Seedling Super Cycle?

Upon learning there is presently a shortage of tree seedlings south of the border, I wondered if the same situation exists here in B.C. A quick google search led me to John Betts, Executive Director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association. This morning I phoned John to ask if there was a seedling shortage in B.C. He burst out laughing before adding “we can only wish”. At the same time, John viewed a super cycle in seedling demand in Oregon – with production of seedlings reportedly at “full capacity” – as a ‘good news’ story. By the time he’d finished telling me about the woeful state of restoration and reforestation here in this province, I fully understood why.

The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic degraded or destroyed approximately 18 million hectares of forest in B.C. This affected area is not distributed evenly of course. Of an estimated two million hectares that urgently need to be replanted, the government plan calls for just 400,000 hectares to be replanted over the next 20 years. Allowing for natural regeneration is evidently the “extremely optimistic”, preferred approach of the provincial government according to John. Public dollars going to reforestation evidently dropped to “about zero” in the depths of the economic downturn. Funding is gradually inching up but it is still “hardly adequate”.

John questioned the priorities of corporations where long term forest health is concerned. “What is their commitment?” he asked. In his opinion, the potential shift from volume-based to area-based tenure in B.C. will only serve to “consolidate control” of the forest. He talked about our “social contract with the future”, before lamenting the “lack of commentary” about what’s happening. “No one is talking about it”. Even the environmentalists have gone noticeably quiet. Still, the dire situation demands intervention (in the form of thinning existing stands, and “taking fuel out of the forest” as example) over the traditional environmental message of conservation. I was told that the increasing probability of forest fires unlike any other would be “the slate cleaner”. With the degraded forests having dried out the past 10 years, the severity and intensity of such a burn could damage the soil and severely hinder species regeneration.

In light of the news stories circulating this week suggesting that the “Wood First” initiative is flawed, talking with the Executive Director of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association is a conversation I won’t soon forget.

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B.C. Seedlings Nursery

One thought on “Seedling Super Cycle?

  1. Since 1987, the forest industry has been responsible for reforestation of the areas it logs. And the government was responsible for the reforestation of areas disturbed by insects, disease, wind and fire.

    In 2002, the provincial government cut ministry funding for the reforestation program by 90 per cent. Also, it rescinded its legal responsibility for reforestation of areas disturbed by fire and pests (i.e., including MPB-killed areas) and for maintaining a forest inventory.

    Hence the government stopped reporting the area of inadequately stocked forestland in British Columbia, which is today larger than at any point in the history of forest management. In fact, this area known in forestry parlance as NSR or Not Satisfactorily Restocked is nearly three times greater than it was 25 years ago.

    To take a look at the government’s own numbers on areas disturbed by fire and pests and on NSR, go to:

    http://www.abcfp.ca/publications_forms/BCFORmagazine/documents/BCFORPRO-2011-3_AllArticles/BCFORPRO-2011-3_Britneff.pdf

    The chart and table show the public record for NSR area.

    The Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association is one of the few forest industry associations that truly cares about forest stewardship.

    So it is no surprise that John Betts and his board of directors decided to explore the status of NSR as a topic of interest at the 2011 Annual Conference of the WSCA. Perspectives on the NSR problem were presented by Anthony Britneff, the Forest Practices Board, the forest ministry, and a forestry consulting firm.

    In my presentation I relied wholly on government descriptive statistics published in legislatively approved reports. Here is a link to my presentation:

    http://wsca.smartt.com/Media/Multimedia/Feb%203%20-%20A%20Backgrounder%20on%20NSR%20-%20Anthony%20Britneff.pdf

    Now, in its latest move to avoid its ethical responsibility to reforest NSR forestland, the provincial government is going to table enabling legislation that will allow industry to rollover replaceable forest licences into large Tree Farm Licences, which can bought and sold to anyone (e.g., to pension funds, Chinese corporations) on the global market without government approval. Such a move will consolidate monopoly control of timber supply among five corporations effectively privatizing the rights to harvest public forestland.

    First Nations will lose their non-replaceable forest licences in order to shore up Allowable Annual Cuts for newly created TFLs.

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