Liberals dispute NDP forest ideas
Norm Macdonald, NDP forestry critic, visited Prince George last week, discussing the importance for a complete inventory of the province’s forests and promising one would be done should the party form government in May.
However though MLA Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training agrees inventory is important, he said the timber supply is looked at every five years in the province.
“Inventory is important, but every timber supply area in the province is looked at every five years,” Bell said. “We use a variety of tools like digital imaging from satellite aerial photography and ground proofing, so the forest services bases its decisions on where they deploy inventory work on that information. If there are significant changes that transpired in an area, then the forest service goes and does more in-depth inventory work. If it’s been in a constant state, if the state of the forest has been consistent in that area, then they add the incremental growth they know would have occurred.”
MLA John Rustad, chair of the special committee on timber supply, said taking a full inventory during the pine beetle epidemic would have been pointless.
“The reality is when you’re in the middle of a pine beetle epidemic, doing your inventory doesn’t make any sense because the land base is changing so rapidly that you do the inventory, and the next year it’s changed so dramatically you don’t have the wanted quality for your base,” Rustad said.
He added the inventory is updated on an annual basis to make sure the current information is as accurate as possible so the annual allowable cuts can be calculated.
“The intent of the forest inventory is to give us a reasonable knowledge of what is out there for the purpose of calculating the timber supply review and setting the annual allowable cut,” he said.
He added companies may need further information for a variety of business decisions, however gathering that information is their responsibility, which is why they do cruising, collect added information, and compile it to make those decisions.
Bell added the NDP’s forest policy is shallow, and the one item they continually advocate for is increased inventory work though there is much more to the portfolio, including building markets and researching new product lines.
Bell claimed the Liberal policy, built over the last 12 years, has helped draw the largest, second-largest and fifth-largest forest product manufacturers in the world to establish themselves in B.C.
“That was not true when we took government,” Bell said. “They employ people at very high levels.”
Another issue raised by Macdonald is forest replantation, something that in many cases was a governmental responsibility until 2002, when he said the law was removed from the books and the department’s budget was cut .
However Bell said the government is planting more trees than ever
“We planted in excess of quarter billion in trees in several different years,” he said, adding the quality of the seeds used is higher.
“They are of better quality, sometimes growing 30 per cent faster than before,” he said adding it is very detailed extensive work.
Rustad added that where it took several years for a new stand to take hold in the past, now it can be a matter of months.
“Wherever there is harvest on the land base, the period of time for us to get a stand planted is six to 18 months, while in the late 80s it was six to eight years. We are very very good at renewing forests,” Rustad said.
He added there was a time in the mid 2000s when the NDP suggested the government plough under dead pine stands, then replant them.
This, he said, would have been irresponsible. The government would have to pay to get rid of wood, then pay to reforest the area. Some of the wood was still good for processing, whether into pellets, traditional forest products or chips.
“To immediately plough it under would mean lost value,” he said. “You have to wait some time for that wood to be utilized.”
The same can be said of forest fires, he said adding after many fires there is still wood good for harvesting.
“To just go out and immediately plough under that wood means we lost the opportunity,” he said. “We have to maximize the opportunity to harvest that wood today. It means saving as much green wood as possible for future years.”
He added silviculture is a very big part of the future of forestry. The intent of silviculture work, he said, is what we should be looking at on a land base, for example higher density, thinning, fertilization, a way to shorten rotations or capture bio-fibre.
“It could give enormous gains in our midterm timber supply,” he said. “I hope to look at a model for it that brings a bit more responsibility to licensee holders, with support from government, to try to realize more of that activity of the land base.
Another issue Rustad takes issue with when it comes to forestry and the opposition is red tape.
“I worked in the industry in the 1990s doing consulting work. While the NDP was in power the amount of add cost to the forest industry was about $1 bill a year,” he said. “The development plan for the next five years used to be lots of work, ending up with about a two or three inch thick binder of information for the ministry. After the NDP formed government it was the equivalent of about seven binders. The amount of red tape was staggering. Since 2001 we’ve had a 42 per cent reduction in red tape and 150,000 regulations removed from books. Canadian Business did a survey and we received an A rating.”