Mill closures prompted by a lack of economically-viable fibre continue to plague the province’s forest industry but in no way is British Columbia becoming a treeless moonscape.
Not according to industry expert David Elstone, a featured speaker at next week’s Council of Forest Industries (COFI) convention in Prince George.
“We are not running out of trees in this province, we have good forest management,” said Elstone. “We have about 57 million hectares of forest and we’re only logging 22 million hectares of forest and in that 22 million there are further constraints on what we actually go about harvesting.
“Roughly half of that 57 million is protected or constrained to the degree that it won’t be logged, ever. We have lots of forest, it’s just the forest we’re operating in for timber harvesting has become a lot less.”
B.C. lumber production declined more than 50 per cent from 2006 to 2022, largely due to the dwindling supplies of pine beetle-killed trees and such factors as wildfires, spruce beetle infestations, old growth deferrals and caribou habitat protection.
Old growth doesn’t necessarily mean huge trees like that of Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island and Chun T’oh Whudujut/Ancient Forest. But forestry companies are facing reduced cuts as the province protects more old growth stands.
“The imagery is what carries the public opinion,” said Elstone, owner of Spar Tree Group management/consulting firm. “A large part of the north is not made up of big trees and we think of the iconic trees of Cathedral Grove and that’s what the old-growth policy is about, but no, it’s impacting everyone because it’s based on age class and such.
“That has an impact because we’re talking about reducing cut everywhere, or reducing what we previously were going to harvest because of interests in managing for old growth.”