British Columbia

Log supply in B.C. forests slowly dwindling, think tank warns

In a new report, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says logging companies in B.C. are quickly cutting down available trees in the province, and that supply is dwindling.

Province has allowed logging companies to cut too deep, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives claims

A wall of logs sits at a wood pellet mill in Houston, B.C. in 2021. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that B.C. is quickly running out of good trees to harvest, and some good quality logs are going to pellet production. (Stand.earth)

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says in a new report that logging companies in B.C. are quickly cutting down available trees in the province, and that supply is dwindling.

In the report from the think tank's B.C. office, resource policy analyst Ben Parfitt writes that the amount of wood expected to be harvested in the coming years is half the amount logged 15 years ago.

At the time, the province was dealing with the catastrophic spread of a pine beetle infestation, laying waste to huge swaths of forests. The goal was to harvest as many of the dead trees as quickly as possible before they simply rotted away.

According to Parfitt, during the height of the beetle-kill harvest, the amount of extra wood being cut beyond normal rates at the time would have filled a line of logging trucks parked bumper-to-bumper from Vancouver to Halifax five times.

"An enormous amount of additional wood was harvested from our forests in a very short amount of time, and that has deepened the crisis that we're now in," he said on Wednesday.

Parfitt reports that while the number of pine trees harvested has now dramatically declined, harvest of other species including spruce, fir, hemlock and cedar has increased to replace them.

"We are running out of trees in British Columbia," he said. "The reason for that is very simple. The industry has logged too much, too quickly, with the government's blessing."

Concerns over wood pellet production

Parfitt has focused his attention on one part of the industry in particular: wood pellet manufacturers. 

He claims the growing sector is using good quality logs to create the little pellets, which are used for burning, increasing carbon emissions and exacerbating climate change.

Parfitt says he has been trying to get the provincial government to disclose how many logs are going toward wood pellet production, but he isn't getting answers.

"How many of those logs are there and what other uses could they put to?" he said. "If we can add further value to those logs, then we can put more people to work."

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Forests sent CBC News a written statement, which didn't address the question of how many logs have been used to make pellets.

Last year a ministry spokesperson said approximately 1.2 per cent of the provincial timber harvest went directly to a pellet plant in 2020 and that the province monitors the quality of the logs consumed by all timber processing facilities.

"Most wood pellet manufacturers focus on utilizing wood waste and logs that are unsuitable for mills, including those damaged by pine beetles and wildfires. In fact, nearly half of the fibre used by pellet plants last year came from pine beetle damaged wood," said the ministry on Wednesday.

Follow-up questions from CBC News, which included Parfitt's concern that the supply of trees to harvest in the province is dwindling, weren't answered.

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