MLA Barnett reflects on timber review

The Special Committee on Timber Supply has wrapped up its public hearings, after visiting 15 communities around the province

The Special Committee on Timber Supply has wrapped up its public hearings, after visiting 15 communities around the province between June 18 and July 12.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett, who sits on the committee, says it received approximately 700 written submissions, including letters, online comments and live presentations.

“It’s been a wonderful information gathering from all walks of life – from First Nations, from communities, from foresters and from citizens.”

The committee has been gearing up by meeting two or three times each week, for up to 13 hours a day, and Barnett says it is now ready to reveal its findings.

“We are finalizing our report and it will be delivered by Aug. 15. That was our mandate.”

While the details will be released today (Aug. 15), she does offer a glimpse of the key issues as she sees them.

“It was pretty much a theme of community stability and ‘do not touch land-use plans, land-use plans were put there for a reason’.”

Barnett adds a follow-up point she heard was if the province is going to go ahead and modify land-use plans, it must go through the public process for approvals.

A common suggestion was to find ways to salvage more fibre from the bush after logging operations go through, Barnett explains, rather than simply burning it.

This idea isn’t new, she notes, but there needs to be local industry demand for it, and the viability and profitability has to be self-sustaining.

“That’s being pursued through innovation and different avenues. And, of course, there’s [University of British Columbia] and different research places that are always looking to use this type of fibre.”

She adds there was “lots of talk” about forest fertilization to get better yield and growth, as well as much discussion on moving to area-based tenures (from volume based).

However, some of the public who commented were in favour of this, Barnett explains, some didn’t understand it and others were undecided.

“A lot of people said, ‘well maybe, but I want to see what exactly the area-based tenure would look like before I would agree to it’.”

The benefits of community forests and woodlots to the timber supply were another topic frequently brought forward, she adds.

Another issue brought up by some outside of the hearings, including the Opposition, is the question of appertency – reserving the timber in a given area for its local mills.

“If you had an appertency in Williams Lake and 100 Mile, you probably wouldn’t have a mill today. Because the different species and the different types of timber … in order to keep the mills open and viable, timber comes from everywhere throughout the Interior, Prince George, Kamloops, Lillooet….”

Some of British Columbia’s mills sell to or trade with each other, Barnett notes, or companies with several mills co-ordinate consignments according to needs and what is currently available.

Balancing that to ensure each mill gets the wood it needs is managed by timber sales, she says.

“It’s up to them to go out to the marketplace. There so much allocation of the whole package that is allocated to the mills … but there’s that free market out there.”

Barnett explains the mills can buy from First Nations, community forests, woodlots, BC Timber Sales and other fibre suppliers around the province.

Meanwhile, she is remaining tight-lipped about what the committee’s specific recommendations might be, until these are disclosed in its report to the Legislative Assembly today (Aug. 15).