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Logging and Sawmilling Journal November 2014

November 2014

On the Cover:

Sawmills in the Canadian forest industry continued to be active places this fall, thanks to healthy U.S. housing starts—which were recently over the one million mark for the third time this year—and continuing demand for lumber from China, as well as steady demand from other markets. Add to this a lower loonie, and the outlook for the industry looks reasonably bright going into 2015.
(Millyard photo by Tony Kryzanowski)

Fort Nelson wants your sawmill
If you’re looking to set up a sawmill operation, B.C.’s Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and the town of Fort Nelson want to talk to you—and they have a basket of sustainable green timber in their back pocket.

One-two punch in harvesting equipment
B.C.’s Mattey Bros. Logging has a relatively new one-two punch on the harvesting end these days, in the form of a John Deere 959K tracked feller buncher and an 870C Tigercat tracked buncher, and both machines are delivering the goods.

Harvesting trees—and crops
A logging and farming combination approach to business is working well for brothers Marcel and Alain Chalifour of logging contactor Almar Limbing in Saskatchewan, with the brothers sometimes dividing their time between harvesting trees, and crops.

Malakwa mill resurrection
A sawmill in the small B.C. Interior town of Malakwa has been resurrected with some capital—and plenty of hard work—and is now producing green hemlock lumber for the Chinese market.

Ready for Mother Nature
B.C. Interior logging contractor John Himech Logging Ltd has to be ready for whatever Mother Nature sends their way—including wildfires that can throw harvesting schedules out of whack.

Award-winning sawmill partnership
The award-winning Opitciwan sawmill partnership between Resolute Forest Products and the Atkamekw Council of Obedjiwan Quebec First Nations stands out as a model for other First Nations/forest industry partnerships across Canada.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions…

The Last Word
Jim Stirling talks about how B.C.’s Forest Practices Board keeps an eye on the forests.

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New & Noted: at Timber Processing and Energy Expo in Portland, Oregon

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B.C.'s Forest Practices Board: keeping an eye on the forests

By Jim Stirling

In theory, governments—and government agencies—parrot all the appropriate platitudes about accountability. In practice, it can be a little different. The degree of accountability seems directly proportional to the political sensitivity of the matter in hand.

British Columbia’s Forest Practices Board (BCFPB) keeps an eye on what forest companies, their contractors and the government actually do on Crown land. It’s a valuable service. It fulfills a role that no other agency comes close to achieving in B.C., especially now that the forest service at field level has been emasculated by government budget cuts.

“Although other jurisdictions have forest watchdog bodies, B.C. may be the only one with an arms-length relationship with government and a mandate to hold both government and the forest industry accountable for forest practices,” states the board on its website.

The BCFPB board is not funded by a ministry nor does it report to a ministry. Rather, it reports direct to ministers like the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Minister of Environment.

The BCFPB says its reports are not approved or vetted by anyone prior to public release. It does not possess the authority to impose penalties for infractions or poor forest management practices it encounters during its random audits of forest companies. That makes it sound pretty toothless. But the board does possess another weapon, arguably more influential than a fine. It goes public with all its findings through the media. Often the media will pick up on companies or government agencies found in breach of sound forest and range practices. Large companies, especially, are sensitive to any negative publicity that might have potential impacts on its bottom line and in the marketplace.

At the time of writing, the forest practices board had just released its findings of a routine audit conducted at Carrier Lumber Ltd’s forest licence southeast of Prince George. “We are pleased to see that Carrier carried out good forest practices and fully met the requirements of the Forest & Range Practices Act and the Wildfire Act,” reported Tim Ryan, the board’s chairman. Ryan spent a good chunk of his career as a forester with Ainsworth Lumber. “Auditors examined operational planning, timber harvesting, road construction, deactivation and maintenance, silviculture and fire protection activities carried out by Carrier Lumber between June 2012 and June 2014.”

By the time this is read, the board will probably have gone public with its examination of activities on forest licences in the 100 Mile House area including a tenure held by Kenkeknem Forest, one of two First Nations-held woodlot licences in B.C.

The BCFPB also responds to public complaints and concerns about alleged forest practice violations throughout the province. The board says it has formally investigated “several hundred” complaints from members of the public since 1995 and some have led to formal recommendations for improvements. The board says the most common complaints forwarded by the public surround the conservation of forest values, like water quality. Other public concerns question the soundness of forest planning and practices and the adequacy of both public involvement processes and the government’s enforcement of the law.

The board notes there’s room for improvement in communication between those carrying out forest and range practices and those affected by them—an observation that has a familiar tone to it.

The BCFPB is a relatively compact body with a full time chairman (currently Tim Ryan), seven part time members and support staff. The board is appointed by cabinet and funded through the Treasury Board, not the Ministry of Forests.

The board’s annual report for 2013/14 makes for interesting reading and provides further insight into the levels of what constitutes sound forest practices in B.C. and identifies areas that require more attention in the eyes of the BCFPB. The board conducted 12 audit reports in 2013/14 on forest activities across the province but only half were in compliance. The board cited 11 significant cases of non-compliance and two areas requiring improvement.

The board recognized a continuing improvement in forest practices in B.C. But it did note “lingering” areas of required improvement, including those surrounding bridge planning, design and construction.

With BC Timber Sales, the BCFPB noted improvements, but said compliance issues became more apparent with small licencees because, it suggests, that size of operation doesn’t have the appropriate management systems in place.

In 2013, the board began work on a special report on the 10 year old Forest & Range Practices Act (FRPA), the key piece of forest legislation governing forest and range activities on Crown land. “Early observations indicate there is room for improvement in areas such as government objectives, FRPA plans, practice requirements, professional reliance and effectiveness of feedback loops,” wrote Ryan in his chairman’s message, which sounds like there’s room for improvement in just about every aspect of the Act’s implementation.

The board is producing a series of bulletins highlighting what it perceives as key issues. The bulletins are designed, explained Ryan, to stimulate discussion and provide contextual support to the board for compiling its 10 year report on the FRPA.

Ryan concluded his chairman’s remarks with a pledge. “(The board) will ensure compliance with forest legislation, because it is the law; it will push for improvements in forest legislation, because we must. And we will foster leadership through the identification of innovative practices in forest management.”