B.C. timber report leaves questions

Houston town council questions and discusses the usefulness of the recent timber review.

A special report on B.C.’s mid-term timber supply didn’t make many waves at Houston council last week.

“Really, I didn’t see any recommendations that weren’t already there before the review,” said Mayor Bill Holmberg.

Facing a pine beetle epidemic that could shut logging production equal to eight of B.C.’s 24 interior sawmills, a special bipartisan committee led by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad spent the last four months touring interior forestry towns before sending a list of 22 recommendations to the Ministry of Forests.

While Mayor Holmberg welcomed the review as a chance for people to be heard on the issue, he said that what really matters it not the committee’s report so much as what the ministry decides to do with it.

Councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld, who joined Mayor Holmberg in addressing the committee at its Houston hearing, said the report reflects many things people in forestry have been thinking about for years.

“It’s good to see that finally down on paper,” he said.

But the report was quite broad, he said, and when it came to the most controversial proposal—relaxing forestry rules to do increase logging in protected areas such as old-growth stands and riparian areas—the decision was delegated to a series of local land-use planning groups.

“I think everyone thought that was going to be talked about in the report, and it was passed down the chain,” he said.

“Just because the report is out doesn’t mean we have any answers yet.”

Van Barneveld said he was surprised to see a special section of the report go to the question of what to do in Burns Lake, where residents and forestry company Hampton Affiliates have urged the province to help secure enough timber to rebuild Hampton’s recently destroyed Babine Forest Products sawmill.

The report outlines Hampton’s requests on the issue, including one to revoke the timber licences of its big competitors in the Lakes TSA.

The report stopped short of granting that request, but it did join Hampton in the hope that harvesting marginal stands, investing in  silviculture and other measures could boost the Lakes-area timber supply to 1 million cubic metres a year from the 500,000 cubic metres a year that was previously forecast.

B.C.’s Ministry of Forests is expected to decide on the issue by the middle of Sept. 15