If a pine beetle tree falls in the forest

When the Mid-Term Timber Supply Review came out a couple of years ago, it contained some dire warnings.

Bill Phillips

Prince George Free Press


When the Mid-Term Timber Supply Review came out a couple of years ago, it contained some dire warnings about timber supply in mountain pine beetle hit areas.

“In the Prince George Timber Supply Area, the pre-beetle allowable annual cut was 9.3 million cubic metres. The current AAC is 12.5 million cubic metres and the mid-term timber supply projection is 6.4 million cubic metres per year,” it stated.

That would see employment in the forest sector go from 13,371 before the beetle epidemic to 8,763. It stated that taking measures, such as allowing harvesting in old-growth forests could mitigate, somewhat, the job losses. The province struck a committee, headed up by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, to examine ways to mitigate the job loss. Suggestions have been put forward, such as eliminating viewscapes, logging old-growth forests, and allowing licensees to harvest marginal pine stands with the bonus they could “access the entire timber harvest land base.”

The Forest Practices Board, however, this week threw another unforeseen wrinkle in the looming decrease in allowable annual cuts in mountain pine beetle areas.

A report on the forest industry’s harvesting of beetle-killed timber confirms that industry has been meeting government’s expectations for concentrating harvesting on dead pine trees, but says the harvest of other kinds of trees is increasing more than expected in some areas of the province.

“The switch from harvesting dead pine trees to live non-pine trees means the mid-term timber supply is starting to be cut now and not five to 10 years in the future,” said board chair Tim Ryan. “The issue, simply put, is that the more live trees that are harvested now, the lower the sustainable harvest level will be after the salvage program is finished. We believe the chief forester needs to respond to the rapidly changing situation with timely updates to the allowable annual cuts.”

The majority of the pine trees harvested last year were dead, but over the last four years, the total amount of pine in the harvest has been steadily decreasing and was under 60 per cent of the harvest last year, he said.

The Forest Practices Board is encouraging government to re-evaluate decisions about what should be harvested in those areas, taking into account the current dynamics of salvage harvesting.

It’s sage advice and advice that should be heeded. The only question is whether our LNG-focused government will pay attention to what’s happening in the forests.