File photo

Audit shows ministry lacks forestry data: RDBN

Troubled by an audit of how the province manages timber, the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako is seeking independent forestry advice.

Troubled by an audit of how the B.C. government manages timber, mayors and rural directors at the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako is seeking independent advice on forestry.

On Thursday, the RDBN’s forestry committee discussed what Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach called a “pretty damning” report released in February by the B.C. Auditor General.

The report found B.C.’s forests ministry lacks clear timber goals and is not doing enough to replant trees, invest in silviculture, provide accurate forest data, manage  big-picture changes or publicly report its results in a measurable way.

In response to the first issue, the ministry said its key timber goals—to maintain a valuable timber supply and keep wood costs competitive—are set out in law, while more precise targets are decided regionally.

On other issues, the ministry largely defended its record. For example, the ministry noted that since 2005 it has stepped up replanting to 20 million seedlings to recover areas hit by pine beetles and wildfires.

On the final recommendation, the ministry did agree to start publishing the results of its long-term timber plans in a measurable way.

Lack of public information seemed to be the sticking point among members of the RDBN forestry committee.

“Some of my concern is that quite often this stuff is held behind closed doors,” says Bill Miller, RDBN chair and director of the Burns Lake rural area.

In other cases, Miller said the problem is that the ministry itself seems to lack up-to-date forestry data.

On tree counts, Miller said, “They do a lot of ‘circle the area, count the trees, and extrapolate. That’s not accurate, the Auditor-General has said that, and we’ve known that for years.”

The ministry also needs to start doing inventories of biomass as well as sawlogs, Miller said. Pellet plants, biofuels companies and others have asked local governments for data on available waste-wood and unconventional timber, he explained, but so far the ministry hasn’t inventoried those types of stands.

A more long-standing problem, Miller says, is that anyone who holds a licence to cut Crown trees—whether they are industry, a community forest, or a First Nations tenure—has to follow stricter stewardship laws than the government itself.

Even before they circle a group of trees for harvest, Miller explained, licence holders are legally required to make detailed plans on how they will protect wildlife, waterways, road access and other values.

After logging, the licence holder has to replant the trees and raise them to “free-growing” stage—a process that takes between seven and 20 years—before the stand returns to the care of the B.C. government.

“Once it turns over to the Crown, there’s no forest stewardship plan anymore,” Miller said, noting that even free-growing stands are vulnerable to wildfires, diseases and new resource projects that all require updated plans.

Aside from long-term issues such as the pine-beetle impact and wildfire risks, the RDBN may turn to independent experts to  gauge the province’s recovery plan for the Burns Lake sawmill.

Expected by the end of April, the plan will likely relax some forestry rules, such logging restrictions in scenic areas.

That is a measure all B.C. municipalities have asked the province to consider before, but one that RDBN members said requires input from each local community, particularly those with a vulnerable tourism sector.

“It’s us, at the local government level, who are tasked with ensuring that for our communities,” Miller said. “So what we’ve been saying all along is that we need to have far more input into that decision-making process.”

The B.C. Auditor-General will post a follow-up to its forestry audit in April 2013.

 

Just Posted

New Seven Sisters replacement confirmed

Mental health facility will have 25 beds, up from 20 in current facility

Terrace hospital’s business plan approved

Health Minister’s announcement opens door to construction phase

Convicted animal abuser Catherine Adams to return to Quesnel court next week

Adams is facing a breach of probation charge stemming from a 2015 conviction in Smithers

Northwest Fire Centre open burn ban lifted

Recent rain, cooler temperatures have lowered the region’s fire risk

Telkwa pot plant application passes review

Cannabis company claims new Health Canada regulations are working in its favour

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

B.C. sends 267 firefighters to help battle Alberta wildfires

Out of control fires have forced evacuations in the province

LETTER: Fletcher ‘blurs reality’ on B.C. union public construction

Bridge, highway projects awarded to companies, not unions

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Federal government funds millions to help B.C. police spot drugged driving

Many police departments have expressed wariness about using the only government-approved roadside test

Judge: Mississippi 6-week abortion ban ‘smacks of defiance’

The new law would prohibit most abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected

Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

Premier John Horgan called the spike in gas prices ‘alarming’

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Mother of accused charged in death of Surrey teen girl found in torched SUV

Manjit Kaur Deo charged with ‘accessory after the fact’ in 2017 death of Surrey teen

Most Read