A forest industry critic isn’t impressed with calls to free up more timber in the Kootenays for local sawmills.
“We can’t just keep levelling forests and pretending it’s all going to grow back,” said Craig Pettit, a director with the Valhalla Wilderness Society, who thinks the annual harvest should actually be reduced. “We’re cutting it down faster than it’s growing now. We have to look at our biological and ecological needs.”
This month the Interior Lumber Manufacturers Association, which has 10 member companies in the Kootenays, asked the Regional District of Central Kootenay for help arranging a meeting with the premier and forests minister.
They say their economic viability is threatened because they can’t access enough timber, and suggested various land-use plans have set aside too much forest, often forcing companies to cut in areas closer to communities, resulting in conflict.
The group says a 1.5 million cubic meter gap exists between sawmill capacity and wood supply. But Pettitt said that shouldn’t determine how much is cut.
“Sawmill capacity has always been greater than the timber supply and they’ve always tried to use ‘We can cut more wood to capacity,” Pettitt told 103.5 The Bridge.
“We have a major species like mountain caribou teetering on the brink of extinction because of over-logging of their habitat. We need to start pulling back if we’re going to have any biological diversity or ecological functioning left on our landscape.”
He suggested forest companies accept they won’t be able to cut as much wood or run as many sawmill shifts as they once did.
Following the presentation this month, regional district chair John Kettle told the association it would be helpful to have local MLAs on board prior to meeting with the provincial government.
But Nelson-Creston’s Michelle Mungall and Kootenay West’s Katrine Conroy declined to offer opinions until they have spoken directly with the association.
“I’m always happy to work with them and the RDCK to ensure we have a strong forestry sector in our area,” Mungall said. “Economic development is critical.”