Saturday, January 19, 2008

Forest Company harvesting methods called into question

While the BC Forest industry suffers perhaps the greatest challenge in its history, some companies seem to be working for today at the expense of tomorrow.

The Forest Practices Board has expressed its concerns over the methods that some BC companies are using as they harvest wood in the province.

The Daily News examined the situation with a front page story in Thursday’s paper.


By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Pages one and three

Forestry companies are picking the cream of the crop on the North and Central Coasts, at the expense of future harvesting opportunities, according to a new investigation by the Forest Practices Board.

Known as "high-grading", companies have been cherry-picking the valuable trees, selectively logged by helicopter, but at the expense of any future harvest opportunity and with no viable plan for regenerating the forest, said the organization that monitors the health and practices of the forest sector stakeholders.

The harvest method involves selectively removing the valuable cedar and spruce trees and leaving behind mainly old rotting hemlock trees spread across the cutblock.

There is little likelihood that young cedar or spruce will grow well on these sites because of the low light levels under the dense tree canopy that remains, noted the board.

However, the investigation of 54 cutblocks did find that important social and environmental values such as view scapes and biodiversity - often cited as the reason for using this method - were protected. And the practice is also allowed under current legislation.

"This is a bit of a dilemma," said Bruce Fraser, board chair.

"On the one hand, government and industry wants to extract some economic value from these sites and provide local employment and economic benefits while also protecting other forest values. But on the other hand, the result is limited prospects for harvesting in the future.

"Government may decide this is entirely acceptable, but it is not consistent with current policy of sustained yield forestry and legislation that requires maintaining a future timber supply," said Fraser.

The issue is one that affects not just the North and Central Coast forest districts, but also the Kalum District around Terrace.

Forestry experts in the region have long been concerned that without a pulp mill operating in the Northwest, there is no market for lower value, rotting timber in the region's wood profile and no desire by companies to harvest that timber.

If the wood profile is completely turned over during harvest, the area could develop a much improved, highly valuable future timber profile.

However, as conditions currently exist, the valuable timber is being cherry picked and the remaining timber will not contain enough value for anyone to harvest, ever, said the board.
The board determined that, in part, it is provincial government policies that are encouraging this type of harvesting.

The board noted that the Ministry of Forests and Range and the coastal industry are aware of the issue and have a working group set up to look at ways to improve harvest methods on these types of forest sites.

"We are encouraged by the work being done on this issue and look forward to some solutions that will continue to meet the economic, social and environmental objectives of people in coastal communities both today and for the future," said Fraser.

The Forest Practices Board also noted the performance of the forest licensees was variable.
It said some were doing a better job than others, and pointed out that they were affected by the type of forest they were operating within.

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