A logger examines trees during a fire abatement forest-clearing exercise near Woss in 2009.

Panel discusses future of North Island forestry

Forestry professionals were provided a draft copy of the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities initiative recently.

PORT McNEILL—Forestry professionals and others interested in the health of forestry on North Vancouver Island were provided a draft copy of the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities initiative during a meeting held here late in November.

The next eyes to see the report will belong to those empowered with forming policies that will direct forest management in B.C.

“It is out, it’s out to the political parties, and we’re encouraging them to considering it in developing their election platform for next May,” said Bill Bourgeois, provincial chair of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities and author of the draft report.

The final strategic plan is expected to be completed early in 2013, in advance of the provincial election in May.

“The concept is to get each community’s input into the future of our forests, combine that with the opinions of experts, then put the result to the decision-makers.”

The meeting, held Nov. 22 at the Royal Canadian Legion Hall, came almost one year after local participants attended the initial Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities meeting at the hall.

Input gathered at last year’s meeting was pooled with contributions from communities across the province to form the basis for Bourgeois’s report.

The draft is broken into six key areas of consideration:

• A shift from short-term economics to long-term stewardship;

• Building sustainable forest management infrastructure;

• Increasing community diversification using land use practices, forest management inventories and economic support systems;

• Ensuring adequate resource inventories;

• Monitoring and assessment; and

• Ensuring a vibrant forest lands resource sector exists.

Bourgeois emphasized the initiative is not designed for the forest industry, but for forest management. The 10-year strategy in the final document will be built around an emphasis on sustainability and community benefit.

“The biggest thing that came out of the community sessions was the encouraging of community economic diversification; removing barriers to investment, and designing forest management to support those value-added business needs,” he said.

The meeting also included a presentation by Jennifer Barolet, who reviewed the issues discussed in last year’s community meeting.

Terry Basso, a log broker with Probyn Log Ltd., presented Diversification of Tree Species for Improved Market Accessibility, which highlighted the difficulty in making long-range market predictions and emphasized diversification of forest stocks.

Following the formal presentations, a question-and-answer session ranged across a wide spectrum of concerns and interests.

They included community forests and woodlots, silvaculture tenures, thinning of forests by removing juvenile trees, and the possibility of restoring a commercial-level sawmill on Vancouver Island.

“Why don’t we have a sawmill providing 90 or 100 jobs, instead of exporting all our logs?” asked Wilhelm Waldstein of Port Hardy.

Input into the strategic plan will continue to be accepted until the end of December at the Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities website, bcforestconversation.com.

Bourgeois encouraged those in attendance, and the rest of the community, to participate.

“I want to challenge the people here,” Bourgeois said. “You have to decide what you want from your forests. That’s up to your community to decide.