The midterm timber harvest level is projected to drop 26 percent after the next five years.
Agathe Bernard, Stewardship Officer of the Ministry of Forests, presented to Houston council last Tuesday about the timber supply analysis and public discussion paper.
In the Morice Timber Supply Area (TSA), the dead pine left from the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic is enough to allow harvest to continue at the current level for five years before it drops.
After those five years, harvest level, known as Annual Allowable Cut (AAC), is projected to decrease to 1.6 million cubic metres per year for 55 years.
That is a 26 percent drop from the current levels at 2.165 million cubic metres per year.
That is the conclusion in the public discussion paper for the Morice TSA, which was released for public review April 10 by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
The Ministry is seeking public input on their analysis until June 20.
After that, Chief Forester Dave Peterson will set a new harvest level based on the analysis, public input and other social and economic information.
The paper conclusion says that short-term and mid-term harvest levels depend on a variety of factors, including the continued harvest of dead pine for five more years, and the health of the young forest areas.
Bernard said it also depends on whether companies consider it economically worthwhile to harvest areas with less timber volume or high-balsam.
These areas are not currently harvested and are called Marginally Economic Stands.
If they are considered with the harvest area, they will increase the projected harvest levels 256,000 cubic metres. This would change the projected 26 percent drop to a 14 percent drop.
Bernard says there has been a lot of interest in recent years in making different wood products than saw logs – things like bioenergy and pallets.
That is part of why Marginally Economic Stands were considered.
The Timber Supply Analysis also considers a variety of other factors and their affect on the projected harvest levels. It looks at shifts in factors like forest health, the timing of the AAC shift, and shelf-life (length of time a dead tree is worth harvesting).
The analysis is open for public input until June 20, and Bernard says that is a key part the chief forester’s decision.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get input from the public for good decision making,” she said.
“In the end, the chief forester’s determination is his own independent, professional judgement.”
Mayor Bill Holmberg said the biggest concern is the timing.
“The timing couldn’t be worse for us, as far as Houston is concerned, with the decisions that major licence holders are making on what they want to do with the wood.
“I questioned West Fraser when they came out with their numbers,” he said, adding that he wondered how they could shut down Houston Forest Products without even knowing what the new harvest levels would be.
“We’re going to continue to fight to keep the timber that is here, in our community.