Members of the Burns Lake timber supply advisory group held two public meetings at the College of New Caledonia Burns Lake campus last week in order to voice their concerns about the lakes timber supply review and appeal for the public’s help.
A large number of local forestry officials, local government representatives, First Nations representatives and mill and forest industry employees turned up for the meeting.
Nechako Lakes MLA, John Rustad also attended.
David Garcia, Canadian regional operations manager for Hampton Affiliates and advisory group member stressed the importance of public input in the review process in order to make changes to keep the local forestry economy moving ahead.
“The public’s input is important. We have been told by the government that with public input it will make it easier change things in our area,” he said.
Garcia said it is important that local mills are able to maintain their timber supply and referred to the current review process.
“We are concerned about the future of a sustainable forest industry in Burns Lake,” he said.
Bob Murray, advisory group member echoed Garcia’s statements saying it is time for the community to stand up and be heard.
“”This issue affects us all, local government, First Nations, small business owners, wood lot owners, pellet producers and the community. While this is also a Hampton Forest Products issue and a Hampton concern, it is everybody’s concern,” Garcia said.
Murray went on to say that local forest industry workers are not happy with how the timber supply review is going.
“The review takes into account saw logs, but there is a piece missing around biomass,” he said.
“We need biomass stands recognized to encourage pellet plant and co-gen plants [combined heat and power plants] into the area and we are asking the government to change the process. We need that fibre recognized and we need to make sure our voice is heard,” Murray added.
“I understand that the chief forester is working on an official recognition of what biomass is …. so we are hoping to get official recognition,” he added.
The advisory group, which consists of local forest industry stakeholders as well as Village of Burns Lake Mayor, Bernice Magee, local First Nations chiefs and Lakes Economic Development Association’s economic development officer Cindy Shelford, have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss strategies to combat the problems local industry is projected to face in the coming months and years.
“We are doing this now so we are not saying ‘holy heck, what happened later, the plight of the community is always getting involved too late,” Garcia added.
“Returning fibre to our area is something that we now have an issue with, that’s why we are here today,” Garcia said.
A local resident asked Garcia what their plans were to bring fibre back into the timber supply area.
“Are you requesting that there should be a timber supply area boundary expansion, or that fibre from other timber supply areas come to in to our area?”
“Both,” replied Garcia.
He went on to say that there is a rapid deterioration of dead stands which are quickly turning into biomass in the lakes timber supply area.
“There is significant downward pressure on the annual allowable cut, which will lead to a potential reduction of saw milling jobs. This will have a direct impact on Burns Lake and on a new local bio energy industry that is reliant on our local saw mills,” Murray said.
According to Garcia, there are also significant long term implications to local timber supply if land base constraints such as the visual quality objectives are not changed.
“The visual quality objectives do not make much sense and visual quality objectives certainly don’t make any sense at all when you have dead stands,” Murray said.
He went on to say that dead pine stands create fuel mitigation issues, such as the spate of wildfires that occurred in the area last year.
“We are looking to secure fibre out to the Bulkley and Kispiox area and down to the Fort St. James area, we are looking to share the resources along Highway 16,” he said,
The advisory group said that the forest industry provides some of the highest paying jobs in the area.
“If we can’t secure our fibre there is the potential to lose 355 jobs at Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products, 268 full time contractor jobs, 98 seasonal jobs, 75 jobs at Pinnacle Pellet including spin off jobs, 65 jobs at the Ministry of Forest and Range Nadina office, and 40 jobs at Tahtsa Pellet [including spin off jobs],” said Shelford.
She went on to say that Babine Forest Products and Decker Lake Forest Products bring $30 million into the community.
“If we lost these mills we would lose the new hospital, the population would drop and we would lose schools and services. This would effect local businesses and the opportunity to attract professionals into our community. Hazelton, Terrace, and Fort St. James have faced similar issues when mills have shut down in their areas. That’s what we are faced with if we don’t take our recommendations to the government,” Shelford said.
“We could see tumbleweeds roll though town,” she added.
Murray went on to say the group is looking to use community support to strengthen recommendations on the review of land constraints and requested that community members fill out a questionnaire on timber supply in the Burns Lake area.
Questionnaires can be picked up at the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce and need to be completed and dropped back at the chamber before Feb. 15, 2011.