The Annual Allowable Cut for the Prince George Timber Supply Area—which includes Fort St. James and Vanderhoof—looks set to be dropped when the final report comes out by the end of this year.
Andrew Wheatley, Resource Manager for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources office in Fort St. James, says that during the last AAC review in 2011, the Prince George TSA had the cut dropped from 14 million cubic metres to 12.5 million. “This is the largest TSA in the province,” says Wheatley. “You could call it the province’s breadbasket, or fibre basket. The AAC here is usually substantially bigger than anywhere else in the province.”
Wheatley points out that the mountain pine beetle had changed everything. “We’re entering a time in forestry that we’ve never been in before. We would have got there anyway, but the pine beetle sped it up.” He’s referring to the necessity of better managing forest resources, in order to think of the future. “The AAC has to be dropped in order to maintain a better steady supply of wood rather than taking it all now, and having no green plantations tall enough to cut in 50 years’ time.”
There are still some pine beetle-infected trees standing, but the difficulty of getting to them means they’re unlikely to be logged. “We don’t have the infrastructure to harvest them, and the region is too vast to get them all.” There is also a danger to using pine beetle trees, as the older they are the more brittle they become, and could explode going down the line to be processed. Once a tree hits the ground, it has to be got to within one year, and even then may not be salvageable.
Wheatley notes that pine beetle wood has its uses. “It’s still strong, and can be used by pellet mills, log home makers, and craftsmen and carvers.” But the devastation caused by the pine beetle has led to a reassessment about how we manage the forest. “We’re considering more values now when we look at the AAC, such as First Nations and wildlife,” says Wheatley. “For example, the moose population is shrinking, and we need to find out why.”
And they need to look to the future. “We have to stretch our timber supply and keep it continuous,” says Wheatley. “It means we have to tighten our belts a bit now, but it’s for the good of making sure we have good strong forests in the future.