Timber review committee will visit Houston

A special legislative committee has been struck to review options for B.C.’s shrinking timber supply.

A special legislative committee has been struck to review options for B.C.’s shrinking timber supply.

Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad will convene the seven-member committee, which is due to report by Aug. 15.

“We plan to hold meetings everywhere from Smithers down to the Kamloops-Merritt area, as well as out in Mackenzie and McBride,” Rustad said, noting that those are the towns most affected by the mountain pine beetle.

“Houston is definitely on the list,” he said, adding that while a schedule has yet to be worked out, the committee will likely tour from June 18 to July 20.

The committee will consider a series of proposals that would boost B.C.’s mid-term timber supply: increases to the harvest rate, a switch from volume to area-based forest licences, along with some logging in protected scenic, old-growth, and wildlife management areas.

“My hope in this is to come out with a consensus report as to the types of things that we should be looking at,” said Rustad.

Members of the committee include Liberal MLAs Donna Barnett (Cariboo-Chilcotin), Eric Foster (Vernon-Monashee) and Ben Stewart (Westside-Kelowna) as well as NDP MLAs Harry Bains (Surrey-Newton), Norm Macdonald (Columbia River-Revelstoke), and Bill Routley (Cowichan Valley).

Forestry experts, led by former Chief Foresters Larry Pedersen and Jim Snetsinger, will advise the committee on technical issues.

It will also receive input from the public.

Rustad says the committee composition was decided by the house leaders, who checked with their party MLAs to see if who would be willing to take part.

Rustad said he would have liked to see MLA Bob Simpson (Cariboo North) join, “but the NDP didn’t want him on the committee.”

Simpson was an NDP MLA before he became an independent in December 2010.

Working on a related report, forestry consultant and former “beetle boss” Bob Clark met privately with Houston district councillors last Wednesday.

Rustad said Clark’s work, which began after the Babine Forest Products mill fire, will focus primarily on the Lakes timber supply area, while the special committee takes a wider look.

“Realistically, the challenge we have in the Lakes TSA is if we’re going to make any changes to supply it would have an impact on mills in adjacent areas,” Rustad said.

“It couldn’t be just about Houston, and it couldn’t be just about Fraser Lake. There was a cascading impact across the entire area, so that’s why we’ve decided to look at the much broader picture.”

Rustad also said no provincial report has yet gone to Hampton Affiliates about whether the Lakes area has sufficient timber to rebuild its mill there.