AAC and SLA Remain Challenges for Forestry
Prince George, B.C.- Although the Province has announced a detailed strategy for ensuring forestry has a bright future in B.C (see previous story), there are still two issues which have to be resolved.
(at right, Minister Steve Thomson)
The Chief Forester has yet to announce what the annual allowable cut will be, and there is still a Softwood Lumber Agreement to be hammered out.
“We are continuing all out efforts to reach an agreement” says Minister of Forests Steve Thomson of the efforts to reach a new SLA with the United States. The current “stand still” period will end in October, and Thomson expects the U.S. to take action “After that mid-October timeline, that’s when the U.S. can start anti-dumping and counter veiling action against the industry. If we don’t achieve an agreement or a framework before then, they will take that step, and we will defend the industry against those actions. We have said very clearly that a new agreement needs to be one that works for British Columbia, works for Canada it’s not an agreement at any cost as far as we’re concerned, So we will defend our policies and practices when and if that action starts. Our focus now is to prepare for that but we also have a very strong focus on achieving a new framework agreement if we can.”
As for the annual allowable cut, everyone expects a reduction to reflect the post Mountain Pine Beetle reality “The reality is we are facing a lower annual allowable cut in many parts of the province as a result of the mountain pine beetle epidemic” says Thomson. The AAC had been increased in an effort to get maximum benefit from Mountain Pine Beetle impacted forests while that wood was still merchantable. “So in those areas mean less fibre available” says Thomson who says the new forestry agenda released yesterday is focused on getting maximum value out of the available fibre “So what we do have, we’re getting maximum value”. He says the new reality in a post Mountain Pine Beetle industry also means government will have to work with those communities “As we look at diversifying economic opportunities and that’s government’s commitment to be engaging with communities as we go forward.”
He says communities are already accessing some of the funds being made available by the Province to help them transition or develop new economic opportunities. But even though those funding programs are in place, Thomson says that’s not to soften the blow of a major reduction in the annual allowable cut “This is a bright future for the industry, there are challenges, we recognize that, there will need to be adjustments in the community but what we are putting in place, is the initiative and agenda to work with industry through those ( challenges), just as we did through 2007 and 2009 with the downturn in the housing market the real collapse of the industry, we worked with the industry so we would still have a strong industry, building new markets building strong products.”
The Chief Forester is expected to announced the new annual allowable cut this fall, although there has been no specific date identified. “What we do know is that we need to do that work as soon as we can” says Thomson “It has to be done properly with full assessment because of the risk of not doing it is that you continue to harvest at potentially unsustainable levels.”