While protesters gather across the province shouting for protection of ancient trees on Vancouver Island, the Ministry of Forests has approved the continued harvesting of old-growth forest north of Revelstoke.
Tree Farm Licence 56 was granted a 90,000 cubic metres annual allowable cut on May 4, the same level that was set in Sept. 2010. The licence is shared by the Revelstoke Community Forestry Corporation and BC Timber Sales.
RCFC, which is partially owned by the City of Revelstoke, harvests roughly 200 hectares a year. Mike Copperthwaite, general manager said the trees they harvest are probably 300 to 400 years old.
“I like to be open,” he said. “We are not hiding the fact that we are logging old-growth.”
Meanwhile, BC Timber Sales will be auctioning off between 10,000 and 40,000 cubic metres per year, in the area, over the next four years, according to the Ministry of Forests.
The licence encompasses an area of around 60,000 hectares, however, this includes wildlife reserves (including caribou), riparian areas as well as inaccessible areas and areas with no trees. The harvestable area is around 20,000 hectares, Copperthwaite said.
Under the Forest Act, the ministry has to determine an annual allowable cut for each Tree Farm Licence at least every 10 years. A public review process, including engagement with the First Nations whose traditional territories overlap the area, for this update started in May 2019.
According to the rationale document from the deputy chief forester Shane Berg, the Ktunaxa Nations Council recommended the annual allowable cut be reduced due to risk to biodiversity given the lack of monitoring of wildlife populations and habitats as well as old-growth management.
However, Berg said he would not reduce the licence “solely on the basis of uncertain information” and that the ministry will be enhancing monitoring in the area.
Legally, when determining the annual allowable cut, the chief forester must consider:
• forest composition and expected growth rate
• time expected for logged areas to become re-established
• forest management treatments applied to the area
• timber utilization, decay, waste and breakage expectations
• forest use for purposes other than timber production
Other factors that are considered include implications to the province if rates of harvesting are changed, the economic and social objectives of the government at the time and any abnormalities that apply to the area, such as infestations.
Companies forecast 300 years into the future, and Copperthwaite said they are projecting their licence to be able to support a higher allowable cut 80 to 100 years down the road because the trees they replanted are growing back better quality. RCFC is also planting six to seven species instead of only the two that would occur naturally, he said. This takes into consideration the impacts of climate change as well as protects against total devastation due to bugs or disease.
RCFC was established in 1993. The corporation pays dividends to the city, some of which are sitting in a legacy fund that has a balance of more than $1 million. Other money is tied up in the Revelstoke Community Energy Corporation and they have invested in projects such as the hospital helipad and the splash pad at Farwell Park.
This is their fifth management plan.