If no steps are taken to mitigate the affects of the mountain pine beetle infestation the equivalent of eight of approximately 24 mills in the central interior may be forced to close within the next 20 years.
The special committee on timber supply, chaired by MLA John Rustad, was formed late in May to design recommendations to temper the damage being done in affected forests, and shared the 22 measures it feels need to be taken Wednesday.
During a press conference later the same day, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said the ministry will be working very quickly to outline a number of steps and create an action plan to put the recommendations in motion. He expects there will be a timeline charting the steps to be taken moving forward within the next week.
“We’ll have an action plan in response to all the recommendations by September,” Thomson said.
The recommendations include maximizing the value of marginal economic stands, creating an inventory of B.C. forests and looks at the feasibility of rebuilding the sawmill in Burns Lake following the explosion of the mill, the town’s main employer and source of revenue, earlier in the year.
Rustad said that though the future of the Burns Lake mill was not directly within the committee’s mandate, there was some expectation for them to look at the issue.
“We tried to come up with solutions we thought were reasonable,” he said.
Without removing existing timber rights, Rustad said there are one million cubic metres of pine in the Lakes area to support Burns Lake.The Lakes District is the area most affected by the mountain pine beetle infestation.
Rustad added the committee was aware that industry was nervous of any dramatic shifts springing from the recommendations within the report. So far the mountain pine beetle has killed 53 per cent of the pine trees in the affected area.
If left unchecked it could destroy 57 to 70 per cent leading to a reduction of 10 million cubic metres in the annual cut.
However, with hopes of utilizing marginal forest areas combined with innovations within the forest industry and a look at some of the infected forests while touring the various areas during the consultation process, Rustad remains optimistic.
He said he was happily surprised to note the amount of green, about 25 per cent, left in forests in the Quesnel area.
“It’s encouraging to see how much green is left in those mountain pine beetle infested areas,” he said.
He added though there will be changes within the forest industry, he believes it will remain a staple to B.C.’s economy.
“I am optimistic about the future of the forest industry,” Rustad said.