The pine beetle epidemic has chewed through BC’s forest industry and thousands of jobs are in danger within five years, says a confidential government report.
VANCOUVER: The mountain pine beetle epidemic has chewed through BC’s forest industry and up to 12,000 jobs are in danger of disappearing within five years, says Independent MLA Bob Simpson, citing a confidential government report.
“If they don’t do anything, the government documents show it’s 12,000 jobs,” said Simpson. “If they relax a whole bunch of land-use plans, it’s still 8,800 jobs that they lose.”
A draft of the government’s mid-term timber supply report warns of economic and social havoc on communities in BC’s Interior.
The Feb. 12, 2012 report discusses a mitigation strategy that includes the province considering harvesting smaller trees and logging areas currently managed for their biodiversity, wildlife and scenic values.
And to avoid a conflict with next year’s provincial election, the provincial government should develop a plan to deal with the problem by Dec. 13, 2012, the report said.
“The current mountain pine beetle epidemic in the Interior of British Columbia will result in a drastic decrease in timber supply in some areas, with potential for significant economic and social effects to the forest industry and forest-dependent communities.”
The report stamped “confidential draft” appeared on the government’s website until April 17 in the afternoon, but was removed after the issue was raised by Simpson in the legislature.
The report, which focuses on the Lakes, Prince George, Quesnel and Williams Lake timber-supply areas, was written after the Union of British Columbia Municipalities passed a 2010 resolution calling on the provincial government to take action.
In the short term, from 2012 to 2020, the four areas are expected to have “sufficient quantities of timber” to maintain pre-beetle harvest levels, the report said.
But most of that timber is pine and has been dead for five to 10 years already.
“Those areas are going to run out of commercial timber,” Simpson said. “They’re going to start running out of logs. That’s where the guts of your forest industry is right now.”
Simpson said during question period in the legislature his hometown of Quesnel is down to about its last 18 months of timber supply and 1,600 jobs are in danger unless mitigation measures are taken.
“But those mitigation measures are highly controversial and will completely change the face of forestry in this province.”
The report said it’s not economical to harvest dead pine over long hauls and said licensees have indicated the economic supply of dead pine varies from 1.5 years in Quesnel to about five years in Prince George.
Without mitigation, the timber supplies could drop by between 32% and 67%, the report said.
“Regionally … these reductions would lead to a timber supply that could support about 53% less employment in the area than pre-beetle,” it said, adding increasing the annual allowable cut in the mid-term could save thousands of jobs in all four areas.
The document provided the Liberal government with several options, “assuming the government wants to engage in dialogue.”
Among them were suggestions the government establish a parliamentary secretary who would report to the minister and lead the community engagement process or appointing an independent organization to engage communities in a discussion and report back to the government.
“It is not clear how to engage the various First Nations who also have an interest in both the stability of their communities as well as the non-timber values,” the report added.
The amount of beetle-damaged wood being marketed by BC producers has prompted a trade complaint from the US Lumber Coalition.
The coalition complains BC is getting around the Softwood Lumber Agreement by marketing beetle-damaged wood as low quality, thereby ensuring producers pay drastically cut rates of stumpage and gaining an unfair subsidy. The coalition maintains the lumber should be considered a grade that would prompt much higher stumpage fees.
© 2012 The Canadian Press