Timber supply at the RDCK table

I have been reading with some interest the letters to the editor regarding the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association’s

Re: West Kootenay Boundary timber supply questions

I have been reading with some interest the letters to the editor regarding the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association’s (ILMA) request that the Board of the Regional District of Central Kootenay meet with the Minister of Forests and Premier Clark at this year’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities Meeting. (July 30 and August 16).

The ILMA delegation to the board was not decided upon in advance by the board of directors and we received the written submission from the ILMA on the morning of the board meeting. The presentation by the four area mills and BC Timber Supply was introduced by the ILMA representative and led by Ken Kalesnikoff of Kalesnikoff Lumber. The presentation highlighted the longstanding contribution to the region made by the four local mills surrounding Castlegar, Fruitvale and Creston. It was also noted that timber is a crop and is renewable and that markets have been slow, an upturn is expected but timber volumes available are expected to decline.

It goes without saying that the financial contribution to the local economy and the tenacity and innovation of the four locally owned mills has been a good thing for the Kootenay region and we enjoy competitiveness in the log market because the timber is not going to one or two international corporations. At least two of the mills have led innovation into value added markets and one has sought Forest Stewardship Certification of its lumber. They also contribute lumber, expertise and donations to community organizations.

The subsequent resolution moved by: City of Nelson director John Dooley and seconded, read as follows:

“That staff be directed to schedule a meeting between the chair of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, the chair of the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and two other RDCK directors to meet with Premier Clark and Minister Steve Thomson at the 2013 UBCM Convention to request a comprehensive review of the timber supply in the area defined by the Kootenay Land Use Plan with the objective of identifying opportunities to either increase or hold the annual allowable cut constant while maintaining important environmental services.”

The motion passed with little discussion but with questions remaining on exactly what strategies might be employed to secure timber volumes. With no time to review the contents of the document presented and with the intention of supporting the local businesses the board supported the motion. Normally we would have time to discuss presentations to the premier and Minister of Forests and choose directors to attend the UBCM Minister’s session at a subsequent RDCK board meeting so there was an expected process to address the issues.

As it turned out there was an opportunity for some mayors and a director of the RDCK and a mayor and director from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to meet with the local mills and Minister of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations between the July and August RDCK Board Meeting and prior to UBCM. The record of this meeting was reported verbally by the RDCK board chair at the RDCK August board meeting. It seems the invitation to attend the meeting was not based on the board resolution and that elected representatives left the meeting and the mills had a two-hour audience with the minister.

There may be ways to retain the volume of timber available such as focusing timber harvesting on interface fire fuel reduction surrounding populated areas while still retaining current viewscape and watershed values that homeowners and tourism depend on. There are sample harvest blocks in the local areas and projects in other communities that have tried to combine these values. If the local mills in question have been stewarding the land for decades and trees are a crop then the shortfall in timber should not be long lived because second growth should be catching up and should be harvestable soon. Lodgeplole pine has faced infestation and mortality and that it comprises 20 to 25 per cent of the local timber land base which affects long term timber supply, however, it is a natural process and timber volumes should adjust for that.

As a director with parks and forested areas adjacent to my electoral area and with a drainage that has already suffered a significant landslide at Liard Creek, I don’t know what was discussed by the directors that attended the meeting, nor the mills in attendance and that is an uncomfortable position, but I have to trust that there will not be a re-evaluation of the West Kootenay Boundary Land Use Plan that results in a reduction in parks, critical habitat or drinking watershed protection. These values were established through an exhaustive scientific and public outreach program called the Commission on Resources and the Environment and subsequent modifications to Forest Stewardship Planning processes have reduced public input opportunities.

The support we provide for one sector of the business community with ministerial advocacy begs the question: can the RDCK offer such support to other business sectors and non-profits that carry out vital work and contribute to the community?

Ramona Faust

RDCK Area E Director