Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry.

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry.

FOREST INK: Record high log prices allows for innovative forest practices

Jim Hilton’s column to the Free Press

Last week our volunteer committee for the local forest community was able to meet in person for the first time in two years and it was nice to enjoy the benefits of face-to-face meetings.

An additional benefit was very good news concerning profits arising from the current unusually high log prices. What was even more encouraging was the news that our managers had been concentrating on the lower productivity stands and were still able to make a reasonable profit during the last cut control period.

As discussed in a previous article these lower productivity stands are usually avoided during poor markets since they have high harvesting costs so it was a wise decision to harvest some of these stands now and save the more profitable forests for leaner times. This has the effect of adding more forest to the timber harvest land base which will help reduce the impacts of losses due to wild fires and insect losses of the past. This could have a provincial impact if other licensees are able to do the same thing.

I think this would also be an opportunity to try some more innovative forest practices and based on some interviews done with people attending the recent Forest industry convention in Vancouver there seems to be an interest in a new approach to forestry in B.C.

One of the concerns was attracting new people to an industry that has issues like protecting old growth, concentrations of power with a few large companies and ongoing recognition of first nations rights. Some changes could be a win win scenario; for instance protecting some old growth areas for bear dens as well as high tree values.

Some recent research indicates that the big old trees are often some of the best bear dens (over wintering) sites for mother bears and their cubs. The importance of old growth for many other species is well documented and while parks are an important component just as critical are small islands of large trees along with some connectivity to other like areas through the timer harvesting landscape. With the current good markets, now would be a good time to consider more accurate inventory with the use of LiDAR (radar based) so that the few remnants of ancient trees and potential bear dens could be properly identified and worked into the harvesting plans.

As we continue to lose forestry jobs to increased mechanization these kinds of activities mean more interesting field related jobs as well as demonstrating that the forest industry is capable of change for a better long term relationship with interests other than lumber profits.

It will be interesting to see how major licensees respond to record high profits and how willing they are to redirect some of these profits in ways to regain the confidence of the public and to demonstrate that they recognize values other than shareholders profits.

If there is not some movement in a new direction then major changes in the tenure system suggested by the premier may be a positive alternative.


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