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  • 7 steps to take BC forestry into a sustainable future

    Fred Marshall

    An open letter to John Horgan, Katrine Conroy and Nathan Cullen


    AS WE EMBARK ON A NEW YEAR the following items should be at the top of your forestry-related agenda. What we (actually you, as our representatives) do during 2022 relative to our forests, will have profound and likely irreversible affects on the status and future well-being of our forests and related resources. I therefore hope you will approach several items that need addressing in a logical, timely and somewhat sequential manner that ensures all aspects will be appropriately dealt with.


    1. Formally protecting additional areas

    The overall goal for BC’s formally dedicated protected areas should be in line with, and complement, the federal goal of having 30 percent of Canada formally protected by 2030. As BC is, by far, the most ecologically diverse province in Canada, the protected area goal for it should be at least 40 percent and preferably 50 percent.

    The federal government has made available $2.3 billion to enable the attainment of the 30-30 goal. BC should apply for at least $1 billion, and likely more, to assist them in reaching their 40-50 percent goal. Such funds can be used, at least in part, to compensate those forest licensees who lose allowable annual cut (AAC) via the tenure take-back process.

    All areas to be protected must be selected and designated as being formally protected before the other items listed below can be addressed.

    In this regard, a formal protected area strategy should be developed for BC to ensure the areas to be protected meet the appropriate criteria for same (i.e. old-growth areas—or those with other high values such as being a rare or endangered ecosystem, etc).



    The upper Argonaut Valley (Photo: Eddie Petryshen)


    2. Taking back AAC from forest licensees

    The province should determine how much area and associated AAC should be taken back from the forest licensees based on the areas required (i.e. timber harvesting land base (THLB) or non-THLB areas) to achieve the 40-50 percent protected area goal and the new provincial AAC reallocations.

    The provincial government should use an incentive-based system, at least in part, to determine who should contribute what amount of AAC to the take-back volume.

    For example, the major forest companies and the BC government have long promised to “add value” to the logs they harvest. However, with few exceptions, the large forest companies have done nothing meaningful in this respect. Rather, they have used their profits made in BC to “add-value” to their profit statements and to purchase sawmills elsewhere. For example, Interfor, one of the largest forest companies in BC, has only 18 percent of its total forestry-related investments located in BC, while 82 percent are located elsewhere. And it derives its BC profits solely via manufacturing dimensional lumber. This is not a value-added product.

    However, several of the smaller BC forest companies have spent millions of dollars to truly add value to the logs they harvest. For example, Gorman Brothers of Westbank have long produced 1-inch lumber and use finger-jointing to manufacture regular boards out of very short pieces of lumber which would otherwise be wasted. Kalesnikoff Lumber, located in the south Slocan, recently built a new structure-lam plant which is now in full production. Atco Forest Products, located in Fruitvale, recently added a small-log peeler line to their large-log peeler line and hence add significant value to very low-value logs. All three of these companies are relatively small with both Gorman’s and Kalesnikoff’s being family-owned.

    Gorman, Kalesnikoff, Atco and other companies in BC that have similarly added value to their sawlog inventory should be appropriately recognized for doing so by being exempt from any AAC take-back obligations.

    Those who have not should bear the full brunt of the AAC take-back process.



    Laminated beams produced by Kalesnikoff Lumber (Photo: Kalesnikoff Lumber)


    3. Reallocating the AAC take-back volumes

    Once the areas designated to be formally protected have been removed from the THLB, then the remaining AAC volumes should be allocated as per the following, or some permutation or combination thereof:

    Indigenous Allocations: 20 percent

    Community Forests & Woodlots: 20 percent

    BCTS (preferably via TFLs): 20 percent

    Forest Licensees (preferably TFLs): 40 percent

    All should be area-based tenures; non-area-based forest licences should be phased out as they do not support the sustainability principle. The AAC reallocation should facilitate and hasten the end of the US countervail duties.


    4. New landscape-level planning

    The ministry needs to commit to and implement, in a timely manner, a new landscape-level planning regime across BC that is inherently designed to be truly sustainable.

    As this is a relatively new undertaking, due care must be taken to develop the parameters (i.e. the size of the planning areas, criteria for boundary locations, regulations relevant to the various areas and the associated objectives for each, etc., must all be determined ahead of time).

    Criteria for how existing tenures may—or should be—modified (boundaries, obligations, names, AAC, etc.) also need to be developed. Perhaps only three main tenure forms should exist—i.e. TFLs, Woodland Licences and Community Forest Licences.

    As new forest stewardship plans and TFL management plans etc. are being developed, the approval of them for a five-year or longer term complicates the transition process that will enable these existing tenures to transition into the new landscape-level planning regime.


    5. Revise the timber supply review (TSR) AAC determination process

    The TSR AAC determination process must be revised to support the above and ensure that all future AAC’s in BC are truly sustainable. This process has long been outdated and is unsuitable for current and future conditions. A three-person panel should be appointed to review this process and make recommendations for change so that it is responsive to rapidly changing conditions and to the new forest tenure and landscape-planning regimes.

    In the interim, any TSR AAC determinations completed should only be approved if the new indicated AAC remains the same or less than that as per the previous AAC. It is well known that the current TSR process is designed and utilized to keep the cut as high as possible for as long as possible. This is via the several growth and yield curves and associated algorithms used within the process which focus the harvest on the mature and over-mature (i.e. old growth) stands. As these stands are harvested (liquidated) the AAC automatically drops. Obviously the TSR process in BC does not result in any semblance of forest sustainability; rather, an increasingly unstainable one.

    These trends are further enabled by the chief forester’s refusal to use the Precautionary Principle in the TSR process to allow for expected future changes i.e. those caused by or related to climatic factors such as floods, fires and/or disease and/or insect outbreaks. And this even though we know the future circumstances will be much different than the present or recent past. As soon as reasonably possible after the new process has been developed, any AACs completed via the interim process which involves no AAC increases, will be redone via the new process.



    Flooding in Princeton BC in November 2021


    6. Zero Net Deforestation policy

    The long-standing, proposed Zero Net Deforestation policy for BC must be implemented. This policy has been held in limbo and in-the-queue waiting for several years to be made legal and this must now be done.

    Implementing such legislation fully supports and strengthens the concept and commitment to manage our forests in a sustainable manner. Without such legislation BC’s forest lands, and specifically the THLB, will continue to shrink at an unacceptable rate. This is obviously not in concert with the principles of sustainability.


    7. Consultation and collaboration with all relevant indigenous groups

    Appropriate consultation and collaboration with all relevant Indigenous groups must be undertaken. This is self evident; however an acceptable process to facilitate respectful engagement by all parties still needs to be developed.

    As you develop regulations to complement your new forestry-related legislation, you must ensure that such regulations duly consider all of the above so all are appropriately addressed and subsequently implemented in a logical, progressive manner.

    As we well know, everything in nature is connected; hence all policies related to any aspect of nature are also intricately linked and therefore must be well coordinated.

    Professional forester Fred Marshall was one of the founders of both the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations and the Wood Product Development Council (WPDC). He has also served as federation president and was president of the Boundary Woodlot Association. Fred holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale, has taught at both Malaspina and Selkirk Colleges and has developed four university-level courses accredited by the ABCFP. He and wife Jane operate a ranch and woodlot near Midway.

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