British Columbia

Cut more B.C. timber to fight pine beetle, says report

A B.C. government report recommends increasing logging in the province's central Interior, a region hit hard by the pine beetle epidemic and an explosion that demolished the Burns Lake sawmill.

Logging increase would also help Burns Lake

This image shows extensive damage to pine trees from Mount Fraser near the B.C.-Alberta border. Red trees are either dead or dying from mountain pine beetle infestation. (Wikimedia Commons)

A B.C. government report recommends increasing logging in the province's central Interior, a region hit hard by the pine beetle epidemic and an explosion that demolished the Burns Lake sawmill.

The report from the Special Committee on Timber Supply indicates the pine beetle epidemic has killed 53 per cent of the total pine volume on the timber harvesting land base.

The report makes 22 recommendations, including advising the B.C. government to increase the timber supply and value of pine beetle wood, improve forest management, engage local communities and First Nations in future forests plans and find more ways to grow more wood.

"Our report aims to strengthen future timber supply and forestry-dependent communities throughout the Central Interior," said committee chair John Rustad.

"Our recommendations provide steps to move forward … while providing a path for minimizing the decline in timber supply created by the mountain pine beetle epidemic."

"The report reflects the importance of working with local communities to preserve the integrity of British Columbia's sustainable forest management system," said committee deputy chair Norm Macdonald.

"Management of the forest land base must balance the harvesting of timber with environmental and social values and maintain certification standards."

Government inaction

Macdonald, who is also the NDP forestry critic, called the report a condemnation of Liberal government forest policies, saying many of the recommendations are meant to undo damage caused by government inaction on things like tree replanting.

"The government consciously chose from 2002 not to replant," he said.

"I think people would be surprised about that. I think they'd be surprised to know that the government doesn't have accurate inventory and so they are unable to manage the land properly."

The committee also recommends several steps to help the economic recovery in Burns Lake, where the local mill exploded and burned to the ground in January, killing two people.

The mill's resurrection hinges on the amount of timber left in the area and how much can be logged.

The province says it will know by the end of September how it plans to implement the recommendations because Ministry of Forests staff need time to review the 70-page report in detail.

"I can't identify firm timelines for all the items today, but what we will be doing is developing an action plan and timelines within a week in how we will respond to all the recommendations," said Minister Steve Thomson.

The committee held public hearings in 15 Interior communities and in Vancouver and received input from First Nations, local government, stakeholders and the public. The committee received 650 submissions during its six-week consultation period.

With files from The Canadian Press