment they would make, they would reap the benefits of. This might be the way to go. So thank you very much.
K. Bedford: You're welcome. Thank you.
J. Rustad (Chair): Thank you. I want to be able to fit in three more questions. If we could keep them short, we're out of time a little bit.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): You had a really interesting presentation. Thank you very much for doing it. We've talked a lot about this issue, and a lot of philosophical debates and all those things — the complexities you've recognized. We've talked about that too.
Is there an academic study? An awful lot of what you're saying…. There's a certain logic to it that you invest. There are a lot of anecdotal parts of our discussion, but are there actually academic studies that make the direct comparison between area-based and volume-based tenures?
K. Bedford: Not that I'm aware of. You would probably be able to chat with the folks at the timber branch or your chief foresters, who would be able to give you a little bit. Again, it would be anecdotal. I'm not familiar with any specific literature that's out there with regard to it. It may exist. I'm just not familiar with it.
J. Rustad (Chair): The only study I know of was one that would actually compare private land to Crown land down on the Island, I think. That was from quite some time ago.
In any case, Norm, are you okay with that?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I was trying to be quick. I was trying to follow instructions.
J. Rustad (Chair): Okay, good. Thanks.
B. Stewart: Thanks, Kevin. I think you have more wisdom than you appreciate. I do want to ask the one question. We're talking about mid-term timber supply issues. You've been out there on the land. You've seen what's happened at the community you first worked in. One of the things we talked about is: how do we access or find other solutions — the constraints on the land, selective harvesting or other options?
Have you got any insight into that or any advice for the committee?
K. Bedford: Oh dear. I work a lot, and I've done all kinds of land use planning over the years. I worked with the CCLUP, when I was in Anahim Lake and a part of the Anahim round table, in drafting that document and then implementing that document, and then here, most noticeably on some of the biodiversity orders.
That is so much of a difficult question. On one side of the fence, you may look at a land use decision about visual polygons. Somebody may look at that as a constraint on timber. Somebody may look at that as an investment in tourism, or some sort of a lodge type of thing.
Say, for instance, biodiversity. I've seen a whole lot of information on biodiversity that's here. We've got quite an interesting model here in the Prince George TSA. Like it or not, there are always challenges to it. There are always places where you can poke holes in the science. But right now, at least from my perspective anyway, it appears to be based on the best science that we have at the time.
Dealing with that one…. Unfortunately, I can't give you a whole lot of insight into that one, to be able to say: "This is your silver bullet" or "That's your silver bullet here." You have to wrestle with species at risk. You have to wrestle with visuals, which are, again, the balancing act between those two. You have to wrestle with biodiversity. What do we want on the landscape?
In some cases, just to put it very bluntly, knowing that we're based — here in Prince George, anyway — on the best science that we have today, it becomes a question of a social decision. What are we willing to give up in order for the other to happen — and the balance that goes along between those two?
Really, as near as I can tell and as near as I can see, that's what the question is that you're going to have to wrestle with: what's the social balance that goes along with what you're willing to give up versus having that on the land base?
Certainly, the biggest impact to timber supply here in this TSA is biodiversity. Again, it's going to come down to that kind of a decision, that kind of a debate, really.
Sorry, I can't….
B. Stewart: That's all right.
B. Routley: Again, an interesting concept. I guess a couple of questions, if I can. One is: how large are the tenures now held? Is that a percentage — roughly 50 percent? Or is it, on average, 25 percent or whatever of the volume that they now have?
The second part of my question is going to be a little tougher. On the coast of British Columbia tree farm licences are private land, and I'm familiar with a more intensive investment in that kind of tenure form. But the original tree farm licence that, again, I was a big fan of had with it a social contract. There was a commitment to the community, and there was actually fibre tied to communities.
I think that if you added to what you're suggesting — that this should maybe go to a land use planning process, and along with that, all of these companies that were looking at some kind of tenure would be making some kind of commitment to communities….
What's the quid pro quo for the security that they would gain in having this kind of tenure essentially handed to them? You're pushing on an open door with me in the sense that I know it does attract some investment. But also, for any bargaining like that to take place, you're almost bargaining with the community. You're going to have to convince people that there's some long-term benefits to not just the person who's going to gain the benefit of a long-term tenure.
What's the benefit to the community at large, in your view? Have you turned your mind at all to that?
K. Bedford: The first question is around what percentage would 250,000 be to various licence holders. It varies depending on the size of the licence. Some of them are quite large right now. Over two different TSAs we have 511,000 cubic metres that is under our licence. That would represent half of it, basically.
But there would be other licensees, such as Canfor, where it may represent a very, very small percentage and maybe other licensees where it would represent the entire volume that they would have. I think of the Stuart Lake Lumber licence that's just a little over 200,000 metres, so in that particular case, it would represent the entire volume. It really varies from licensee to licensee — some big, some small.
The question around community and social licence is a very good question, particularly when you're talking about that social licence that goes along with tying up a land base that's specific to an area. I believe it was called appurtenancy — kind of the concept of that original idea.
I mean, I can't speak for the other licensees, but I certainly think that for some licensees, the idea of appurtenancy probably wouldn't be that huge a deal — to try and tie it to a community. But I think that for other licensees, it may be quite a large jump. I know that in some of the conversations, those conversations can be quite divided.
Now, as you probably are aware…. Given the nature of a change in tenure and more security that goes along with that on the land base, would there be an opportunity to be able to negotiate something like that into that with a licensee? I think it would be a very, very valid question to bring up and to put forward. I have no question that it's a very valid question.
J. Rustad (Chair): Kevin, thank you very much for your presentation and for providing us with that information.
Our next presenter is Bob Clark.
B. Clark: Thanks folks. I know most of you. I think I went out of my way to meet everyone here tonight.
Except you, Ben. I haven't met you, but my friend Bernie Fandrich speaks so highly of you that I think I know you by extension of his discussions. I've met the other folks.
Let me just launch into a discussion of what happened in Burns Lake. Although I'm kind of a 40-year "Forest Service on my heart" guy…. By that definition, I know a lot about the industry right across the province and a lot about the Forest Service and a lot about all these issues. I'm going to try my best to put the boundaries and the sideboards around my discussions around Burns Lake. From time to time I may ramble a little.
Let me just take you back. On January 20 the fire happened in Burns Lake, and five days later I arrived. I was there continuously from that point until the end of May. At that time it was evident that this committee would be struck. The two chief foresters that sit behind me took over the kind of advisory responsibility. I felt really comfortable — met with Jim Snetsinger and did a bit of a handoff. As I like to call it, a Vulcan mind-meld of: "Here's what happened in Burns Lake."
I guess I'd like to go into a little bit of who I am. As I said, I was kind of 40 years around this industry. I've been in the north since 1980, and I was a district forest manager in Vanderhoof for 17 years — from '84 to whatever 17 years is, I think 2001.
Then I became the beetle boss for the province. Minister de Jong hung that moniker around my neck, and I'm not sure even myself what we called it. I was just the beetle boss. Then, five years ago, I joined my wife's consulting company, did some consulting with the province of Alberta on lessons learned for the minister and the Premier there. The same situation in Saskatchewan — I did some work for them.
I guess it was kind of a natural fit for Minister Bell, when I talked to him, to say: "Yeah, I think you'd be trusted by the people of Burns Lake — a bit of a known entity." You know, I'm a better networker and personable kind of relationship developer than I am a writer, so I asked if Ray Schultz could come on the file. He's the ex-ADM that became the ADM of mountain pine beetle after I left.
That kind of sets out the how and the why I came to the file. I continued until about the end of May, at which time I took some well-needed holidays and went back and reacquainted myself with my wife.
I was instructed by Minister Bell and MLA Rustad to bring them as many options as I could towards: "How do we get a mill rebuilt in Burns Lake?" That's kind of where it stopped. I rolled up my sleeves and entered into that fray. I set up four committees. I just have to tell you that right from the start somehow I was able to engender the trust of the people of Burns Lake. I was well received by the mayor and the six chiefs that form the Burns Lake Native Development Corp., the economic development community, community services people, the union and the people that are engaged around displaced workers.
We had great success in those four committees — the one being timber supply, which of course has morphed into this committee. And I'll come back to that. But the worker displacement…. I'm not sure, as I said. I've been off for a month or so, but I think we've got over 80 percent of the people that were displaced back at work in some manner, shape or form. Boy, that's pretty good. We've got 80 percent of those people back working. Of course, some of them are in the mill doing some security and cleanup and some of the planing of the wood that was there, but most of them in other industries — many of them in mining; some of them in other forest companies.
Then I worked with the economic development folks. We tried to take the model that we had around the job fairs. I worked with Northern Development Trust to say: "Okay, how are we going to try and get this retail community...? Even if we get a mill rebuilt, it's going to be 18 months to two years before that happens. How do we get the retail community through that period?"
The NDI Trust put on a boot camp to get these retail folks kind of up to stage. I think that it's still to come. We're going to have a suppliers camp similar to the jobs and services fair that we had, and we're going to bring the major companies that came looking for workers back, with their purchasing power, and ask them if they would bring some purchasing power to bear and if some of those Burns Lake suppliers could meet that purchasing power. That's one of the big things that we've done around economic development.
We worked in community services. You know, the Northern Health people were really, really great to work with. Many of the softer, social-side folks were every bit as concerned and really stepped up. We've had no dramatically bad outcomes in the interim on community services. But I sat here and listened to Kevin Bedford a moment ago. This only lasts so long. The pressure that you guys, I'm sure, rightly feel is that we really do need to get a mill rebuilt there, or we're going to end up with a ghetto with some bad outcomes.
I felt that pressure when I went in there, and I feel it still today. That's why I tried to look at some things, and I'll come back to them — around the last point I want to make around timber supply. I'll come back to those things.
That's why I tried to think outside the box, because we've never been here before in B.C. We've never been here. We've never had a falldown the likes of which is in Burns Lake. If we don't find a way to mitigate it, it goes from 3 million to 500,000. Some of that is held by those outside licensees, which, rightly, are going to take it out of the TSA. So we've got to think very straightforwardly about how we're going to make sure that there's a mill there. I think I'll just stop there.
I would remind you, when Wellwood sold to West Fraser, the federal Competition Bureau did not let them sell that mill. They ensured that it was sold to someone else to ensure that there would still be a mill in Burns Lake. Now, you know, I have nothing against Canfor or West Fraser, but if Canfor or West Fraser owned the mill in Burns Lake when it burned down, there would have never been a thought of rebuilding the mill. That timber would have immediately gone to Houston and Fraser Lake.
But that's not the situation we find ourselves in. We find ourselves in a situation where we have a willing company, Babine Forest Products, willing to rebuild the mill. And we have a government, from what I can see, that's trying mightily to get a mill rebuilt.
Frankly, this is a non-partisan issue, in my view. It's kind of a split town; it's about half NDP and half right wing. And guess what. Once you're in government, your responsibility is to govern, not to govern just for your supporters. That's the responsibility, I'm sure, that you rightly feel today as you sit on this non-partisan committee. That's the responsibility that I felt when I went in there. I felt a responsibility to the people of Burns Lake. I don't care what political stripe they are. As you heard Kevin Bedford say, those people started to feel a lot of hope.
That Babine Forest Products mill is very different, with 44.8 percent First Nations employment — a very different model than anywhere else in the province. Burns Lake is surrounded by big, efficient competitors who would like no mill to rebuild there. That doesn't make them bad; it just makes them good businessmen. That's not bad. That's just the way business operates.
Babine is 11 percent First Nations–owned, and as I said, 44 percent of the employment is First Nations. First Nations people are very oriented to their families and community and will not move to chase work. So as I said, I think over 400 people are back to work, but by and large, the people that are not back to work are First Nations folks, because they simply will not move. They are very community- and family-oriented. So that's the mantle of responsibility I feel around this issue, which I know you will too.
The local Burns Lake people, in my view…. As I grappled with options and Ray Schultz grappled with options and Ministers Thomson and Bell and MLA Rustad grappled with options, I never saw one moment of shakiness. The local mayor, his council, all those First Nations people are banded together with laser-like focus on trying to get a mill rebuilt. So I rode for that brand as hard as I could and presented options towards that end, which I'm going to discuss with you here in a moment.
Let me tell you another thing. Bill, I think it goes to your point about giving tenure to someone. Yeah, I think we should give some sort of tenure to Babine, but we probably should give even more tenure to First Nations there and the Burns Lake Native Development Corp., because regardless of what, they're going to stay. I'm not sure that Babine is any different than any of the other independent forest companies across northern B.C.
Those other independent forest companies stand willing and able and ready if Babine doesn't want to pick up the ball and rebuild the mill — the Dunkleys, the Carrier Lumbers, the Sinclar Groups, the Conifexes. We have to be really careful that we don't tip the playing field in favour of Babine. We've got to tip the playing field in favour of the people of Burns Lake and in favour of the government of B.C.
Let's just not forget that. There are other players. I think we should dance with the one that's right in front of us — absolutely — but we don't have to bend over backwards to do something that is an uneven playing field for them over other forest companies.
There's a lot of talk about bioenergy as well. As I look at bioenergy and look at the situation there, that bioenergy plant hangs in the balance too. Without a sawmill, that bioenergy plant goes away. In fact, today I don't think there's a large-scale bioenergy industry that isn't reliant on lumbering residuals or milling residuals. Bioenergy doesn't exist without a sawmill, and it doesn't exist in Burns Lake without a sawmill in Burns Lake. So we've got to be focused on that as well, because those are the jobs that are also at risk there. Those Pinnacle Pellet jobs are also at risk.
I heard some folks earlier today, and I actually tried not to come a little earlier because I didn't want my presentation to be too influenced by what I heard. But Burns Lake is different. That community isn't like Quesnel, isn't like Vanderhoof, isn't like Prince George and isn't like Williams Lake. Their mills shut down. There is a different expeditious nature required on a decision for them. They need an answer, and they need an answer quickly. So you should feel a different responsibility around Burns Lake than you do around other communities, because this is a larger-scale issue.
When the mill burnt down, their future came screaming into the present as that company and government then had to wrestle with: how do we get enough security of tenure to incent a company to invest in a major milling operation, and how do we bring that security to that community?
It's a different situation in Burns Lake. It will eventually be the same, next in Quesnel, probably after that in Fort St. James, after that in Vanderhoof, then over to Houston, down towards Williams Lake. This will spread. This is a precursor of what we're going through, but it's right true in Burns Lake now without the jobs sitting there. So a very different situation in Burns Lake and a very different impetus towards action needed there.
The technical recommendations may require a change from our pre-beetle timber supply days. They will set a bit of a pattern for other communities, but you heard it here, and you've heard it, I'm sure, throughout your travels. Somewhat similar, but very, very different as well.
The situation in Burns Lake isn't like the situation in Smithers. A solution in Smithers won't fit Quesnel. The Quesnel situation won't fit Merritt. They're very different, and you're going to have to set sideboards and engage those local people much more expeditiously than we've ever done. This is their future. They're the ones looking it square in the eye, and they have a right and responsibility to be engaged right up to their neck. If that means they want the land use constraints off in Burns Lake to a greater extent than Smithers, that's what it means. If they want them on in Smithers to a greater extent than what they have, that's what it means.
It means we have to develop very different solutions for very different communities. There is no one-size-fits-all. The same questions will engage themselves in all these communities, but the answers are going to be very different.
Let me talk about some of the options we brought forward, and I'm sure that you've been briefed on them. I just want to kind of talk to them a bit.
One was this issue about borrowing from future timber supply. You've heard it talked about. I think it probably should be matched with growing timber as well, fertilizing and growing timber for the future as well. I don't think you can do one without the other, although encouragingly, you can borrow a little from the future or quite a lot from the future at less cost to the future than you'd think.
I think in the Burns Lake situation if you borrow 500,000 cubic metres, it only costs you 150,000 cubic metres in the mid-term, in the immediate. That's for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is your stands start growing immediately, and you want to harvest them off in the future.
Your chief foresters here are…. I didn't get these numbers myself. I got them from the previous chief forester's staff. We have some very good staff that can give us those numbers. You need to grapple with those situations in each of those districts, but you have to and should grapple with them. None of this comes without cost. There will be some fertilization costs if we want to mitigate the costs to those future timber supplies. We will have some extra costs incurred as well.
The next one is the land use plan and the constraints around land use plans. I don't think any reasonable person is talking about taking all the constraints off, but no reasonable person is talking about leaving them all on either. When we made these land use plans — and I was a district manager when we made them — we made them against a backdrop of full timber supply, not reduced supply from mountain pine beetle.
So it's like deciding…. When I was earning $100,000 — let's call that the Burns Lake timber supply of two million cubic metres. Well, I'd like to spend $10,000 of the $100,000. I'd like to spend 10 percent of that on putting some other values in the land use plan. Did I think I'd be earning $25,000 one year and only 25 percent of that? I draw the analogy: is it then right to still take a $10,000 holiday? Probably not. Is it still right then to have the constraints at the same level when you have this much-reduced timber supply? Probably not.
Changed circumstances mean changed outcomes. We have to think very, very clearly about that. No one envisioned that we would have this level of impacts when we did those land use plans, and I know because I was there and did them.
We should partition in the low-volume stands. We should do it carefully so that we can't cut it in high-volume stands under the auspices of: "Well, one day we'll get to the low-volume stands." We should partition them in and add to the cut based on: "You have to take those low-volume stands. You're welcome to them, but you have to take them."
I think there's an opportunity there, and I do think that some of those low-volume stands closer to the mill might present themselves as bioenergy operations.
Bioenergy operations. You heard me earlier say that they don't work without residuals. Well, they don't work without residuals, both milling and logging. But they can start to work in smaller circles around the manufacturing plant of bioenergy — 20, 30, 40 kilometres.
The future may hold a different reality than the present does, but currently they have to be subsidized by the sawlog industry, both in milling and in harvesting.
Land-based tenure. Now, isn't that an interesting thing? I'm a strong advocate of it. But if I could go so far as to tell you, land-based tenure has been an absolute wonderful thing for the best managers, and it's been a terrible thing for the worst managers. It's like all responsibility. If you give it to good folks that are really responsible, they do a great job. Dunkley is a good example. If you give it to poor folks, who are poor managers, they are absolutely astoundingly poor at it, and they do a poor job on the landscape.
Government is very poor at shooting the cripples. We're very poor. We're way too fair. We should move in faster and be real targeted with the lack of performance.
I remember when we added to the woodlots. We were going to add for excellence — right? Well, in the end, we added to woodlots for anybody that hadn't kind of killed their husband or wife on the woodlot. That was excellence. The point is: give the best managers a chance to do more of it, hold really high standards and be really focused on them. It's more about the manager than it is about the tenure.
We talk about Dunkley as a shining example, and that they are. But the other end of that scale might be the Westar TFL 1 over at Terrace, and we were way too long in removing that opportunity from them. We were way too long.
There's another reason land-based tenures are attractive to me, and that's because I'm a pragmatic realist. If we think government money is hard to come by today, try 20 years from now when the baby boomers are fully engaged in the health care system. It's going to be even harder.
We have to find a way to engage people in the industry, to incent them to invest. I don't care whether, Norm, Bill and Eric, it's your government in power tomorrow or Donna, Ben and John, it's your government in power tomorrow. You'll be faced with the same things. Tomorrow there'll be less money for everything — health care and education — than there is today.
Land-based tenure is one of the ways of recognizing that. It also is one of the ways of incenting companies to invest more, but it goes back to my hard-nosed approach towards good versus poor managers.
In the Burns Lake situation again, I wanted to look at the small business volume that's there. I think currently, in the long run, there's about 200,000 cubic metres of small business volume right now, so whatever that will proportionately be….
Norm, do you think it's small business?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): B.C. Timber Sales?
B. Clark: Yeah, B.C. Timber Sales. Sorry. I am a dinosaur — right? B.C. Timber Sales has a volume there.
I actually asked at length to the B.C. Timber Sales folks. That volume is not critical to the pricing model. There is enough in Houston and Vanderhoof to run the pricing model without it. It's a different situation in Burns Lake than some other places. We have to look at what the appropriate thing to do with that volume is. That's something we should think very clearly about. That might give us some opportunities that we will not have in some other places.
Again, to wrap up — and I'll come back to any of these things and discuss them at length — I do think that there is an obligation on you folks to move expeditiously here, and the Burns Lake situation is a bit different. It's a bit different than the rest of the solution across these other places. I say that only because their mill isn't operating, and so there's a different responsibility on you folks around that.
This bipartisan committee really encourages me. It really encourages me. The last fellow that thanked you for stepping up — well, I do the same. I thank you for stepping up. I hope you feel the same moral responsibility that I did when I went into Burns Lake. I saw the terror in those people's eyes. They're darn good and scared. They have every right to be scared. We have every obligation to look for a solution that's outside the box, and we can do it.
We will not have a mill in Burns Lake that consumes a million or 1.1 million cubic metres like the old mill of Babine Forest Products did, but we have to have a mill there. That's your responsibility now. I'm off the file. It's over to you, and it is your responsibility to deliver this. I know John feels this responsibility. He's the MLA. Ministers Thomson and Bell, I think, feel that same responsibility, and I know that when you've rolled up your sleeves and you're now into it, you feel that same responsibility. But we have to have a mill there.
I come back to it. The situation in Smithers is very different. When I talk to the mayor of Smithers, he wants to open the land use plans too, for a different reason. He wants more constraints. That's not the situation in Burns Lake, and it probably won't be the situation in Quesnel and in Williams Lake.
My point is that changed circumstances and different circumstances in every one of these communities will require a different plan in every one of these communities. But you have some responsibility to move expeditiously.
This is not a long way off in some of these other communities. Quesnel is a bad one. It's screaming at you in the very near future. And some of these other communities aren't long behind it.
I think I'll wrap up my formal comments and engage in any questions you've got.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): First, thank you. Nothing is truly bipartisan or non-partisan. I know you know that.
What we called for at the time was, of course, what the government did. We said: "We think government needs to step up." They appointed you, and I think we've been supportive. I'm going to ask a lot of questions, because we want to get our head around what we can do going forward.
First, you have spoken about Minister Bell and others appointing you and giving you terms of reference that included how to get the mill rebuilt, specifically. If you have terms of reference, is it possible that we could see them?
B. Clark: I don't have any official terms of reference at all.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So it was just something…?
B. Clark: No, there was nothing in that regard. The only thing I have is a contract with JTI. Of course, you're welcome to that. I'm sure John can make arrangements to give it to you. It's available.
But I have no terms of reference around that. They were verbal instructions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Verbal instructions.
You had four committees. I think you're right. The one, obviously, that we're focused on is the timber supply issue. That's the one, especially if we're looking at the terms of reference.
Now, you've laid out a scenario, and you presented that to government. Government rejected it — right?
B. Clark: Right.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So we're in a place where we have to move from there and, presumably, do something different.
B. Clark: Norm, could I respond to: "The government rejected it"?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Sure. Yeah.
B. Clark: I don't know if they rejected it so much as saying: "We need deeper consultation with people before we're ready to move." I would suggest to you that some of those tenets in that solution are still sound — right? "Rejected" is…. I don't take offence to the word. That's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying that some of the things in that are still sound. It's over to you, I agree.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): All right. Then just to come back to understanding the process, you were there for four months. You had Mr. Schultz writing. Do we have written reports that we can look at?
B. Clark: Yes. I think the reports that there were, were the ones that went to cabinet and were subsequently leaked. The only reports were the….
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So that leaked document was the report.
B. Clark: Yeah, the leaked document was the work. Yeah, it was.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): As you entered into the work, did you set up sort of a set of principles that you were going to apply to finding the solution? I'm trying to understand the parameters that you would approach.
Of course, just like us…. We have sort of two things going on. You focus on the particular, but it has implications for a far broader area.
You've said that we can't…. You know, each situation is different, but you set precedent. I mean, it's a complexity that in those four months' work you would have run into again and again.
B. Clark: Absolutely.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So even with the B.C. Timber Sales, you might apply it to this, but then you have Dunkley, which is also buying into that. It's hugely….
B. Clark: I didn't receive, like I say, sideboards. I was just told to go and explore every option and try our best to bring them back.
It was a piece of work that evolved over time. We'd bring it back and say: "What do you think about this?" I'd say: "Well, we could do more work on this. We could do less on that."
It just evolved over a matter of time and mostly in our interaction with the players, whether they were the forest companies that were there or the First Nations who were there or the tourism operators or the economic development people. That was what caused the evolution.
I'd be less than honest if I didn't say I felt no political kind of top-down direction — none.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. In terms of product possibilities, was there work done on…? I think what you've said is that, obviously, there were fibre issues to begin with. Therefore, to do the same thing would be a challenge.
B. Clark: We didn't look into products other than the bioenergy issue — right? That was the hot one. We looked into it because there had been a previous offer of 300,000 cubic metres for 20 years to the First Nations.
That caused me to ask for FPInnovations to come up and start to present an economic model to those First Nations folks so that they didn't get engaged in pipe dreams that wouldn't turn into reality, to be real candid. That's why we brought those folks up. I presented kind of a one-day workshop to them and to the community leaders — the mayor and the regional district leaders. So that's the extent of what I've presented around other products.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Now, you've presented to government. Did you sit down with the company and have negotiations?
B. Clark: Yes.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I mean, one of the questions Bill had is: "Where is your line?"
B. Clark: You know, I didn't negotiate anything that says, "Yeah, here's what we'll do for you" — that type of thing. It was more a discussion about: "What would it take to get you to rebuild a mill?" I was in no position to make an offer. That will come to the minister. I was just kind of an intermediary to say: "I think this is what it's going to take." I think those would be best characterized as confidential negotiations between industry and government — right?
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So what's the government structure to do that? I mean, presumably, you were part of the response. Of course, we didn't fully understand, as an opposition, how that was structured or what was going on. How do you come to a solution without having all of that available to you to really dig down and do those negotiations and figure out the trade-offs?
B. Clark: Obviously, we didn't come to a solution in the final analysis because the leaked document, to some extent, got into the House. Then there was a bigger discussion around that and a right decision that we should form this committee and go out to the folks around this issue and do a bigger piece of work. I'm not trying to be obtuse. It's just that there wasn't anything around that.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): You're not being obtuse at all. You've been wonderful. Going forward, what is your contract? Is it something…?
B. Clark: Oh, I'm done.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): You're finished? Okay. Mr. Schultz is finished as well?
B. Clark: Yeah.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Well, I know there are others that…. Thank you.
B. Clark: Yeah, you bet.
J. Rustad (Chair): Committee members, I want to look to you for permission to extend beyond the half hour. We're already 35 minutes in, but if everybody is okay with carrying on, we've got at least three more questions to bring forward. I'm seeing that's not going to be an issue.
D. Barnett: Okay, I'll be very short. Thank you very much, Bob, for coming. I totally understand the passion of the people of Burns Lake. I also understand the passion of all the other communities that we're dealing with. So to me, this is a very complex issue that we're dealing with. Our mandate is not Burns Lake; our mandate is to look for any way we possibly can to increase timber supply. Should we open land use plans, etc.?
I appreciate the work you've done, and I really need more detail on numbers — what's out there, what we're looking at as far as what numbers of timbers they're going to bring to us for each area that we're discussing. Tonight I just thank you very much. Like I said, I need a whole bunch more information.
B. Clark: Yeah, you do. We need that level of engagement in each of these TSAs.
D. Barnett: Exactly. Thank you.
B. Routley: Before I ask my question, I think I want to offer you an opportunity to clear something up that you said on the record. I don't know if you thought about what you said, but I was stunned. I was totally stopped in my tracks by what you said.
B. Clark: Okay. Well, let's see if I meant it, Bill.
B. Routley: You don't recall — about killing somebody?
B. Clark: Poor choice of words.
B. Routley: Very poor choice of words. Absolutely unacceptable.
B. Clark: Let me clear it up. Government should move faster to ensure that poor performance of some operations doesn't reflect on all the operations. I would ask that that form the official record.
B. Routley: Well, I've got to tell you, you took my breath away with that statement. I couldn't believe I was hearing that in a public meeting.
Anyway, I understand the passion and the circumstances under which you were sent in, but let me just clear up a couple of things. Were you ever part of a land use planning exercise?
B. Clark: I certainly was.
B. Routley: Okay, so you're very familiar with all of the trade-offs and the war in the woods and all of that.
B. Clark: Very familiar, right from coordinated resource management plans to LRUPs to LRMPs.
B. Routley: So you honestly believe, then, as a bureaucrat that's got experience and is familiar with the war in the woods, that we can carve up some of the things that you've suggested, like the old-growth trade-offs that were made, and deal with the wildlife corridors and visual quality — all of the things that you've suggested you believe in.
B. Clark: I actually think it really depends on the individual circumstance in the individual TSA and what the individual communities want there.
B. Routley: Can I ask why…?
B. Clark: There's no kind of status quo. We can't reduce old growth by 25 percent or reduce habitat constraints by 25 percent because in some communities and in some ecosystems the thresholds are already met — right? They are already there, and in some they aren't. So it is very different in different TSAs.
But yes, I do believe that we should have a look at them, because I think, when we made those plans…. My timing might be wrong, but I think they were in the early '90s mostly. No one envisioned a mountain pine beetle epidemic of this magnitude. I certainly didn't, and I was a district manager in Vanderhoof for the whole time and, later on, the beetle boss. Changed circumstances require changed plans.
B. Routley: I also heard in Burns Lake that there was some kind of commitment made by government. The mayor referred to a commitment on record of government to do something in Burns Lake. Can you tell us what they would have meant by a commitment?
B. Clark: I don't know. I'd have to have more information. I don't know of any particular commitment. If you could spur me a little, I'd tell you if I recognized anything there. I just don't, Bill.
B. Routley: I'm just a little surprised that one of the things that you would come to, with your experience, is to start looking at land use plans if you know the war in the woods situation. And what about log exports? Have you considered log exports at all?
B. Clark: I think log exports are a very small part of the B.C. picture, and there are not a lot of log exports from the Interior. Most of the log exports are coastal. So I don't think log exports form a big piece of this picture. I think that's true.
B. Routley: I'm told there are some being exported from the Kispiox over to the coast. It's roughly five hours to Burns Lake. That's what I heard while I was in Smithers, so I just wondered if you'd looked at it.
J. Rustad (Chair): We'll just have one person speaking at once, thank you.
B. Clark: I'm sorry. If you look at the percentage that log exports form, I think it's somewhat under 1 percent of the cut of B.C. So on the macro scale it's not that big an issue. It's a hot button issue, but it's….
B. Routley: You'd agree you didn't look at it — right?
B. Clark: Not for Burns Lake.
J. Rustad (Chair): Maybe I can just add a little bit to that. In some of the discussions I had, we did actually discuss the potential for wood from the supply areas to the west of Smithers and whether or not some of that wood could be moved economically. It was ruled that that wood was uneconomical.
It was the same as trying to move wood from the north end of Fort St. James that's currently not part of the AAC or taking wood from underneath Ootsa Lake. The economics just weren't there, which is why that was ruled out.
Because of the discussions, I thought I should add that to the component to answer your question about whether that was looked at or not.
E. Foster: Thank you very much, Bob, for your efforts and your insight. I've got a question. First off, on the B.C. Timber Sales component, whatever numbers you said…. There are a couple of hundred thousand metres there. I won't hold you to it.
B. Clark: I think it's a couple of hundred thousand today.
E. Foster: A nice chunk of timber. Then you suggested that possibly that should be put into the pot that would go to the First Nations?
B. Clark: I don't know that all of it should. I'm just saying that we've always kind of said around B.C. Timber Sales that we need it all. That was the rule around the section 28 for pricing. As I looked into it, I don't think that wood is necessary for a pricing model in Burns Lake. That's just what I bring to bear here, because there might be some flexibility around that wood — that you could use it in part of your deliberations.
That's the only reason I brought it forward, Eric. It might form part of an eventual solution in Burns Lake.
E. Foster: Oh, excellent. I appreciate that. Then that essentially takes that wood out of the free market, if you will, because it goes to the First Nations.
B. Clark: Yes, or part of it.
E. Foster: That's fine. You worked with government for a long time. I put a few years in myself. For some reason, change is difficult. One-size-fits-all seems to have been a mentality out of Victoria since the beginning of time. Having been a district manager and a senior management person in the Forest Service, how do we change that? You're right, and I agree with you, and we've heard that in every room we've been in.
We've talked about the visualscapes and so on, and any decision that would be made on any of that stuff has to be done locally. It can't be done in Victoria or Vancouver. It can't be done in Prince George for Vanderhoof. It can't be done in Smithers for Fort St. James. So how do we do it?
B. Clark: I think you do it similar to what Donna alluded to. You're going to have to look at this TSA by TSA. I suggest you start to do them in the order of importance of when we think the pine wood will run out. That's really how I think you have to do it. I think Quesnel is next.
E. Foster: You think Quesnel is next after Burns Lake? Is that what you said?
B. Clark: Yeah.
E. Foster: Oh, really? Okay. That surprises me.
B. Clark: Yeah, I think it's next.
B. Stewart: Thanks, Bob. I just wanted to ask: in your view of studying the Lakes TSA, what's your opinion of the current inventory there? And if you have a comment, what do you think should be done to better understand the inventory that we think is there? Should it be validated or proofed?
B. Clark: You know, inventories are never perfect. But my understanding, talking with the people in charge of inventory and the two chief foresters that are behind me, and my experience over the 40 years is that the inventory yesterday was good enough to make AAC decisions with. I don't think it's any different today. And it clearly isn't good enough to hold up you making a decision. So it was good enough yesterday, and I mean that in the very short term.
Six months ago we were making AAC decisions. We have to make them today as well. It's never going to be good enough, but it's never a valid argument to say: "No, we're going to put off a decision until we get better information." I don't buy that.
B. Stewart: Okay. I just needed to know that. That's all.
J. Rustad (Chair): Just before we go to you, Norm, I want to ask one question as well.
When you were in the Lakes TSA doing work, I understand that you went out and looked at some of the pine beetle stands, some of the low-volume stands. We went on a field trip on Wednesday west of Quesnel, and we were fairly surprised at how much green was left in much of the dead pine stands. Now, some of that may have been aspen and non-sawlog components, but it was still encouraging to see the growth that was coming up underneath and what was left in some of the stands.
What I'm wondering is your opinion on the low-volume stands in the Lakes TSA — how applicable those are or how much opportunity there would be to build and operate on them, as well as, in terms of some of the kill, what your perspective is on some of the opportunities for the secondary stand structure that might be left underneath.
B. Clark: Well, I think better than my opinion is actually what I asked to have done, John. I asked to have the vice-president of Babine and the woodlands manager at Babine and the district forest manager lay out all these stands on an inventory map and then set out three days in a helicopter to fly around these 100- to 140-cubic-metres-per-hectare stands. I wanted to know whether or not we should include them in this recommendation, the eventual cabinet document that was leaked. They came back, both the district forest manager and the industry people, and said: "We think we can operate in them to a large extent." So I said: "We'll include them in the piece of work."
So that's the reason they were included — because we sent out the industry and government people to have a look at them.
You know, I'm sorry if I kind of speak a little callously or expeditiously. But when there's steak, steak's the only thing to eat, and when there's hamburger, it's pretty good. And this is hamburger — right? — the 100 to 140.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. Well, thanks again. Just a couple more questions. Just to understand, Donna said that this committee has a task, but what you're saying is your understanding is that you were given a task by Minister Bell and by government. What you're saying is that your understanding is that the specifics of Burns Lake sit with this group now.
B. Clark: Around timber supply, that's my understanding, yes.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. Just so we have that straight. And you're also saying that within each TSA there can be different solutions?
B. Clark: Oh, I think so.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Yeah, I've heard that, but to be clear, we work within constraints that are real. I mean, we have a professional standard. We depend upon professional reliance here in this province, and therefore the constraints around professional standards, around sustainability, around the certification…. I mean, I think some of the original reaction to the leaked document was that those lines were being crossed. We heard pretty clearly from not only communities but from the profession, from licensees, that these were areas that were problematic in the extreme. Right?
B. Clark: I heard that too, Norm. Yes.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): So while we work individually, we also work within constraints that are real.
B. Clark: I realize we work in two scopes. We work, if you will, in regard to a TSA, but we also work in the larger issue of what the B.C. standards are, and I get that. But I bring you back to land use plans. Many of the decisions that were negotiated in those land use plans were negotiated social decisions. They weren't economic calculations. They weren't environmental calculations. They were negotiated calculations. So they were social decisions.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Yeah. I guess what has degraded is, of course, as you've pointed out…. The timber values have degraded. But if I was in a room that was negotiating, I would have the guide outfitters saying, "Well, but of course, the habitat has degraded too," and therefore that has to be taken…. And the tourist operators would say this has degraded. So it's, overall, a degradation.
B. Clark: It is that complicated. I realize that fully.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): Okay. So I guess, as we move forward with the limited time that we have, there is an expectation in Burns Lake that in the weeks ahead we will come up with a recommendation. It seems to me that while an element of that is timber supply, it is surely only one piece.
We're talking about product lines possibly. We're talking about the insurance issues that we don't understand. I mean, there's a whole host of complex issues that all have to fall together. It just seems daunting in the extreme to try…. You had four months, and I don't doubt the resources of government with you.
I guess that's where we end off. I very much appreciate you coming, and the candour. But I have to say that it's daunting in the extreme.
B. Clark: I understand that. As Bill took offence to what I said, I took a little bit of offence to say that was rejected. My point is that there's good work in that piece — right? Don't throw it all out.
N. Macdonald (Deputy Chair): I think all of us who were there in Burns Lake…. I know, John, that you've experienced it the most. We were there, and we come from communities.... Golden went through this. We're all from communities, so we feel the pressure there.
B. Routley: For the record, I want to be clear. Are you a registered professional forester?
B. Clark: No.
B. Routley: You would agree with us that we should be listening to all of the voices throughout British Columbia as part of this role.
B. Clark: I absolutely agree.
B. Routley: That's different than the task you were given. You were given a specific task. It had no relationship to the task that we've been given. You'd agree with that?
B. Clark: Well, I wouldn't say it had no relationship, but it's a different task.
J. Rustad (Chair): Bob, thank you very much for taking some time on your trip through town. It's much appreciated that you were able to make some time to present to our committee.
As a public hearing, we are out of time for an open mike. However, I do want to encourage people that if you would like to give us a submission, please remember that you can give us a submission through our website, which is www.leg.bc.ca/timbercommittee. You have until July 20 to be able to submit to the committee.
I want to thank everybody for coming out and for attending the meeting here tonight — for the presenters and the information they provided as well as, of course, to Hansard and the Clerk's office and the MLAs.
With that, this meeting is adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 8:48 p.m.
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