A key player in B.C.’s logging industry sees a change coming where loggers will transition away from old-growth harvesting.
But for the province to make that transition effectively, Bob Brash says government, industry and the public need a shared vision for the future. B.C. needs to pick a plan and stick with it so logging firms can run their business without constantly worrying about changing goalposts.
“To make the investments necessary to move to all the mom-and-apple-pie things people want us to do, the industry needs certainty,” he said.
“It’s recognized that over time there will be a transition more and more to second-growth and engineered products. But those things aren’t going to happen overnight. The investment that’s needed to make those transitions, it’s going to take time. Especially with current economic circumstances.”
Brash is the executive director of the Truck Loggers Association (TLA), which represents people and companies throughout B.C.
During the past century, logging has developed in tandem with government agreements and strategy. As a result, old-growth stands remain, albeit a sliver of what they were a century ago, and old-growth wood is still an important part of the logging industry. On Vancouver Island, roughly half of what’s harvested is from old-growth stands.
Old-growth wood can fetch three-to-four times more value than second-growth wood. Brash estimated second-growth cut timber averages $400 per 1,000 board feet, where old-growth can fetch $1,000 to $1,500 per 1,000 board feet. The old wood tends to be higher quality, and can be turned into high-value products by sawmills and custom processing plants in B.C. Difficulty extracting the old wood and the higher stumpage fees behoove the industry to extract as much value as possible.
According to a report recently released by three B.C. scientists, only three per cent of B.C.’s old growth forest is comprised of these highly productive mammoth trees.
Recent years have seen a growing push to limit harvesting in old growth. Citing the power of old growth trees as a tourism resource, Vancouver Island communities voted in 2016 to ask the province for a total ban on old growth harvesting on the Island’s Crown land.
Brash sees calls for a moratorium on old-growth logging as “a fairly simplistic view of the world.”
Instead, he says government should work with the public and industry to define the working land base, whether more old-growth will be protected, and the time frames needed to re-tool the industry to subside on second-growth.
Getting emotional over the forests doesn’t help, Brash said. What’s needed is to look objectively at all the resources — logging, tourism, other natural resources, for example — and make long-term plans to manage them all.
“The sooner we can get to a collective visions and a more objective look at how we manage that resource, it’s probably better for all concerned,” he said.
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