Impacts of old growth deferral on Burns Lake

Community leaders, forestry industry members discuss potential impacts

The B.C. Government’s annoucnement on deferrals of old growth logging will directly impact the economy of Burns Lake. (Black Press file photo/Lakes District News)

The B.C. Government’s annoucnement on deferrals of old growth logging will directly impact the economy of Burns Lake. (Black Press file photo/Lakes District News)

On the heels of a province-wide old growth logging deferral plan, announced by the B.C. government on Nov. 2, Village of Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk held a special meeting with councillors and various members of the local forestry industry to discuss the potential impact to the area.

Of those present at the meeting included Burns Lake Community Forest (BL Comfor) General Manager Frank Varga, Chinook Community Forest (Chinook) General Manager Ken Nielsen, and Nadina Natural Resource District District Manager Beth Eagles, who did her best answer questions on the behalf of the government.

The general tone of the discussion was one of frustration over the government’s decision, as well fear for the future economic health of the local community.

In terms of the financial impact, it’s quite significant according to both Varga and Nielsen should the governments deferral plan go through. According to Varga, BL Comfor is expecting a 5 per cent decrease to its timber harvesting land base and 663,000 cubic meters of impact long term. In the short term, BL Comfor will endure a 60,000 cubic meter hit to its standing timber inventory for the year 2023.

According to Nielsen, Chinook is projecting a 6 per cent long term impact to its timber harvesting land base equalling approximately 5,000 hectares and 600,000 cubic meters. This is equal to Chinook’s 10 year mid term timber supply.

As part of the announcement by the government, the province is requesting that First Nations indicate within the next 30 days whether or not they support the deferrals, require further engagement to incorporate local and Indigenous knowledge, or would prefer to discuss deferrals through existing treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

According to Eagles however, this timeline is not completely rigid. “The 30 day deadline that was mentioned in the media is just a guideline to make contact with First Nations. We won’t be pushing First Nations towards a super ambitious deadline, we realize there’s a lot of information to go through, and a lot of important discussions at stake and we want to work collaboratively,” said Eagles.

She went on to tell council that the proposed deferrals are not set in stone either. “If First Nations say that they support a temporary deferral, then what will happen is we will go to licencees to ask them what their plans are in those areas , and from there go to cabinet and recommend the deferral. From what I’ve been told, if First Nations are not in support, then a deferral will not be recommended.”

Eagles was asked by Nielsen about areas with overlap, meaning multiple First Nation groups control the license. “My current understanding is that where there are areas of overlap, and one group does not support, we will not go forward on deferrals, but I’m hearing a bit of mixed messages on that from the provincial government.”

Councillor Charlie Rensby, who has been in contact with the B.C. Truck Loggers Association and the B.C. Council of Forest Industries among other organizations, expressed concerns over potential job loss as well as the future economic well being of Burns Lake. “Industry is saying that it could be up to 20,000 jobs lost, and the government is saying it could be as low as 4,500. If you split the difference and estimate that it will be 15,000 jobs, that’s still 15,000 jobs,” said Rensby.

“That’s kind of impact will impact small communities exponentially. We all remember the metric that was used when calculating the economic effects while determining the AAC, what a few forestry jobs can mean for the entire community can actually mean the entire destruction. While this is technically the worst case scenario, it is possible,” said Rensby.

“This is going to impact us in some way, shape or form, and I don’t know how much more our forestry industry can handle before we witness the end of our economy. We need to come to some sort of terms about what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Rensby went on to tell members of the meeting that he will be leading a logging truck and logging crew convoy to the lower mainland on Nov. 18 as a protest of the deferrals, and hopes to have a a few hundred vehicles participating.

Editors Note: The logging and trucking convoy protest to the lower mainland on Nov. 18 was postponed due to flooding in the Interior and in Southern B.C..

READ MORE: B.C. pauses logging on up to 2.6M hectares of old-growth forest

READ MORE: B.C.’s forest tenure plan could negatively impact Burns Lake


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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
eddie.huband@ldnews.net
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