The province is taking advice from local governments and the public on how it should divvy up forest licences in the Morice Timber Supply Area.
In 2008, chief forester Jim Snetsinger set the total annual allowable cut for the Morice TSA at 2.1 million cubic metres.
Most of that that cut is already licensed. Seventy-eight per cent currently goes to replaceable licences held by Canfor and Houston Forest Products.
BC Timber Sales, a government agency that auctions licences to smaller operators, has a 17 per cent share.
Another 2.8 per cent is held in woodland tenures that are granted on a per-capita basis to First Nations with traditional territory in the Morice.
Dungate and Babine Lake Community Forests will also keep 1 per cent of the share.
But the chief forester is now consulting on how to divide the rest.
“This opportunity probably comes up once in every 20 years, ” said John Illes, who manages Nadina District operations for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
Speaking to Houston council on Nov. 15, Illes said this is first time that B.C. is re-apportioning the Morice timber supply since government bought 20 per cent of replaceable licences in 2003.
Illes said that purchase makes the process more interesting.
“There’s more volume to decide what to do with,” he said.
Illes presented council with three possible scenarios to give them an idea of what sort of divisions they might recommend to the ministry.
“You have lots of flexibility in what you suggest,” he said, noting that the options were just starting-off points.
One option is a “bare bones” approach, he said, where the only change is a major boost to the Forest Service Reserve—from 4,000 to 212,108 cubic metres of timber.
In fact, all three options Illes presented would add roughly 150,000 cubic metres to the reserve, which is timber left untouched in case of a downturn in the Morice timber supply.
“We want to have a fairly significant amount of the volume in the forest service reserve,” said Illes. Both Canfor and Houston Forest Products may face a risk to their timber supply in the mid-term, he said.
Houston is already a large importer of wood, he added.
The second scenario Illes presented would supply more licences to B.C. Timber Sales and add 25,000 cubic metres to the Canfor and HFP licences so that they can salvage some smaller blocks in the Morice.
The third, more experimental scenario that Illes showed to councillors would give more forest licences to community forests, woodlots and model forests.
At council, Deputy Mayor Rick Lundrigan asked whether boosting the supply to small woodlots and smaller operators might create more jobs in the area.
Illes said that small logging operations harvest the same way as big players like Canfor and HFP.
“So there’s not really more employment created, necessarily,” he said. “But the more sources of fibre that you have, the more likely that you’ll be able to support different enterprises because you are closer to a free market.”
Councillor Joanne Dickenson asked what model forests are all about.
Illes said that most model forests are tied to the research and training of forestry students at colleges and universities.
They typically harvest wood commercially, he said, but experiment in how they select or replant trees.
While model forest is not a conventional choice, Illes said a case could be made for one in the Morice.
“Because of the high plateau, we’re actually the most affected by climate change in the province,” he said. “So it’s actually an interesting area to study.”
Any member of the public is invited to advise the province on the timber supply. For more information, contact the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.