By Korie Marshall

The Chief Forester has not yet announced the annual allowable cut (AAC) for the Robson Valley Timber Supply Area, but the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations says the delay is not due to the recently announced review of the expansion of area-based tenures.

The decision from BC’s Chief Forester on the allowable cut for the Robson Valley was expected on April 1st. Following that decision, the government will then decide how much of the cut will go to current license holders. Carrier Lumber currently holds the vast majority of the allowable cut, and the transfer of two of their forest licenses to the McBride and Valemount Community Forests is currently being evaluated by FLNRO staff, said a ministry spokesperson last week.

Marc von der Gonna, Manager of McBride Community Forest Corporation, has said the government’s decision on the transfer is dependent on the Chief Forester’s allowable cut decision.

According to BC’s Forest Act, the chief forester must regularly review and set new annual allowable cuts for each of the province’s 38 Timber Supply Areas and 34 Tree Farm Licences. The Robson Valley Timber Supply Area covers almost 1.5 million hectares from Crescent Spur to part way down Kinbasket Reservoir, but community forests, private land, parks and protected areas, and non-productive areas are not included in the harvesting land base. The total harvestable land base is estimated to be about 140,000 hectares, down about 85,000 hectares since the last review in 2006.

On April 1st, the ministry announced a public engagement process on converting some volume-based forest licences to new or expanded area-based licences. Multiple volume-based forest licensees may operate in the same timber supply area; but area-based licensees allow virtually exclusive logging rights in a defined area.

The government says conversions are not being considered on a province-wide basis, but are one “tool in the toolbox” that may help with mid-term timber supply issues in parts of the province that have been impacted by mountain pine beetle. The Robson Valley area has been impacted by mountain pine beetle. The government says the engagement process will inform how it proceeds, and whether legislative changes will be needed. The deadline for public discussion on converting licences is May 30; comments can be submitted on the provincial government’s website.

Vivian Thomas, Communications Director for FLNRO, says the proposal for transfer and conversion of two forest licences from Carrier Lumber to the McBride and Valemount Community Forests is a separate process from the engagement process just announced.

Jason Alexander, owner of Cedar Valley Specialty Cuts in Valemount says the indecision and delays are contributing to more people leaving the valley. Alexander has been trying to secure more cedar for his mill in Valemount, and says one of his employees is leaving the area with his family because he is not able to offer job security without a secure volume of wood.

“I was told the Timber Supply Review would be done last year,” says Alexander. “Then last fall, then March, then April. When is it going to be done?”

Thomas says the Chief Forester’s determination is expected soon, and following that, the ministry will make allotments to each volume-based licence. She did not say when a decision on the proposal between Carrier and the community forests would be made.