Small-scale salvage loggers say they have been overlooked by Houston council and Nadina Forest District staff in discussions how to divvy up local timber licences.
Loggers with the Morice Forest Salvage Society packed the benches at Houston’s municipal hall on Jan. 3 to make their case.
Speaking for the MFSS, forester Dave Mayer told councillors that salvage loggers have a long tradition and a key role in the Morice area.
“This is the type of operation that was really the guts and soul of Houston 25 years ago,” Mayer said. “This was the root of the community: a small business, two or three or four employees per company. And they fit a role in the forest service, to a large degree tackling the sales that nobody else wants.”
Since 2003, Mayer explained that the twelve active members of the MFSS have mostly operated using Forest Licences to Cut—one-time cuts of no more than 2,000 cubic metres of timber on land where most trees are infested by pine beetles.
Mayer asked council to amend their December letter to staff at the Nadina Forest District so that it recommends more stable type of forest licence that the MFSS could bid on—a Non-Replaceable Forest Licence.
Mayor Bill Holmberg said council will support the MFSS loggers.
“When this was brought to council, you’re right, you guys were not even on the drawing board,” he said.
Councillor Jonathan Van Barneveld, a forestry graduate who led the Dec. 6 council meeting on the Morice timber supply, said the type of licence the MFSS is seeking was not considered because those licences usually open up an area to outside competition.
“That was one of the things that concerned us—that non-replaceable forest licences were an avenue for people outside the timber supply area to grab wood,” said Van Barneveld.
Mayer raised that same concern. Although there are no guaruntees, Mayer said the MFSS hopes to get a small licence that is geared to loggers who live here.
“We would have to bid on it, like everybody else out there,” Mayer said. “It would be nice if they could give us the licence, but in today’s world they won’t do that.”
Earlier on Jan. 3, Mayer asked staff at the Nadina Forest District to consider a non-replaceable licence for 50,000 cubic metres of timber that the MFSS could bid on.
Since forming in 2003, the MFSS has harvested between 20,000 and 40,000 cubic metres.
Mayor Holmberg asked if the salvage loggers can already bid on timber auctions held by BC Timber Sales—a government agency designed to give smaller contractors a chance to get win timber contracts.
Of the 2.1 million cubic metres of timber that companies can cut each year in the Morice timber supply area, 78 per cent goes to Canfor and Houston Forest Products. BCTS handles a further 20 per cent.
Steven Wright, a salvage logger and president of the MFSS, told council that most MFSS members get priced out of the BC Timber Sales.
“Yes we can bid on those sales, but they generally go to the big contractors,” Wright said, adding that one auction up that day totalled $450,000 with a $350,000 deposit.
“Those aren’t the types of sales that the folks you see here can even begin to qualify to bid on,” he said.
In closing, Wright noted that the salvage society hits well above its weight when it comes to giving back to the community.
“Because we’re so small, we don’t buy many products outside the town,” he said.
With every cubic metre cut, MFSS members also donate 25 cents to community groups, he said.
In 2010, he said, the MFSS donated just under $4200 to the Houston Quad Runners, the Houston Library and the Houston Hikers Society.