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Timber revenue being plowed back into the community
A community forest in Terrace, B.C. is helping to support local sawmillers and add value to the productive forest, at the same time generating funds that are plowed back into the community.
By Jim Stirling
The 40-year-old spruce were a sorry lot. They were without the single crowns necessary to direct vigorous, upward growth. Instead, their height has been stunted, replaced by multiple tops with crook, forking and defect.
Side branches were numerous and close as porcupine quills. The spruce had been hit by terminal leader weevil and the pest did a devastating job.
The spruce were being salvaged on a site north of Kitimat in northwestern British Columbia on land managed by the Terrace Community Forest. The trees serve as a 350 hectare example of what can go awry with a monoculture. The previous stand on the site was clearcut in the 1970s, broadcast burned and re-planted with spruce, summarized Kim Haworth, general manager for the Terrace Community Forest Ltd Partnership. Then along came the weevil.
“What we’re doing is salvaging what is marketable from the stand and converting the weevil-impacted spruce into a more diverse stand with coastal balsam, cedar, hemlock and weevil-resistant spruce,” outlined Haworth.
“We have a broader variety of soils that are fairly nutrient rich and a climate conducive to more diverse stands. The community forest’s management plan is to continue the development of more recent stands and make the transition away from older growth forests,” said Haworth.
Reconnaissance work had been completed (though it was not yet under cutting permit) for a commercial thinning project on an approximately 40-year-old stand of predominantly hemlock and balsam.”The commercial thinning will begin next fall if the markets are good,” he anticipated. “The stand volume is about 500 metres/ha and most of the trees are about 25 metres high. The first pass removal should be approximately 300 metres/ha.”
The Terrace Community Forest was awarded a probationary area-based tenure with an AAC of 30,000 cubic metres effective in 2007. It now has a permanent licence valid for 25 years. The community forest’s approximately 13,500 hectares is split into three operating areas, to the west, northwest and the Kitimat holdings to the south of Terrace.
The tenure originated from the provincial government’s 20 per cent clawback from area licencees for re-allocation to First Nations, BC Timber Sales and community forests. The City of Terrace provided $150,000 in original seed money to get the community forest going. Haworth said that money has been repaid with interest and while the city owns the community forest, it is managed by a volunteer board of directors drawn from the local area.
The recession and accompanying poor markets prevented active harvesting from beginning until the fall of 2010. Since then, however, momentum has been gathering pace thanks to the ability to export hemlock and balsam logs to China and Korea.
When possible, the community forest supports local sawmillers with higher value cedar and spruce logs. More than 5000 cubic metres has been made available. Haworth said to late fall 2013, 73,000 cubic metres had been harvested generating about $3.5 million for the local economy. Surplus funds generated by the forest are plowed back into the community.
Another important platform for the Terrace Community Forest’s objective of making more use of its second growth profile has been established. Timber Baron Contracting Ltd., of Terrace has entered into an agreement with the community as its go-to logger. The agreement is for five years and includes a cost of living allowance, explained Haworth. The reason is straightforward. The northwest quadrant of B.C. has become a hotbed of industrial activity, bringing with it a heightened demand for everything from heavy equipment and good operators to hotel and motel accommodations.
The major projects creating the demand for logging equipment doubling as land clearing machines are pipeline right-of-way projects, BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission line and there’s a host of major LNG projects in the wings. They need to have the right equipment and operators available, said Haworth. “We hire the best people in the local area to do the work. We’ve always hired local. They know the land base.”
There are also advantages for Timber Baron with forging a longer term partnership with the Terrace Community Forest. “We can work together in planning over a larger volume of timber to make it more economical for both sides,” summarized Mike Thomson, vice-president of Timber Baron.
That ability should be doubly useful with the proposed commercial thinning project. “As this is the first large scale commercial thinning program of its kind in the northwest region, a new way of harvesting and overall approach will be needed. Being involved with the planning and layout process will help alleviate operational difficulties in the field and help reach our objectives,” he explained. The planning process will reveal more detail on operational challenges like preventing damage to residual stems left during thinning operations.
“In my opinion, it will be a blend of traditional ground based equipment with some more nimble harvesters and forwarders,” added Thomson.
The Terrace Community Forest can only operate efficiently on a sound financial basis, said Haworth, “Every venture we undertake has to be economically viable.”
While the community forest’s second growth management philosophy is also rooted in economic viability, Haworth recognizes projects like the spruce weevil stand conversion will also positively contribute to increased biodiversity within the replacement stands. “We can promote timber values and create habitat for browse species.” Only Chanterelle mushrooms appeared to thrive under the dark, dank canopy created by the weevil-infected spruce.
As plans mature for developing the community forests’ lands, Haworth hopes it might trigger a re-invigorated local sawmilling sector to create additional employment and add value to the productive forest.
“I’d like to see more milling capacity to deal with smaller diameter wood,” he said. “It will come, but until then we have to export volumes.”
Haworth believes area-based tenures like community forests are the way to go forward. “When you have an area based tenure you can manage its resources and capitalize on investment that’s positive for everyone. It allows us to make investments over time providing jobs and revenue directly to the community.” And it can help restore stagnant stands into more productive and healthy forests.
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